Nature photography tips can help you transform your boring backyard photos into the stunning images of sunsets and meteor showers that you always see on Facebook. You need a leading element, a frame, or an anchor in all your photos, but these are far from enough. If you’re ready to take your pictures to the next level, consider this your one-stop nature photography guide.
1. Reflect Things In Water
Anyone can take a picture of a tree. Why not photograph the reflection of a tree in a gently stirring lake strewn with flower petals? Not only will it add visual interest to your piece, but it will also provide an anchor for other elements of composition like depth and focus.
2. Set Your Watch
One of the most basic tips for nature photography is “mind the sun.” This is because it’s always a race against the clock when you’re taking pictures outside; the sun is constantly moving across the sky, and its progress will have a big impact on the length of your shadows and the colors of your light. The good news is that you can use apps and weather websites to determine the exact times of your local sunrise, sunset and high noon.
3. Test Different Shutter Speeds
Your shutter speed measures how long your camera lens is exposed to light. It can be used as both a technical and creative tool, so don’t be afraid to play with it. High shutter speeds can capture quick-moving deer; slow shutter speeds can create a motion blur for waterfalls and rivers.
4. Shoot in Raw
The “raw” mode of your camera differs from the “JPEG” mode in that it doesn’t apply any filters or color corrections to your photos. These unprocessed images can be startling to see if you’ve only ever used JPEG mode, but shooting in raw is one of the most important nature photography tips for beginners. The sooner that you get used to it, the quicker that you’ll understand photography on a fundamental level.
5. Change Your Density
What if you can’t change your shutter speed? What if you’re shooting in a sunny, overexposed environment without a lot of flexibility in your light situation? Neutral-density (ND) filters can be used to reduce the impact of the light and color of your photos. They’re one of the better-kept secrets in nature photography tips, but once you start using them, you’ll never go back.
6. Replace Your Lens
If you’re shooting mountains from far away, wide-angle lenses are better than regular lenses for fitting more of the landscape into a single shot. If you’re taking close-ups of leaves and vines, macro lenses are essential for capturing all of their detail. Do your research about lens types to figure out which is right for you.
7. Create the Illusion of Depth
Depth is how you turn a flat, boring picture into a three-dimensional reflection of reality. It can be achieved with all kinds of nature photography tips and tricks, including framing and layering. You can even adjust your camera settings to increase your depth of field (DOF), though you might want to save that for after you’re comfortable as a nature photographer.
8. Buy a Light Meter
Light meters are useful for any type of photography, but they’re especially nice if you’re wondering how to take good pictures of nature. They’ll “read” the wavelengths of the surrounding environment and help you determine the right apertures and shutter speeds for your camera, so you’ll never again have to worry about too-bright sunlight or too-dark cloud cover.
9. Lengthen Your Exposure
There’s more to long-exposure photography than simply lowering your shutter speed, so don’t believe any nature photography tips that tell you otherwise. Long-exposure shots are cultivated with a mix of filters, lenses and camera settings, so you’ll need to study different techniques if you really want to immortalize that churning white river.
10. Lead Your Lines
Leading lines are used to draw the eye along a specific point. You can do this with things like streams, trails, pathways and even man-made rock patterns. Many nature photography tips will suggest that you move them from the foreground to the background for the biggest illusion of movement, but as long as the eye follows their trail, you can frame them however you’d like.
11. Bring In Human Subjects
You’ll hear this suggested a lot in nature photography tips, so don’t discount it just because you’re worried about the “purity” of your landscapes. Posing humans in nature can help you with everything from scale to viewpoint, especially if you use them as tiny figures to accentuate a larger whole. For example, you can put a solitary person in front of a huge night sky to signify how small they really are.
12. Spin the Color Wheel
Nature is full of rich, gorgeous colors that are just begging to be caught with your camera. The trick is to utilize them in a way that makes your photos “pop.” Get familiar with the concept of complimentary and supplementary colors, and learn the basics of things like color blocking. Since many nature photography tips involve color, knowledge will be power.
13. Polarize It
Polarizing filters are commonly recommended in nature photography tips. They’ll reduce the glare from the sun when you’re shooting reflective surfaces like water, and they can also do things like darken a blue sky to make the clouds stand out. They’re very useful tools for outdoor photo shoots, so they make great resources for the aspiring nature photographer.
14. Research Weather Patterns
When’s the next fog? It will look great with your spooky forest photos. How high will the waves get after the upcoming tropical storm? Ocean photography looks amazing when the water is explosive. Doing a little research can make all the difference when combined with general nature photography tips and techniques.
15. Scout Your Setting
Always visit the location of your photo shoot before you’re actually ready to take pictures there. Look for potential problems in the form of bad light, muddy trails, wandering animals and littered grounds. Verify that your lines of sight will be okay. Double-check your permits if you’re shooting in a national park or protected area.
16. Waterproof Everything
Invest in rain covers for your cameras, tripods, batteries, hard drives and backpacks. Not only will they protect your equipment from water damage, but they can also prevent moisture from blurring or distorting your shot. Who wants a gorgeous landscape ruined by a fat raindrop right in the middle of the lens?
17. Go Vertical
You might be tempted to hold your camera horizontally (in “landscape” view) to see the entire field or the whole length of the cave. However, if you’re willing to go vertical (“portrait”), you can give your photos a bigger sense of scale by providing a birds-eye perspective. Flip your camera the next time that you’re on location and see what you can capture.
These are just a few tips for nature photography. Mother Earth is brimming with beauty and wonder, so whip out your camera and take pictures of her! Feel free to sound off in the comments if we’ve forgotten any good nature photography tips, too. We’re always open to suggestions.