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yep

What settings do you use when birding?

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I just bought a Tamron 150-600 to go with a DSLR that I didn't previously use for bird photos (because I didn't have a good lens), so I'm just starting to get used to it and could use some tips. Until now I had a Panasonic FZ-40, nice reach, but not quite DSLR-quality. I managed to get some decent photos with it over the years though. 

Typically I would keep it on Shutter Priority and limit the ISO to something I could stand. This way I could quickly make adjustments when I'm in situations of going from shade to bright sunlight, as one often is when trying to follow a bird with their camera. 

I'm experimenting with other settings. A friend told me he uses P and only adjusts the exposure compensation at times. I fear that would risk the camera going too slow on shutter speed though. 

Manual seems to leave too many things needing quick adjustment at a moments notice. 

I think I've read of people keeping it on Aperture Priority. 

Can anyone give some good advice here?

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I watched a video recently, and the photographer was preaching "speed, speed, speed".  He said put your ISO at 800, and leave it.  I have been trying that for the last few weeks, with camera on Manual.  Leave at 800, and just adjust my shutter speed.  I could probably just run with shutter priority, as I usually just am at f5.6.  But with Manual, if I wanted to change it, I just need to turn a dial.  The only time I have really dropped the ISO since is when am shooting at something extremely far out for ID.  I've been a bit happier with some of the pictures I have taken since doing that.  I may put the ISO back on Auto, but see if I can limit it from 800-1600. 

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Manual is probably a lot simpler for bird photography than most people realize. Once you set your ISO and aperture all you need to do is turn one dial to control the shutter speed. I usually set my ISO to 640 and my aperture wide open at 5.6 and then all I do is adjust the shutter speed to provide a balanced exposure. Any exposure adjustment is done with the turn of one dial, turning it one way gives me a faster shutter speed and subsequently darkens the image and turning it the other way slows the shutter speed and brightens the image. One big advantage of manual exposure is you don't have to worry about the camera exposing for the sky when you're taking a photo of a bird up in the treetops, once the exposure is set you can point the camera at birds on the ground or in the treetops and get the same exposure, something that can't be done in Auto, Program, Shutter, or Aperture priority.

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I like the sound of that, but wouldn't the problem be when quickly moving from bright sun to lower light situations (deep shade) you might have to slow the shutter speed too much (thus risking blurry shots of  a small quickly-moving bird)? Guess it depends on your camera. I'm working with a Canon SL1, not a bad camera, but certainly not one of the higher-end SLRs. 

I'll certainly experiment with these suggestions. I appreciate the advice. 

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Yes and no, you run the risk of not having enough light no matter what mode the camera is in. If you use shutter priority and set a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000's and move into deep shade, the camera will try to give you a balanced exposure but it'll probably fail. It would push your ISO to the limit and still might underexpose the shot so you'd still have to slow your shutter speed if you wanted a decent image.  When moving from bright light to dim light adjustments need to be made to achieve a balanced exposure, the camera can make the adjustments in the automated modes, by adjusting the shutter speed, and/or adjusting the aperture, and/or raising your ISO, but you'll never know which adjustment or combination of adjustments the camera is going to make. As an example, in shutter priority the camera may decide to increase the ISO by two stops instead of closing the aperture by two stops to adjust for the dimmer lighting. In manual mode I'd just lower my shutter speed or increase my ISO if I needed/wanted the faster shutter speed. It's not that hard to adjust to manual mode, especially if you preset the exposure and take some test shots before heading out. Yeah, you'll forget to adjust the exposure once in a while and overexpose/underexpose a few shots but your camera will overexpose/underexpose a few shots in the auto modes just as easily when you're shooting a bird in the treetops against a bright sky or bird against a dark background.  In manual mode you don't have to worry about the camera exposing for the background instead of the bird, and to me, that is the biggest advantage of using manual. I'm not trying to sell you, or anyone on switching over to manual, just expressing my view on why it works best for me.

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No, this is good. I want to be sold. 

Can you explain what you mean when you say "if you preset the exposure..." 

