Outdoor Photography 101

I dug this article from our friend Adam out of the archives from 5 or 6 years ago…enjoy!


Outdoor photography is traditionally considered more of a “fine art” than other types of photography. This means that an outdoor photo is evaluated more like a painting than a snapshot. Here are some rules to keep in mind for composing an outdoor photo:

1. Start with a foreground – While the background may be the draw of the photo, the foreground leads the viewers eye into the photo. The foreground should not be distracting, but it should grab the attention of the viewer.

2. Lines lead the eye – Lines like roads, valleys, contours etc, will take the viewer into the photo and make them explore everything the photo has to offer.

3. Remember the Rule of Thirds – Never put the center of the photo in the center of the picture. Place the photo’s strongest subject to the right or left and/or at the top or bottom.

4. Plan ahead – Study the area your want to photograph, most great nature photos are the result of careful planning, often days or months in advance. Watch for times of day, where the sun sets or rises and how the photo would look at a different time of the year.

5. Shoot when shadows are best – High noon is hardly ever the best time to shoot. Dramatic shadows give a photo depth and mood. Shoot early in the morning or near dusk for best shadows.

2. Accessories for Nature Photography:

1. Polarizer filter – Whether you shoot digital or film, this add-on filter is a must have for nature photography. The Polarizer filter creates a deeper blue sky, enhances shadows and removes glare.

2. Sturdy tripod – Light weight tripods are nice for occasional backpacking, but if you do a lot of outdoor photography, it is a good idea to carry a heavier tripod. Heavy tripods stay steady in the wind and will hold their balance better on inclined and textured surfaces.

3. Off-camera shutter release – Many outdoor photos require keeping the shutter open for a second or more. It is impossible to hold the camera still while pressing the shutter button, even on a tripod. Using an off camera shutter release will allow you to take a picture with little, if any, camera shake.
If your camera does not support an off camera shutter release, using your camera’s time lapse mode is a good alternative.

3. Artsy Tips:

1. Still-lifes don’t have to be still – Showing a little motion in the photo is not always a bad thing. Sometimes leaving your shutter open slightly longer can capture the blur of a waterfall or the movement of the wind.

2. Shoot macro with a fast shutter and wide aperture – The fast shutter will prevent blurring while the wide iris will blur the background with a shallow depth of field.

3. Don’t be afraid of black and white – Shoot all photos in color, but try them out in black and white for added emotion. You can also “hand color” certain areas of the photo in Photoshop Elements.

4. Remember the color wheel – Opposite colors create contrast and make your images POP!!

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