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The Art of Photographing Birds

Lesson 4 of 22

DSLR vs Mirrorless

Frans Lanting

The Art of Photographing Birds

Frans Lanting

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Lesson Info

4. DSLR vs Mirrorless
Frans shoots with Nikon, but says brand isn't the biggest thing to consider when working with gear. And while DSLRs may be the more traditional option, mirrorless has some perks too, like the smaller size. Weigh the pros and cons of both systems in this lesson.

Lesson Info

DSLR vs Mirrorless

For many years, DSLR cameras were to go to models to apply to any kind of photography, really. But in the last few years, there's a whole new revolution underway. It started to hit me airless cameras made by, Ah, Panasonic and Sony. But now Nick On and Canon are coming into the market with their own models as well. And we've got a short video in which I explain the pros and cons. Shall we roll it? For many years, I worked with SLR cameras when photography, even digital, they became DSLR cameras. And here's one of them. I'm really attached to the way these cameras look and feel, but it's time to recognize that there's a new kid on the block. Fearless cameras. So what are the advantages and the disadvantages of a mere Elice camera, as opposed to a DSLR? For starters, there more compact. They're lighter because they don't have a mirror built into him. And because there's no mirror, they can achieve a higher birth rate mawr frames per second because that mirror doesn't have to go up and do...

wn, up and down. No optical viewfinder. And that's a bit of a drawback, because I still like the look and feel of an optical viewfinder, but in low light and electric viewfinder has distinct advantages. Many of the muralist cameras have a stabilizer built into the body as opposed to relegating that function to the lens. So you always have a dare. Regardless of the lynch, you put on the drawback of a Marylise camera. Longer lenses are available for most DSL ours and for bird photography. That is definitely a benefit because you want those long lenses when you need him. So I'm still tied to this camera to this system here. But I'm beginning to use this one as well. And during this workshop, I'm trading back and forth to see what this one can achieve. Especially that that really compact lightweight 505 6 I don't need a tripod for this. All right, so there you have it. Um, a primer about DSLR cameras and lenses and now the new mirror list revolution. So back to you here in the audience. What are your reactions? I just had a question about flash. You mentioned flash on the shot you took before. Do you use it all for catch? Light out with the equipment you had on your videos. That's a good question. You remember that earlier image? I showed you a Nikon speed light attached to a bracket that attaches to the lens on? Yeah, I use that quite a bit, but not as much anymore as I used to. Because new cameras, you'll have sensors that are so much more sensitive in the old days. I really needed that Strope in order to add more light in situations. But it wasn't enough at dawn and the dusk. So it's one of the things that has made photography so much more liberating in this era of high I s O photography. But back to your question, Yes. If you want to catch light in the eyes of birds under shaded conditions, then a stroke and definitely help you to achieve that. Any other questions here in the audience? All right, well, let's go to the folks on line. Um, I'm not sure if you're gonna get into this, but there was a question about when do you ever use tripods with a gimbal head? Especially when you've got sort of that long. 600 millimeter on? Yes. That's a good question. in one of the images that I showed earlier on the NY vis, seen in a car using that window mount, you could see me use a gimbal. Yes, I use that from time to time in the rest of discourse. Then we're going back to some of the field trip videos. You won't see a gimbal little I used most of the time a bull had made by a company called really right stuff that makes top of the line. Try pots and try potheads. But of course, there's any number of alternatives to really right stuff gear. So I find Gimble heads particularly effective if you want to pan along a scene if you want to track birch in flight. But in confined situations, especially when you're in a car, they can become a bit of a hindrance. But perhaps Jeff has a common because I know you use them quite a bit, right. I use a mix that Justus you say when it's time to pan or pitch up and down and with a long, heavy lens. That gimble is a big help. All right, so now there's a compromise. Some companies make what is known as half Gimbels so they don't quite have the mass and the weight, and you can attach him to a tripod head. And that's a very compact solution than you go travel abroad. And you really have to be concerned about the amount of luggage that you check at the airport. I'd like to go back to the earlier question one more time from the person who asked for advice about what camera to get when you don't have a camera at all on Iva, definitely suggest if you're just getting into it now that you take Miral is camera seriously and for dose of you already have an array of lenses. Most of the makers of muralist cameras are offering mounts that convert your pre existing DSLR lenses to adapt and, to me, airless bodies. So check them out for yourself. And if you really not quite sure, go to one of the companies that rent lenses and camera bodies and check him out for a weekend, have fun and assess your options. France. I think that's a great recommendation because there's so many ways now to be able to rent equipment, especially for those big lenses were going on a trip. For example, if you're going on a trip workshop with you in person, weigh, do it. Some more questions coming in and a smart questions about using flash when these scenarios. So Cheryl had asked his flashover effect birds in an adverse way. And Judy, it s if you use a flash, don't the birds fly off? So what's your experience with that? That's a really good question. Of course, you know the safety to security to well being of birch is paramount. I don't want to do anything that affects them, not just for the birds themselves, but also for you. Because if you make them fly away because of something you do, that's the end of your interaction with the birds. But I can tell you that in my experience, birds are not really dead affected by strop's. They live in a world that is so different from the way we perceive things that I haven't seen a lot of impact. Now that may be different when you get close to birds in very intimate situations, like when they're sitting on the nest. So please be very, very careful. If you do want to apply flash on location to a couple of test shots and really pay attention. Do you see the bird twitch? Do you see any change in behavior imposture? Then it's probably better to keep the flash switched off. Great. And we're gonna be talking later about bird behavior as well as part of this course. I think you're gonna cover this later. But Scott is asking about image stabilization. And are you Do you have that on or offer? Does it matter? I do have it on on. And I can actually defer to this than become to the next video about camera setting. So let's get back to that. Perfect. Let's see. Um, were a lot of these questions that are coming in Are things that I know you are going to be covering tips on photographing birds in flight. We're definitely going to be covering that for sure. So let me keep collecting the questions unless you have any more in studio. Yeah, yes. Going back to equipment. For a moment, I've seen some people recommending a video head instead of a or in place of a gimbal head. Have you ever used the video head for hurt photography and I'm talking stills. Yeah. Good question. I I personally never use him. Andi, my wife is a videographer. I see the fluid tests that she uses, and those are definitely worth looking at. If a lot of your photography involves smooth panting with birds because that is what fluid heads are designed for. But for my work, then I need to make quick adjustments. I really believe in these Monta ball tripod heads. You know, those are the quickest way to make adjustments. Sometimes I see photographer show up for one of my workshops or one of my photo tours abroad. And they show up the tripod heads with three different levers Initiative that is so cumbersome because you have to make three adjustments instead of one. So I would swear those off. Yeah, a question about weight. One of the things I've noticed is using a heavier lens. It seems to make my muscles tighten up and I can hold it better than when I have a really super lightweight camera. Have you noticed that? So let me make sure I understand your question. You feel more comfortable of it. A heavier lens in camera combination, cause economically, it just feels better in your body. Tighten its mind. So, Johanna, you a bodybuilder? Find a chance, huh? No, If you take a look at me, you'll know a bodybuilder. But it's as I do have a paralyzed right arm. It seems Teoh tight my muscles when I'm holding a heavier camera and it seems to be ableto hold it like shooting slow pictures of water and so forth things like that. I can hold it at a low shutter speed more clearly than if I have a lighter weight camera. And I've noticed that with, like, a longer telephoto lens, Well, you definitely interact differently Video elevator, light camera than you do with a heavy camera. You you have the heavy of rigs make you more deliberate. Everything requires more planning. And I've noted to, as I started working with this new me airless camera and a matching lightweight telephoto lens that it feels very differently, and I become a bit more casual about it. And of course, you can only do that. Um, if you are very careful about the risks involved in being casual video camera and you're holding it in your hands so I don't quite know how to appraise it, to be honest, your home. But it's it's good to feel comfortable with your camera. You need to feel at one with the rig that you're using, especially when you're using it. Handheld. Just to clarify, because the questions air continue to come in about full frame versus crop frame because with the crop frame, you can get that further distance with a similar lens. And so are there advantages to using one versus the other? I'm glad somebody brought that up. And personally, I think the era of cropped sensors is passed us All manufacturers are moving towards full frame sensors, and the quality of the sensors has gone up so much by leaps and bounds that I generally favor full frame sensor cameras. And then, if I need to crop, I could do it after the fact, instead of doing it in camera

