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The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 21 of 22



The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 21 of 22



Lesson Info


last thing that I would like to share some thoughts about with you is about the right of fine birds. And in case you're wondering, I'm really inspired now, but what I can do. But what do I find the birds and I can photograph? Well, I could reverse that because I could also say, Where can the birch find you? Because Burt's are everywhere and you can find them close to home. And I would like to show this image as an example of that, because if you put up a feeder in your backyard or even on your balcony, the birds will find you because you know they're remarkably tuned in to where they can find food and drink. Of course, so having a hummingbird feeder in places where the hummingbirds occur becomes a magnet. This image was submitted to USCIS, part of all the other ones ever submitted for the image review. But I just wanted to bring it in here as evidence for Balcony Birch and this image to have submitted. And we have the name of the maker here, right, we dio This one is from Marianne man ...

get so thank you so much that Marianne Marianne didn't send us any more information, but it clearly shows a nest box, and it looks like a sparrow's coming in to feed its young. And it's actually quite nice. Nice background. It looks like there's a lot of grain here, so the camera may be right for an upgrade. But among more testimonial about the fact that if you put up a bird feeder or a bird box in your backyard, you'll get the bird action that you can cover time and again. And what I do in my backyard in Santa Cruz is gov attract birds with the right plants that hummingbirds like in that other birds, like we have a little pompous Well, we build shelter for the birds V. Bill. Yo yo, we have water sources, and you know there's spurt galore, and that gives me opportunities to photograph this little hummingbird and ah, and many other species that come there. But, um, you've heard me refer to places beyond the horizon, and you I would really like to give you the opportunity to experience that for yourself. Go to a place far away, practice close to home, start discovering the amazing state parks and Federal Wildlife Refuge is that we have in this country, and there are equivalents in Europe and parts of Asia as well. But then, if you're really ready for it, go to a place where the birds will come to you. A place like the Galapagos. But a mocking birds will literally come to your feet, and then you, in return, can photograph the feet of the fable blue footed booby, which just stand, stare and wonders who you are. And that will be once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph exotic birds. I love Galapagos. It's so inspiring to go there and to experience things for yourself. The trigger. Darwin's evolutionary theories. But another place that I really like to go to for photographing birds is the sub Antarctic, the Southern Ocean in the islands that dot that immensity of sea there and the Falkland Islands is a fantastic location to go to, and so are the islands around the New Zealand. I made this photograph into focal in islands of a local hawker. Kara Kara has no fear for human beings. I mentioned earlier the names of my colleagues Tom Mandelson and Art Wolf to define its wildlife photographers. I know off Tom has been a lifelong inspiration for me, but his understanding of birds and art is a virtuoso when it comes to his compositions. The three of us chartered a ship and we took people to the Falkland Islands into South Georgia, and then you could go ashore and get Ideo. I bet albatrosses, just like I have shown you. And this past season we went to South Georgia and just imagine what it's like to go ashore in a place where people are in the minority and King penguins are the unquestionable majority. So, um, on another trip, even to Antarctica, and we decided to go early in the season, most trips to Antarctica are scheduled to coincide with the reproductive season of the birds there. If you're interested in seeing baby birds, you do want to go around December January. That is the peak time for the small ones. But one year we decided to go early in the season because we wanted to see Antarctica as it was just emerging from the long winter. And then you can see pristine Seascapes and pristine landscapes that birds just coming ashore, practically buried by snow. Um, I made this image with a small pocket camera. I headed around just a minute ago. It's always with me. In addition to the big DSLR cameras, I carry a Sony Rx 100 which fits into my pocket. It captures raw files, but it is really the equivalent of a point and shoot camera, and it's got an amazing capability to capture panels on the flying. And that is what I did here. I didn't want to stop to do a deliberate pan over my big camera, but this work just fine. So treat yourself to a place beyond the horizon and then show me the results. But I would like to move on and give you some more specific resource is in case you're wondering, where can I find birds? Well in this country, the National Audubon Society has been leading the conservation of birds for more than a century. If you go to their website, you'll find tons of information about their own reserves about bird issues and where you can go and how you can get engaged with birch yourself. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is based at the Cornell University in upstate New York is one of the country's leading institutions for bird research. You'll find a ton of information there and then in Europe. