Camera Settings for Hummingbird Photographs

Without Flash

Both of the following photos were taken without flash:


  • Photo A: Camera: Nikon D3s, Shutter Priority Mode, Shutter speed: 1/2000s, Aperture: f/5.6, ISO 2000, Matrix metering, Spot focus, Auto-focus Continuous. Lens: Nikon 200- 400mm f/4, focal length 400mm. On tripod.
    Photo B: Camera: Nikon D3s, Manual Mode, Aperture: f/4, Shutter speed: 1/1250s, ISO 1600, Spot metering, Spot focus, Auto-focus Continuous. Lens: Sigma 180mm Macro f/3.5. On monopod.
  • Shutter speed is the most important setting when photographing hummingbirds in natural light. To freeze the wings in mid-air, set your shutter speed to approximately 1/2000s. If the hummingbird is sitting on a branch, set your shutter speed to approximately 1/1000s.
  • Set Exposure Mode to Shutter Priority, so that you will be able to control the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the aperture.
  • When shutter speed is set to 1/2000s or 1/1000s, it is necessary to increase the ISO to ensure a good exposure. Set the ISO to approximately 2000.
  • Matrix metering (aka Evaluative Metering) works well for hummingbirds in flight. Spot metering works better when the hummingbird is perched in a tree.

With Flash

The following photo is of a broad-tailed hummingbird, photographed using multiple flash units.


  • Camera: Nikon D3s, Manual Mode, Aperture: f/20, Shutter speed: 1/250s, ISO 320, Matrix metering, Spot Focus, Auto Focus-Continuous. Lens: Nikon 200mm Macro f/4. On trip od.
  • Flash: 5 Vivitar 285s set to 1/16th power. 4 of the 5 flash were aimed at illuminating the hummingbird feeder, 1 of the 5 flash was aimed at a background photograph.
  • Set the Exposure Mode to Manual, so that you can control both shutter speed and aperture. Set the shutter speed to synchronize with the flash, either 1/200s or 1/250s.
  • Set aperture to approximately f/20 and ISO to approximately 200.
  • Matrix metering works well.
  • Requires more preparation, but the results are AMAZING!

3 thoughts on “Camera Settings for Hummingbird Photographs”

  1. Thank you 🙂 I know this is an older post, but I found some time to photograph these tiny little works of natures art and am looking forward to trying your tips! My first attempt turned out ok, but I think I can do better.
    Really appreciate the tips!

  2. Good morning Kathleen

    my results using a Nikon D5600 are disappointing for visiting hummingbirds on the rear deck, trying to reach out to someone for help, pictures are nice to look at but I need to know the settings used on the camera as well, you presentation offers both, thank you