Guide to Nature Photography

nature-photography

Have you considered doing nature photography, but you’re not sure where to start? Then this is the guide for you.

If you like plants, wildlife, and the outdoors in general, you may be a natural for this type of photography.

With these nature photography tips, you can enjoy what you love and take astonishing images to share with the world.

Let’s jump in.

13 Nature Photography Tips for Amazing Results

1. Bring the right gear with you

nature-photographer-gear

Camera gear of nature photographer Jose Luis Ruiz.

  • Camera

Depending on the type of nature photography that you do, you’ll have different needs. In general, any camera with interchangeable lenses will do. However, a good quality to look for is weather resistance.

Also, if you’re looking to capture wildlife, you should check the camera’s FSP (Frames Per Second) capabilities so you know how it will perform in burst mode.

Additionally, you may consider trail cameras to monitor and automate the photoshoot.

  • Lenses

The lens is one of the most important pieces of gear for capturing the shot you’re after.

Macro lenses are great for insects and flowers. For landscape photography, you’ll need a wide-angle lens. For wildlife photography, you can use a telephoto lens to keep your distance from certain animals.

  • Tripod

All types of nature photography benefit from using a tripod. If you’re shooting in the early morning or late in the evening, you’ll often be using slow shutter speeds. A tripod will ensure you don’t have camera shake.

Also, you’ll need to stabilize your images for macro photography as close-up scenes are very sensitive to movement.

If you travel a lot, check out our lightweight tripod recommendations here.

  • Accessories

This again depends on the type of subject that you’re shooting. If you’re into underwater photography or shooting close to water, you should get a waterproof case. If you want to do long exposures, you’ll need a good set of ND-filters, and so on.

Also consider bringing non-photographic accessories that can be useful, such as a torch and a compass.

2. Do your research

beautiful tree in day light

Credit: Niko Photos

When you’re photographing nature, every piece of information can help you to plan a successful photoshoot. Flora and fauna follow their own natural cycles, so make sure that you’re in the right season to find the plants or animals you’re interested in capturing.

If your subject is an animal, learn about its behaviour. Does it move during the day? Does it move in packs? Is it dangerous, or can you get close to it?

Next, research the location that you’re going to visit. Check the route to get there because many times you’ll find that you can’t reach it by car – depending of course on what you’re looking to capture.

Also, check whether you can visit: some places are natural sanctuaries where you can’t go in without a permit. National parks have special opening hours – get informed before you go.

You also have to take into account the weather to protect yourself and your gear. Wear comfortable clothes; chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time without moving. This can be challenging if it’s very hot or freezing.

Research your location to see if there are insects or animals that you have to be aware of. Even small creatures like mosquitos can be a pain to endure if you’re around them for several hours.

You should also consider footwear if you have to do a lot of trekking or climbing to reach the perfect spot.

3. Choose the right depth of field

Wild deer in snow

Credit: Annika Thierfeld

Photographing subjects in your natural environment means having to adapt to the conditions. Sometimes you won’t be able to choose the best background for your ideal subject. In these situations, you can use a shallow depth of field to blur a busy background that would distract the viewer.

(If you don’t own a zoom lens or one with a large aperture, you can also blur the background in Lightroom by following this guide.)

You’ll often find that animals camouflage to blend with the surroundings as part of their survival mechanism. This is another situation where shallow depth of field is useful to separate your subject from the background.

That said, not all nature photography benefits from selective focus.

For sample, in landscape photography, you want to have a sharp image from beginning to end. That’s why it’s important to choose the best depth of field based on the type of nature photography you’re doing.

4. Nail the focus in every image

Sea birds flying above ocean

Credit: Muhammad Tarik Saifullah

You don’t want to waste all the time and effort you put into a nature photography shoot by ending up with a blurry photo. Make sure you nail the focus by using the right focusing mode.

AI- Servo (Canon) or AF-C (Nikon) can keep track of a moving subject to ensure it’s sharp every time. When you pair this with burst shooting mode, you can be sure your wildlife photos will be perfect.

If you’re taking close-up photography with a macro lens, then you can use Live View to zoom in and focus the exact point.

Messed your focus up? Here are some apps to help fix a blurry photo.

5. Learn composition

Crashing wave

Credit: Emiliano Arano

The composition can make or break a photograph. For example, you can use reflections on the water to create symmetry or use the rule of thirds to position your subject.

Keep in mind that some rules come from nature, such as the golden spiral, which can help you capture a well-composed nature photography image.

