How To Photograph Finches

July 11th, 2013 by Clay Cook

We’ve all seen the awesome imagery that Alan Murphy creates. In this special video, from the setup to the snap of the shutter, Alan provides some handy tips on how to capture the perfect shot. His subject? The American Goldfinch.



Hi. I’m Alan Murphy. I’m here in a Kentucky backyard doing some goldfinch photography, and my goal is to try to get some goldfinches on something as pretty as this flower or perhaps on this teasel. So I’m going to share with you some of my tips and tricks to do that. So come join me. All right. So we’re at our setup now, and as you can see, this looks like a mess. But there’s a reason. I’m going to go through this with you. First of all, we chose this location for the background. If you can see, we have these distant trees right out there which are going to be a nice, beautiful green setting for the birds landing on our perches.

So the first thing we want to do is we want to remove any hanging poles that you may have. So we don’t want our birds landing up there. We want to completely control where they’re going to land. So we want to support the feeders from underneath. So you can use anything, a tall box or a ladder, as I have here. It’s not pretty, but it’s not going to be in the image, so I don’t have to worry about that. What’s very important is the height of the feeders in relation to the perches. So in this case, you really want your perches to be a little bit lower than the actual food source. Because what’s going to happen is the birds are going to come in. They want to get to the food. We’re going to control that, and they’re eventually going to flutter around and hopefully pop down on our flowers that we have set up. So that’s a very important thing.

The next thing we do is we tape off all the feeder ports, and what I’ve used here is just some Scotch tape. I’m just taking some strips. So it’s still visible, so the birds can see the seed, and they think they can get to it. But we’ve taped it off so they can’t get it. But you want to leave one port open, and I leave this one here very low in the front, so that they’ve got to make their way around to get to it. But one bird will find that, and it will bring all the other birds in. If you close off all the ports, there’s no food source. They’ll take off and go somewhere else. So it’s very important that you have one feeding port left open, and that will keep your activity going. So, once that one bird is feeding, the others will try to fight for position, and hopefully it will increase the odds of getting them on the perches.

Now the other thing I’ve got over here, now we’ve got one of our perches as I mentioned earlier was teasel. And I’m supporting that with just a tripod with a hole in the handle. And we just placed the teasels in there. And from there we can arrange whatever way we want that to look. So our goal is to try to get a goldfinch to land up on top of this teasel. The other perch that we’re working with is this coneflower. And this would make a beautiful perch if we can get a goldfinch to land on that. Now one thing about working with flowers is flowers grow up towards the light, up towards the sun. And you’re going to be shooting it from this angle, so you’re not really going to see the flower if you just leave it like that. So what I like to do is to tilt the flowers forward. As you can see, I just put something under the pot, and I leave it forward like that. But in the final image, you can’t tell that it’s tilted, but what you can see now is all of the flower. So everything is showing.

So we’re almost ready to go here. So the next thing to do is we’ve got all our feeders in position. We’ve got them at the right height. We’ve got everything closed off. We’ve got one port left open for them to feed on. But we want to do one additional thing that will help our chances here, and that is to take some more thistle, like this, and we’re going to sprinkle that on the back side of our flowers, like this. It doesn’t show in the camera. And the same thing on the back of this teasel. Now these little flowers are great for holding seed. So we just place it on the back of there. Those goldfinches will see that, and hopefully they’ll just jump right up on there. So I think we’re ready to go, and everything looks good. So let’s go sit in the blind and see what we can get.


Well I hope you enjoyed my tips and tricks on how to photograph goldfinches. If you’d like some more information or more videos, e-books, or my workshops, please come visit me at Thank for joining me.



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2 Responses to “How To Photograph Finches”

  1. Mo Henning says:

    Having a devil of a time trying to view the A. Murphy video. It will just NOT upload to view.
    Would love to see this. I’m ready to purchase the DVD.

  2. Bill Duke says:

    Great video! Alan is so good at taking common and simple objects to produce such amazingly creative and attractive bird set ups. I’ve been to one of his workshops and he’s very meticulous with his set ups and patience with his students. Thanks for sharing.

    Bill Duke
    Alan Murphy workshop in Lower Rio Grand photos

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