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Big Garden Bird Watch: How to capture the moment with your smartphone

Posted onPosted on 24th Jan
Big Garden Bird Watch: How to capture the moment with your smartphone

The Big Garden Birdwatch is back for 2020. From 25th-27th January, wildlife lovers everywhere will be out in force to take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey, and document birds and wildlife spotted domestically.

With recent advancements in smartphone camera capabilities, it’s possible to capture excellent wildlife photography with just your handset. Modern smartphone cameras are regularly packed with features, and often showcase multi-lens set-ups which can rival a DSLR camera.

Experts at online smartphone retailer,, share their advice to help you take professional quality wildlife photographs on your smartphone ahead of the Big Garden Birdwatch:

1.Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds states that an image is more appealing to the eye if it is taken so the focal point is placed along lines which divide a photograph both horizontally and vertically into thirds. Alastair Hilton, Professional Photographer at London Guided Walks says: “The rule of thirds will always make a more interesting photo compared to when the main focus is in the middle of the photo.”

On most smartphones, applying the rule of thirds is as simple as changing your camera settings to show gridlines. However, if this setting isn’t available to you, there are plenty of apps you can download to help.

2.Take your time

When you see birds flocking to your feeders in the garden, it can be tempting to pull out your smartphone and take the picture as quickly as possible. However, before taking the picture, you need to make sure that your camera is focusing on your subject. Remember to simply tap on the screen where your subject is, and your camera will do the rest. The box that appears will show you where your camera has focused.

3.Get your lighting right

Birds are most active during the half-light of sunrise and sunset. Luckily for us, this time is also perfect to capture great photos as colour saturation is high. Look for angles where the sun isn’t directly spotlighting your subject, to get more natural highlighting effects and try to avoid photographing in complete shade.

Alastair Hilton adds: “Unless you’re shooting at night, the flash on your phone will be useless, so turn it off. The colours surrounding you and your subject are what you want to capture.”

If you’re shooting in low light, take advantage of your smartphone’s automatic ‘night mode’ capabilities. If your phone has this feature, it can enhance photos taken under extremely low light by shooting a series of images under different exposure levels then merging the images to create an enhanced final image.

4.Take advantage of live photos

Most smartphones have an element called ‘live photos’ which captures the sound and movement 1.5 seconds before (and after) a photo is taken. This feature also gives you multiple shots of the same image so you can choose your favourite picture.

If you’re lucky enough to capture a bird taking off for flight using live photos, you can upload your live photo to your social channels. Alternatively, you can choose which image from the 3 seconds of capture you would like to use.

5.Don’t be afraid to edit

While there is a range of editing apps available on your smartphone, don’t forget your smartphones editing capabilities. Find the image you want to change and click edit. Multiple icons will appear at the bottom of your screen where you can change the picture’s brightness, exposure, sharpness and many more. You can also add filters and crop your images.

If you don’t feel confident enough to make these changes yourself (although you can always discard the changes made), there is a magic wand tool that automatically makes adjustments.

Karl Middleton, the Mobile Expert at, says: “The Big Garden Bird Watch is an amazing opportunity to get out in nature and be a part of the biggest wildlife survey in the world.

“If you want to capture the wildlife roaming around your garden this January, the advancements in mobile camera technology allow more people than ever to try their hand at photography. Remember to have fun, and we hope these tips give you the results you’re looking for.”

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