A Simple Guide to Nature Photography for Beginners

Contrary to popular belief, anyone can hone their photography skills. You also don’t need the most expensive and state-of-the-art gear and software; even your new smartphone can be enough to take some of the most stunning photos of nature. If you love hiking and national parks and want to take better photos during your excursions, here are some key tips to help you get started on your nature photography journey.

Nature Photography

Make some plans

If you’ve been hiking or climbing mountains for a while, you must know how big of a part planning plays to ensure that your excursion is a success. The same rule applies to going on a hike for the sole purpose of taking pictures; you need to have a detailed plan and strategy in place so that you don’t get sidetracked, to ensure that you always have good lighting and weather on your side and that you’re comfortable enough in what you’re wearing. Here are some things you need to plan for before you hop on your car on the way to the nearest national park:

  • Identify the sunrise and sunset times on the day you’re planning your photo walk. Known in photography circles as the golden hour, sunrise and sunset is the time of day when the sun is at its lowest, which gives off a golden look and vibe. This type of lighting will make your photos look even more magical.
  • Check the weather and temperature so that you know exactly what kind of clothes you need to wear. If you’re not going to be part of the shoot and if you’re simply just taking photos of nature, then your comfort and function should precede style. If you’re going somewhere a bit more chilly, don’t forget to bring a windbreaker. Consider investing in some lacrosse hunting boots to help ensure that you remain comfortable throughout the shoot, no matter the state of the ground—whether it’s dry, wet, or muddy. These boots will also provide sure footing for when you’re on uneven ground.
  • Bring the right equipment for the type of photos you want to take. If you want to do a blurred effect, you might want to bring a tripod. If you don’t have one at this point in your photography journey, you can settle for a tree branch or a rock. Anything can be a stabilizer if you’re resourceful.

Having a plan for your nature photo walk will help you be more productive when you’re finally in the park or the forest. Have a general idea for what you want to achieve days and even weeks in advance so that you’re not grappling in the dark on the day of your trip.

Understand your camera’s settings

No matter what camera you’re planning to use—whether it’s your phone, a DSLR, or a film camera—you need to know all of its features, like the back of your hand. Tinker with your camera before going out, and practice taking photos of your plants, pets, and other people in your house before your excursion. Watch some tutorials on your specific camera, and don’t hesitate to learn from the best.

Follow basic photography rules

Here are some beginner photography rules you need to know before you start shooting:

  • Follow the rule of thirds. It’s simply the principle of cutting the image into nine sections, which are divided by two equal horizontal and vertical lines. The rule of thumb is that wherever the intersections are is where the eye usually falls. Place your subject on said lines to come up with a more interesting and dynamic image.
  • Use proper framing. It will help you come up with a composition that makes sense since it will help you isolate your subject and direct your viewer to it. Proper framing will also help you eliminate unwanted items, provide depth to your image, and create context. Tree trunks and tree branches can be wonderful frames in nature photography.

Keep a safe distance when photographing animals

A stunning photo of wildlife is not losing a limb, or your life, over. When taking photos of a wild animal, make sure to follow the tour guide’s rules and that you practice the necessary safety precautions. Keep a safe distance, let the animals get accustomed to you first, and take as much time as you need. Don’t treat the wildlife like they are people.

Being around nature is good for your health, and taking photos of the most breathtaking landscapes will help you memorialize the experience. Practice hard, don’t give up, and you will improve in no time.

Jessica J. Underwood
Subtly charming explorer. Pop culture practitioner. Creator. Web guru. Food advocate. Typical travel maven. Zombie fanatic. Problem solver. Was quite successful at developing wooden tops in the aftermarket. A real dynamo when it comes to exporting glucose in Bethesda, MD. Had moderate success managing action figures in New York, NY. Set new standards for selling crayon art in Salisbury, MD. In 2009 I was getting my feet wet with sock monkeys for the underprivileged. Spoke at an international conference about merchandising toy elephants in Nigeria.