How to Photograph Bald Eagles

This is a guest post by professional wildlife photographer and filmmaker Chris McKillican.

Want to learn how to photograph the majestic Bald Eagles? Then keep on reading for tips and tricks that I have learned throughout the years as a wildlife photographer.

Since I have been living in the eagle capital of the world for the last few years I have learned that every year starting in November and carrying on through to February the Bald Eagle becomes a familiar sight taking up residence along the shores of the Squamish and Cheakamus rivers in the Squamish Valley. Catch my journey in the recent “Keep it Wild” series with my Toyota Tacoma as I showcase these beautiful and majestic creatures.

Image - How to Photograph Bald Eagles

Eagles in flight require anticipation and luck.


My Top 4 Tips for Photographing Bald Eagles:

1) Timing -If you have followed along with some of the other wildlife tips I have shared, the first tip is going to sound familiar. Eagles are no different than most animals. they are most active in the early morning and just before dark. So get out there early and enjoy the atmosphere and the beautiful light that the early morning brings. Alternatively, late afternoon is good as well but darkness comes earlier at this time of year.

2) Exposure -Fully mature eagles get the bright white head when they turn 4 years old. This is a unique challenge to our photography as it can be challenging to balance the exposure with the dark bodies. Your camera will tend to overexpose. Be sure to check that you are not overexposing the highlights.

3) Look for Unique Backgrounds – In the winter, it won’t take long for you to realize that Eagles like to sit in trees for many hours a day. These trees have lost their leaves long ago and now are full of spindly branches. I have learned that these branches do not make very pretty photos. So I spend my time looking for backgrounds of a more interesting nature. Your efforts will be rewarded!

Image - How to Photograph Bald Eagles

Look for interesting backgrounds.

4) Birds in Flight -For some, the holy grail of Eagle photography is the capturing images of these raptors in powerful flight. Telephoto lenses, fast-moving subjects and low light all make for challenging circumstances. Even after years of shooting, I am still happy when I check my viewfinder and see that I managed to get everything in focus. Like all skills it requires practice and I am always practicing on more plentiful animals like seagulls. One of the best tips I can offer is to try to anticipate what opportunities may present themselves.

Really one of the greatest things about nature photography is that it is a great excuse to get out and do some exploring in my Tacoma. I recommend the Brackendale eagle viewing station and the Squamish estuary as a good place to start.

Good luck and remember to explore responsibly.


 Make and Model
Truck: 2013 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
Camper: 2007 Four Wheel Camper Eagle model


Image - How to Photograph Bald Eagles   Chris McKillican is a Canadian photographer and filmmaker passionate about wildlife, people and the outdoors. Follow Chris’ adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.