Interview with bird photographer Chiara Talia
Chiara Talia is an Italian bird photographer who lives in Belgium. Four years ago, she got into bird photography by chance, but since then, birds have become an important part of her life. Chiara has captured images of many different bird species, but her favourites remain grebes. Fortunately, there are many different species of grebes around the world, and her bird photography dream is to someday capture them all.
With her images, Chiara has won the 'Young Talent' award from Canon Belgium in 2021. Additionally, since 2023, she has been an ambassador for Kamera Express. She would love to share more about her work as a bird photographer and offer some helpful tips.
'Bird photography has changed my life’
Less than four years ago, Chiara got into bird photography almost by accident. "At that time, I was struggling with my mental health and I was looking for a new hobby", she says. She rediscovered her DSLR-camera and began to learn about photography. "I lived near a park, so I decided to go there to take some pictures of flowers." But then, she spotted a bird, a European robin. "I photographed that bird, and from that moment on, I was hooked. Photography and birds became my passion."
"Photographing birds really has changed my life. I finally found something I truly enjoy and am deeply passionate about”, Chiara explains. "I realized after a while that bird photography and birdwatching are beneficial for my mental health."
Inspiration from nature
Fast forward a few years, and Chiara has not only photographed many different birds around the world, but she has also won the 'Young Talent' award from Canon Belgium. As a result, Chiara had the opportunity to attend the Photo Days fair, where, for the first time, she had the chance to share her love for bird photography at a public event. Soon, she realized that she enjoyed sharing her passion and helping beginner bird photographers. This is now a big part in her work. That is why she started her Instagramaccount @chiaratalia_birds. “At the beginning I was just looking for someone to share my bird photos with as my friends and family very quickly got bored. On social media I found my community. From just sharing my photos my account quickly evolved, as I started to create educational content to help beginners in their bird photography journey. Here I share everything about bird photography, including the challenges, with the goal of inspiring others."
Chiara finds most of her inspiration by simply being in nature. "I love walking in a natural area, even without a camera. By observing what I see around and the birds I spot, I get ideas for my next photos." One of the most important things Chiara has learned is that planning ahead is crucial. "When you want to capture a specific photo, you need to plan ahead. Planning involves knowing which bird species you are likely to find, learning about them and their behaviour. So I research the location I'm heading to and the upcoming weather."
Locations for bird photography
Chiara tells that she prefers to photograph close to home. "Each location varies with the seasons and weather, as its bird inhabitants. This allows you to capture different images each time”, she explains. "Shooting close to home has many advantages because you also get to know these places well." Although Chiara prefers to photograph close to home, she also travels regularly to capture photos of birds she wouldn't otherwise see.
Her favourite places are natural areas with water, such as wetlands, lakes or by the sea. And it is right on a small island in the middle of the North Sea that she captured one of her favourite photos. “Northern gannets are among my favourite birds, this is why I travelled to this small island to visit one of their colonies. In this photo, I wanted to emphasize a very interesting feature of this species, which is the blue eyelid. To do that, I decided for a very tight and unusual crop on the face of the bird, while it was turned right towards my camera. The result is an intimate close-up of this amazing bird – are we looking at it or is it looking at us?”
Current photography style
In this photo, Chiara’s current photography style shines through. The photos predominantly show soft colors and low contrast, usually achieved with a careful use of light. “I still enjoy experimenting with different styles of bird photography. I believe mine is still evolving.”
Recently, she travelled to the Shetland Islands to photograph Atlantic puffins and other birds. "I saw around sixty bird species on this trip, and ten of them were completely new to me." She also travelled to Australia some time ago. "I wanted to photograph the Southern Cassowary. This is one of the largest birds in the world, but there are only a few thousand of them living only in a very specific part of Australia." Chiara had been searching in the area for a week, but it was only on the last day that she had success. "I went out in the morning because my flight was in the afternoon, and I hadn't seen a Southern Cassowary yet. I felt quite frustrated because it was likely my last chance in life to see this bird. I was very surprised when I finally succeeded. I saw and captured three Southern Cassowaries."
Thousands of birds to capture
It can also happen that she doesn't encounter a bird she's searching for, no matter how much she wants to. "This is part of bird photography. No matter how skilled you are, you don't have control over the subjects of your images. It's entirely possible that you won't see the birds you're looking for, and that's okay; it's part of the experience." She explains that bird photography is more than just capturing the perfect photo for her. "I enjoy being outdoors in nature. It's also about the experience. You may not see the bird you're looking for, but there's always another unexpected bird you spot and capture. That's the beauty of bird photography."
Over the past few years, Chiara has captured images of many different bird species, and there are many more on her bucket list. "There are thousands of bird species, so there will always be a new bird I can capture, but my dream is to someday photograph all the grebes of the world. In addition, there are many birds I have already photographed, but for which I have new photos in mind I would like to achieve."
Would you also like to try bird photography? Then consider these tips from Chiara!
1. Take your time. "When you want to start with bird or wildlife photography, my most important advice is to take the time to learn about the animals. Put as much time into it as the time you are investing in learning about photography itself. Getting to know your subject will help you achieve better results later."
2. Be patient. "In bird and wildlife photography, you have no control over your subjects. Learning about the animals can increase your chances of getting a good photo, but you still need patience to wait for the right moment."
3. Photograph locally. "There are many advantages to photographing near your home. You will become familiar with these places and get to know the local birds – which are beautiful, no matter how common. Additionally, you can go out more often and reach the location sooner, increasing your chances for success.”
3. Just go out. "I taught myself everything about photography, but I learned the most by simply going out. So, get outdoors as much as possible, even if the lighting is poor or you're not sure if birds are around. You'll learn something every time. Trial and error is the best teacher."
Where to find Chiara
For her photos, Chiara uses the following gear: a Canon EOS R5 combined with a Canon RF 100-500mm lens. As a secondary combination she uses a Canon 90D with a Tamron 150-600mm G2. She also always carries binoculars and a 1.4x teleconverter.