Who are you? Birder or Photographer?

Be Clear about what your aim is…

Its all about knowing who you are and where your heart lies.

Bird Watcher or Photographer??

I used to ask the above question to myself a lot of times and it is only in the last few years that I haven’t been troubled by it.

The more I see people posting just sharp portraits of birds online, the more I think about this question. Its a question that you need to ask your self. 

Are you a Birder or a Photographer?

Let me put forth a scenario in front of you

Very recently while on a wader photography tour I came across an extremely rare bird for our area. It was a vagrant to our area and has probably been sighted only half a dozen times in India. We made some lovely images of this bird as it was particularly co-operative and left the place very happy. Over the next 2 to 3 days there were around a 500 photographers down at the same place to click the bird. 

My question is this – Does the above event excite you as a photographer? To me, I don’t think it excites as a photographer. Does it excite me as a bird watcher. Well yes of course it does. It is a rare bird why shouldn’t it. 

Can’t I be both? In-fact, you have to be both!  I think a bird photographer would go through the initial phase of making only pretty portraits and then come out from just that phase to exercise the creative side.

Take a look at the following two images. One of an extremely rare bird (for India) and the other of a relatively common bird (for India).



From a photographers eye, there is absolutely no doubt which one will appeal more and equally, from a bird watchers point of view there is no doubt that the Phalarope will be a bigger draw.

Lets take a look at another scenario..

There is a particular waterhole where you get to see some 8 species of birds consistently. You have been there 5 times already and have seen these birds and clicked decent images of each one of them already. Would you want to go there again? Think hard before saying yes or no.

If the answer is Yes, then I feel that there is something in you that wants to make different and creative images and that something is the Creative Photographer in you. That something is your growth. If the answer is No, then it is the Birder that is your calling.

So is it bad to be just one and not move up? 

Absolutely NOT. I just feel that we should be clear on what we want to achieve and prioritize and channelize our efforts in that direction. 

Can a birder not click photographs?

Of-course a birder can click and document the birds and click technically perfect images as well. In-fact I think most next-gen birders will be people who click really well and with the number of different species in the world, it is actually very important to have people do that. There are many people who are pushing the limits to go look for those rare to get birds and truth be told, every once in a while I go on this trip as well to get good looking images of hard to get birds. For example take a look at the image below. I love the colors on this one and don’t mind spending time looking for him. That being said, to me it is the bird lover in me who gets the most satisfaction here and I would love to someday get some different images of this guy.

There are many Bird Photographers’ who might disagree with me on this post but this is my point of view and I respect their right to have a different point of view as well. To me a photographer would be someone who can bring a smile or a sense of wow even with images of the most common of subjects as well and I hope someday I reach there. To me a photographer is someone who looks to use ‘light’ and creates images that stand out and that would be my goal.

If you take a look at the top 10 bird photographers in the world, I doubt you would be looking at people with just plain bird on stick images in their collection. They would be mostly people with creative images adorning their galleries as well.


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  1. Manish Mandhyan March 6, 2018 at 9:53 am #

    Agree with you completely. I think I’m personally going through that phase where I think I’m stuck between the two. Birds make great subjects and I find myself more keen to make creative images than just sharp portraits.

  2. Peggy March 6, 2018 at 11:08 pm #

    Another question I ask to figure out if I am birder or photographer is if I have to decide between a life ( new ) bird or staying and getting a good picture of Cuban trogan. I have been on over 30 bird trips always with a camera with my 100 to 400mm lens. I find it hard to stop taking good pictures of birds and pretty much any wildlife.

  3. Avinash March 7, 2018 at 3:52 am #

    It’s a very useful & an important topic.
    Maybe I think I am a photographer but it turns out to be the birder in you which takes the driver seat most of the times and this happens when your field visits are limited, whenever you get a chance to go out you always want the tack sharp images & lifers,I feel by spending more time on the field and shooting same species repeatedly may give birth to the photographer you wish to be

  4. Amish March 8, 2018 at 3:19 pm #

    For me maybe I start as a birder but ultimately the photographer takes over very quickly and my camera does all the clicking. I loved the topic u have chosen to highlight. Enjoyed.

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