Tips for Photographing Nature’s Beauty

Brooke Jackson
Sunday, March 1, 2020

Have you ever been at a breathtaking natural place and gone to take a photo, only to see the image doesn’t nearly capture the majesty you’re experiencing? That’s because nature photography can be hard! There are a lot of variables that go into great landscape photography. But whether you’re shooting on a camera phone or a DSLR, here are a few tips to bump up your nature images the next time you go outside:

Light is Key

Ask any professional photographer and they’ll tell you: Mastering light is the secret to mastering photography. When it comes to nature, your ideal time to snap some shots is what is known as “Golden Hour”. This gorgeous moment of time tends to last for about a half hour after sunrise, and begin roughly a half hour before sunset. 

You’ve probably noticed Golden Hour before – it’s when the colors in the sky start to change and there is a soft, almost gold-like light that evenly spreads across all surfaces. 

Not only is this the ideal time of day to photograph because of those gorgeous colors, it also is when there is the least amount of harsh contrast between light and dark so you’re able to capture more details in your photo. If you want to experiment with the effects good lighting can have on your photos, take one landscape photo midday and then go back to the same spot to take a photo during Golden Hour and see which one you think looks better. 

Play With Shutter Speed

If you read our Tips for Photographing Kids, you know that shutter speed refers to how long the shutter of the camera is open and exposing the sensor to light. However, while the shutter is open and the sensor is registering light, it is also registering any motion occurring before the shutter closes. So for example, having a slow shutter speed (a.k.a. Having the shutter open for a longer amount of time) while a child is running would result in a brighter image from the increase in light, yet the subject would also be blurred because they were in motion the whole time.

So while having a faster shutter speed is ideal for photographing kids in action, the opposite can be true for nature. Specifically, if you love photographing moving rivers or waterfalls. Have you ever seen one of those landscape photos where the water almost looks blurred and dreamy? That is most likely because the photographer had a slow shutter speed.

By slowing down the shutter speed, your camera is capturing the motion of the water to make it look blurred, while the rest of nature isn’t moving at a quick enough rate so the rocks and trees still look crisp and clear. The key here is to make sure your camera is set-up on something that also isn’t moving like a tripod. Trying to shoot a slow shutter speed while holding your camera in your hand will likely result in blur because whether we notice it or not, we often shake and this small motion will show up in the image.

Bump Up the Saturation

If you decide to incorporate any post-processing to your images, whether through software like Adobe Lightroom or even using a phone app like Instagram or VCSO, bumping up the saturation cane really help a nature image *pop*! Also play with what is known as White Balance or, on phone apps, may be classified as Warmth. See if you prefer warmer-toned images or cooler-toned, and how those spectrums can help heighten various aspects of your image. 

Incorporate Some Textures

Considering proper composition such as the Rule of Thirds is a great start for capturing quality images, but you can go even further with nature photography by incorporating some texture. Think of what small details in the moment make the experience unique: maybe there are fallen leaves on the ground, moss growing on the river rocks, or pine needles hanging from the branches – all these details can be incorporated into a larger landscape to add some context. 

You can add these details either in the foreground, or by framing the photograph like with silhouette tree branches or flower blossoms. 

Play With Unique Angles

Some of the best images out there are ones that make us view the world through a new lens; literally, and figuratively. Next time you got out to photograph, try to think of a different or unique angle than your typical shot. For example, instead of just holding the camera up to eye level and *clicking*, maybe you squat down low and photograph some of the foreground in with the landscape. Or perhaps instead of standing at the typical viewpoint where everyone takes a shot, you move a few steps over to one side and try to take an image with a different perspective than everyone else’s. 

At the end of the day, creativity like photography is a muscle. You’ve got to push yourself out of your comfort zone and practice often to continue to grow and really see your performance change. So get out there and capture some beautiful images and continue to watch yourself grow!

All images by Rachel Auestad

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