Nature is a cruel mistress. Sometimes the elements aren’t in your favor to take the perfect shot. Maybe your subjects are animals, which often run off as you square up your shot. Whether you want to take an iconic shot of an endangered species in its habitat or simply want to capture the majesty of a thousand-year-old sequoia tree, you need to know what to do.
No matter your level of photography expertise, a few tips here and there can only help. At Viewbug, with thousands of photographers in our ranks, we are brimming with expertise, and many of our photography courses deal specifically with nature photography.
Eager to get started? Keep reading here to find out how you can seriously improve your nature photography.
1. Identify Your Subject and Stick to It like Glue
When you are looking to take a photo, the first thing you need to think about is the subject. What are you going to take a picture of? With nature’s vast canopy, you’re presented with so many possible options. If animals are of interest, we’ll later reveal some key points for capturing them, but with all subjects, once you have identified it, you must stick with it. It may take some time before the perfect shot presents itself; you need to be prepared to ride it out until that time. Above anything, patience is the one trait you need to successfully be a photographer. Before you know it, you’ll have contributed another iconic shot to the nature photography canon.
2. Pick the Perfect Time of Day: The ‘Golden Hour’ Could Be Ideal
If you’re somewhat acquainted with photography, you may have heard people refer to the “Golden Hour”. This is a time of day when the level of natural light is perfect for capturing subjects in the best possible light. This warm glow bathes your image in a gorgeous natural light and can add a special touch to your nature photography. Not sure when’s the best time to venture out with your camera? You can use an online calculator to find the right Golden Hour for your location. Try it out! Using this, you can give your nature shots the edge.
3. Let Your Environment Frame Your Photos for You
Whether it’s palm fronts, the natural curve of an ancient tree, or the side of a waterfall, nature is full of natural frames that can put your photography into a better perspective. Take a lake, for example. Imagine a beautiful swan gliding across the surface — giving you the perfect opportunity for the shot. You notice there’s a weeping willow sweeping into the lake. This, with the swan and water, gives you the crucial third element to perfectly frame your photo and provide additional context.
4. Follow the ‘Rule of Thirds’ – It Will Serve You Well
The “Rule of Thirds” is another tip that you may have come across during your photography journey. This rule says that the first thing you need to do is imagine that your image is composed of a 3×3 grid of 9 squares. Then, you simply need to make sure that your points of interest lie across these intersection points. This ensures that your subject is in focus and that the most important parts of your photo are highlighted as they should be. As you get more experience, you’ll be able to experiment with placement, but sticking to this principle now will help you create stunning shots that people enjoy looking at.
5. Enter Competitions and Look at the Winners – You Can Learn from Them
They say that practice makes perfect. Malcolm Gladwell famously stated that you need to invest 10,000 hours into a skill to master it. But if you’re a little off that number, one way you can start to improve your nature photography skills right now is to enter competitions. When you test your skills against others, you develop an eye for the various aspects of photographs that stand out and win. Reading around on how to win a picture contest can certainly help, but the real learning comes from taking that leap into the unknown and putting your work out there. If you want to test your skills, take a look at Viewbug’s latest photo contests and enter today — you’ll always take something away from a competition, so you’ll always come out as a winner.
Ori Guttin is a co-founder of Viewbug, an online picture-sharing community, and has spent years working in the internet industry.