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The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 9 of 22

Point of View


The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 9 of 22

Point of View


Lesson Info

Point of View

You know, we drifted from pure technical considerations into things that arm or aesthetic. And I'm on to show you a couple of images and make some comments about the importance of backgrounds. Because yep, Burt's air so exciting. And you know, the experience of getting close to birds and being surrounded by nature can lead you to focus too myopically on your subject. But backgrounds do matter, and so do four grounds. And here's a set of pictures that proves that point. Here's a little song bird in Hawaii. It's actually quite unique. It's an endangered species that lives only in the Hawaiian Islands. It's ah called any e V and by moving myself, yeah, into a situation where the foreground of that bush where the bird was perched became blurry. It became or interesting. And here's another application. This is a yellow belt stork in Zambia, which I was able to approach quite closely have is only ground, and there were speculum highlights in the border and by keeping the lens wide open, and ...

I was able to turn those speculum highlights into these wonderful circles in the foreground. So instead of having a neutral foreground, I actually made it part of the image. And here's one more example. A river on a trip. We chartered a private yacht, and I'd invited some people to come and join us, and there was a party of 12 of us, and we were able to go ashore in places at seabird colonies. This is a little lock, and the situation was actually it was not that interesting as a landscape. But there were these birds perched on the rocks and by finding a vantage point where I could shoot across the rocks using a wide open aperture, that really noisy landscape became a nice gray blur, and the I still goes towards that bird in the background. Here's another example, a puffin in Scotland in a green landscape. Using a 300 F 28 lens White Open gives you a really smooth foreground than a really smooth background, and one more example. Ah, a pair of courting albatrosses in the Falkland Islands. This is a plane situation of a sitting on one hillside. The birds were on the opposing hillside, and yes, the birds are exciting. They're doing something interesting, but I decided to move a little bit to the right, and that gave me this opportunity to use the tussle grass as a fail to shoot through. And that also allowed me to push the birds to the upper left corner. And now the composition is a bit more playful. It's a little bit more dynamic, and it turned a plane situation into something that it was a bit more intimate, a bit more personalized. I mentioned Vantage point. Vantage point is a physical term. What is the spot from which you're looking at the bird? Now that physical decision is really translating to something that I hope you can articulate for yourself into what is my personal point of view? Um and yeah, those are decisions that I like to make very explicitly. I mentioned early around the monitor videos that the typical scenario for a bird photographer is to move through the landscape five feet off the ground. And I would like to make you think more deliberately. You've heard me talk about getting down low. Ah, I will also show you some pictures of the effective going up high first example getting down low Verena Galapagos silence on one of our photo tours and became upon this nesting, flightless cormorant. The bird is not afraid, so we could be quite close. But but most visitors do is they stand five feet, told they look down on the cormorant. What we did is we flapping ourselves out. And now we have a very nice intimate perspective. Form that bird and that fantastic blue iess more visible. And we kept our apertures right open. So the background is nicely blurt. And in yet another situation at the edge of a waterhole in Namibia, I had parked my car quite close to the water hole. And then I slipped underneath the car and I used the car as a blind in a really unusual fashion. And then an ostrich came to drink. Now you don't often see ostriches from that perspective. And this perspective, this vantage point allay enabled me to show this ostrich with this amazing dinosaur foot. One more example not just getting down low, but in Antarctica. And I worked with those Emperor payments I Before we left for Antarctica, I started thinking about different vantage points to to look at the birds, and I brought a platform along with me and I could climb on top of it and get better overviews of the birds. And without that platform, I would not have been able to make this picture oven adult approaching a crash with chicks and it's looking to find its own chicken, that Millais of young birds. So this may be an extreme application that any time you go out to photograph birds, you're gonna be faced with the same choices. Do I go left? Do I go right? Do I go up or do I get down and think it through? What is the effect you want to achieve? Ultimately, it's about your connection to the bird. Make it personal.

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!