Nature Photography Tips | How to Nail Nature Photography

Nature Photography Tips | How to Nail Nature Photography

Nothing is better than taking pictures of nature. Sometimes it can be hard to take what you see in front of you and get it looking just how you want it in a picture. How do you capture the light warming the leaves? What are the best conditions to take photos of nature in? It is overwhelming looking at all the buttons on the camera and wondering what the heck each of them does. This post touches on a few easy ways to make your nature photography stand out. I will do another post with specific technical tips in the future. But for now, enjoy these nature photography tips to get you started.

Nature is the most magnificent work of art, and you want to do it justice with your pictures.

Nature Photography Tips
The Greenhouse this butterfly was in provided perfect low lighting

Please note that some of these links may be affiliate links. That means I may receive a small commision if you decide to purchase something. This will not cost you any extra. I only recommend products I can 100% stand by. 

Nature Photography Tips | Take Pictures When It’s Overcast

Believe it or not, a good overcast day is an excellent time to take nature pictures. The reason is that the lighting is kind of like having diffused lighting, which makes things look soft and beautiful. The glare of the sun can be harsh and can cast unflattering shadows with little or no detail on your subject. When shooting on an overcast day there tends to be less contrast or highlights which can overexpose your photo. In the absence of contrast, the detail in your subject is much more pronounced.

When the sun is out and shining, shadows are much more prominent. Shadows can distract the eye from your subject matter, an overcast day will lessen these. However, sometimes it is fun to play with the effects shadows and light has on your subject. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Ironically, often the colours of flowers and autumn leaves are beautifully saturated under an overcast sky.

A con of shooting on an overcast day is that the sky is often white which can be distracting in a photo.

Top Tip:

If you want to avoid sun strike in your photograph you can use your hand to shade the sun from your lens. Just make sure that your fingers are out the way.

Nature Photography Tips | Take a Photograph during the Golden Hour or Twilight

As you know, lighting is one of the most important aspects of taking a good photograph. Nature provides a wide variety of natural lighting options, some of which we’ve discussed already. But, nothing is more sworn by than the golden hour. This is the short period of time just after sunrise and just before sunset. It’s a warm, diffused light which is why it’s called the “golden” hour.

Shadows in this hour are long and can add an extra dimension to your photograph. Textures are more pronounced as the light is coming from a severe angle.

Take note about how the light illuminates your composition. If you are facing the sun you will have dramatic backlighting on your subject. When you have your back to the sun and photograph in the opposite direction, your subjects will be front lit. Different again is turning so that the sun is to your right and left and side lighting your composition.

Twilight is a great time to take nature photographs. Especially if you’re at the beach and can take an image pointing out to sea. The light will play off the different textures and make the image come to life in a different way.

Top Tip:

Play with capturing silhouetted subjects, rim lighting, and transillumination – the light coming through translucent subjects such as leaves.

Nature Photography Tips | Try Different Angles

Nature shots in different angles can play with lighting and the scene. Experiment with lots of different stances and angles. The beauty of digital photography is that you essentially have unlimited shots to use. Take photographs of the same subject but different angles to see what affects your stance makes.

Try:

  • Looking straight up – the light can play through the leaves and make a beautiful shot that makes the trees and their size the true centre of attention.
  • Looking straight down
  • Lying down and getting a shot from ground level – this is great for Autumn leaves
  • Turning around – sometimes we miss the shots behind us because we are constantly looking forward
  • Crouching
  • Standing on something tall – please don’t fall out a tree for a photograph though
Nature Photography Tips | Try Different Angles
Looking straight up through the leaves

Nature Photography Tips | Extra Tips

  • When you want nature shots sans people, go out earlier in the morning before the people show up in popular destinations to disrupt the nature view. You can take advantage of the morning golden hour and not be limited by your shots. Plus, it often feels like you are the only person awake when you are photographing at sunrise which is always nice.
  • Check your white balance. This is especially important when you take photos of snow and ice. It’s hard for your camera to focus on an all-white or all grey scene, but if you can set your White Balance manually before taking the photos then they should turn out great.
  • Experiment. Experiment with the settings on your camera, playing with the different modes and taking different types of photographs.
  • Use a tripod (or a makeshift one if needed. I used my hiking pack on my last hike as a tripod), especially if doing a close up. Shaking will show up more with a close-up shot, you want to be sure to use a tripod to keep the camera steady. You’ll be glad you did it because no matter how good you are, the tripod is better.
  • Set the focus if you are playing with the macro mode. Macro enables the camera to photograph clearly images that are close to the lens. It’s great for taking sharp images of flowers, bugs, small items, or anything an inch or so from the camera.
  • Using autofocus doesn’t mean you’re a bad photographer. Predictive autofocus works for birds or any animal moving. You can lock on the image before you take the picture so that you can track the movement before you take the shot
  • The best shots happen when you are in the right place at the right time. When you see some great scenes happening, don’t delay or worry about camera settings – just start taking pictures. Set it on autofocus and automatic and just start framing the images. The frame is more important than your worrying about camera settings.
  • The best shots happen when you are in the right place at the right time. When you see some great scenes happening, don’t delay or worry about camera settings – just start taking pictures. Set it on autofocus and automatic and just start framing the images. The frame is more important than your worrying about camera settings.
  • The best shots happen when you are in the right place at the right time. When you see some great scenes happening, don’t delay or worry about camera settings – just start taking pictures. Set it on autofocus and automatic and just start framing the images. The frame is more important than your worrying about camera settings.

