Hummingbird Photography – Tips for Taking Amazing Hummingbird Photos

hummingbird photos
To take great hummingbird photos, use a DSLR camera with shutter capabilities up to 1/2000th of a second and an aperture lens that opens up to at least 1.4f. Position yourself and your photography equipment beside a feeding station or tubular-flower plant and prepare to snap many photos. 

Taking hummingbird photos may seem complex, but photographing these little birds can be pretty easy. You can snap pictures of these tiny birds flying, feeding, or perching with just a little preparation.

Create an area to attract hummingbirds, and set up your equipment. With a bit of practice and patience, you’ll be able to take your own photos of hummingbirds. Keep reading for tips on taking great photos of hummingbirds and a list of which hummingbirds you might see in your area.

Hummingbird Photos – 3 Things To Consider


To take hummingbird photos, you’ll need good equipment such as a DSLR camera. These tiny birds are so fast, you’ll need a camera that has a shutter speed of 1/1000th or 1/2000th of a second. This speed setting will help you capture a still photo of a hummingbird in flight.

Since these birds move at an incredible rate, with a wingbeat of 58 times per second, its important to use a camera that has a shutter priority mechanism. The shutter in a camera is the rate at which the lens opens to capture the image. You will need to open your lens all the way (set aperture to the lowest setting) and take the picture as quickly as possible – at 1/1000 of a second. If your camera has a mode for shutter priority, this may help since this setting will let you choose the shutter speed.

Consider using a remote that works with your camera, so you can be a short distance away instead of out in the elements while you wait for a photo opportunity. Even smartphones can now take good pictures of hummingbirds, as noted in this slow-motion video. Though a Nikon is still a great investment, technology has come a long way to help everyday individuals capture surreal moments with just a smartphone. 

Another piece of equipment that would be ideal for your hummingbird photography session would be a zoom lens. Zoom lens provide the capability of being able to photograph objects or things from a distance. Consider purchasing a zoom lens with a 300mm zoom capability so that you really can focus in on a hummingbird from a distance.

hummingbird with flower

Prepare Your Environment

Before you can hope to snap pictures of hummingbirds, you need to attract hummingbirds to your space. If you haven’t seen any local hummingbirds visiting your garden, you can arrange an environment that will eventually attract them to your space. Set up your space by hanging hummingbird feeders and install flowers that will attract hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds enjoy tubular-shaped flowers like fuchsias and honeysuckle. They are also attracted to red and purple flowers, so quick-growing flowers like zinnias are a great choice. If you don’t want to wait for flowers to bloom, as it does typically take an entire season to start a garden – look for a local area where there might be tubular flowers growing in the wild. Also, see if you can find a plant nursery that already has some of these plants started and potted.

When it comes time for a photography session, take down all feeders but one and set up your camera equipment beside the feeder. Position the camera on a tripod facing the feeder, and set your focus, shutter, and aperture settings. Sit back on a chair and prepare to snap photos as soon as the hummingbird makes an appearance. Alternatively, you can also buy a zoom lens for your camera, which will take some practice to use – but you can take photos of hummingbirds from a far away distance by just zooming in on the feeder.

Know Your Target

Take time to study the hummingbirds you see. During what times of day do you see the most hummingbirds? In what areas of your space do they spend the most time? Once you have a general idea of what time and area they spend the most time in, observe their behaviors. Try to anticipate what they will do next. Hummingbirds can fly and hover in a single space, and they can even fly backwards – which other birds can not do. This flight capability is great for taking photographs, as you will be able to capture the hummingbirds when they are in this position.

Knowing when and where to expect the hummingbirds will help you snap the best photographs. Hummingbirds are creatures of habit. Once you know where they perch, set up your camera as close as you dare, and you’ll be able to get a close-up picture.

hummingbird drinking nectar from tubular flowers

How To Take Hummingbird Photos

  • Be still. Hummingbirds don’t like extraneous movements.
  • Set up ahead of time, if possible. This allows the hummingbirds to get used to your camera, tripod, and other equipment, so it doesn’t scare them away.
  • Try different angles, imagining a hummingbird perching on a branch or feeder. Which angles seem best?
  • Experiment with different backgrounds. A white background may set off the hummer’s colors.
  • Avoid dark colors or lighting.
  • Keep the sun behind you.

The process of setting up your equipment may disturb the hummingbirds. That won’t last long, however; the hummingbirds will get used to your equipment and the camera’s sound. DO NOT try to entrap or interfere with the hummingbird’s natural behavior, also note that capturing hummingbirds is illegal. Using the tips above, you can take pictures of beautiful hummingbirds without stressing them.

