Creating A Setting For Photographing Birds

Winter is here with its first cold weather and the food necessary for passerines is scarce, you may have started the winter feeding of our feathered friends to take the opportunity to shoot them!
Last winter we had seen how to photograph birds and how to ideally set up a feeder and wait for the birds to come to you. Well, to complete all this, I propose you today to see how it is possible to realize, at home, easily and cheaply a “natural” decor on which the birds will not fail to pose and to be active, in winter period to obtain this kind of photo from your garden.

Creating A Setting For Photographing Birds

Before approaching the decor to photograph the birds, it is important to talk about feeding. Indeed, our feathered models will only come on the set if we give them a good reason! And the feeding is therefore the pretext to attract passerines. But be careful, the feeding of birds must respect several essential rules. First of all, feeding should only start at the first cold weather. And it will end at the beginning of spring. Secondly, once you have started feeding the birds, you should never stop feeding during the winter.

In winter, the passerines of the gardens seek mainly seeds rich in lipids. The best adapted, according to the LPO are sunflower seeds, peanuts/peanuts (attention, not roasted and not salted), millet, crushed corn, fat balls with seeds (avoid those containing palm oil of course). On the other hand, avoid animal fat, bread or ready-made industrial products.

The decoration
To obtain the best possible photos, it is obviously important that the decor is as natural as possible. The choice of materials and their arrangement is therefore essential to have a natural look on your photos. For that, you just have to go for a walk and collect some moss to make the ground, but also some stones, pieces of wood, some ferns or wild plants with berries.

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You can also, and I strongly recommend it, incorporate water points in your decorations. They will allow the birds to come and drink or bathe and it is essential for them even in winter. And moreover it is very photogenic!

Creating A Setting For Photographing Birds

Do not forget to incorporate in your decor, but in a discreet way, the feeding points necessary to attract them. You just have to camouflage the seeds behind pieces of wood, stones or plants. Or dig a hole in an old trunk to insert seeds!

The background
It is important to check the background of your decor, and therefore that there are no disturbing elements in your background. Depending on your location you may be able to take advantage of a natural vegetal background with for example a hedge, shrubs, a bed of plants, …

If this is not possible, you can also create plant backgrounds made of various elements recovered from nature (leafy branches, branches of trees with berries, ferns, …).

In all cases, do not hesitate to make test photos from the scout with your correct shooting settings and check the result on the screen of your camera or computer.

My examples of scenery
There are no standard sizes, shapes, or even layouts! Let your imagination do the talking to make your own designs. In any case, don’t hesitate to take test pictures from the scout with your correct shooting settings to check the result, don’t wait until Mister robin is on stage to realize that the scenery is not the way you want it! You can also set up several sets at the same time, which will increase your shooting scenes. Remember to replace and refresh the elements regularly to keep it realistic. But also not to have always the same decor!

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For this winter I have arranged several sets, the main one is composed of the water point. It is actually the lid of my water collector that I recycled in “Drink Station”. It is ideal to put moss and elements around it. Its shallow depth allows to create a beach on which the birds can come to drink or bathe. Concerning the dimensions it is about 80×60 cm, it is a little bit small for a drink station, but I try to adapt. For the location, I put it slightly overhanging from my camera to be able to play with the reflections of the birds in the water.

I also placed other decorations, but smaller, usually made from a simple board of 50 x 20 cm or tree trunks. For the location, I placed them near my drink station with the background as far away as possible, the objective being to have the birds with the background as blurred as possible.

Creating A Setting For Photographing Birds

The distance between the scenery and the mount
The distance between the scout and the scenery is ideally defined by the focal length of your lens. For me, with the Tamron 150-600mm and my full frame, I am about 5 meters from the scenery. I obviously invite you to do some tests to be sure.

Concerning the stalking, the easiest solution is certainly to take pictures of birds from a window of the house! But this is not always possible. In this case, think about looking at the garage, the garden shed or why not the children’s shed which can be very good blinds. And if none of these suggestions is possible, then you have to use a tent.

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For this winter, I positioned the sets so that I could photograph the birds from the windows of the house. Of course, you have to be as discreet as possible, so you can lower the shutters if you are in your house or camouflage yourself with a net or camouflage fabric. This allows me to easily monitor what is happening at the feeder while continuing my daily routine.

Regarding the loss of quality, I let you judge with the pictures of this article which were all taken through the glass. As you can see it’s great, I just take care to be perpendicular to the glass to avoid distortions.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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