The Nikon Coolpix p900 is a great camera. It has great zooming capabilities and a wide range of settings that make it good for a few different niches. Although some cameras are better in certain niches than others, the p900 actually has a few different niches that it can shoot well.
One of these is bird photography. Nikon p900 bird photography is often a dream. The great zooming capabilities and “bird mode” option make it perfect for getting those quick, far-off shots. Of course, nothing is truly easy, and getting the most out of this camera for bird photography can take a bit of tweaking.
Bird photography benefits from a few different things. Good zoom capability is one thing that can come in handy. Another is the option to do burst shots. In general, though, it is best to acquaint yourself with all of the subtle particulars of the camera for bird photography.
This guide will acquaint you with some of the best tips and tricks for photographing birds with your Nikon p900. These tips include general settings, reading recommendations, and some subtle hints that you may not have known about your camera.
Enroll On A Free Online Bird Photography Course
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Pick Up Some Good Reading Material
The Nikon p900 is a great camera, but Nikon is kind of infamous in the world of photography for leaving crucial information out of their manuals. Luckily, there’s a guy named Alexander White. Mr. White has written a veritable myriad of books on how to use a wide range of cameras.
If you check out his photographer’s guide to the Nikon Coolpix p900, it will probably have a lot of crucial information about your camera that was simply not in the manual. Informing yourself of all the weapons at your disposal is key. Although the book is not specifically about bird photography, it will have a lot of different settings and tips that are crucial for you to know.
It also wouldn’t help to flip through a book on bird photography. It’s a fairly subtle niche, and it never hurts to educate yourself.
Get Used To Using Auto Focus
There are many situations in which the auto focus is unnecessary, or even detrimental to your photography. On the other hand, some situations and niches definitely benefit from good auto focus. The auto focus on the p900 is fairly good, and can help you get those quick shots where fumbling around with the focus ring will make you lose your chance.
Of course, this depends on your situation. If you’ve got a nice vantage point with a stable tripod set up and your subject isn’t going anywhere, then you can get sharper pics without the auto focus. That being said, if you’re shooting a freehand shot after scrambling to grab your camera and snap your subject before it flies away, auto focus is your friend.
Play around with the different setting and find out what works best for you in any situation. There is no singular “correct” way to shoot birds.
Adjust Your F Stops
This is one of the trickier tips on this list for newer photographers to get right. Having your F stops set properly can help you get exactly the depth of field you want in your photography. This is different for different niches, of course. In bird photography, you will generally want more depth of field in your shot, depending on the actual type of shot you want to take.
Sometimes, you will want a shorter depth of field to really highlight the bird in your shot (or maybe even its prey!). Like anything else in the world of photography, it really depends on the exact situation and subject you’re shooting. The only way to get it exactly right is to get out and play around with it.
Having the more closed aperture can make it easier to grab a subject in flight, whereas the wider aperture has a number of advantages, and can create some really interesting results.
Practice Tracking Birds
This one can seem like a bit of an obvious solution, but it’s always worth mentioning that practice makes perfect. Birds are tricky subjects, they act erratically and can be very fast and easy to lose track of. Learning to properly find your subject with your camera and keep it in frame long enough for you to take the shot is an essential skill of bird photography.
To get some practice, it is usually a good idea to go out into your backyard, or onto a hiking trail near your house, and just try until you get it right. Follow birds around and see how hard it is to actually snap shots of them. Don’t forget to play around with your settings and see how the photos turn out.
A lot of things that you need to learn about the p900 for bird photography are things that are best taught to yourself through practicing with the camera in different situations.
Test Out Different Shutter Speeds
For bird photography, you will generally want really high shutter speeds. This is especially true if you are using burst shot instead of single shot. Having a slower shutter speed can end up making for some relay blurry photographs.
Every time you halve the shutter speed on your camera, you are doubling the light available for the picture you’re taking with that camera. This means that quick-moving birds are better shot with a faster shutter speed, as it removes a lot of motion from the picture and sharpens the quick-moving subject.
