12/23/2011 04:57 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2012

Photo Tip: How to Freeze a Wing


When you photograph action, think about speed. With the naked eye it is impossible to clearly see the spread wing of a bird in all its glory. The movement is simply too fast. Therefore, we need a fast shutter speed. You can achieve a fast shutter speed by opening the aperture or by increasing the ISO setting on your camera.

Beginner tip

To freeze action, you need bright light and a decent camera and lens (e.g. a fast focusing SLR camera with an f4 or f2.8 lens). Practice photographing birds in your garden using your strongest lens to see if you can freeze them in flight with your equipment.

Pro tip

For flying birds, or other fast-moving objects, utilize a fast shutter speed - as close to 1/2000 to 1/8000 second as possible. It is often worthwhile sacrificing the image quality regarding noise by increasing the ISO as far as you feel comfortable with.

How you can take a similar image

  • Lens: Super telephoto lens.
  • Settings: Maximum aperture. Pump up your ISO until your shutter speed is high enough to freeze the bird in flight. Try to get as close to 1/2000 to 1/8000 second as possible without pushing the ISO over the edge. You don't want blurred wings, but you also don't want your image to die a horrible death by pixelation.