6. Keep an eye on the clock

Island long exposure nature photography

Credit: Johannes Plenio

In nature photography, you’ll mostly be using natural light. As such, you need to be aware of the sunrise and sunset times – remembering that these change throughout the year and depending on which part of the world you’re in.

The blue hour and golden hour are stunning times of the day thanks to their beautiful light, which does wonders for nature photography.

Try to arrive at least an hour before sunrise to catch the morning blue hour and stay at least another hour after sunrise to take advantage of the golden hour light.

If you prefer to shoot at sunset, the golden hour happens before and the blue hour after. These times of day work well for landscapes and flowers.

As well as their unique light, they’re also when various animals are active, offering you great photo opportunities.

7. Change perspective

Snow covered forest from above birds eye view

Credit: Tomáš Malík

With nature photography, capturing common subjects from new perspectives can turn an OK photo into a great one.

It’s important that you don’t stick with the first shot; walk around the location and take some more to find the best angle.

Then, try getting low on the ground or climbing a tree, think outside the box and be resourceful.

If you work with different focal lengths, you’ll see how different the perspective is between a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens. You can even try drone photography – see tips.

8. Be respectful of nature

Bird and insect

Dragonfly on bird | Credit: Skyler Ewing

Even if you’re there as a photographer, your photograph is not the priority. You should never rip out a flower to better compose your image or disturb an animal just because it doesn’t fit the idea you had for your images. You have to be patient to get the winning photo.

You’re a guest in their environment and therefore must adapt yourself to it, not the other way around.

Also remember: what you bring is what you take away. Never leave trash or anything behind, it doesn’t matter if you think it’s organic – if you brought it, it means it doesn’t belong there.

9. Look for patterns and textures

Patterns in ice

Credit: Harrison Candlin

Nature is full of details that we often overlook in everyday life. You can practice your nature photography by getting close and capturing those details – from patterns to textures.

It’s not difficult to find appealing subjects this way. As well as photographers, artists and designers have drawn inspiration from nature throughout history.

You can also experiment with some abstract photography using elements of nature.

10. Use colour to your advantage

Colourful jellyfish

Credit: Oday Hazeem

The natural world is full of wonderful colours, which you can use to improve the composition and balance in your photography.

There are different colour theories that you can study and apply when you’re out taking nature pictures.

For example, complementing colours will make your subject stand out, or use monotone subjects for a soothing and harmonic composition.

11. Consider specializing

Penguin in golden light

Credit: Ian Parker

As you can see, nature photography comprises a number of subjects. Choosing a speciality makes it easier for you to consistently improve and stand out in the field. The more you know, the better you’ll get.

Plus, some categories of nature photography require special gear and accessories. If you narrow your field of expertise, you’ll have everything required to obtain professional results.

12. Edit your images

Blue flower macro

Credit: Alex Martin

Post-processing your images can be the last touch to achieve the perfect photo. You can crop for a better composition, or do some basic photo retouching.

Of course, you can also give your nature photography an artistic turn and convert your photos to black and white or get creative and do some surreal projects. The sky is the limit!

If you’re trying to decide between the myriad of great photo editing software apps available here in 2021, check out our guide.

Nature Photography FAQs

How much does a nature photographer make?

The average range in the US is between $26,000 and $41,000 per year. Of course, this changes according to your skills, speciality area, and even where you live.

Who is the best nature photographer?

There are so many amazing nature photographers that it’s difficult to pick just one. However, Ansel Adams is one of the most famous nature photographers in history who revolutionized the field by introducing the zone system.

What makes a good nature photo?

Capturing a good nature photo means combining a good technique with storytelling.

How do I start my nature photography?

To start, you need to pick your subject, grab your camera and head out to photograph. In time, you can get some more gear to extend your possibilities.

Is there money in nature photography?

Yes, there are a number of avenues for making money in nature photography. You can sell your photos on stock photography websites, sell fine-art prints or work in editorial.

What is a nature photographer called?

Depending on the speciality, a nature photographer can be a wildlife photographer, a landscape photographer, and even an artist.

Who buys nature photography?

Anyone can buy nature images; it’s a beautiful and neutral topic that many people like to contemplate. If you’re looking to sell a series or an editorial project, you have to approach a magazine editor.

Final Words

I hope you enjoyed these nature photography tips. Now it’s your turn to go out into the world with your camera in hand, shoot some photos and practice what you’ve learned here.

Feel free to share your nature photography images and experiences in the comments section.

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

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