Bird Photography,  Nature

Bird Silhouette Photography Tips

When many people think of bird photography, they think of tight cropped, detailed pictures of birds.  Using silhouettes in photography can provide beautiful and artistic photos.  Birds photos created using silhouette photography techniques can produce stunning silhouette images especially at sunrise or sunset.

Sandhill Crane Sunset

In this blog, I’ll show several examples of bird silhouette photography and provide tips for photographing bird silhouettes.  These photography tips can also be applied to creating silhouette images for subjects other than birds.
These photos are of Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana.  The photos were taken at sunset as the birds fly back into a specific field in the evening.
Sandhill Crane Formation at Sunset

Tips for Bird Silhouette Photography

  • Choose a recognizable subject.  Silhouettes tend to work better when the subject is still recognizable when it is a silhouette image.  Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, and Candian Geese are examples of birds that are still recognizable as silhouette images.
  • Research the area that you want to photograph.  Check where the sun rises and sets.  Also check out the flight patterns of the birds.  What direction do the birds fly in the morning and evening.  For a silhouette, you want the subject back lit so the birds need to be positioned between you and the sun.  This may take several scouting trips before you get the photos that you want.  This was my third trip to Jasper-Pulaski.
  • The best weather conditions for silhouettes are partly cloudy skies.  The clouds add character to the sky and also reflect the warmth of the setting or rising sun.
  • Watch your shutter speeds.  The best sky color is the closest to sunrise or sunset when the light is very dim.  Even though the birds are silhouettes, you’ll want to keep the shutter speeds high (1/1000th of a second or faster) to keep the bird’s wings from being blurred.  High ISOs will be required for fast shutter speeds in the low light.  The noise can be removed during post processing.
  • Shoot in high speed continuous shutter mode and take a lot of pictures.  The birds can overlap each other into oddly shaped silhouettes.   Also, the wing positions can make the shot.  I prefer shots where the wings are a mixture of pointing up and down.  If the wings are mostly straight out to the side, the shot is not as interesting.

Sandhill Cranes Across the Sunset

Related Blog Posts
Jasper-Pulaski Sandhill Crane Migration
Walking the Towpath at CVNP – Tips for Wildlife and Bird Photography

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