16 AWESOME OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
1. PACK SMART
When heading out into the great outdoors, make sure you pack smart. You’ll want to ensure that you bring enough supplies to keep you going and the right gear for the images that you’re after. But if you’re planning to hike to distant locations, however, you’ll want to keep things light.
Bring adequate food and water, as well as sun protection or a light jacket in case of rain. As far as gear goes, when hiking, bringonly the lenses that you might need, as well as a few key accessories. These include a lens hood to reduce glare and a polarizer and ND filter, if you have them.
A wide-angle lens is ideal for capturing sweeping landscapes and dramatic skies. A telephoto lens, though, is best for photographing wildlife. Finally, a tripod or monopod is important for low-light photography or long exposures.
2. HEAD OUT AT THE BEST TIME OF DAY
Midday is a notoriously difficult time to shoot landscape photography due to the harsh shadows and blown out highlights. It’s also difficult for shooting outdoor portraits since the harsh sun will cause your subjects to squint.
For most outdoor photography, early morning and late afternoon are the ideal hours of the day. Beautiful, diffused lighting, with fewer harsh shadows can usually be found during these hours. This is also the best time of day to capture wildlife. If you do find yourself shooting in bright sun, consider moving into the shade.
3. WORK WITH THE LIGHT
Shooting toward the sun is usually a bad idea. This will result in washed out images or dark shadows. If you can, try to pay attention to the direction of light and work with it to enhance your images. The best option is usually to shoot with the sun behind you since this will result in a well-illuminated landscape.
4. CONSIDER SHOOTING IN RAW
You may not be too concerned with post processing when you’re first starting out. But at some point you may want to experiment with editing your images in post. When you do, you’ll want to shoot in RAW since this will give you the most flexibility in post processing, allowing you to get the results you’re after.
5. USE A WIDE-ANGLE LENS
Wide-angle lenses are extremely popular for creating landscape images. Wide-angles tend to emphasize the sense of distance and space into the scene; and cause objects that are close to appear larger and more imposing. They’re especially ideal for capturing images that include a lot of foreground.
6. USE A TELEPHOTO LENS
In some cases, though, you’ll want to use a telephoto for your images. Wildlife photography, for example, usually requires the use of a telephoto. Additionally, you can use a telephoto to help far-away elements such as mountains or the moon appear closer.
7. TRY USING A SLOW SHUTTER SPEED
Look for opportunities to use a slow shutter speed to create long exposures. You can gently blur movement –such as rushing waterfalls, drifting clouds, or rippling fields to add a soft, artistic effect to your images. If you’re using slow shutter speeds during the day, you’ll most likely need an ND filter to help filter out some of the light when capturing long-exposures.
8. WATCH THE HORIZON
When composing your images, keep your eye on the horizon. You’ll want to ensure it’s perfectly level and not dipping off to the side.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the position of the horizon. You can move it lower to include more of an interesting sky, or raise it to capture more of the foreground in your image. In most cases, you’ll want to avoid having it dead center in your image since this will cause the photo to look like it’s cut in half.
Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/lzf
9. INCLUDE PLENTY OF FOREGROUND
In most cases, you’ll want to include foreground in your landscape images. Foreground can help to set the stage for your composition, and add context to your image. A particularly interesting foreground can even serve as the main point of interest in your photo.
10. USE A POLARIZING FILTER
A polarizing filter is a must-have item for outdoor photographers. Polarizers work by only letting light in from certain angles. You can rotate the filter to improve color saturation or remove unwanted surface glare.
These filters can also help to cut through atmospheric haze, making distant mountains appear more clear and in-focus. They also help to separate the clouds from the sky, darkening them and making them stand out more.
11. ADJUST YOUR WHITE BALANCE
While your camera is good at guessing the white balance, it doesn’t get it right all the time. Sometimes you’ll need to adjust the white balance yourself. If you’re shooting in RAW, this won’t be quite as serious of an issue as you can always adjust the white balance in post processing later on.
12. INCLUDE A FOCAL POINT
When composing your images, you’ll want to include a main focal point. This could be a mountain, a barn or house in the distance, or even a lone tree in the middle of a field. Having a focal point will help to anchor your image, and make for a more powerful composition.
13. LOOK FOR LEADING LINES
Keep on the lookout for leading lines that will help you to compose your image. This could include a fence, a jagged coastline, or winding roads or trails. Leading lines don’t always have to be obvious. Even objects that aren’t linear, such as stepping stones, can be used to lead the eye on through the image, and on toward the main point of interest.
14. LOOK FOR REFLECTIONS AND WATER
Water can be a beautiful feature in outdoor images, helping to add a touch of beauty and tranquility to a scene. Whether you happen upon some water that’s smooth enough to capture a reflection, or slow down your shutter speed to gently blur the surface, looking to incorporate water into your images can help to add something special to your landscape shots.
15. LOOK FOR WILDLIFE
Outdoor photography is a great chance to capture some wildlife images. Wildlife is usually best captured with a telephoto lens, somewhere between 100mm and 300mm is ideal.
This will allow you to get up close to the animals, without frightening them away. With wildlife photography, you’ll usually want to use a small aperture, of around f/16, to capture sharp and in-focus details.
16. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BRANCH OUT
Part of the beauty of outdoor photography is the tremendous opportunities that it offers. There are so many different types of images that you can capture, from reflections and waterfalls to wildlife images, close-ups and macros, standard landscape images, outdoor portraits and more. Don’t be afraid to try your hand at different types of photography, you just might find a new niche that you genuinely enjoy.