How to Take the Perfect Hummingbird Photo

Hummingbirds are among the most beautiful but challenging subjects to capture on camera.

University of Lethbridge biologist Andy Hurly, featured in Think Like an Animal,  is not just an expert on hummingbird cognition; he’s also a talented photographer. Hummingbirds are among the most beautiful but challenging subjects to capture on camera. 

hummingbird gallery

Here are Andy’s top ten tips to help you take wonderful pictures in your own backyard.

Please note: The health and safety of your hummingbird subjects is the first priority.  These birds need to feed every 10-15 minutes due to their very high metabolism. If your effort to take a photo interferes with their foraging, they could starve in less than an hour.  Disturbing a female hummingbird could also endanger her nestlings. So please be careful!

  1. Lure with Food Hummingbirds return repeatedly to a feeder or flower.
  2. Supplement Use an eyedropper to add sugar solution to a flower.
  3. Be Sweet Use only plain white sugar: 1 part sugar to 3 or 4 parts water.
  4. Magnify Use a zoom or a long lens to get a good shot of these tiny birds.
  5. Hide Use a vehicle or a cover to decrease the bird’s fear of you.
  6. Creep Start at 10m and move one-half metre closer before the bird visits again.
  7. Change the World Move a feeder or potted flower gradually towards you.
  8. Be Ready Time the interval between visits to anticipate the next visit.
  9. Speed Use a shutter speed of 1/1000second or faster.  On point-and-shoot cameras, use sports mode.
  10. Set the Scene Try for a simple background.  Busy backgrounds detract from your subject.

Bonus Tip
Twinkle Animal photos look more alive when you can see a spot of light reflected in the eye.

Photo Credit: A. Hurly. Lodgepole Photography

To get hummingbirds to photograph, of course, you'll need to attact them to your bird feeder! Find out how.


Available on CBC Gem

Think Like An Animal

Nature of Things