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When I go out with my camera I will start off by presetting my exposure by taking a few test shots. As an example, on a sunny summer day I might set my ISO at 400, my aperture wide open at f5.6 and then point my camera towards a patch of green grass and adjust my shutter speed so that the scale/meter in the viewfinder was centered and then take a test shot. If the grass was too dark or light I would either adjust my shutter speed or my ISO depending on how fast the shutter speed was for the first test shot and then take another test shot. Once I found the right combination of shutter speed and ISO I would consider my exposure to be preset, now I can point it at a bird in the sky, a bird perched in front of a black wall, a bird perched in front of a white wall, a bird on the grass, a bird in a tree and my exposure should come out pretty much the same for all the above situations. I still make minor adjustments in the field, but if I start out with a preset balanced exposure on a patch of green grass before I start, I don't usually have to vary too much from those settings. Now having said that, there are times when you do need to make more adjustments in manual mode, such as a partly cloudy day when the sun intensity fluctuates as the clouds roll by or going into the shade of a forest, but it becomes second nature pretty quickly once you learn to evaluate the meter in your viewfinder, which manual mode will force you to pay more attention to. Nowadays I go out and test myself and guess my settings before taking a test shot, I might try ISO 640, shutter speed 1/800, and aperture at f5.6 and just take a few test shots, if the exposure is good I go with those settings, if not I adjust accordingly, usually dropping my shutter speed to 1/640 before increasing my ISO as required.

Edited by lonestranger
typo
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Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I'm going to play around and see how I like it. This sounds pretty good and more or less the direction I was heading. Really appreciate it. 

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If you are already playing around with exposure compensation in one of the automated modes, switching to manual will be fairly simple. If you haven't yet explored exposure compensation in the automated modes, then switching to manual mode will simply bypass the unnecessary lesson of exposure compensation, which is basically the same as manual exposure without quite as much control. I can honestly say that I found manual mode far easier to get the hang of than I first thought I would, and I learned more in the first few weeks of manual mode than I did in all the previous years going from full Auto mode to Program mode, to Shutter priority mode, and then to Aperture priority mode. Really wish I had of started in manual mode and skipped the early years of not really learning anything. Good luck with your new lens and have fun with your camera. 

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I started out with Auto on bird photography and then looked at the camera info on the keepers after I got home to guide me on future manual settings with those birds and that camera in those weather conditions.

For me now, I take a lot of flying photos and it depends how fast the bird flies.  Seagulls at a lake (juvenile ring-billed) are my favorite.  At a lake, they glide and they drop vertically like helicopters but with landing feet down.  Good bird to practice taking flying bird photos.  Also if you photograph them at a lake they'll fly toward you on the shore.  Great Blue herons flying are also slow.  I think that's why you see so many flying photos of them.  It's not hard to get them.  Songbirds flying...ugh.  Too fast for me the slowpoke, handholding.  For perched photos of songbirds, have to adjust speed for them twitching.

I start my "flying seagulls at the lake" at Manual F11, 1250, auto ISO. I tend to go out on mostly/partly cloudy days in the winter (the only time they are here) to get them.

Flying gulls:

https://zzcapphotos.smugmug.com/What-Bird-2012/n-LWXFj/i-4v8TMQk/A

https://zzcapphotos.smugmug.com/What-Bird-2012/n-LWXFj/i-McD2qMz/A

https://zzcapphotos.smugmug.com/What-Bird-2012/n-LWXFj/i-6kXFzMc/A

Non-flying photos of birds:

https://zzcapphotos.smugmug.com/What-Bird-2012/n-LWXFj/i-mbxW8Hc/A

https://zzcapphotos.smugmug.com/What-Bird-2012/n-LWXFj/i-DzxxbKK/A

https://zzcapphotos.smugmug.com/What-Bird-2012/n-LWXFj/i-4W2rKJd/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 4/11/2018 at 2:46 PM, yep said:

. I'm working with a Canon SL1, not a bad camera, but certainly not one of the higher-end SLRs. 

The first you must find-out  the top level ISO  you can use for pictures ,after point of where ISO noise become destructive -only after this you can switch ISO to AUTO (with top of level you find out ). 

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