5 Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos of Nature

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Nature photography encompasses a wide range of photos taken outdoors, and conveys natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, trees and flowers.

Whether you’re photographing sweeping natural scenes or close-ups of flowers, nature photography can be incredibly rewarding. Here are five tips for taking beautiful photographs of nature.

Focus on the foreground

Being out in nature can be incredibly rewarding. And not just for photography. The fresh air, the scenery, and the experience itself are all great incentives to head outdoors with your camera.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

When capturing beautiful scenes in nature, your picture can benefit from a bit of foreground interest. When you find a magical landscape to photograph, do it some justice by including something interesting in the foreground. I see many nature photos showing empty landscapes and skies without any consideration for the foreground.

Don’t get me wrong. Nature images can look great with an atmospheric sky and inviting view. But adding a foreground will help make your image stand out. Throw in a rock or some flowers to your image, and the photo becomes much more striking. In this nature photo I included some dandelions in the foreground to accentuate the scene.

 

Balance the photo

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Have you ever taken photos in nature and been disappointed with the images you produced? Returning from a photography outing with images that please you can be a challenge. So my next tip is to make your photos more balanced. Capture images of nature with careful consideration of what you include in the frame, and balance all of those elements.

For example, you maybe able to bring certain parts of the landscape together to improve your image, such as trees and mist. When you’re shooting outdoors, what things can you identify that would make a visually pleasing image?

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

 

Use the right gear

Depending on the subject you’re photographing, it’s important to choose the right gear to get the best out of your images. Close-ups of insects or flowers would be best suited to a macro lens, which lets you get nearer to your subject. When faced with a wide vista, use a wide-angle lens to record a greater field of view.

On the other hand, if you’re shooting wildlife, telephoto and zoom lenses are usually the best option as they can help you zoom in closer to your subject. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather suggestions on what generally works regarding lens choice.

For example, if you’re photographing animals in a zoo, a wide-angle lens may be better than a telephoto lens if you want to capture more of the scene than just the animal, or if you’re positioned close to them.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Capture different seasons

The advantage of nature photography is it can be done at any time during the year and in different seasons. Summer is a great time to document lush landscapes and green foliage when everything is in full bloom, whereas spring and autumn can provide blooming flowers, cooler climates, atmospheric weather and the occasional mist. The added benefit of autumn is the change in colours of autumn foliage, giving you opportunities for vibrant photos.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Winter is another wonderful time to capture the brilliance of nature. While it can be harsh and cold, it can also be strikingly beautiful. A sprinkling of snow can look good in any nature photo.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Snow can add contrast in landscape vistas. For example, the snow in this scene helps the dark silhouetted tree stand out. I also find that snow-capped mountains are wonderful subjects to photograph during the winter season.

 

Make the most of your natural surroundings

You don’t have to live in a beautiful and remote location to find amazing subjects of nature. You’ll find an abundance of things waiting to be photographed in your local area. I took this photograph five minutes from my home. Go outside and explore your own surroundings, and take photos in the best natural places close to home.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

 

Conclusion

Capturing photos of nature can be truly rewarding, and a great opportunity to be photographing outdoors.

Whether you’re a landscape photographer or prefer to shoot plants or wildlife, try putting these tips into practice. And feel free share your images and any other comments or tips below.

The post 5 Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos of Nature appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos of Nature

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Nature photography encompasses a wide range of photos taken outdoors, and conveys natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, trees and flowers.

Whether you’re photographing sweeping natural scenes or close-ups of flowers, nature photography can be incredibly rewarding. Here are five tips for taking beautiful photographs of nature.

Focus on the foreground

Being out in nature can be incredibly rewarding. And not just for photography. The fresh air, the scenery, and the experience itself are all great incentives to head outdoors with your camera.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

When capturing beautiful scenes in nature, your picture can benefit from a bit of foreground interest. When you find a magical landscape to photograph, do it some justice by including something interesting in the foreground. I see many nature photos showing empty landscapes and skies without any consideration for the foreground.

Don’t get me wrong. Nature images can look great with an atmospheric sky and inviting view. But adding a foreground will help make your image stand out. Throw in a rock or some flowers to your image, and the photo becomes much more striking. In this nature photo I included some dandelions in the foreground to accentuate the scene.

