Nature photography is one of the most fulfilling and adventurous photography styles there is. Nature photography is the art of photographing animals, plants, flowers, and landscapes in their natural state.
Nature photography is both challenging and beautiful as there are countless subjects and environments to capture. Getting the most of your time shooting in nature is the goal of this article, offering you the essential nature photography tips to get you started.
1. What camera lenses should you use for nature photography
Because nature photography offers so many variables from lighting differences to distances from close-ups to long range shots, having one of the best lens for nature photography will help you capture the perfect shot. Be sure to understand your lens and in what conditions it is suited for. Keep in mind whether you plan to take close up shots of flowers or capture a herd of elk crossing a prairie. Are you shooting in the mid day sun or at twilight? Know how much zoom you will need. All of these decisions impact the lens you should be using for sharp and detail rich images.
2. Know How To Properly Frame your Shots
When shooting nature photography you will often have a specific subject in mind, such as a tree, animal, or plant and understanding how to properly separate your subject from it’s background will significantly increase the impact of your photograph. Framing your shots is an important skill in all of photography and it is no different with nature photographers. Understand the distance there is between the foreground and the background. In nature photography you will generally utilize a wide aperture where the subject remains in focus while the background offers a bokeh blur.
3. Highlight Natural Textures and Colors
What makes nature photography so stunning is the natural beauty found in the natural world and this is most prominent in the intricate details found in nature and vibrant colors and contrasts you will find. Make it a point to highlight these natural qualities by honing in on the subtly details that most people miss. Observe the details and look for the symmetry and shapes. Look for the natural colors and how they relate to the environment around them. Zoom in and capture your subject in from a new and unique perspective. This could be the petals of a flower and the subtle flow of color through it’s petals to the intricate detail of the wings of a butterfly. To really get up close and pick up the beauty of nature use a macro lens.
4. Get to Know Your environment intimately
One of the most fulfilling benefits of nature photography is that it allows you the opportunity to better understand and investigate the natural world around you. Building off the tip above, take your time to truly study your environment and subjects. See how they move and how different lighting conditions change what you see. If you are photographing wildlife get to know their habits and where they go throughout the day. Is your subject aloof, capture that personality. Are they playful? The more you understand your subject the better your pictures will tell a story that is real.
5. Take Your Understanding and Put it into action
Now that you understand your subject at a deeper level take that understanding and translate it into your shots. Capture your subjects doing what they do best in their natural setting. Instead of shooting pictures of deer crossing the road (not there is anything wrong with it) capture them moving to their evening beds or grazing in a field. Remember, the better you know your subject the better you can capture them in their natural state of being which is one of the ultimate goals of nature photography.
6. Have the gear that helps you be a better nature photographer
Other than your lens which we talked about above and your camera, which is coming up next, there are other pieces of gear that can help you become a better nature photographer. The basics are a sturdy camera bag, batteries and lenses. You may also find a tripod to be incredibly helpful in capturing great nature shots. Make sure you have plenty of storage space and memory cards as well. Other than that you have to make sure you are dressed for the environment and weather. Dress in layers and have rain gear and gloves along with a good jacket and hat. Nothing is worse than having your day cut short due to not wearing the right clothing for the conditions. If you are going deep into the woods or to an area you are unfamiliar with be sure to bring a map and a compass and know how to use them.
7. Nature Photography Cameras
At the end of the day don’t let the lack of a nature photography camera hold you back. Shoot with what you have but if you are looking for the best camera for nature photography read my article with the top recommendations. You will find that cameras with dual lenses and zoom and smaller apertures are going to perform the best for nature photography. Most photographers go with one of the recommended DSLR cameras but again don’t let a lack of camera stop you. Get out and shoot with what you have now and invest in a nature photography camera when you can.
8. Understand your Lighting
Nature photography calls for using and understanding natural lighting. Capturing your subjects in realistic situations calls for knowing how to work with the natural light of your location. Great nature shots can be taken at any time of day but some of the best lighting occurs right after sunrise and just before sunset. Midday is more challenging as the high sun creates tricky shadows. The softer light of early morning and late evening provide great opportunities for beautiful nature shots. These are also the times when many animals are at their most active. Also be sure to understand how the seasons can effect the lighting conditions to maximize the time you have in the field.
9. Develop Your Use of Perspective
One of the joys of being a photographer is developing your own style and eye. By being adventurous you can better develop your style. Try different perspectives when capturing your subjects. You may not like everything you shoot but in time you will capture some amazing shots and you will better understand your artistic voice. With nature photography the perspective you take will have a tremendous influence on your photos. Change things up and break out of your comfort zone and you are sure to improve your nature photography skills.
10. Be Kind To The Environment
Last but definitely not least is to always respect the environment you are shooting in. When taking photographs of animal subjects always be aware not to scare or get to close to them. Do not damage their environment or threaten them in any way. When shooting fauna don’t damage the environment in the pursuit of your shot. The whole point of nature photography is to capture the beauty of the natural world and it makes no sense to detract from the beauty while you are out in the field. The old adage is to leave the woods like you found it. Don’t leave trash, damage trees or flowers or harm any animals.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro nature photographer I hope these tips will help you not only take better shots but also enjoy your time in the field more. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than the time we spend behind the camera and these tips should help you make the most of your time behind your camera.
Are you a nature photography lover? What other tips would you give a beginner? And what are some of your favourite subjects and environments in the great outdoors to shoot in?