NO matter where we live, or how big our plot, we all love the sight of garden birds dropping by.

Whether we have a balcony in Blackbird Leys, a suburban garden in Summertown, a cottage in the Cotswolds or an extensive country estate, there’s something comforting about having birds drop by while going about their business.

But how much do you know about the feathered visitors to your home?

While most of us may be able to name a few varieties, many may elude our birdwatching knowledge. Even fewer of us know from where these sweet-voiced visitors hail or are heading.

To help build up a better picture of the birds in our gardens, the RSPB conducts the Big Garden Bird Watch. This annual census is the world’s largest wildlife survey, and this year takes place from Saturday to Monday.

As well as recording the variety and number of winged visitors, however, why not put your photographic skills to the test and snap them for more accurate identification, or simply to capture their wild beauty.

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The good news, is you don’t need expensive professional gear to get great pictures of pigeons, tits and jackdaws. A simple smart phone, when used correctly, can create stunning images of sparrows, shrike and starlings.

Modern smartphone cameras are packed with features and often showcase multi-lens set-ups which can rival a DSLR camera.

Below are some top tips from on how to capture the wonderful wildlife that comes into your garden easily with your smartphone.

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1. Rule of thirds: The rule of thirds states that an image is more appealing to the eye if it is taken so the focal point is placed along lines which divide a photograph both horizontally and vertically into thirds.

Alastair Hilton, photographer at London Guided Walks says: “The rule of thirds will always make a more interesting photo compared to when the main focus is in the middle of the photo.”

On most smartphones, applying the rule of thirds is as simple as changing your camera settings to show grid lines. However, if this setting isn’t available to you, there are plenty of apps you can download to help.

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2. Take your time: When you see birds flocking to your feeders in the garden, it can be tempting to pull out your smartphone and take the picture as quickly as possible.

However, before taking the picture, you need to make sure that your camera is focusing on your subject. Remember to simply tap on the screen where your subject is, and your camera will do the rest. The box that appears will show you where your camera has focused.

3. Get your lighting right: Birds are most active during the half-light of sunrise and sunset. Luckily for us, this time is also perfect to capture great photos as colour saturation is high. Look for angles where the sun isn’t directly spotlighting your subject, to get more natural highlighting effects and try to avoid photographing in complete shade.

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Alastair adds: “Unless you’re shooting at night, the flash on your phone will be useless, so turn it off. The colours surrounding you and your subject are what you want to capture.”

If you’re shooting in low light, take advantage of your smartphone’s automatic ‘night mode’ capabilities. If your phone has this feature, it can enhance photos taken under extremely low light by shooting a series of images under different exposure levels then merging the images to create an enhanced final image.

4. Take advantage of live photos: Most smartphones have an element called ‘live photos’ which captures the sound and movement 1.5 seconds before (and after) a photo is taken. This feature also gives you multiple shots of the same image so you can choose your favourite picture.

If you’re lucky enough to capture a bird taking off for flight using live photos, you can upload your live photo to your social channels. Alternatively, you can choose which image from the 3 seconds of capture you would like to use.

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5. Edit: While there are editing apps available on your smartphone, don’t forget your smartphones editing capabilities. Find the image you want to change and click edit. Multiple icons will appear at the bottom of your screen where you can change the picture’s brightness, exposure, sharpness and many more. You can also add filters and crop your images.

More on the RSPB Big garden Bird Watch from