 

Balance the photo

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Have you ever taken photos in nature and been disappointed with the images you produced? Returning from a photography outing with images that please you can be a challenge. So my next tip is to make your photos more balanced. Capture images of nature with careful consideration of what you include in the frame, and balance all of those elements.

For example, you maybe able to bring certain parts of the landscape together to improve your image, such as trees and mist. When you’re shooting outdoors, what things can you identify that would make a visually pleasing image?

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

 

Use the right gear

Depending on the subject you’re photographing, it’s important to choose the right gear to get the best out of your images. Close-ups of insects or flowers would be best suited to a macro lens, which lets you get nearer to your subject. When faced with a wide vista, use a wide-angle lens to record a greater field of view.

On the other hand, if you’re shooting wildlife, telephoto and zoom lenses are usually the best option as they can help you zoom in closer to your subject. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather suggestions on what generally works regarding lens choice.

For example, if you’re photographing animals in a zoo, a wide-angle lens may be better than a telephoto lens if you want to capture more of the scene than just the animal, or if you’re positioned close to them.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Capture different seasons

The advantage of nature photography is it can be done at any time during the year and in different seasons. Summer is a great time to document lush landscapes and green foliage when everything is in full bloom, whereas spring and autumn can provide blooming flowers, cooler climates, atmospheric weather and the occasional mist. The added benefit of autumn is the change in colours of autumn foliage, giving you opportunities for vibrant photos.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Winter is another wonderful time to capture the brilliance of nature. While it can be harsh and cold, it can also be strikingly beautiful. A sprinkling of snow can look good in any nature photo.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

Snow can add contrast in landscape vistas. For example, the snow in this scene helps the dark silhouetted tree stand out. I also find that snow-capped mountains are wonderful subjects to photograph during the winter season.

 

Make the most of your natural surroundings

You don’t have to live in a beautiful and remote location to find amazing subjects of nature. You’ll find an abundance of things waiting to be photographed in your local area. I took this photograph five minutes from my home. Go outside and explore your own surroundings, and take photos in the best natural places close to home.

An example of taking beautiful photos of nature

 

Conclusion

Capturing photos of nature can be truly rewarding, and a great opportunity to be photographing outdoors.

Whether you’re a landscape photographer or prefer to shoot plants or wildlife, try putting these tips into practice. And feel free share your images and any other comments or tips below.

The post 5 Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos of Nature appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Why Goal Planning Is the Key to Growing as a Landscape Photographer

“I invest so much time in my landscape photography, but can’t tell how much I’m improving or even where I’ll be in a year. I think I’m getting better, but slowly and haphazardly.”

Do you have a strategy for becoming a better photographer? What areas do you want to improve in over the next few weeks? Most of us learn passively, but what if you could get more out of every shoot and see progress in months instead of years?

It starts with being intentional – something we don’t often practice in the day-to-day.

Taking an active role can double your learning speed. And it starts by setting measurable goals and introspecting your photos – and yourself – often.

Sella Towers, Dolomites, Italy

Brunate Lago Di Como, Italy

A couple of years ago I wasn’t noticing much improvement in my photography. It was definitely there, but it happened slowly and I didn’t have a clear direction of how I wanted to improve in the future.

Fast forward to my last trip to Oregon, where I made a point of applying some goal planning and retrospectives before, during and after the shoot. I learned more in two weeks than I had in two years, and brought back some of my favorite photos to date.

Mt Bachelor, Cascade Lakes Bend, Oregon

Smith Rock Bend, Oregon

Maybe you’ve heard of objectives and key results (OKRs) or ‘being results-oriented’ from managers or personal trainers. They seem like fuzzy topics, but there’s nothing more empowering than charting your own course to improvement.

I couldn’t be happier with the improvement I noticed while peeking at photos from just two years ago. Whether it’s a cursory glance or a deeper artistic critique, I can see measurable improvement that directly correlates with intentional goal planning.

And it’s not just the keeper shots that have improved. I shoot noticeably fewer photos (more of which end up being keepers), and it takes less editing for me to finish them up.

Here’s how you can take an active role in charting your own improvement as a landscape photographer.

1. Document Your Objectives

Have you stopped to ask yourself why you’re a landscape photographer in the first place? Your “Why?” doesn’t have to be etched in stone, but it will guide how you invest your time and money into growing.

