Skip to main content

The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 3 of 22

Camera and Lenses


The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 3 of 22

Camera and Lenses


Lesson Info

Camera and Lenses

bird photography can be gear intensive. It takes long lenses, long lenses take heavy tripods. And you can see, um, or extreme case here where I've added two strokes with a bracket to the to the Rigas Well, and that enabled me to make this photograph of is in Africa. These birds are called Creeley IStar small song birds that congregate by the thousands. And I wanted to add a little bit of, ah, a kick light for my strokes and then the examine the image more closely. You'll see that it led to catch lights in the ice, and I freeze demotion of the wings a little bit. But at the same time, the ambient light creates a blur. I like that kind of mixed lighting, and I'll show you some or examples of that later on. But back to the gear itself. We're gonna roll a short video that talks about the cameras in the lenses that I use at the moment in bird photography. Now I should explain that I used Nikon gear, but of course, there's equivalent cameras and lenses across all the other brands. Better use...

cannon over to use Sony. Nobody you use Olympus So let's run that video. There's not one camera and lens combination that is perfect for all bird situations. Sometimes I use wide angle lenses when I can get very close to birds. But in this course I need a long lens. That's five got a 600 F four here, and I can add an extender to doubt that turns it into a 900 millimeter lens. Often the birds are too far away to capture full frame. Without a long lens like this, I've got Nikon Stop it, a line camera D five mounted on that lens, and that gives me a high frame rate. This is a professional rake. It requires a heavy tripod because otherwise you can't keep it stable. But sometimes it's better to have more flexibility. And that's when I use the zoom lands. This is Nickens new 1 80 to 400 millimeter lens, and it's got a built in extender. So I consume it very quickly from being a 1 80 to becoming a 600 millimeter lens, and then it's got the same length. Has this one here? I've got Nickens D 8 50 mounted on that, both of geese. I'm gonna be demonstrating during the course. I've been using DSLR cameras for years, but Merrill ist cameras are up in coming. This is the latest addition to my arsenal. It's a mirror list camera, which is much more compact, and I've got a 500 F 56 lens connected to it, and it's super lightweight. I can use this hand held, and that makes a big difference when you want to do action. Photography will be using this when the birds are flying past us, and that's much harder to do when you've got a big lens mounted on a tripod. This is the gear I'm using. But during this course, I'll be sharing Maju principles in bird photography that you can apply no matter of what kind of camera and what can a lens you use. We'll also be approaching birds by car using car, says moving blinds. And then you do that. There's no room for try pots. I'll be introducing you to other ways to stabilize your camera and you're in a car. It doesn't matter what camera you use, what Lynch you apply. I want you to connect with birds no matter where you are all right. That's a lot of information in a couple of minutes, and I imagine there may be a few questions about this. But before I handed over to you, let me just make a comment because you heard me talk about Ah Lens converter or a telly extender. Nickel makes an extender that is a 1.4, but in order to be really correct, I should have said it turns my 600 millimeter lens into not quite a 900 millimeters, but it rolled off the tongue more easily to say it's a 900. There's also two times converters, but, um, a little bit reluctant to use those very much because they really decreased optical quality of the lens. You're using eso the same thing. But that 1.4 converter of and I talked about that new Nikon lens of 1 80 to 400 millimeters zoom lens. It doesn't quite give you 600 millimeter lens, but close to it now. I hope you're not too intimidated by the gear that the shouting at video cause that's all top of the line professional stuff and in a case, it at one long zoom lens they'll set you back quite a few $1000. But other more compact alternative stood out as well that are just as good for most of your applications. But I'd like to hear back from you. What is your response to what I just showed in the way of cameras and lenses? Any questions or comments? Go ahead. Your hyung my, I was. I was curious if their professional bird photographers out there using medium format cameras. That's a good question on. I never use medium format cameras and lenses because I want to be more compact. I want to be mobile. And in my opinion, you're the current models Nikon, Canon and Sony cameras. The sensors are so good that I don't need that extra number of pixels that I can get from a medium format camera and the cost alone and the additional weight is really to me. It's an encumbrance

