Also sometimes called blinds, hides are one of those things that can divide wildife and bird photographers. Some people can’t live without a hide or two and will make use of it regularly, while other bird photographers feel no need to ever use one. It comes down to photography style, locations, environment, and the species you focus on.
Why use a hide for photographing birds?
The most obvious reason to use a hide for bird photography is of course to “hide” from the birds you want to photograph. Birds are intelligent. Even in a beautifully camoflauged hide we can raise the suspicions of some birds.
But overall, hiding your human shape and colors is going to substantially increase the chances of being able to photograph the natural behavior of birds without you influencing what they’re doing. Setting up a huge besides common drinking points or hunting perches for example, can allow a closer approach wtihout causing stress to the birds.
Sitting in a hide for several hours allows you to become part of the environment, and soon enough most birds aren’t paying attention; but rather, just going about their normal activity as though you aren’t there at all.
Can you get good bird photos without a hide?
Absolutely. If you’re a walk around type bird photography and enjoy the freedom of carrying minimal gear, you can still obviously obtain fantastic bird images with the right technique.
When is the best time to use a photography hide?
Certain photography situations and environments are clearly more suited for using a hide than others. Mostly these are going to be when you want to set yourself up unobtrusively and wait and watch for the perfect moments to capture.
This can include when birds are hunting, such as Kingfishers at a creek, or near bird nesting areas where it’s absolutely paramount that you are out of sight and not causing a disturbance to breeding birds.
It’s critical to be aware that nesting birds can still become stressed or disturbed if they see you in the area when you’re setting up the hide, so it’s vital that you have in depth knowledge of the specific species and how to ethically be present in their environment without causing stress to the birds.
Where do you buy a hide for photography?
Unlike all our other photography gear, hides aren’t something you’ll be able to buy at most photographic stores. As camouflaged hides are often designed for and used by hunters, some of the best places to find a good range of hides is outdoor and camping stores.
Amazon also stocks a range of different hides, some of which are linked to in the reviews below.
There are some options when it comes to hides that have been made specifically for photographers: namely the range of Lenscoat hides. You are likely familiar with Lenscoat as makers of (somewhat pricey, but high quality) protective lens covers and they’ve now branched out into hides; using similar camo patterns as on their lens covers.
The LensCoat LensHide range is covered in detail below in this guide.
Types of Photography Hides
A hide is not just a hide. Like almost everything else in life these days, we have more choice than ever when it comes to buying a photography hide. But the fundamentals remain the same so as long as you have a good idea of why you need a hide and where and what you intend on using it for, you will have no trouble choosing one (or more) that suits you.
First ask yourself whether you want to sit in a blind in the one spot for a long period of time – if so, a tent blind hide with space for a chair is the best option.
While these aren’t exactly a hide, they serve much the same function and we all probably know someone who posts a Saturday morning selfie in a ghillie suit out on the wetland.
They certainly look a sight and work very well for what they’re meant to do: allow you to become a part of the surrounding vegetation. The suits aren’t for everyone; after all it’s a fair bit of kit to carry around on yourself for a few hours or more. But these camo suits have their many pros as well as some potential cons, depending on your personal preferences and comfort levels.