The Best Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginner Photographers

The Best Hummingbird Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginner Photographers

How To Shoot The Best Hummingbird Photography With Flash

How To Shoot Hummingbird Photography – In this section of Digital Photography Tips and Techniques, Photos By Meta Explains How To Shoot The Best Hummingbird Photography For Beginner Photographers. Don’t think of Hummingbird Photography as Super Long Lens Birding Digital Photography – Think of this as 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. Hummingbird season starts in mid April!

Where To Buy The Best Hummingbird Photography Books

How To Shoot Hummingbird Photography

How To Shoot Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Camera Setup – Multiple Flashes

How To Shoot Hummingbirds Using Multiple Flashes

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.

What’s The Best Camera Lens for Shooting Hummingbirds?

Meta has tried all of her Long Zoom Lenses, including her Sony 70-200mm F/2.8 G, and her Minolta AF Zoom 75–300mm f/4.5–5.6 Lens, but they all have a typical MFD of 1.1–1.5 Meters, requiring 200–300mm Zoom and setting up too away just to get within the range of focus.

Being a Macro Photographer, Meta found that her Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens works the best for Hummingbird Photography, due to its very short (16cm) Minimum Focal Distance (MFD). Meta sometimes shoots Hand Held, but often with a Monopod or Tripod.

Multiple Sony HVL-F43M Flashes
Hummingbird Camera Setup using 4 Remote Flashes

Multiple Low Power Flash Method For Shooting Hummingbirds

This Multiple Low Power Flash Method uses Wireless Flash Photography to control the Four Remote HVL-F43M Flashes Off Camera.

The Digital Camera’s popup flash is your Controller Flash for the Four Remote HVL-F43M Flashes. If you have multiple Digital Cameras and Flash Units, it is recommended to number them all with ID stickers.

We’ll first need to sync each of the 4 Remote Flash Units to your Digital Camera. This is very important to do, if you are using multiple digital cameras, as it prevents other digital cameras from accidentally firing your flashes.

Flash Reset
Reset Each Flash Unit to Factory Default Settings

Camera Sync and Flash Unit Setup

1 Insert 4 new AA Lithium Batteries in Each Flash Unit.

2) Reset each Flash Unit to Factory Default Settings (Diagram: Left). Press the MODE and TTL/M buttons together for more than three seconds. Resetting each Flash Unit removes any past Camera Sync and Custom Flash Settings, that could cause problems later on.

3) Set your Digital Camera’s Flash Mode to Wireless Mode and 1/16 Power to match the Flash Unit’s Power Level.
MENU –> Tool 2 –> Power Save Start Time –> 30 Minutes (Prevents Sleeping)
MENU –> Camera 2 –> Flash Mode –> Wireless
MENU –> Camera 3 –> Power Ratio –> 1/16 (Same Power Level as Remote Flash Units)

Reduced Flash Power
Manually Reduce Flash Power to 1/16 Power Level
4) Attach a Flash Unit to the Digital Camera and Power On the Flash Unit and the Digital Camera.

5) WL should be automatically displayed on the Flash’s LCD panel and the Flash Unit should be in RMT1 or RMT2, but not in CTRL.

6) Press the TTL/M Button to Display MANUAL.

7) Press the Up or Down Arrows to Select the Power Level of Each of the 4 Flash Units to 1/16 Power Level (Diagram: Left).

8) Power Off the Flash Unit and the Digital Camera. The Flash Unit / Digital Camera Sync is remembered by the Flash Unit until the Flash Unit is Reset to Default Settings.

9) Remove the Flash Unit from the Camera and attach the Flash Feet.

10) Repeat Steps 4–9 until each of the 4 Flash Units have been Synced to your Digital Camera.

Test Fire to make sure all 4 Flash Units are Firing at the same time.

For More Information, Refer to the Sony HVL-F43M Flash Manual.

The Secret To The Low Power Flash Method

Reducing the power of the 4 Remote Flash Units 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 1/250th of a second at f/16 for a Wide Depth of Field. Let the Multiple High Speed Flashes freeze the Hummingbird Wings, not the Camera’s Fast Shutter.

The Flash Range is much shorter on 1/16 Power Level, so you’ll need to position the Multiple Remote Flashes much closer to the Hummingbird Feeder. Meta uses her 4 Sony HVL-F43M Flashes placed about 0.5 Meter from the Hummingbird Feeder, one pair of flashes on each side of the Hummingbird Feeder (Photo: Top). Her Sony Digital Camera with Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens is positioned about 0.5 Meter from the Hummingbird Feeder.

Refer to the Sony HVL-F43M Flash Manual.

You can mount pairs of flashes on the same tripod or flash stand using these inexpensive Dual Flash Mounting Brackets. Flash Mounting Brackets simplifies the number of tripods or flash stands required when using multiple low power flashes.

When using Low Power Flash, Shoot in the Shade, not in direct sunlight. Early Morning is the time to Shoot Hummingbirds.

The Sony HVL-F43M Flash communicates via Wireless IR – Line of Sight, so if you are having firing issues, make sure the Digital Camera’s Popup Flash is Up and that it in Line of Sight with each of the Four Remote Flash Units.

IR Flash Units can be converted to 2.4 GHz Radio Flashes by adding a Flashpoint Transmitter to the Sony Digital Camera and a Flashpoint Receiver to each of the Four Remote Flash Units. This allows the Flash Units to be out of the Line of Sight and Hidden.

How to Digital Photography Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Photography — HSS Flash Method

Can You Use High Speed Sync (HSS) to Shoot Hummingbirds?

High Speed Sync Flash Method – The Sony HVL-F43M Flash supports High Speed Sync (HSS) in TTL Mode (Not Manual), 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 problem with HSS and Hummingbird Photography, is that you have to shoot at 1/8000th of a second, in TTL Mode, wide open at f/2.8. 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 to Your Garden

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 three Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeders. The bright Red Glass attracts the Hummingbirds, without using any harmful red dye. They usually head south the first week of October.

Hummingbird Flowers – Meta hangs 3 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

When is 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 10:00 AM, then they seem to disappear for the rest of the day. They return in the early evening around 7 PM to sunset. These are the best times 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 three 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 Only, Meta modifies her 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. Dangerous mold buildup can kill Hummingbirds!

Meta’s Hummingbird Sony Digital Camera Settings

Camera: Sony a77 II Digital Camera
Lens: Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
Tripod: Use a Tripod or use Hand Held for Better Aiming Control
Focus: Zone Focus on Center Area
ISO: Auto (Maximum Range limited to ISO 400)
Shutter: 1/250 of a second
Aperture: f/16 (For a Wider Depth of Field)
Drive Mode: Single Shot Mode
Remote Flash Power: 1/16th to 1/24th Power – Trigger the 4 Remote Flashes using the Digital Camera’s Internal Flash

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 4 Flash Pouches. This Modular Configuration is used for Hummingbird Photography:
• 4 Sony HVL-F43M Flashes – One Pair on each side of the Hummingbird Feeder
• 8 AA Lithium Batteries – Stored in each Flash Pouch
3M Double Sided Tape – 1” Square Pieces if mounting Flashes on Railings



Digital Photography TipsShooting Hummingbirds can be tricky, because Hummers spook very easily. If your Sony Digital Camera allows for Remote WiFi Triggering from a remote iPhone or iPad, consider using this WiFi Control feature from a short distance.

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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