8 Tips to Take Breathtaking Hummingbird Photos

Look, listen and learn how to shoot amazing photos of hummingbirds that capture their dazzling colors and behavior.

Close-up photo of Anna's hummingbirdCourtesy Elijah Gildea
Anna’s hummingbird

Hang Lots of Hummingbird Feeders

Elijah Gildea of Redding, California shoots professionally for Perky-Pet bird feeders and leads tours in Costa Rica, while teaching local photography workshops. He uses a Nikon D850 camera, with a Nikon 200-500 lens. In his own backyard, Elijah regularly welcomes six species. “I have 12 large hummingbird feeders up and spend my mornings drinking coffee, cleaning and refilling feeders, and watching dozens of hummingbirds.” Here’s everything you need to know about hummingbird feeders.

Courtesy William Friggle
Ruby-throated hummingbird

Know Hummingbirds’ Habits

When Bill Friggle’s severe arthritis forced him into a power chair, he felt depressed by his limitations. Reading about another photographer who had similar challenges inspired him. “On the days you can, you go out and do what you can,” he says. Bill, who lives in Denver, Pennsylvania, uses a Nikon D600 camera, with a Nikon 200-500 lens. “Know the hummingbirds,” he says. “What are their habits? That allows you to predict where they will be and lets you prefocus your camera on that spot.” Discover jaw-dropping facts about hummingbirds.

Ruby-throated hummingbird sips nectar from hibiscus flowerCourtesy Mike Bond
Ruby-throated hummingbird

Master Your Camera

Mike Bond of Sumter, South Carolina, began dabbling in wildlife photography in 2007, focusing first on flowers to master camera settings and good composition. The challenges of partial paralysis make his photos all the more impressive. “I can’t use my left hand or leg, and I’m confined to a power wheelchair,” he says. Mike used his engineering skills to design a special wheelchair camera mount he calls the C4 Freedom, with a shutter adapter he clicks with his mouth. His camera is a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Male Anna's hummingbirdCourtesy Leslie Scopes Anderson
Anna’s hummingbird

Shoot Multiple Frames

“Hummingbirds are the jewels of the animal kingdom,” says Leslie Scopes Anderson of Arcata, California. “Working with them involves beautiful flowers, which also adds to the experience.” Leslie uses a Nikon D4S camera with a NIKKOR 200-400 lens. To overcome the challenge of hummingbirds’ quick, darting flights, she waits for them to hover before clicking the shutter—repeatedly. “Shoot, shoot, shoot!” she says. “The more frames the merrier.”

Black-bellied hummingbird in Costa RicaCourtesy Elijah Gildea
Black-bellied hummingbird in Costa Rica

Watch for Perching Hummingbirds

“Learn the sounds hummingbirds make so it’s easier to spot them,” Elijah Gildea says. “Try shooting them while they’re perched and still to get sharp, colorful photos. These hummingbird photos prove that these tiny fliers are amazing.

Anna's hummingbirdCourtesy Leslie Scopes Anderson
Anna’s hummingbird

Pay Attention to the Light

“As photographers say, ‘Point your shadow at it,'” says Leslie Scopes Anderson. “Keep the sun behind you for maximum color rendition.” She also recommends trying to focus on hummingbirds’ eyes.

Ruby-throated hummingbirdCourtesy Mike Bond
Female ruby-throated hummingbird

Plant Lots of Flowers

“Grow a variety of flowers in your ­garden to create better backgrounds,” says Mike Bond. “In the wild, position yourself to catch a hummingbird on a blossom’s edge.” Hummingbird love to visit these colorful flowers.

Female ruby-throated hummingbirdCourtesy WIlliam Friggle
Ruby-throated hummingbird

Take Your Time

The perfect shot is worth waiting for. “Patience! Bring a chair, be quiet and wait,” says Bill Friggle. “Wear the same colors each time so you blend into the background.” Psst—here’s more ways to attract hummingbirds.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.