Photos of Flying Birds Against Bright Skies: Here’s How to Nail Exposure (VIDEO)

Typically when we discuss photographing birds in flight, the emphasis is on techniques for capturing super-sharp images. But as you’ll see in today’s tutorial, there’s another critical consideration under certain lighting conditions.

The video below from British wildlife photographer Paul Miguel concentrates on nailing exposure—an essential skill when shooting birds in flight against a very bright sky. In such situations your subjects will appear too dark unless you make the appropriate adjustments.

Miguel helps you solve this dilemma by explaining the camera settings he uses to achieve properly exposed images when the background is too bright for conventional techniques. He also discusses how to use EV compensation when shooting in a semi-automatic mode, and the implications of using Manual mode instead.

Miguel explains how bright skies influence your camera’s light meter and often lead to the common problem of underexposed images. With his camera set to a semi-automatic exposure mode, Miguel demonstrates how the image quickly darkens as he moves the frame from straight forward to higher and higher in the sky.

The best way to compensate varies depending upon the composition, your position relative to the sun, and the brightness of the sky. Are you pointing the camera toward the horizon? Is the sun directly overhead, at your back, or off to one side? 

To answer these questions and explain the necessary adjustments, Miguel introduces three scenarios that assume you’re using an evaluative metering mode, and there’s at list some amount of sun striking the bird. By exploring these situations with Miguel’s help, and following his straightforward advice, you’ll be able to consistently nail exposure the next time you photograph birds in flight.

After watching the video head over to Miguel’s instructional YouTube channel where you’ll find more tips and tricks.

And be sure to check out the earlier tutorial we posted, explaining how to achieve razor-sharp focus when photographing flying birds.