How To Identify Which Species of Hummingbird Is In Your Photo

Though there are over 361 species of hummingbird known at this time, each species has a specific coloring that makes them uniquely identifiable. Make sure you know which species of hummingbird frequents your area. Though migrants can be found anywhere, start with the species frequently sighted in your area.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s hummingbird stays close to the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to Mexico. Males have a rose-pink gorget (throat) and a forked tail. Females have red speckles on their throats and are duller in color.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, or Archilochus Colubris, have the broadest range in North America, spanning 2/3 of the US and up into Canada. The male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has a bright red gorget and an iridescent green body. Females have a duller green body without a red throat.

Since these birds are so common, they are comfortable at feeders and backyards. If a Ruby-Throated hummingbird visits your backyard feeder, you should prepare to see them visit more often as they memorize their feeding locations. 

Rufous Hummingbird

The Rufous Hummingbird ranges from central Mexico through the western third of the US and up into Alaska. The male Rufous Hummingbird is colored bright orange, while the female Rufous Hummingbird has more green.

Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen’s hummingbird frequents the California coast and a small part of central Mexico. Males have a red-orange gorget and a pointed tail with black tips. Females have red-orange spots on their throats with orange at the base of their tail feathers.

Broad-Billed Hummingbird

The Broad Billed Hummingbird is found from southeast Arizona to the Rocky Mountains and down into Mexico. Males have a red bill and a green body with blue on their chest. Females are gray underneath, with a dull white throat and white tips on their tails.

Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird migration map ranges from the Northwest US into British Columbia, the Rocky Mountains, and down into Mexico. 

The males are noted for their rosy gorget and a white line from the base of their bill to their neck. Females have a speckled throat, orange underparts, and a black band on their tails.

Bee Hummingbird

The Bee Hummingbird is remarkably the smallest bird in the world. Native to Cuba, this hummingbird is about half the size of a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The male’s entire head and throat are pinkish-red, with red feathers down his sides.

Fiery-Throated Hummingbird

This rainbow-colored bird is found in Coast Rica and western Panama. The male has a green body, a blue tail, a blue crown, a yellow-orange throat, and a blue chest. Adults weigh about 4.7 grams.

Costa’s Hummingbird

In a small area of the southwest, mainly Arizona and California, plus western Mexico, male Costa’s are known for their iridescent purple crown. They also have a white eyebrow and a large purple gorget. Females have a white patch above their eye and a tail with a large black band and white spots.

Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird

Males have blue-purple feathers and a thick bill. Violet Sabrewings are found in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

White-Necked Jacobin

These hummingbirds live in southern Mexico and northern South America. Males have a deep blue hood and white underparts. Sometimes the females look similar, but they sometimes have green feathers with dark spots.

hummingbird near a bush of flowers

More About Hummingbirds

What Is The Scientific Name For The Hummingbird?

The scientific name for Hummingbirds is Trochilidae. Originally, the Trochilidae family of birds were categorized under the toxonomic order of the Apodiformes, but more recently have been recategorized under it’s own order “Apodimorphae”. There are over 360 subspecies of the Trochilidae family. 

The Spanish word for hummingbirds is “Colibri”, which originated from the native american Taino tribes of the americas. The Tainos regard the hummingbird as a sacred species, representative of the power of re-birth because of their pollinating abilites. Hummingbirds are native to the Americas, with many species migrating to North America in warm months.

What Does A Female Hummingbird Look Like?

Generally, the female of the species is less attractive, bright, and iridescent to the male. Females are duller in color and more likely to be green and brown.

What Are The Colors Of A Hummingbird?

Hummingbirds make great photo subjects because they have such bright colors. These tiny birds boast fierce colors from iridescent green to vibrant purple and blue. The exact coloring depends on which variety or species of hummingbird they are.

Is There A White Hummingbird?

Though they can exist, true white or albino hummingbirds are rare. There have been reports of a few albino Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and less than 100 white hummingbirds reported worldwide.

What Is The Largest Hummingbird?

The largest hummingbird in the US is the Blue-Throated Mountain Gem. As suggested by its name, it has a blue gorget and frequents southeastern Arizona.

Which Country Has The Most Hummingbirds?

Ecuador boasts over 132 species of hummingbirds—that’s over 40% of the total number of known species of hummingbirds.

Further Inspiration

If you’d like to view professional photos of hummingbirds, consider visiting Flickr. This site has numerous stock photos of hummingbirds, including pictures of hummingbird nests, hummingbird feeding, and hummingbird flying.

Sarah Pearce

Sarah enjoys feeding hummingbirds in the warmer months, and a range of finches, woodpeckers, and cardinals in the cooler months. She enjoys researching and learning more about birds, gardening, and preserving food. She is learning how to maximize her small city backyard and is amazed at all the possibilities. She lives in southwestern Indiana with her family.

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