Exposure Issues
Plexiglas Issues
Getting Close-ups
Avoid Stressing the Birds
Camera Buying Advice



How to Photograph Birds in an Acrylic Aviary (cont)

Camera Buying Advice for Pet Bird Photography

I can only offer advice on digital cameras, as I gave up on film a long time ago (I take way to many bad pictures to be successful with film). However, some suggestions will apply equally to both.

  • If you can afford it and it meets your needs, go digital. Digital gives you the ability to take an endless number of pictures without paying for film or development. This allows you to take a lot of shots without concern for money. You can throw away the bad shots (and if you are like me, there will be many) and keep the good ones. You can also experiment freely with the different techniques described herein (shutter speed, aperture, ISO settings, etc) - it won't take you long to learn these things if you are free to practice a lot. If you want prints and don't have an archival-quality printer, there are many online digital processing labs and more and more places now allow you to bring in your digital pictures for printing.
  • Look for a camera with a high optical "zoom." Digital zoom means very little - it uses interpolation to enlarge your image, but image quality degrades. If you want this, you can do it just as well or better in software. Optical zoom is a characteristic of the lens and the only type of zoom that is really worth anything. With a high-powered optical zoom, you can take close up pictures of your birds from further away. If you go the SLR route, be sure to budget for a telephoto lens.
  • Look for a camera with a short shutter lag. Shutter lag is the amount of time between pressing the shutter release and the camera actually firing. Many digital cameras have shutter lags of over a second. This means that even if you pressed the release on time, by the time the camera fires, the bird may have flown the coop. With shutter lag, you frequently have to anticipate your shot and fire early, and this is hard to do with birds. The perfect shot only exists for a fraction of a second - then its gone.
  • Look for a camera with some manual capability. Even if this seems intimidating, being able to control depth of field, freezing/blurring of motion, ISO sensitivity, and other things such as white balance and exposure compensation can go a long way toward improving your photographs. And with a digital camera, you can experiment all you want. Don't worry about being overwhelmed; even the most sophisticated digital cameras usually have a fully automatic mode. And many of the consumer-level cameras meant to be used as automatic point-and-shoots will still have some manual controls in case you want to experiment.
  • How many megapixels you need depends on your intended output. For web use, you can get by with a little 2 MP camera. For standard 4x6 prints, you can do well with 2-3 MP. For enlargements of your prints, you will want 3 or more MP. Keep in mind that the number of megapixels is not a measure of picture quality, just how big they can be printed/displayed. Note that, although for web use you don't need many megapixels, you might want them anyway if you don't have enough optical zoom on your camera of choice. With a higher megapixel camera, you can crop a smaller percentage of the frame and still have a larger, decent-sized image.
  • Quality counts. Visit these sites for reviews of available digital cameras:,,

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