Class Description


  • Photograph birds in a variety of scenarios

  • Understand bird behavior to get closer to birds

  • Build the ideal gar kit for photographing birds

  • Set the proper shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for birds

  • Know where to find birds to photograph

  • Capture birds in different types of light

  • Develop a better eye for bird photography


Love birds, but can't quite capture their colorful personality on camera? Join nature photographer Frans Lanting on a journey in start-to-finish bird photography. Master photography basics for photographing birds, from the best camera settings to tactics for getting up close and personal to different bird species.

With a mix of on-site shooting and in-class lectures, learn the ins and outs of bird photography. Build the skills to operate a camera and long lens as well as an understanding of basic bird behavior. Learn to capture more than the boring, obvious photo and dive into categories like bird portraiture, flying birds, flocks of birds, and detailed close-ups for your best bird photos yet.

Whether you are a beginner or intermediate bird photographer, craft better photos of birds with tips and insight from a National Geographic photographer with three decades of experience capturing wildlife across the globe.


  • Beginners new to bird photography

  • Intermediate bird photographers

  • Experienced photographers new to capturing birds

  • Beginner wildlife photographers


Frans Lanting has spent more than three decades traveling the world capturing nature and wildlife. For the wildlife photographer, birds often capture his attention, from penguins and endangered species to birds common to North America. Frans worked as a photographer-in-residence with National Geographic, a position that opened rare opportunities for photographing little known species. His nature photography has also appeared in his own books and exhibitions. Born in the Netherlands, he moved to the U.S. to study environmental planning before embarking on his photography career.


  1. Introduction

    See how Frans went from a boring bird snapshot to intimate images of birds. Meet the instructor and learn what to expect during the course, including an overview of the different types of bird photography from flying birds to close-ups of feathered friends.

  2. Introduction to Location Shoot

    Jump right into the on-site lessons with this quick intro lesson. Learn the three essentials you need to photograph birds.

  3. Camera and Lenses

    Getting up close to birds often requires long lenses and heavy tripods to stabilize them -- but other shots are better with a wide angle lens. See the best lenses for photographing birds, like the 600mm focal length or a 180-400mm super telephoto lens. Find handy accessories for when you can't hand-hold that long lens. Learn about camera gear from telephoto converters to tripods in this lesson, from high-end pro gear to more budget-friendly alternatives

  4. DSLR vs Mirrorless

    Frans shoots with Nikon, but says brand isn't the biggest thing to consider when working with gear. And while DSLRs may be the more traditional option, mirrorless has some perks too, like the smaller size. Weigh the pros and cons of both systems in this lesson.

  5. Field Trip 1

    Visit a national wildlife refuge with Frans and go behind the scenes with a professional bird photographer. Gain bird photography tips from choosing an ISO and using aperture to control the depth of field. See the process from evaluating the gear to seeing the composition.

  6. Getting Close To Birds

    Some birds aren't skittish around people, but most of the time, wild birds are cautious around people. Master strategies to get close to the birds for better photos, from blending with the surroundings to using a blind.

  7. Camera Settings

    Nail the camera settings for bird photography, from the file settings to metering and frame rate or burst mode. Understand the modes on the camera, like aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual mode.

  8. Settings For Creativity

    Pinpoint the best shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for capturing images of birds. Learn creative techniques to freeze birds in flight with a fast shutter for sharp images or at slow speeds to create creative blur. Work with aperture to control depth of field. Then, pick up creative techniques for composition.

  9. Point of View

    While the bird may be the star of the photograph, the background and foreground matter too. In this lesson, Frans explains how to use perspective to go from snapshots to great bird photos that draw the eye.

