To those interested in pursuing the challenge of obtaining great hummer shots, I offer a few tips. There are literally tens of thousands of images of hummingbirds on the Internet, however only a few percent of them are beyond a small blurry spot in a large frame. I have also seen images for sale (for big money) in galleries that I wouldn’t have even bothered to download from my camera – out of focus, poorly exposed, blurry junk.
In order to take decent images of hummingbirds in a wild environment, there are a number of approaches, and you will be most productive with a few simple steps.
- Like most wildlife photography, it pays huge dividends to observe your subject for some time before attempting to photograph it. In this way, you can learn a little of its behavior, and thus (importantly) predict its behavior.
- You can follow hummers around to understand where their favorite flowers are, and station yourself and your gear nearby one of these flowers. More productive however, is to attract them to a semi-permanent setup where there is both a food supply, and your camera gear. See Attracting Hummingbirds.
- Once attracted, you will need to offer them food to stay around. This can be a bunch of nectar producing flowers, or more sensibly, a hummingbird feeder primed with sugar water. See Feeding Hummingbirds.
Once you have an found or created an area where there are regular visitors, you can slowly begin to build your photography setup. The setup will be vastly different, dependent upon the type of image you wish to create.
A few general tips when photographing hummingbirds:
- Move slowly. While most hummers are rather fearless, sudden movements do tend to make them fly off.
- Don’t shoot them every single time they approach. Let them feed once in a while, otherwise, they will simply look for a different food source.
- Observe their patterns of behavior, and look out for certain individuals. Some will be aggressive towards others, some will be unfazed by the flash/camera, some will disappear at the very slightest disturbance. Knowing your subjects will aid your prediction of their next move
- Keep the feeders clean!!! This is probably the most important tip of all. Again, see Feeding Hummingbirds