photography and digital scrapbooking

Photographing a Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Simple Strategy


Our feisty Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a little late this year. We put the feeders out in April and faithfully filled and cleaned them all summer. Finally in July, three birds decided to claim our yard as their territory. We love watching them fatten up for their long migration next month!

Today the cloudy sky created good light, so I set up my tripod, attached the remote shutter release, and carefully considered my camera settings. Determined to photograph the male hummingbird, I felt it would be easy since he was feeding and zipping around the yard all morning. I soon realized he was chasing other birds more than eating, so I needed a strategy. I decided to place all the feeders on the porch except the one in front of my camera. Then I added a misting spray of water from the garden hose to make the remaining feeder more interesting. The strategy worked and the male finally posed in all his orangey-red-throated glory!

Click photos to view in higher resolution.

All photos: Canon 60D, aperture priority, RAW format, AI Servo AF, continuous high speed, partial metering, ISO 2000, 200mm, f/11, 1/250 for the perched photos and 1/400 and 1/500 for the flying photos. Exposure compensation: -1 to help produce a proper exposure of the lighter hummingbird on the darker green background. I set the focal point on the right flower port. When the hummingbird came into that plane of focus, the f/11 aperture allowed his eyes and most of his body to remain in focus. In post processing, I was able to retain most of the light feather texture, even after increasing the exposure by about 1 stop. I experimented with reducing noise in Nik Define 2.0, but ultimately decided to accept the noise generated from ISO 2000.

Author: Karen Chandler

Metal clay jewelry, nature photography, and digital scrapbooking are Karen's passions. She is mostly self-taught, enjoying the learning process as much as producing her works of art. Karen's jewelry features fine silver, copper, and bronze. She sculpts and refines metal clay, then kiln fires her pieces and polishes them to perfection. The process allows for exciting interpretations of symbols, shapes, textures, and combinations of metals. A long time user of Photoshop, Karen loves to create digital layouts with her photos. Her layouts and albums are a diary of sorts; documenting milestones, recording happy times, and celebrating her love of nature.

28 thoughts on “Photographing a Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Simple Strategy

  1. Those are just amazing! If you ever feel like you can sell one of your pictures I would love to have one for and one for little business cards promoting the site. God is so so so very creative! 🙂

  2. Karen, these photos are so professional and absolutely gorgeous. I especially appreciate the fact that you share how you were able to capture such amazing shots. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Joyce! I know there are different and probably easier methods, but I was in the mood to experiment with my camera settings. I normally do not use exposure compensation. But I think I will be experimenting more often since my nature subjects are often in front of a much brighter or darker background.

  3. AMAZING Captures – I love when you can hear a hummingbird as well as see one!!!

  4. Karen, these are beautiful! I haven’t had the priviledge yet to photograph a hummingbird but it is on my Photography Bucket List. Thank you for sharing this beauties with us!

    • Thanks, Diane! It might take a few months before a hummingbird finds your feeder, but when it does you will have quite a show to enjoy. I place one feeder just off the porch landing parallel to the door. That way I can set my tripod just inside the screened porch door. They do not mind me being there. In fact when I adjust the feeder, they hover about 18 inches from my face to see what I am doing!

  5. Wow, what lovely images of a magnificent hummingbird. Wonderful details of the iridescent throat feathers.

    • Thanks so much, Karen! I was most concerned about getting detail in the throat and white feathers. A few times the little guy looked directly at me. I have a photo of him peeking at me and will post it soon.

      Thank you for visiting my blog. I love your photos and drawings! Yours is one of the most inspirational blogs I follow!

  6. Fabulous shots, Karen. I’ve found our hummingbirds to be more tolerant of me and my camera than other birds, but am still working on getting photos as clean as yours. Nice!

    • Thank you, Sid! Glad you stopped by. Yes, they do seem ok with people being nearby. A few times they have hovered directly in front of my camera lens – just inches away. They are so curious! Good luck with your hummingbird photos. It does take a bit of strategy sometimes. Last year I used a window feeder. That was fun, but I have more control with my current set up on the screened porch.

  7. Beautiful photos! I love how even the feeder and the hummingbird compliment each other!

    • Thank you, Laura! I agree – the natural colors do not detract from the hummingbird colors. Red feeders create red reflections on the hummingbird – especially on the white feathers. I think this glass and metal feeder is still available at Walmart. And it is easier to clean than most plastic feeders.

  8. These are amazing and very beautiful. He sure is a gorgeous bird. 🙂

  9. fabulous shots, Karen! thanks for sharing them w/ hummingbird fans!

  10. What beauty shares this earth with us! Wonderfully captured !

  11. Hi Karen, The photos are incredible!!! I apologize for the late comment/view of this post. WordPress has this annoying habit of not notifying me of new entries of blogs I follow. Hate that. I suppose I will have to manually check every one in order to stay current. Great to hear from you…I missed reading and viewing your posts!

    • Hi David! Glad you enjoyed the photos! I have the same problem – getting email updates from certain blogs I follow. They do show up in the reader, but I have not made a habit of checking there on a regular basis.

  12. I completely agree with David! These are extremely gorgeous photos. Great work. All I can do is stare at this pretty little bird!


  13. Gorgeous pictures Karen! Last summer I had the RTHs nesting nearby and I shot 1000s of pictures, I loved seeing them every day at all times! I’ve just re-subscribed as a follower to see why I wasn’t receiving any notifications for your new posts. I hope this time it works. I hope that you had a good Thanksgiving Day my dear! 🙂

  14. Wonderful shots!
    I can’t wait until the hummingbirds return. They are beautiful and entertaining (even though the rufous hummingbirds are the feistiest of all the hummingbirds that visit us).