  10. Bird Portraits

    Bird photography is a subset of wildlife photography, but treat the genre like a portrait, and you'll capture stunning images that stand out. In this lesson, Frans explains how to create an intimate bird portrait by considering perspective, background, and more.

  11. Birds in Flocks

    While a portrait of a single bird is stunning, flocks of birds create excellent photo opportunities too. In this on-site lesson, learn to look for patterns created by groups of birds.

  12. Birds in Flight

    Capturing flying birds is much different than photographing birds at rest. Learn where to set your exposure settings to capture birds in flight. Gain tips on capturing birds in action as Frans continues the shoot at the wildlife preserve.

  13. Field Trip 2

    After the morning shoot, return back to the wildlife refuge in the late afternoon for more opportunities to capture birds. In this behind-the-scenes video, gain additional insight from exposure to composition. Gain specifics like learning how to properly expose white birds like the egret.

  14. Behavior

    A bird photographer that doesn't understand bird behavior is like a sports photographer that doesn't understand the rules of the game. Dive into bird behavior basics to help you better anticipate the bird's actions and how they interact with other birds.

  15. Birds in Landscapes

    Opposite of the bird portrait, bird landscapes show the bird in its natural environment to tell a story. Find inspiration from Frans' images and tips for including the landscape in bird photography. Gain insight from questions from students like you, including tips for photographing elusive bald eagles and other endangered birds.

  16. Field Trip at Sunset

    Take a final field trip back to the refuge at the end of the day. Build the skills to work with limited light at different angles. Work with tricky scenarios, such as high-contrast scenes.

  17. Impressions

    Using a slow shutter speed on birds in flight creates a look similar to an impressionist painting. In this lesson, Frans shares tips for getting that look and finding a shutter speed that's just right.

  18. Qualities of Light

    In this quick primer, Frans explains how different types of light influences bird photography. Learn to work with backlight, front light, sidelight, flat light, and spotlight and the different looks the types of light create.

  19. Birds as Designs

    Continuing the dive beyond the obvious bird photo, learn how to spot the designs created by birds. Develop an eye for bird patterns, using close-ups and beyond.

  20. Birds and People

    Mixing birds and people in the same shot helps create a sense of scale or tell a story. Learn how to mix people and birds, like how Frans used photography to tell a story about birds and plastic pollution.

  21. Locations

    Where do you find birds to photograph? In this lesson, learn where to find hotspots to photograph birds. You don't even have to go far -- something as simple as a bird feeder in your backyard can create plenty of photo opportunities. Then, gain insight into travel bird photography.

  22. Student Critique

    Gain specific tips to improve your bird photography using Frans' critiques of work from students like you. Build an eye for better photographs by learning to see potential improvements, both that you could make as you shoot and adjustments in post-processing.


Carl Bergstrom

I was privileged to be in the studio audience for Frans Lanting's Art of Photographing Birds course, and it was amazing. The morning was a perfectly pitched lesson on the technical aspects of bird photography, intermixed with Frans's own photographs and excellent videos of him working in the field. The afternoon focused more on bird behavior, composition, and artistry, and was even more delightful. If you know Lanting's photography you already know about his ability to find unusual perspectives on the world. What really shone through in the class was his love for wildlife and especially for birds. His knowledge of natural history is as amazing as his photography, and I loved the message that to take great photographs of birds, one needs to understand them and their behaviors. I've admired Lanting as a photographer for decades. Today I learned that he is an equally talented teacher. I'll be purchasing all of his CreativeLive courses. Thank you, Carl Bergstrom

Marie Gessle

Amazing class! Mr Lanting is charming and full of knowledge about birds and of course photography. In every moment of this course you can see his great passion and love for these flying creatures. The course is full of tips for photographers who want to start capturing moments of birds life. Awesome!!!

André Audet

Great class, very inspiring. Packed with great tips and beautiful imagery. Frans is a great instructor. I enjoyed watching this class a lot, and will watch it again!