If you’re shooting a less quick-moving subject, however, for example shooting entire flocks from a singular vantage point with a tripod, then a slower shutter speed is more viable. In general, though, with bird photography you will want a faster shutter speed.
Single Shot Or Burst Shot
Single shot takes a single picture, while burst shot takes many pictures in rapid succession. If you are trying to pinpoint a moment for a photograph that can be hard to time exactly right, then burst shot can help you get different shots over a period of time, making it more likely that you’ll hit that perfect moment.
It isn’t foolproof however, and there are some situations in which single shot can get you a better picture. Single shot can benefit from higher quality settings that would negatively affect a burst shot. That being said, even when birds are sitting still, their heads can still move quite a bit.
When the bird’s head is moving quickly, it can be tough to get a shot with the whole bird in focus. This is where burst shot really shines for bird photography.
Play Around With The Optical Zoom
One of the main advantages to using the p900 for bird photography is the insane 83x zoom. This thing can zoom into a bird’s belly button from across the forest and still get you a few good shots as it takes off. That being said, playing around with the zoom can have a lot of subtle effects on your photos, so it’s good to acquaint yourself with the subtleties of how it works.
First of all, when the lens is zoomed outward from the camera, it changes the amount of light available for the shot. This means that it reduces the number of aperture settings you can use for the shot. With the lens un-zoomed, the aperture range is between 2.8 and 8.
With the lens zoomed out all the way, however, you are limited to between 6.5 and 8. This can have a profound effect on how your photos turn out, so it’s a good idea to play around with it and see which settings suit you best.
The LCD Display
The display on your camera has a wide range of functions. Many people use it to actually shoot photos. This can be effective, but it can also drain your camera’s battery. In brighter weather conditions, as well, it can become difficult to actually see the LCD display.
Stabilize In A Pinch
If you find yourself shooting at max zoom without a monopod or something to stabilize your shot, it can be very frustrating to try and hold the camera steady. If you find yourself in this situation often, there’s a nifty little trick to help you get your shot stabilized when you have nothing with which to stabilize it.
Simply lean against something. Yep, it’s that simple. Although not quite as effective as proper stabilization, it can give you that extra bit of stability you need to get the perfect shot in a pinch.
One cool thing that comes with the Nikon Coolpix p900 is that it actually has a “bird mode” option. Convenient, right? The bird mode option streamlines the process of zooming in and focusing on a small, possibly quick-moving subject, making it easier to get the perfect shots of those birds.
In order to enable bird mode, you first turn the dial to the “SCENE” setting. After that, you use the dial that surrounds the “OK” button to scroll through options until the one comes up that says “Bird-watching”. Once that is selected, you can hit “OK” to activate bird mode.
Using bird mode won’t always be necessary, especially once you get used to setting up your camera properly for bird watching. That being said, playing around with it can definitely give you some insight on the different options available for shooting birds. You’ll never know unless you try.
You Can Use Your Camera As Binoculars
Something that may seem obvious to some people, but that escapes many bird photographers in practice, is that your camera is effectively a set of binoculars. It has amazing zoom capabilities, and works very well by itself for finding birds out in the wild.
This has the added advantage of allowing you to snap some shots immediately, without having to pick up your camera first and re-locate the subject. Although this can be a huge advantage, it also keeps the camera on longer, creating a drain on the battery.
Although this strategy works well for local or short birding trips, longer trips will require actual binoculars to avoid killing your camera’s battery.
Go Out And Play With Your Camera
At the end of the day, no internet article will truly be able to tell you the absolute best way to do bird photography. The p900 is a powerful camera when used properly, and it has a lot of cool features that complement bird photography quite nicely.
The only way for you to truly become used to using these different features is to actually go out and practice shooting birds. Without practicing and trying out different settings, you will never know whether or not you could have gotten a better picture. Sometimes you won’t be able to get any picture if you don’t know how to properly zoom and focus the camera at the drop of a hat.
Bird photography is a subtle niche. There are a lot of recommendations for shooting birds, but no singular best way of going about it. There is always a myriad of ways to take a picture, and the best way for you to take the perfect picture is to get out there and shoot.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to fire away in the comments section!