Redwoods rise at the forest’s edge like NBA stars at a kindergartners’ classroom. The contrast is sharp. The stream meanders, dips, and rises through the grassy meadow. A lone buck with horns like bony fingers struts across the morning dew as the sunrises, shimmering upon the plain and softening the cold air. You breathe a sigh of relief. This is the one. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. In this article, An Outdoor Photography Guide for Beginners: Tips and Advice, you will learn how to capture that moment and do it well.
When you have a good photo hung on your wall at home, you can take pride in your accomplishment. “I slugged it out through the sleet, cold, and failure to take the iconic wonder you see here,” you say. If you want to get to that level, then you need some help.
Let’s get started.
Ask Yourself the Difficult Questions
Nature photography isn’t all sunshine and wild flowers and redwoods. It will test your patience. The freezing air will seep into your bones. The chirping birds peck and pound your ear drums. It takes patience and endurance to handle the ups and downs.
Are you ready to rise at 4:30 AM before sunrise to hear the birds shuffling their feathers for the morning worming? Can you hike through miles of hills and valleys to see “God’s Fingers” shine down at the right moment? Can you handle disappointment as all the photos you took were just not up to par so you will have to go out again? Is it alright for you to fine tune your camera and learn its inner workings to a T so it becomes an extension of your body? Can you pick up multiple photography books to study the works of the greats and see their wisdom played out on the page before you?
You will have to struggle to get the good photo, but nothing beats the sweet nectar of satisfaction.
Get a Good Camera and Know Your Camera
A shooter is only good as the camera he brings along with him. If you are trying to take photos of cheetahs in Kruger National Park with an iPhone, you will struggle. If you have a high resolution, high zoom camera, then life is a lot easier. Each camera differs in its purpose.
I do temper this with the point that the camera is not the brains behind the photo. You are. Shoot with your mind. Visualize the shot you want from the surrounding scenery. Many people have taken splendid photos with nothing but their phone and their wits.
Know Your Camera and the Good Photos Will Flow Like Butter on a Hot Cake.
Try different settings for the same shot when using it. Each setting on your camera applies to a different shot. For example, the portrait mode detects faces. At night, “nighttime mode” works better than automatic. You get the idea.
Read your camera’s manual. Familiarity can help you out in a pinch if you need to take a once in a lifetime shot.
Shutter Speed Determines How Fast Your Lens Close and Open.
Faster shutter speeds are good for things like a lion chasing down a gazelle. Everyone is moving at breakneck speeds and it is difficult to capture everything all at once. A faster shutter shows less movement. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. Longer shutters are better for consistent, slow-moving subjects like a stream or the night stars.
My Top 5 Tips to Shoot Like a Pro
1. Conscientiously Practice Taking Photos Every Single Day.
Professionals practice every day because they understand the importance of the process. When you look deep into your lens to see the scenery before you, the camera becomes your monocle, the astronomer’s telescope. Just because you haven’t found life yet does not mean it is not out there, so you have to keep looking. As my wrestling coach in high school would say, “practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.”
2. Embrace Failure and Stop “Chimping” (Looking at the Photos on the Back Screen).
Not all the photos are going to be pristine. Some will suck. It is alright. Move on. You need to accept that not all the photos you take are world-class. It’s alright. Serena Williams did not hit a tennis ball with perfection the first time she stepped onto the court. She stuck with it. As she kept practicing tennis every day, she sucked less and less and eventually, wait for it, became good. It took years and patience. More than anything, you need the latter.
A failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. Just be sure to learn from it after you are done shooting so you don’t get caught up in the moment.
3. Get in Close. Unless They’re a Lion, They Won’t Bite.
High zoom is only something you want to use when dealing with wild animals or a dangerous situation, anything that will put you at risk. The resolution goes up the closer you are. You also use your camera’s zoom features less, giving you more flexibility in your photo.
4. Analyze the Photos of Experts.
Buy less gear and more books. A camera is only as good as the photographer behind it. Read about the process of the pros and what makes them tick. Take a look at their gallery and see what makes the photos click.
5. Apply the Rule of Thirds.
In essence, you divide your photo into six equally spaced lines, three horizontal and three vertical. If you place subjects of interest at the intersections, then you get a higher quality photo. In a shot, you need to identify the point of interest and where you plan to place them.
In a previous article, I talked about the rule of thirds. If you plan to just be a phone photographer for a while (like me!), then I suggest you check out one of my previous articles, How to Take Good Photos on Your Phone in 10 Helpful Tips. It sure as heck helped me and you can be sure it will do the same for you.
A Word on Lighting in Nature
Sunrises and sunsets will be your best time to take photos. In other words, go out in the early morning and early evening. There is less stress in the air. It’s not like a 3:00 PM final where people woke up at 9 and spent the next 6 hours studying and stressing to be a hot mess by the time of the anointed hour. Life moves at a slower pace in the wee morning and late hours. You can grasp time then.
Your subject also looks better with light shining on it at an angle. If you go at midday and not at dusk or dawn, then the angle of the sun is much higher and will not fall onto a subject for the best exposure.
You might feel groggy rubbing your eyes to get up before sunrise, but no one else is awake and you feel less stressed with no one watching you.
Your shots flow then.
What is Aperture? An Essential Component of the Process.
In short, it’s the size of the hole that the light shines through (the shutter) to reach the sensor, measured in F-stops. The more F-stops you have, the smaller your hole. Think of the F-stop like your pupil. The darker it is outside, the bigger your pupil to grab more light and make you see better. The F-stop, though, adds a lot more depth to our pupil. It goes deeper.
ISO Determines Your Sensitivity to Light.
A higher ISO means you can better handle low light situations like taking photos of the stars at night. With more ISO, you get more grain in your photos. A lower ISO is better for high light situations like midday in the middle of the desert on Tuesday.
Are You Going to Test Out Those Mad Photography Skills?
This guide is only as good as the application of it. You need to get outside. It is my call to action and your test. You need to head on over to AllTrails.com. It is my go to site for finding splendid hiking trails near me. In fact, I will take some photos today on my weekly hike. If you would like to join me (in spirit of course), then you should head on over. You will be a better person because of it. So what do you say? Are you going to test out those made photography skills?
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!