Flashes of Fun with Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are so tiny and quick; it can be a challenge to get good shots of these little dynamos. High-speed multiple flash can do a great job of “freezing” the bird so even the smallest details are crisp. But those photos can also get boring and miss out on the hummingbird’s personality.

White-bellied Woodstar – Abra Patricia Peru

Adding Blur to Hummingbird Photos

Some blur on the wings is a nice look and emphasizes the speed of these birds. Using a flash extender can improve flash with hummingbirds. The extender will cut off the flash when the light reaches the subject, highlighting the bird with the best light while keeping the background subdued. This technique shortens the flash duration which in effect sharpens the picture and can create a subtle, unfocused background so the bird’s details are even more illuminated.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet – Abra Patricia Peru

Fill flash is also useful and will brighten up the colors in the shot. Fill flash is not at its maximum intensity, so it only “fills in” the shadows and just pops the colors, without washing out details. This is a great choice for shooting hummingbirds in flower gardens, so the colors of the flowers aren’t lost.

Golden-tailed Sapphire – Peru

Creating the best background for bird photography

You can also create setups to give you the perfect backdrop for hummingbirds. A sprig of fresh flowers (use blooms hummingbirds prefer!) can be perfectly positioned in the right light and against the right background, even an artificial backdrop, for an ideal shot. Spraying some nectar on the flowers will attract hummingbirds to the setup, as well as create a dewy look for another textural element.

White-necked Jacobin (female) – Belize

Ultimately, you need to shoot, shoot again, and keep shooting to get that perfect hummingbird shot. When your finger is depressing the shutter, you’re subtly moving the camera and the first picture is often not as sharp as the second or third – so hold that shutter down for at least a second or two. The more you practice, the more you will learn not only about how to use your equipment to best shoot hummingbirds, but you’ll learn about the birds themselves and be better able to really capture their fun and engaging personalities.

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