“And into the forest, I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir
This quote is one that resonates with artists no matter the medium. There is something to be said about getting lost in nature and finding purpose. We often find our most inspired moments in solace, surrounded by the vastness of nature and its power. We wanted to provide tips and tricks that we’ve found helpful when capturing natural landscapes to help you better prepare for an outdoor adventure. Take advantage of these forest photography tips so that you can make the most of your experience and your photos.
Forest Photography Tips & Guide
- Which Times of Day Are Best?
- What Time of Year is Best?
- Location Scouting
- Best Camera Settings for Forest Photography
- Lens Choices for Forest Photography
- Editing Forest Photos
- Forest Photography Accessories
Which Times of the Day Are Best?
Different times of the day will allow you to create a stunning forest photograph for different reasons. Just like portraiture, landscapes are often most beautiful at golden hour, golden hours, an hour after sunrise, or the hour before sunset. During this time, a glow is cast through the trees and along the ground, which can be stunning. You should also consider shooting at night. This is an especially promising option if you want to capture astrophotography. Approximately 30 minutes after sunset is when the sky turns to a beautiful blue hue known as blue hour. This makes for a great contrast between the green forest and the blue sky. The best option is to camp overnight to capture various shots, depending on the available light, where it is available from, and other factors.
What Time of Year is Best?
Another consideration is the time of year, assuming that this forest is located in a place that has the four seasons as many of us know them – i.e. snowy conditions in the winter and hot conditions in the summer. What are you looking for? Perhaps you want to take the same shot in all four seasons to compare and contrast. Maybe certain forests aren’t accessible due to harsh weather conditions. If you are interested in seeing wildlife, do your research prior to finding out when animals are most visible.
Although many photographers attempt to time their photo-taking during quality weather conditions, that does not necessarily make for the best photos, particularly ones taken in the forest. In creating an atmosphere with your photos, having the scene be set amongst the rain, snow or fog can enhance that and cause those looking at those photographs to have a stronger emotional connection with them.
One of the best forest photography tips to consider is scouting the area beforehand. You not only want to see how busy it may be with other photographers and people passing through, but you also want to see which areas and angles may work and what times of the day sun-wise may be best for woods photography.
As you scout the area, keep your eye out for an “it” factor. This is something that will really capture a viewer’s attention. It can be an especially gnarly tree, a stream that goes in all sorts of directions before heading on its way to its destination, or some flowers that really stand out in the setting that they are in.
Best Camera Settings for Forest Photography
If you do not want any motion whatsoever, such as if a breeze is causing leaves or branches to sway back and forth, use a faster shutter speed in your photographs. Conversely, showing that movement and ensuring a greater detail level can be done with a slower shutter speed. Your aperture impacts what is focused on in forest photography and how much clarity is shown in the subjects. For example, a wide aperture is preferred if you want a photograph that clearly shows many of the subjects that are closer to the camera. This can provide the mood that you are looking to communicate.
Related: Our Favorite Landscape Photography Presets
Lens Choices for Forest Photography
The type of lens that you use is an important element of woods photography. A wide lens can be perfect if you want to have the shot focus on something in the foreground with trees or other forest-related elements behind it be blurry. It can also help really show how vast the forest is. A long lens takes this a step further. It provides you with even more image compression, allowing you to focus more so on something in the foreground, whether that consists of leaves, an animal, or whatnot. Meanwhile, a macro lens offers you a perfect opportunity to zoom in on the smaller elements of the forest. For example, if you want to take a shot of a fascinating insect, bring a macro lens. Using a drone to capture a birdseye view of the forest is becoming a popular option as well. An aeriel view is a great way to see foliage and density in forests.
Editing Forest Photos
Although most forest photographs are in color to show the vibrancy of the greens and blues and other colors, having yours in black and white can really give them an artistic, moody look and feel. If you’re looking for the perfect landscape photography presets to edit your forest photos, be sure to check out our favorite presets here.
Forest Photography Accessories
Now that we’ve covered some of our favorite forest photography tips, let’s discuss some of the other accessories and tools we use to help make incredible photos. Here is a list of some of our most useful tools:
- Tripod: Our current favorite is the Peak Design Travel Tripod. You never know what type of action you’ll see in the forest and you want to be prepared.
- Polarizing Filter: A polarizing filter will help you limit the effect of any glare, such as may result from the sun’s reflection on a lake, and otherwise balance the light that shows up in your images, reducing overexposure.
- Sunseeker App: This is a comprehensive solar tracking & compass app perfect for location scouting. It shows the sun’s hourly direction intervals, its equinox, winter & summer solstice paths, sunrise sunset times, twilight times, sun shadow, the golden hour & more.
- Explorest App: Discover and photograph the world’s greatest places, all in one place! This is the app to use to find out the most picturesque locations. It gives you ideal times, GPS coordinates, and tips!