How to Photograph Owls
Owls are often a rare sight, which is what makes photographs of owls so special. To photograph owls, learn their behavior so that you have a better idea of where and when to set up your camera. Try using a zoom lens to capture more detail, or use a tripod for blur-free pictures. Always make sure you put the owl's safety first by not getting too close, and understand what an owl looks like when it's distressed or feeling threatened.
Picking a Spot
Research the owl you intend to photograph to learn its behavior.Find out which areas it likes to inhabit, what times of day it’s most active, and its typical behavior. This will help you determine where and at what time to pick your spot.
- If you don't know the specific type of owl you're aiming to photograph, research what types of owls tend to live in your area.
Take advantage of public lands.National parks, shorelines, popular hiking trails, and other natural public areas are great for photographing owls. These owls are much more accustomed to being near humans, making it easier to photograph them, and you won’t be trespassing on private land.
- Make sure you stay on marked trails.
Wear comfortable, neutral-colored clothing.While this isn’t a rule you have to live by, it’s always better to make yourself blend in when bird watching as opposed to standing out. Avoid super bright colors like yellow, orange, and red and dress in more neutral tones.
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat will help shield your eyes and face from the owls, as well as the sun.
- It’s best to dress in layers so that you can easily stay cool or warm depending on the temperature.
Listen for the sounds of an owl to choose your spot.Owls are often heard before they’re seen, so listen for a “hoo hoo" or other owl call to help you identify the location of the owl. Once you hear one, you can use your binoculars to try to spot it.
- The sound an owl makes will depend on the type of owl, so do some research beforehand to learn the individual sounds the owl might make so that you’ll recognize them.
- Looking for owl pellets, or the regurgitated leftovers from their food, is also a good way to know when an owl is nearby.
Move around slowly and carefully.The owls will be startled by lots of sudden, harsh movements. If you’re getting down or standing up, do it slowly. When setting up your camera, take your time and be aware of how the owl’s interpreting your movements.
Prepare to sit in one spot for long periods of time.Once you’ve spotted the owl or you know that it will be in one spot, sit down and prepare to wait. You may be sitting for hours at a time, so bring a towel, pad, or small chair with you.
- Sitting low to the ground will help the owls feel less threatened by you and you’ll blend in better.
- If you don’t have a chair, make use of a tree stump or other natural resting spot.
Arrive before the peak photography hours so that you’re all set up.Peak photography hours are at dawn or in the late afternoon/early evening, so try to get set up before then to be ready.
- You don’t want to be getting to your spot when the owl is awake and going about its business—this is the time when you’ll want to be taking pictures.
- If you're hoping to photograph a specific type of owl, do some research to find out what time of day they're most active.
Keep a safe distance to avoid disturbing the owls.Getting too close to the owls will scare them and disturb their natural surroundings. If you notice the owl staring at you and looking distressed, it’s time to back up.
- You can try becoming part of the landscape to see if the owls will get used to your presence. Position yourself far away the first day, and then very slowly move closer each day after that.
- Invest in binoculars or long camera lenses to capture the photos at a greater distance.
- How far away you stay from the owls will differ—you might need to stay 20 yards (18 m) away, or 100 yards (91 m) away—it all depends on the specific type of owl.
Ask an owl expert for more information.If you know someone who’s very knowledgeable about owls, as them where they think you should try to photograph the owls. You can also reach out to local bird watchers, or go online to find more information about choosing a spot to photograph owls in your location.
Setting up the Camera
Select a lens ranging from 200mm to 600mm for high-quality photos.Using a telephoto zoom lens will give you a lot more detail at a farther distance. Since you can’t get too close to the owls, having a zoom lens will give you an advantage.
Use a tripod to keep your pictures clear.It can be difficult to hold your camera steady when you’re photographing owls, especially if you’re using an extension. Setting up a tripod will ensure high-quality pictures without any blurriness.
- If you don’t have a tripod, try positioning your camera on something steady, such as a tree or rock.
Increase your shutter speed to capture pictures of the owls in flight.If you want to get photos of the owls while they’re in motion, turn up your shutter speed anywhere from 1/500 to 1/1500 of a second. This will help cut down on the motion blur and give you clearer pictures.
Change the aperture to f/4 or f/5.6 for a blurred background.This will allow the focus to be entirely on the owl, and will give you a nice blurred out background.
- The blurred background is also called bokeh, and it gives your photos an artsy quality.
- Try turning the aperture to around f/10 to photograph owls in motion.
Aim for photographing the owl head-on.Taking pictures of owls up in a tree from the ground isn’t going to provide you with great images. If possible, try to capture the photos at eye-level, photographing the owls from a nearby hill if they’re positioned in a tree.
Respecting the Owls
Recognize the owl’s behavior when it’s stressed or upset.There are several ways to tell when an owl is distressed—their eyes will be wide open and staring, or they'll try to make themselves as skinny, stiff, and out of sight as possible. If the owl is flushed, this is a definite sign that the owl is upset.
- How the owl reacts when it’s upset also depends on the specific species, so do some research to learn how to recognize the different behaviors of the owl you’re photographing.
- A "flushed" owl means that the owl is forced to take flight because it's scared or feeling threatened.
Avoid baiting or feeding the owls.Baiting the owls by dropping mice nearby so that they’ll come closer is strongly discouraged—it disrupts the owl’s natural routine. Avoid feeding the owls food, even if it would result in a great picture.
Try not to make too many noises.The best way to get amazing pictures is to blend in with the owl’s natural habitat, which means not making an unnecessary amount of noise. Observe the owls quietly and avoid talking on the phone loudly, playing music, or creating other unnatural noises.
- Don’t play bird calls from your phone or other device to try to lure the owls out.
Avoid using flash when taking pictures.This can be disruptive to the owls, especially at night when it’s very dark outside. If you’re taking pictures at night, try to use as much natural light as possible, like the moon’s reflection.
- If you do use flash, watch the owl’s reactions to ensure you’re not upsetting them.
Be careful if you’re photographing nests.A nest is considered a safe place for owls, so if you’re encroaching on its nest, it’s going to become stressed. Try to arrive before the owl gets to the nest so that it isn’t startled, and stay farther back when photographing than you would if the owl was just sitting in a tree.
Video: The Owl Man
The Things That Are Making Your Hair Brassy—And What to Do AboutIt
The In-depth Guide to the Perfect Body Game Plan 2019
How to Reset Your Apple ID
Halo Top Just Released A Blueberry Crumble Flavor And It Tastes Like The Real Deal
The Best Jobs for Retirees Who Still Want to Make Money
Stress at work can increase breast cancer risk by a third’
How to Use a Home Blood Pressure Kit
8 Food Rules To Follow While Youre Breastfeeding
6 Things You Should Know About High Blood Pressure
What Psychologists Want You to Know About the Holiday Blues
5 Things in your house that are making you tired
Graduation Inspiration: 10 Makeup Looks ToTry