The Challenge of Photographing Small Birds

I was sitting on the couch in the family room the other day just watching the birds in our back yard and I noticed something interesting. I could see a hummingbird in the tree next to our deck and a crow in our neighbors tree at the same time, and from my vantage point, they both looked about the same size.

That got me thinking about one of the biggest challenges faced when photographing hummingbirds compared to people or bigger wild life. They are just so small.

But taking pictures of small things isn’t necessarily difficult. You either need to get closer to the object or get a longer focal length lens. It’s hard to get very close to most birds, hummingbirds included, so most bird photographers go the longer lens route. But how long is long enough?

Here we have three subjects, a hummingbird, a crow and a woman, all about the same size in the photo and all shot with the same focal length lens. The difference is the distance. The hummingbird was 34 feet away, the Crow was 150 feet away, and the woman was about 670 feet away across a mall parking lot.

So if the hummingbird and person were the same distance from the camera, it will take a lens that is about 20 time longer (670/34).

Now lets use that number. A 50mm lens is a common lens to take pictures of people. Using our computed ratio this says that I would need a 1000mm lens to get the same size pictures of hummingbirds. A Canon 800mm lens costs $14000! (That’s not happening).

So for now I’ll just solder on with my 70-300mm zoom lens and work at getting as close as I can to those little birds. Besides that Canon 800mm lens is probably too heavy anyway.

Cheers – DJD

Rain for the week: 2.0 in. 2012 to date: 8.5 in.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Birds, In Our Back Yard, Photography

One Comment on “The Challenge of Photographing Small Birds”


  1. Solder on, and try to avoid taking too many pictures of women across mall parking lots 🙂


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