How to photograph wildlife through a window

Seven ways to take great nature photos without leaving your house

01-04-2010 // George H. Harrison

IT’S NO SECRET that photographing wildlife can require an enormous amount of patience. But did you know you can do it from the comfort of your home, on your own schedule? The window in your kitchen or living room can be one of the best vantage points for photography. You don’t need expensive, complicated equipment—even point-and-shoot cameras produce excellent images. Here are some ideas to get you pointed in the right direction:


1. Eliminate reflections

To help reduce reflections from the glass, darken the room as much as possible where your equipment is set up. The auto-focus capabilities of the camera should not be affected by the window; the camera will focus through the glass on the subject outside as it should. Place the flash as close to the window as possible to eliminate any bounce-back reflection.

2. Avoid glass problems

Most modern home windows are made of high-quality glass. Even thermopane (double-glazed) windows, with gas between the panes, provide high-quality visibility. Storm windows may cause problems because the space between the inside glass and outside window is greater. So it’s best to remove the outer storm window before attempting photography. Avoid tinted-glass windows.

3. Keep steady

To eliminate camera motion—the greatest cause of out-of-focus images—use a tripod or other stabilizing device to keep the camera from moving when you click the shutter. Tripods work well against windows, because you can lean the camera forward until the lens is touching the glass.

4. Use the house as a blind

Perhaps the greatest advantage to shooting through windows is that you are inside, warm or cool depending on the season, and less visible to the wildlife. Birds become accustomed to seeing movement inside the house and eventually pay no attention to a photographer. They also will get used to seeing the camera beside a window if you leave it in place for an extended period.

5. Bring the subject up close

You don’t need a long telephoto lens to take close-up pictures. You can get the same effect if you position a bird feeder, birdbath or birdhouse close to one of your windows. Consider where the sunlight will fall so you can get attractive, natural light on your subjects. Sunlight coming in from the side usually is good; light coming in from behind the subjects may require using a flash from inside to eliminate shadows.

6. Keep settings natural

If you want photographs of birds in a natural setting, place a twig, branch or flower above or to the side of your feeders or birdbaths. The creatures will land there naturally before moving in to feed or bathe.

7. Look at backgrounds

Before taking a picture, look through the camera’s viewfinder to make sure you’re happy with the background that will be included in the scene.


Adapted from Turn Your Home Into a Photo Zone, National Wildlife, Aug/Sep 2006 

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