Robins are a popular photographic subject on ePHOTOzine but if you've never tried photographing one, here are a few quick tips to help you out.
- Telephoto lens – Without a long lens such as the 300mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S VR NIKKOR or 400mm f/2.8G ED VR AF-S NIKKOR your robin will look tiny.
- Tripod – When using longer lenses shake can be a problem, particularly when you're working outside in the cold and are trying to work hand-held, so use a tripod to help ensure your images are sharp.
Feed the birds
Leaving feeders out, particularly near perches you've purposely set up, will encourage robins, and other birds, to visit your garden. Make sure you just don't start feeding them the day you want to take photos either as if you make it a year-round thing, they'll already know they can find food in your garden and be used to where the feeders are, increasing the chances of a bird landing when you're out in the cold with your camera.
Prepare the scene
Photographing robins on feeders is fine but more more interesting shots, strategically place a perch near a feeder which the birds have to land on first before they go for the food. Perches don't always have to be twigs and branches either as garden tools, fences, garden seats, wheel barrows and other garden accessories can work just as effectively. Of course, if you're going for a more natural look, use a branch and set it up against a background of shrubbery.
Little birds move quickly and rarely stay still, even when eating so you'll need a quick shutter speed to ensure your shots are sharp. You also need to make sure your not throwing the tips of tail feathers and beaks out of focus when you're trying to create your out of focus backgrounds so use your LCD screen and zoom in on these areas to double-check everything's sharp. Do remember that light's lower at this time of year too so if you struggle to get quick enough shutter speeds, move away from low ISOs.
Inside or out?
If you're outside, make sure you wrap up warm as you can be outside for a few hours and use a hide if you have one as birds scare easily. Working outside gives you more flexibility over the angle you work at which means you can shift to find a better background or to change the light's angle, however, if you're not a fan of sitting out in the cold you can shoot from inside your house. If you have a window looking out onto a garden you're able to set your tripod up next to, position it so your lens is as close to the glass as possible, you may want to use a lens hood to shield the lens, and switch off your room lights to minimise reflections. Just remember to position your feeders and perches so they're at a good angle for working indoors and if you do find the birds to be too far away to fill your frame, use a longer lens if you have one or converters and extension tubes will also help you increase the size of your subject in the frame.