Here are some example objectives. “I invest time in my landscape photography because:”

  • “I love to travel.”
  • “I want to make a full-time living.”
  • “I want to capture unique locations.”
  • “I want to grow my local following.”
  • “I want to be the best in my craft.”

You probably have several objectives in mind, so the next step is to prioritize them. Which objective(s) trumps the others in the competition for your time? Objectives are critical because they help us identify conflicts of interest. Once you start formulating goals, you want to ensure they naturally support your objective.

For example, you may be a landscape photographer because you love traveling, but your goal is to sell prints to local condos. These may well clash with each other, as marketing your work to local businesses would mean less freedom to travel. You may need to find another way to support your wanderlust – even if it’s unrelated to photography.

2. Formulate Effective Goals

Setting a goal often has a disheartening tone. We’ve all made goals or resolutions that yielded no results other than self-reproach. “Oh, I didn’t lose 10 pounds.” “I didn’t write half as much as I wanted.”

Self-reproach is often a symptom of a poorly chosen goal. Effective goals aren’t about slapping yourself for missing them. They’re about deliberately deciding how you want to invest your time and resources. It’s about determining the trajectory you want to take instead of floating with the fluctuations of each day.

Here are two of my personal goals:

  1. Capture and produce better photography
  2. Expand my photography audience

But while these goals capture a general direction, they aren’t concrete. So I like to follow them up with more specific formulations for what success looks like.

  1. Expand portfolio with shots that have a compelling foreground, middleground and background.
  2. Write for two new publications.

3. Apply and Adapt Shoot Goals

Along with your general goals and results, set specific goals for each landscape photography trip. I often source my shoot goals from notes I took in the field, or frustrations I faced in post production.

On my last trip to Ireland and the UK, I set some goals that I reread during each shoot:

  • Create a sense of depth with fog and haze
  • Root the image with stronger foregrounds
  • Consciously identify shapes in the composition
  • Capture the energy in water and clouds with long exposures
  • Take 20% fewer photos with a higher ratio of winners
  • Shoot more verticals to emphasize height

Man-O-War Bay, Dorset, England

South Stack Lighthouse, Wales

Referencing these goals when I hit the field bumps me out of my status quo. Over the past two years, I’ve found that most of my measurable growth as an artist came from setting and intentionally applying shoot goals.

4. Break Goals into Results

Objectives give you direction. Goals give you outcomes. But neither tells you how to accomplish them or how much progress you’ve made towards them. That’s where results come in.

How will you accomplish your goals? You can’t. They’re too big, and say nothing about what actions you should take. To reach your goals, they need to be broken down into small, measurable steps called results – small tasks you can complete in no more than a day. A well-formulated result must measurably contribute towards the overall goal.

Results need to be carefully phrased so they reflect tangible outcomes. For example:

  • “Edit for one hour every day.”
  • “Spend 30 minutes writing about photography.”

These results are ineffective because they involve time. Who cares whether you spent 30 minutes editing or three hours? Instead, phrase them in terms of tangible outcomes:

  • “Finish a rough edit of three photos today.”
  • “Finish outlining my upcoming photography post.”

Each of these results produces something of value – edited photos and an outlined post – and can be completed in one sitting. And the faster you complete each result, the sooner you can move on to other things.

Breaking down goals into results is hard to do in any field, whether it’s productivity, photography or software development. And it’s the number one reason we fail to accomplish anything.

Don’t tackle a goal and plan as you go. Planning and execution are two different skills. And when we do them simultaneously we ironically spend the least time on the hardest part: planning. It sounds counterintuitive, but once I break the goal into results, executing them is usually the easiest part.

What about self-imposed deadlines? Personally I’ve had limited success with them because time is a poor measure of progress. I sketch out a rough timeline (“by this time next year”), but I keep those dates with my goals instead of my results. As long as my results are prioritized, deadlines are often arbitrary because I’m always working on the most valuable results.

How are you spending your time so each minute counts? Results are the answer, not time.

5. Do a Retrospective

The learning doesn’t end after a shoot. In fact, I learn the most by reviewing photographs from the shoot that didn’t quite work out. It sounds counterintuitive, but thanks to a cognitive bias called survival bias we tend to:

  • overestimate what we can learn from successful shots
  • underestimate what we can learn from shots that didn’t make the cut.

Consequently, we end up discarding our best source of learning material.

To beat survivorship bias, conduct a retrospective on some of your failed shots to understand why they didn’t work, and what you’ll do differently next time.

