Nature photography can be one of the most therapeutic exercises for photographers of any genre. Find a secluded spot and let the beauty of earth’s magnificent creatures and features do the talking. Being outside in the wilderness and taking photos is a great way to experience nature and all it has to offer. Nature photography encompasses landscapes, wildlife, and plant life that make up the earth’s ecosystems and puts no limits on your imagination or creativity. This category, however, can be somewhat intimidating, especially for the beginning photographer but we’re here to give you some essential nature photography tips for getting started on your journey.
Nature Photography Tips
- Familiarize Yourself with Your Subject
- Study the Professionals
- Gather the Proper Equipment
- Choose the Correct Lighting
- Choose the Proper Distance
- Shoot from Different Angles and Perspectives
- Capture the Details
- Respect Others and the Environment
Nature Photography Tip #1: Familiarize Yourself with Your Subject
When shooting nature photos, it’s vital to know something about the subject you’re photographing. Also, having some idea where to find a particular plant or animal will help establish authenticity. It’s good to be spontaneous sometimes, but just going out and wanding around may not be the most efficient use of your time. Take time to study their attributes such as:
- Unusual markings
Also, you want to know where they nest. What is their preferred habitat? In this case, you know that the black-backed woodpecker prefers burned-out forests. So, you may be able to find more of them after a recent forest fire. The same thing goes for plants, geography, and terrain features. By studying your subject, you understand how to bring it to life in your wildlife photography.
Nature Photography Tip #2: Study the Professionals
If you want to become a great ice skater, you will imitate what a professional ice skater does. The same thing goes for natural or wildlife photography. When checking out the professional photos in nature magazines, ask yourself these questions:
- Where was the photographer in relation to the subject?
- What type of lens did they use?
- What time of day was it?
- How much foreground is there compared to the background?
There are other questions to ask, of course. But it’s good to think about how the pros get their shots. And it also keeps you thinking about how you’re going to get yours eventually.
3. Gather the Proper Equipment
The first thing to consider is the weather. If it’s cold, you’ll need a warm jacket, gloves, and maybe a parka if it’s snowing or rainy. If it’s hot, you’ll want light clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, sunblock, and plenty of extra water. Next, consider the terrain. Hiking boots are almost always a must, especially if you have to walk long distances over rocks or unstable surfaces. Make sure you have these items:
- Camera body
- Lens hood
- Compact flash
- Flash extender
- Extra batteries
Our most important item on this list is a tripod, easily one of the most necessary items to have on you for nature photography. It is a great tool to have for low light, motion capture, and long exposures.
4. Choose the Correct Lighting
Try to get your shot either at early dawn or right at dusk. This is photography 101. But it’s even more critical for nature photos. Natural lighting is best. However, in shadowy forested areas, consider using fill flash to bring your subject to life. Also, a flash extender can be helpful to make the supplemental light carry farther.
Related Reading: The Beginner’s Guide To Photographing Wild Birds
5. Choose the Proper Distance
If your subject is an animal, you don’t want to get too close. However, if you’re too far away, you will be left with mostly foreground and background in your photo. So, what do you do? The best compromise is to get as close to the subject as possible without scaring it away. Nature photography tip: select a telephoto lens with a focal length between 100mm and 400mm. This range will give you a good starting point. If you’re shooting closeups, consider a quality macro lens. It will pick up every detail of a sunflower or a praying mantis eating its lunch. However, keep in mind that the minimum focusing distance for some of these specialized lenses can put you uncomfortably close to your subject. To avoid this problem, choose a macro lens with a focal length between 90mm and 105mm.
Nature Photography Tip #6: Shoot from Different Angles and Perspectives
Once you’ve gotten that perfect shot of an open meadow full of mountain wildflowers, it’s time to experiment a little. First, try photographing the same subject using a different perspective. For example, you could lie prone to capture an army of giant wildflowers getting ready to invade. Or, you could stand high upon a hill to make the yellow field resemble a postage stamp. Also, don’t forget to utilize depth of field and converging lines in your nature photography. Being creative means trying different things. Don’t settle for standing 100 feet away and taking only one shot.
Nature Photography Tip #7: Capture the Details
Photographing wildlife at close range may not always yield desired results as they are often afraid or worse yet annoyed by your presence. Having a telephoto or macro lens allows you to get close and personal with nature without having to move any closer to distract them. It’s also a great option for when you are photographing predatory animals and need to keep a safe distance.
8. Respect Others and the Environment
This is easily the most important thing to keep in mind for nature photography tips. Be sure to steer clear of private property. The last thing you want is to have an angry farmer or rancher call the local authorities on you for trespassing. Yet, this is probably one of the most crucial nature photography tips.
Also, be respectful of other nature-lovers. For example, most birdwatching organizations have their own code of conduct. And the most significant rule is to never interfere with another person’s chance to get a photograph. That includes being quiet and not disturbing habitats.
Last, if you pack it in, be sure to pack it out. Don’t leave any trash behind. Even a stray banana peel can disrupt a delicate ecosystem.