Nature Photography Tips

Nature Photography Tips | Which Camera?

When purchasing a camera you want to do a bit of research first. It is a big investment. Think about what you will be mainly photographing, your price range and the type of camera you will need. Buying a camera is a very personal choice. What works for one person, may not work for the next.

I chose a mirrorless as that is perfect for the conditions that I shoot in. A mirrorless or a DSLR are both good options if you are going to seriously get into photography and have the skills to use one. It is a bit of a learning curve but once you have mastered the basics the world is your oyster.

A point and shoot camera can be limiting, although they have come a long way in the past few years. For flexibility and control over your photos, I would recommend a mirrorless or DSLR camera.

Some of the cameras that I have used are:

Sony a6000

I personally use and love the Sony a6000. It is a fantastic mid-range mirrorless camera that is perfect for what I need to use it for. While I was searching for a new camera I read loads of reviews and tried out several cameras – the beauty of having parents that are well into their photography.

I fell in love with this camera from the moment I used it. It has a very quick autofocus, lightweight and takes a mean photo. You have the weight of a point and shoot camera and the flexibility of a DSLR with the interchangeable lens. I did try a point and shoot as I thought that would be nice and light in my pack. Unfortunately, with the dim light in the bush it wasn’t up to the task I set it whereas the Sony a6000 performs exceptionally.

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for an in-depth review of this camera.

Sony a6000 Quick Stats

  • 24 MP APS-C CMOS sensor and Focus Sensitivity Range: EV 0 to EV 20 (at ISO 100 equivalent with F2.8 lens attached)
  • ISO 100-25600 (expandable to 51200).
  • Lens compatibility- Sony E-mount lenses
  • Hybrid AF with 179-point focal plane phase-detection and 25 contrast detect points
  • Up to 11 FPS continuous shooting
  • 3-inch tilting LCD with 921,000 dots
  • OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and 1.4 million dots

The photos in my A-Frame Hut and Hike #12 + 12.5 Facebook Albums were taken with this camera on its first two outings. I am still learning to utilise the camera properly. 

Sony a57

The first camera I borrowed was Pa’s Sony a57, it was fabulous on smaller hikes but as I ventured out on longer ones I found it too bulky and heavy. It is a great camera, just not a long distance hiking camera. The Sony a57 takes beautiful photographs in all conditions, from snow to low light in the bush to sunshine to portraits and everything in between.

Sony a57 Quick Stats

  • 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Up to 12 FPS continuous shooting
  • ISO 100-16000 (Auto 100-3200)
  • 1080 24p / 60p HD movies in AVCHD format
  • 3″ Articulated LCD with 921,000 dots
  • Focus peaking manual focus aid
  • Stereo microphones and mic input socket

This camera was used on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Atene Skyline Track, Kohi Point, Platinum Mine Loop Track and Deadman’s Track. Check out the posts or go and find their respective albums on that Kiwi Hiker Facebook Page to see the photos.

Sony Nex-7

Next on the list to try was the Sony Nex-7 (do you see a theme in the family?). A small mirrorless camera. In fact, Pa loves this camera so much that he brought a backup secondhand one online in case his first one ever gave up the ghost. 7 odd years later his second one is still waiting to be used. Enter Jem.

I love this camera. It is light, has a super quick autofocus and is made to last the distance (Pa is proof of this). The only reason why I didn’t go for the same model was that I couldn’t find it in New Zealand – I would have had to ship internationally and the taxes were jaw-dropping.

Sony Nex-7 Quick Stats

  • 24.3 MP 
  • World’s first OLED electronic viewfinder; 2359K dots
  • Up to 10 fps shooting 
  • APS-C CMOS sensor for DSLR-class imaging

This camera was used during my Field Hut Hike, Coppermine Creek and No. 1 Line Hikes. Because I am an organised wee lass, they each have their own photo albums on that Kiwi Hiker’s Facebook Page. 

Nature Photography Tips
Taken on the Sony a6000

Final Thoughts

The biggest thing you can do to take excellent nature photographs is to practice your skills. Taking nature photos is different from other kinds of photographs that you have more control over. Out in nature, you have to deal with the lighting that’s there, and that’s where your knowledge of the settings on your camera can come in handy.

I am by no means an expert. I am still learning on the go and working to utilise my Sony a6000 properly. Through trial and error and learning from those around me that take spectacular photos (chur, Pa!), I have picked up a few tips + tricks. Alongside this, my skills and confidence are growing.

What are some other nature photography tips would you give to budding photographers?

Jem

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Want to nail nature photography? Here are some easy nature photography tips that will help you get started

3 thoughts on “Nature Photography Tips | How to Nail Nature Photography

  1. You photograph with Sony, but you have Zenith picture on your pin. 🙂 It is a vintage soviet camera, which I like, but I have a different brand of soviet camera now.

    • Ha, you snapped (excuse the pun) me! I didn’t have any decent photos of me (or anyone that would let me put it on the net) taking photos without being silly in the photo so had to source a stock one.

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