Slea Head, Dingle, Ireland

None of my shots from Slea Head on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula worked out. But later in the trip I applied the lessons I learned about S-curve placement and busy water textures to capture a shot of Loch Garry in the Scottish Highlands.

Loch Garry, Scotland

Retrospectives are incredibly effective at distilling lessons that will set your next shoot up for success. And they often form my shoot goals for the next trip. On this year’s trip to Oregon, my goals changed to reflect the lessons I learned from Ireland and the UK:

  • Capture two stunning images per day for a total of 26 from the trip.
  • Identify the emotion of a scene, then highlight it with composition and light.
  • Spend 30% less time snapping photos, and instead spend it testing compositions.
  • Shoot exclusively at dawn and twilight, and spend the rest of the day trying compositions on my smartphone.
  • Use an ND filter for water without exception.
  • Identify a strong foreground, middleground, and background before snapping.
  • Don’t waste a second on angles filled with busy textures.

I would have forgotten many of these shoot goals if I hadn’t written them down and reviewed them before each shoot. Being intentional paid off. As I said earlier, I learned more in two weeks than I had in two years of shooting, and produced some of my favorite work to date.

Roads End, Oregon

Chart Your Course to Improvement Intentionally

While goal planning comes in many flavors and terminologies, they all share the goal of helping individuals connect desired outcomes with strategic actions. The key to accelerated growth is to learn intentionally, not passively.

Spend a few minutes over coffee today to document why you are a landscape photographer, what you want to become, and how you will accomplish it. Whether you’re in the field, post production, or an office crunching through tangential work, goal planning will ensure you’re investing your time well and learning as much as possible from your efforts.

The post Why Goal Planning Is the Key to Growing as a Landscape Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Fall Colors

Fall is upon us in the northern parts of the world. So it’s time to take advantage of it and get out there to capture some of that color for the weekly photography challenge.

Even if you live in the southern hemisphere, challenge yourself to find some similar colors (yellow, orange and red) to create some fall-like images.

Need some help? Try these dPS articles:

Weekly Photography Challenge – Fall Colors

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Fall Colors appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Fall Colors

Fall is upon us in the northern parts of the world. So it’s time to take advantage of it and get out there to capture some of that color for the weekly photography challenge.

Even if you live in the southern hemisphere, challenge yourself to find some similar colors (yellow, orange and red) to create some fall-like images.

Need some help? Try these dPS articles:

Weekly Photography Challenge – Fall Colors

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Fall Colors appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Green with Envy

It’s not easy being green, or so Kermit says. But for this week’s photography challenge you shouldn’t have any trouble finding green things to photograph. Just look to nature!

Weekly Photography Challenge – Green

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Green with Envy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Dodging and Burning with Lightroom

In this video from Johny Spencer, learn how to use the local adjustment tools inside Lightroom to do dodging and burning. The idea behind this technique is about highlighting certain areas of your image and really make them pop.

You don’t have to be a Lightroom or processing master to d so this. Just follow along and watch the video below:

Did you learn some good tips? Did the video make you want to go to the beach? I did for me! Well now is the time to put your new skills to use and try it out on some of your images.

Need more Lightroom help? Try these dPS articles:

 

The post Tips for Dodging and Burning with Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Mellow Yellow

In the last couple of week’s you’ve done blue and red as the photography challenge, so it’s only fitting to complete the triangle of primary colors with yellow this week.

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

Weekly Photography Challenge – Yellow

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Mellow Yellow appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Out of the Blue

Here is another easy one for you.

Get out there and find some blue things to photograph this week for the photography challenge!

You can look for blue things, shoot during Blue Hour, or use some split-toning on a black and white image to make your something blue for this challenge.

blueberries

Blueberry image by dPS writer Stacey Hill.

In post-processing, removed most of the color tones in the image except for blues, and a little bit of green/teal. 

Oil and water and a bit of color make for a fun afternoon photography project.

Weekly Photography Challenge – The Color Blue

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Out of the Blue appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Seeing Red

Okay, this should be an easy one for you. All you need to do to participate in this week’s photography challenge is come up with something red!

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

That could mean finding a red subject, making your own (oil and water and dye) or using a selective color technique to remove all the other tints in the image except for red.

Weekly Photography Challenge – The Color Red

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Seeing Red appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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