The Best Hummingbird Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners

How To Shoot Hummingbird Photography For Beginners

How To Shoot Hummingbird Photography – In this section of Digital Photography Tips and Techniques, Photos By Meta Explains How To Shoot Hummingbird Photography. Don’t think of Hummingbird Photography as Super Long Lens Birding Digital Photography – It’s actually High Speed Macro Photography.

If you think of Hummingbirds as a Large Flying Insects, you’ll understand better how to Shoot Hummingbirds as Macro Photography and not as Nature Photography.

Where To Buy The Best Hummingbird Photography Books

How To Shoot Hummingbird Photography

How To Shoot Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Camera Setup – 3 Low Power Flashes

How To Shoot Hummingbirds Using Flash

Hummingbird Feeders – Meta’s Hummingbird Feeder has been modified for Hummingbird Photography, to have three of the four ports blocked (Photo: Left). Now you can focus the Digital Camera on just one feeding port. It’s hung up several days in advance to get the Hummingbirds used to the new feeder, as they are very smart and creatures of habit! They will often explore a new feeder location for a few days, before landing on it.

Hummingbird Photography Lenses – Being a Macro Photographer, Meta found that her Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens works for Hummingbird Photography, due to its very short (20cm) Minimum Focal Distance (MFD). Meta shoots Hand Held and sometimes with a Monopod – but with No Tripod. Meta tried all of her Long Zoom Lenses, including her Sony 70-200mm F/2.8 G, but then all have a typical MFD of 1.1–1.5 Meters, requiring 200–300mm Zoom and setting up much away just to get within the range of focus. This is where a Macro Lens has an advantage.

Multiple Sony HVL-F43M Flashes
Hummingbird Camera Setup using Remote Flashes

Low Power Flash Method

Reducing the power of all of your flashes to 1/16th Power Level, should fire each flash at about 1/10,000th of a second, which is fast enough to freeze the Hummingbird Wings. Shoot at 1/160th of a second at f/16 for a Wide Depth of Field. Let the High Speed Flashes freeze the Hummingbird Wings, not the Camera’s Shutter. If you need more Freezing Power, reduce the Flash Power down to 1/24th or even 1/32th, but add more Flashes, to make up for the loss of Flash Power. The Flash Range is much shorter using Low Power, so you’ll need to position the Remote Flashes fairly close to the Hummingbird Feeder. Meta places her 3 Flashes about 0.3 Meter from the Hummingbird Feeder, one to shoot straight up to light up the Hummingbird’s belly, and one on either side to freeze the wings. Her Sony Digital Camera with Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens is positioned about 0.6 Meters from the Hummingbird Feeder, Hand Held. When using Low Power Flash, Shoot in the Shade. Early Morning is the time to Shoot Hummingbirds.

The Sony HVL-F43M Flash communicates vis Wireless IR – meaning line of sight. These IR Flashes can be easily converted to 2.4GHZ Radio Flashes by adding a Flashpoint Transmitter to the Sony Digital Camera and a Flashpoint Receiver to each of the Remote Flash Units.

Sony HVL-F43M Flash Setup

1) Insert 4 New AA Lithium Batteries in Each Flash (This procedure will Eat up Batteries)
2) Power On Flash Unit
3) Set to Manual Mode (Not in TTL Mode)
4) Turn Off High Speed Sync – Custom Settings –> C01 –> Off (Only active in TTL Mode)
5) Set Power Level to 1/16, 1/24 or 1/32
6) Select Zoom to 105mm (Narrowest Beam of Focus)
7) Power Off Flash Unit and Repeat with other Remote Flashes

Sony Digital Camera Setup


MENU –> Camera 2 –> Power Save Start Time –> 30 Minutes (prevents Camera from going to sleep)
MENU –> Camera 2 –> Flash Mode –> Wireless
MENU –> Camera 3 –> Power Ratio –> 1/16 (Used to Trigger Remote Flashes)

Meta keeps the Rear LCD Screen closed to save battery power. Bring extra Sony Camera Batteries or use a Sony Dual Battery Grip.

How to Digital Photography Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Photography — HSS Flash Method

High Speed Sync Method

High Speed Sync Flash Method – The Sony HVL-F43M Flash supports High Speed Sync (HSS), so you might want to try this HSS Flash Method as well. HSS was invented so that you can a nice blurred background with a Flash when shooting up to 1/8000th of a second at f/1.4 to f/4.0 in Full Sunlight. The issue with HSS and Hummingbird Photography, is that you have to shoot at 1/8000th of a second, in TTL Mode, wide open at f/1.4 to f/4.0. Wide Open Apertures don’t produce a wide enough depth of field to capture both wing tips (Photo: Left), but it can sometimes freeze the Hummingbird Wings. Compare this Photo to the Sharper one below, which was shot at 1/160th of a second at f/16, using the Low Power Flash Method. To get a wider depth of field and freeze the wing tips, f/16 or smaller aperture is required.

