outdoor photography

17 Outdoor Photography Tips

Outdoor Photography Tips

There are so many different types of photography out there. However, when it really comes down to it—you can classify photos into two main types: indoor photography and outdoor photography.

Like many types of photography, if you are looking to master the art of outdoor photography, one of the best things you can do is to practice over and over again until you really learn to master this unique art-form. However, I also have some great basic tips to help any outdoor photographer really step up their game and learn how to perfect the art of outdoor photography.

Here are 17 of our best outdoor photography tips that any photographer can start utilizing.

  1. Choose Your Time of Day Wisely

    Nothing will dictate the look of your photos more than the time of day that you are shooting. Pick your time of day wisely. Early morning and late afternoon are typically ideal.This is because you won’t have to deal with bright, glaring sun and harsh shadows. Sunset photography is also a great time of day for shooting photos.

white sands sunset photography

Photo From White Sands National Park Shortly after Sunset. Shot using a canon 5dmk4 at 100mm f14 at 2 seconds

  1. Pack Wisely

    If you are shooting outdoors, you are going to need to pack accordingly. It seems like a simple piece of advice, but it is one that truly needs to be repeated. Don’t bring too much, just your camera body, the lenses you may need and a ND filter and lens hood to reduce glare. Also, think about outerwear and both rain and sun protection, even if you don’t think either of these weather issues will be a problem—we all know how unpredictable the weather can be so it is best to be prepared.

  1. Choose the Right Lenses

    You can’t bring all of your lenses with you when shooting outdoor photography, so carefully choose only the right ones. Typically, wide-angle lenses are best for big landscapes and skies and telephoto lenses are great for wildlife photography in the outdoors.


yosemite snowfall

By setting a wider aperture you can capture more elements in focus.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid of Including Humans 

    While you don’t want your outdoor landscape session to suddenly turn into a portrait session—you shouldn’t be afraid of incorporating humans into your outdoor photographs. Humans are part of nature and part of the outdoors, so they can have their place in outdoor photos. Humans can add scale to a photo and really help drive home the grandness of a tree, mountain, lake or skyline. The best way to capture humans in outdoor photos is to have them interacting with nature instead of posing in nature.


  1. Don’t Forget the Tripod 

    When you are shooting photos outdoors, you may not want to lug around a tripod, but it is worth it. A tripod, or a monopod is essential for low-light photos and long exposure. The good news is, there are really durable, travel tripods available right now that are great for shooting outdoors.


Hawaii Sunset Photography

A Hawaiian Sunset with a focus on the sun setting — Often times you can underexpose your shot to get more detail in the sun and bring out the colors of the foreground in post production

  1. Try Out a Slow Shutter Speed

    Outdoor photography is a great place to try out slower shutter speeds. This will create long exposures that gently make a blur effect to depict movement. I really like using slow shutter speeds on things like waterfalls or cloud shots.


  1. Consider a Polarizing Filter

    If you don’t already have a polarizing filter, I suggest that you invest in one. It is a must-have accessory for any outdoor photographer. These filters can make sure that light only comes in from a certain angle. You can also use these filters to improve color saturation. However, my favorite way to use polarizing filters is to help get rid of unwanted surface glare, so that the true beauty of the shot can come through. If you can only afford to get one filter for your outdoor photos—this would be it.

Gem Lakes Fall Colors

The middle of the Gem Lakes Trail had the most vibrant colors. The sage were glowing yellow

  1. Make Sure to Include a Focal Point in Your Shots 

    This is something that many outdoor photographers can forget to do. When shooting outdoor photos, it can be easy to get caught up in (or get lost in) all of the beauty of the scene or landscape in front of you. However, while you may want to capture it all, you still need to include a focal point for your shots or something to focus in on. This will help anchor your image and help you maintain the right composition in your shot, so it makes more of an impact.


  1. Be on the Lookout for Water 

    Even if you weren’t planning on shooting water, always look for water somewhere in your scene. Water can be so beautiful in an outdoor image or landscape, even if it is only a small puddle of water. If you are able to find a smooth body of water, consider using that surface to capture a reflection, it can really help you photo have an impact. If you want to soften the look of water in your photo—use a longer exposure to create a slight blur.

sony a6000 Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones

The Sailing Stones: Foregeround Captured by the sony a6000 lens . Sky Captured using a Sky Watcher Tracker

  1. Be Patient With Nighttime Photos 

    If you are able to capture them correctly, nighttime photos can be some of the most magical and unique images that you take. However, they are notoriously difficult to capture. Be patient with yourself, make sure that you manual focus, and be prepared for lots of mistakes. If you are patient it may be worth it—otherwise stick to early mornings and late afternoons.


  1. Consider Wildlife Photos 

    There are some people who think that outdoor photography and wildlife photography are two very different things—and they are, in a way. However, if you are planning on shooting outdoor landscapes, don’t be afraid to incorporate wildlife into your photos. You don’t have to go in and take a live action shot of a mountain lion killing its prey or anything—but you can use wildlife to your advantage as a focal point or as a way to bring balance or tranquility to your shot. Sometimes a rabbit resting calmly in the corner of an epic landscape shot can make all of the difference in your final product.

Sunrise is one of the most rewarding times to shoot outdoor photos

  1. Bring an Alarm Clock 

    If there is one accessory that is a “must have” when shooting outdoor photos, it is probably an alarm clock. Early mornings are the best for outdoor photos. The lighting is great, there are typically less people around to mess up your shot, and most things are relatively undisturbed. You may not be a morning person, but trust me, crawling out of bed for these shots will be worth it.


  1. Look for Leading Lines 

    Another note on composition—look for leading lines to help you compose your image. There are so many different opportunities for leading lines, such as fences, trailer or winding roads. This is another way to make sure that everything going on in your outdoor shot doesn’t look too overwhelming or busy. A leading line is a great way to lead the eye through an image and can really bring more of a sense of purpose to your shot.

white sands monument photography

Footprints in the sand. Shot on Iphone XS

  1. Be Creative with Angles 

    Sometimes when shooting outdoor photos, it can be really hard to convey all of the magic and beauty that you see before you. A waterfall you see in person and that you can hear and really soak in may be awe-inspiring to you, but it doesn’t mean that its going to have the same impact in photos. This is where playing with angles comes in. Take some photos from non-traditional angles. Use a leaf in the foreground or take a picture of tree from the ground up. Sometimes adding some unexpected visual interest can really go a long way.


  1. Avoid a Bullseye Effect

    One more note on composition—when shooting outdoor photography, do your best to avoid the “bullseye effect.” In other words, don’t forget the old “rule of thirds.” Don’t put the most important part of your photo right in the middle of the image, or it will lose its impact.


Joshua Tree Sunset Photography

A simple sunset over Joshua Tree National Park

  1. Use an Incident Light Meter

    This is another accessory that is worth the extra purchase. Lighting can be so difficult to manage when shooting outdoors, and the light meter will measure the light reflected off a subject in front of you. This will help you determine your aperture, ISO and shutter speed before you take any photo.


  1. Stop and Soak it In

    There are so many people who take outdoor photos who fail to really stop and enjoy the outdoors. You need to be focused on your subject in order to take great images, but it doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore the beauty around you. This will not only help you put your photos into perspective, but help you really reflect upon what you are shooting. In the end it can help you get the best photos possible of whatever you are taking photos of in the great outdoors.


Take your time to photograph and always be mindful of your surroundings in the outdoors. If you follow these tips and practice — the sky is the limit (unless you are shooting the stars) Do you have any other tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below!


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