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has also been active for more than a century, very robust organization. And BirdLife International has become a global organization that is paying attention to what is happening with birds and what we need to do to ensure the survival of birds worldwide. Really important organizations, first of all, inform yourself and then secondly, support them so that there will be birds forever. And then last But not least, there's ebert dot ork, which provides everyone with tips about their birds are arriving. So check them out as well. And this is just scratching the surface because there's a ton of information about birds on the Internet. So I hope I've given you some idea about where you can find birds and also where the birds can find you. And now So yes, now, thank you so much for these. Resource is, that's awesome. We're gonna do a final Q and A before we move along. Teoh the student critique eso any final questions from the studio audience about today's class, and then I will put some from the folks at home, too, you know, it has been incredibly comprehensive already. We did have a question that had come in from Dez, who said, Does French you with a specific exhibition in mind? Or does he develop his shows from an overall collection of the images that he captures? I do a lot of exhibitions around the world. Typically, you know, they're based on projects that take years to to mature often their extensions of the books that we've published in the Netherlands, we did a big exhibition called Dialogues With Nature, which is currently available for travel to other institutions around the world. Um, in September this year, we're going to do a new show in the United Arab Emirates. So if you're in the Mideast, check that out and then we do occasional exhibitions that are wrapped around the needs of a certain institution. So but if you want to learn Maura about that, go to our website because we keeping up to date calendar of events of exhibitions and appearances. Awesome. So are you doing another ship cruise with our and Tom on another ship cruise but Tom and Art one of the places we're going to look at his Alaska coastal Alaska, which has got a lot of bird life, another wildlife. So if you're interested in that on, just go to our website or send us an email and will add you to the to the mailing list. And then the other question is I've heard you mentioned light room And are there other plug ins that you use with light room or other software? Other plug ins that I use for light room? Um, yeah, this leaches down a slippery slope into into the labyrinth of Ah yeah, of what you can do with pictures after the fact. Right? And you could I save that for another course some other time now, seriously reuse adobes light room in a very robust way. We've customised a catalogue templates so that we can utilize it as a database. And I would love to share mawr about that bitch you. But if I start talking about that now, we'll be here till midnight. So but really good question. Thank you. Once again, you can use that forum creativelive dot com slash suggest and suggest that course I did have some questions coming in. We were talking about showing some of those. So some of those birds that are in the backyard those 100 years and then talking about photographing in people's homes. What about indoors? Do you have any recommendations in terms of those backyard birds, indoor birds? That you are people that usually get captures of those photographing birds indoors? Yes. So say you have your your birds that are, you know, in your home. Now that's a new frontier way. We've covered a lot of different ways to photograph birds, but have we shown any pictures of birds indoors yet? Can you recall any? Okay, I think that maybe one coming up at the tail end of our image with you. So look, the sky's the limit. If you have a bird that is yours that you are actively taken care off, you have a unique opportunity. You can really get inspired by Flamingo Bob and then do something that is totally your own. And that is a true reflection of the bird that spends its life atyou and vice versa. Go for it. So a couple of questions that are just kind of in this final grab bag Q and A to clarify some of the things from earlier when you are photographing and you're using that tripod or mono pod. Um, do you have an image stabilization on or off? Because I think I saw that question come through again. So maybe he just needed some clarification. Um, good question. Um, so it really varies with the kind of cameras and lenses. Some of them are designed to be switched into an off moat. Vin York on mounting the rig on the tripod on when you using Amman? A pot? You know, by their very nature. Bonaparte's aren't very stable, so I have a definitely keep it in the l mode. And how about when you were panning? Did you say on the on the mono pod? Been impending? No. Then I switch it off Young. Great. That makes sense. Ah, let's see any final questions? Do we have any And yes, please. So here in Seattle, it's raining about half of the year. Do you have any thoughts about photographing birds in the rain? Because we're pretty much too well, you can get great photos. Uh, yeah, there's yo, you can turn any adversity into an opportunity. Right on. So my first response is rain. Great flat light, no exposure issues, no contrast in the light. Now I know it gets kind of dreary. You know, the dreariness of the weather is one of the reasons that I live in California and not in the Netherlands, because here we have the same kind of weather. But you can use rain in a creative sense, but you really have to look for the right opportunities. But I find works for photographing birds in the rain is you know, you have to look for a background that highlights the ring, so clearing squalls are great for that. So you back light the rain, find a dark background and preferably a bird in the foreground, and you're in business.

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!