View Meta’s Hummingbird Photos


How to Digital Photography Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Photography — Low Power Flash Method

How To Attract Hummingbirds

Hummingbird Season – Meta’s migrating Hummingbirds show up every year on her front pouch around April 15th. A week before they arrive, Meta hangs up two Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeders. The bright Red Glass attracts the Hummingbirds, without any harmful red dye.

Hummingbird Flowers – Meta hangs shade loving Fuchsia “Gartenmeister Bonstedt” on her front porch, along with other Red, White and Purple Fuchsias. In her Side Shady Mountain Side Garden, Meta plants Native Mountain Huckleberry Bushes, Milkweed and Bright Red Bee Balm to attract Hummingbirds and other Pollinators.

Hummingbird Sounds – Hummingbirds are also attracted by sound. Sibley Guide to Hummingbirds is a Free Hummingbird App which includes Hummingbird Sounds. Meta pairs a Portable Bluetooth Speaker to her iPhone and uses the Free Sibley Hummingbird App to play Hummingbird sounds. The low frequency beating of wings seems to attract the Hummingbirds.

How to Digital Photography Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Photography — Low Power Flash Method

The Best Time to Shoot Hummingbirds

Hummingbird Times – Meta’s Hummingbirds are very active early in the mornings, starting about 1/2 hour before sunrise to about 11:00 AM, then they seem to disappear for the rest of the day. They return in the early evening around 7 PM to about sunset. This is the time to Photograph Hummingbirds.

No Boil – No Mess – Clear Hummingbird Nectar – Take a 1 Liter of bottle of Spring Water. Pour out 200ml (20%). Fill up the 1 Liter bottle to the top with Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar. Shake well and Store in the Fridge for up to 1 week. This is enough Clear Hummingbird Nectar to fill her two 8 oz. Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeders twice a week. No Harmful Red Dye should ever be used.

The Best Hummingbird Feeders For Hummingbird Photography

Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeder – For Hummingbird Photography, Meta modifies a Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeder (Photo: Left) by blocking 3 of the 4 feeding tubes with 1/4” ClosetMaid End Caps, so the Hummingbirds can only feed on 1 feeding tube, exactly where her Digital Camera is focused on.

Hummingbird Feeder Cleaning – Meta found a Baby Bottle Brush with Nipple Cleaner that works great for Cleaning Hummingbird Feeders. This Bottle Brush has a small Nipple Cleaner Brush built into the the handle, which fits into the four Hummingbird Feeder Tubes for scrubbing. Remember to clean the Hummingbird Feeders every 3 to 4 Days. Mold buildup can kill Hummingbirds!

Hummingbird Digital Camera Settings

Camera: Sony a77 II Digital Camera
Lens: Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
Camera Mode: Manual Mode
Tripod: None: Hand Held for Better Aiming Control
Focus: Zone Focus on Center Area
ISO: Auto (Maximum Range limited to ISO 800)
Shutter: 1/160 of a second (1/125th of a second if on a Monopod)
Aperture: f/16 (For a Wider Depth of Field)
Drive Mode: Single Shot Mode
Flash Power: 1/16th, 1/24 or 1/32 Power – Trigger Remotes with Camera’s Internal Flash (Add More Flashes for Low Power)

Hummingbird Photography Field Kit

Meta’s Hummingbird Photography Field Kit attaches to the back of her Camera Bag or Camera Belt. She carries Sony HVL-F43M Flashes on her Camera Belt or in a Back Pack, inside 3 Flash Pouches. This Modular Configuration is used for Hummingbird Photography:
• 3 Sony HVL-F43M Flashes – One Shooting straight up – Others on Sides
• 8 AA Lithium Batteries – Stored in each Flash Pouch
3M Double Sided Tape – 1” Square Pieces To Mount Flashes on Railing

The Best Hummingbird Photography Books

Hummingbirds of North America The Photographic Guide

Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide

– Steve N. G. Howell

Well known and respected Hummingbird tour leader and author, Steve Howell, has made a particular study of the finer points of Hummingbirds. Over 200 stunning Hummingbird Photographs complement this highly recommended Hummingbird Photography Book. Some Hummingbird species feature as many as 14 different Hummingbird Photographs in each set.
Hummingbirds of North America The Photographic Guide

Hummingbirds of North America: Attracting, Feeding and Photographing

– Dan True

Professional Hummingbird Photographer Dan True conveys his passion for these buzzing aeronauts by describing all 16 species of North American Hummers, listing their favorite flowers and going into detail about their habits, courtship and distribution. Dan then tells us How To Photograph Hummingbirds as he does with such consummate skill. Here in one Hummingbird book is all you could hope to know about our Hummingbirds.

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Top Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners
Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners

Photos By Meta

Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners
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Photos By Meta

Nature Photographs were shot by North Carolina Nature Photographer Meta Gätschenberger of Photos by Meta, with Sony Lenses and Minolta Lenses.

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