Class Description


  • Photograph birds in a variety of scenarios

  • Understand bird behavior to get closer to birds

  • Build the ideal gar kit for photographing birds

  • Set the proper shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for birds

  • Know where to find birds to photograph

  • Capture birds in different types of light

  • Develop a better eye for bird photography


Love birds, but can't quite capture their colorful personality on camera? Join nature photographer Frans Lanting on a journey in start-to-finish bird photography. Master photography basics for photographing birds, from the best camera settings to tactics for getting up close and personal to different bird species.

With a mix of on-site shooting and in-class lectures, learn the ins and outs of bird photography. Build the skills to operate a camera and long lens as well as an understanding of basic bird behavior. Learn to capture more than the boring, obvious photo and dive into categories like bird portraiture, flying birds, flocks of birds, and detailed close-ups for your best bird photos yet.

Whether you are a beginner or intermediate bird photographer, craft better photos of birds with tips and insight from a National Geographic photographer with three decades of experience capturing wildlife across the globe.


  • Beginners new to bird photography

  • Intermediate bird photographers

  • Experienced photographers new to capturing birds

  • Beginner wildlife photographers


Frans Lanting has spent more than three decades traveling the world capturing nature and wildlife. For the wildlife photographer, birds often capture his attention, from penguins and endangered species to birds common to North America. Frans worked as a photographer-in-residence with National Geographic, a position that opened rare opportunities for photographing little known species. His nature photography has also appeared in his own books and exhibitions. Born in the Netherlands, he moved to the U.S. to study environmental planning before embarking on his photography career.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Carl Bergstrom

I was privileged to be in the studio audience for Frans Lanting's Art of Photographing Birds course, and it was amazing. The morning was a perfectly pitched lesson on the technical aspects of bird photography, intermixed with Frans's own photographs and excellent videos of him working in the field. The afternoon focused more on bird behavior, composition, and artistry, and was even more delightful. If you know Lanting's photography you already know about his ability to find unusual perspectives on the world. What really shone through in the class was his love for wildlife and especially for birds. His knowledge of natural history is as amazing as his photography, and I loved the message that to take great photographs of birds, one needs to understand them and their behaviors. I've admired Lanting as a photographer for decades. Today I learned that he is an equally talented teacher. I'll be purchasing all of his CreativeLive courses. Thank you, Carl Bergstrom

Marie Gessle

Amazing class! Mr Lanting is charming and full of knowledge about birds and of course photography. In every moment of this course you can see his great passion and love for these flying creatures. The course is full of tips for photographers who want to start capturing moments of birds life. Awesome!!!

André Audet

Great class, very inspiring. Packed with great tips and beautiful imagery. Frans is a great instructor. I enjoyed watching this class a lot, and will watch it again!