Make Your Home a Wildlife Studio

By Tim Daniel
Staff Photographer, Ohio Division of Wildlife

Photographing wildlife can be time consuming, expensive and can take quite a bit of patience. Here are some tips to get great photos and not leave the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to buy the expensive equipment that professionals use. The low priced point and shoot cameras can produce great images if you follow some of these tips:

Get Comfortable: Use your home as a heated photo blind by taking photos through your window. If you have an established bird feeding station you know that the wildlife in your backyard will come close enough to get the shot even with a short zoom lens.

Use good techniques: To help reduce any reflections from the glass, darken the room where you will be using your camera. The auto focus cameras can still focus very well through glass and you should place the camera as close to the window as possible.

Improve the quality of the glass: If you have a storm window it should be removed to improve the quality of your shot. It’s a good idea to clean the window as much as possible to avoid a poor quality photo.

Steady is ready: If possible use a tripod to steady the camera. Most fuzzy photos are a result of camera movement and the digital cameras have some delay between the time you press the button and the photo is taken so it is important to be very still while shooting. If you shoot hand held remember to tuck your elbows close to your body for better stability or use a pillow to rest the camera on.

Location, Location, Location: When you position the feeding station in your yard be sure to put it close to the window that you will be taking photos from and be aware of the light during the day. You don’t want the sun coming directly into the window early or late in the day because it’s best to have the sun at your back and your subject front lit to avoid any shadows.

Use a natural setting: Twigs, branches, pine tree limbs or flowers can be attached to the feeders or birdbaths to let birds and squirrels use them for a natural look to the photo.

Avoid distractions: Look through your camera and take note of anything in the background like a light pole or car that will be distracting. If you can’t re position yourself to avoid a cluttered background then try to move the feeders.

Don’t get stuck in a rut: Take a few vertical photos as well as horizontal. It’s easy to hold the camera in the horizontal position because it’s more natural but occasionally flip the camera to the vertical position for a different perspective.

Be Creative: Try to position your subject off center a little. Most photographers will place the subject in the bull’s eye or center of the frame. An off center placement will add a little spark to the photo.

Do your homework: Research what type of food certain birds like and what type of habitat they use. It’s always a good idea to have a brush pile, bush or some type of cover for the birds to use while at your feeding station.