Owls can be either an extremely challenging or an easy subject depending on your situation. If you’re photographing owls at an animal rehabilitation center, for instance, you can probably get great photos without much difficulty. But if you’re looking for owls in the wild, you’ll need more patience, knowledge, and equipment to get excellent shots.
Regardless of your situation, though, here are some ideas for getting beautiful photos of owls, along with inspiring pictures from our Flickr community.
Inspiration for Owl Pictures
Wait for the owl to look in your direction.
Images with eye contact tend to be striking, as they connect viewers with the subject. That being said, in wildlife photography, it’s important to make sure you get that eye contact in a natural way without disturbing the animal.
Though it may take longer, you’ll end up with better shots if you wait patiently for eye contact, rather than stressing the owl by walking closer and drawing its attention. Keep at a respectful distance, and watch for signs of stress while you’re shooting.
For example, a relaxed owl will have slightly lowered eyelids, whereas a stressed owl will have wide eyes, like they’re surprised. This wide-eyed look might be cute, but it means the owl feels threatened and may fly away. Be sure to move slowly, stay quiet, and shoot at a good distance to keep the owl relaxed.
Photograph a flying owl.
Photographing a bird in flight can be difficult, but it’s doable if you plan your shoot carefully. The most reliable way of getting a photo of a flying owl is by watching and learning about a specific owl or owl species. If you know where the owls are roosting and hunting, you’ll have a better idea of where you can photograph them flying.
While owls have a reputation for being nocturnal, some owl species are actually active during the day. (For an explanation of why owls sometimes hunt during the day, check out this interesting article, “Are All Owls Actually Night Owls?” from LiveScience.)
In other words, you don’t have to worry about shooting at night in order to photograph flying owls. You may even have perfect lighting for your photos if you’re shooting around sunset or sunrise!
Research is always important in wildlife photography, but especially with elusive animals like owls, which can be hard to track down when you don’t have any knowledge of their behavior. Get to know the species you’ll be photographing, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting awesome photos.
Get a close-up.
If you have a zoom lens, you can get fantastic close-ups of owls at a distance with some luck. But generally, it’s easier to get a close-up by visiting a zoo or an animal rehabilitation center that focuses on birds like owls. Then, the owls will be accustomed to people, and you’ll be able to photograph them much closer without spooking them.
Make the background as neutral as possible.
Many owls have plain brown feathers that blend in with their environment. This camouflage makes hunting easier for them, but photography harder for you. To ensure that the owl will stand out in your photo, try to photograph it against a neutral background, such as a gray sky. The more minimalist you can make the background, the better.
Use tree branches as a frame.
If the owl is sitting in a tree, creating a minimalist photo with a neutral background can be difficult. Instead, try to use compositional techniques like framing to make the owl stand out. Especially if you combine framing with bokeh, the owl will be clear and eye-catching, rather than camouflaged.
Add a humorous caption.
Owls can look pretty goofy sometimes. If you capture a funny expression, you can make your photo even more humorous by adding a lighthearted caption. With a good caption, your picture doesn’t even need to be perfectly composed to make your viewers smile.