I have a lot of experience at this one, been doing it my whole life as have you, so it is hard to imagine that I could be doing it wrong. Well, not wrong but just not the best way possible. How you breathe is very important to a bird photographer especially for handheld shots. That’s right, the very action of inhaling oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide is enough to hurt the sharpness of your photographs. If you don’t believe me, keep track of it for a year or two and you will notice there is a difference. I think in the end it is a different strokes for different folk kind of thing but somewhere along the line you are going to need to become as perfectly still as possible in order to make the sharpest images. That means you need to suspend breathing actions for a moment or two. That’s where the different strokes part comes in. Some will say you need to exhale and hold while pressing the shutter, for others it may be far more comfortable to breathe in and hold position and I am not sure there is any practical difference. Here is what you want to do each and every time you make a picture with the camera in your hands. Set a firm foot stance, usually with your legs spread apart slightly, cradle the camera in your established position, draw in both elbows until they are touching your chest, pause breathing and roll your finger over the shutter button and pivot at your hips.
Correct breathing also helps when shooting with a long lens on a tripod. As you drape the hand on top of the lens once again your body needs to become as still as possible. The longer the lens the more motion will be picked up in the image. If you have ever had the chance to shot at over 1,000mm you will know that you can easily see motion from wind and touches even on a sturdy tripod with a gimbal head. So even with plenty of support it is best to practice a good breathing technique.
But wait, there’s more! Yeah, one more thing. Deep breaths. Everyone has heard about count to ten and take some deep breaths to calm down. Well, I think bird photography can be as frustrating as any human event so why not use the tried and true method to get back on an even keel. Wether you are excited because you made a great image, witnessed an unusual event, or are totally frustrated, turn around for a moment and take a bunch of deep breathes. It always helps.