Photography Guides

Outdoor Photography Fundamentals

4 critical elements for creating epic outdoor photography.

Outdoor photography is an entirely different beast than any other photography genre. Outdoor photography has more variables and moving parts. You no control over the elements, or the light. Half the challenge of shooting outside is just getting to the location of your shoot. So here are some outdoor photography fundamentals to help stack the cards in your favour.

Female Photographer on glacier.

4 critical elements for creating epic outdoor photography.

Composition.

Subject placement is crucial. Nature has so many dynamic elements. All of which are worthy of being the main subject in a photo. It’s important that you pick one subject though. Lead the viewers eye to it. Use framing techniques, leading lines, and depth of field to help clearly identify the primary subject in your shot.

Natural light.

This isn’t a controlled three light set-up in a controlled hipster studio attached to a trendy cafe. This is the outdoors. One “key light” (primary light source). The sun. Use it to your advantage. If you have to fight it, be creative. Shot into the sun, try overexposing your subject, create silhouettes! If you’re shooting portraits, avoid harsh shadows on their face. Shoot your subject fully backlit (sun behind subject).

Stopping power.

Ever find yourself walking down the street and then you see an insane ad on a bus, something that just pulls you in and grabs your attention. Photos that stop people in their tracks and make them go “holy crap”. That’s stopping power. Try shooting for that.

Timeless.

Don’t date your photos. Outdoor brands can be pretty obnoxious when it comes to branding and logos. So this one is sometimes difficult to avoid. However, do your best not to include logos, trends and other elements that might quickly date your photo. Great photos should stand the test of time. That statement is practically counter culture thanks to Instagram, but it’s truer now than ever.

Joshua Tree as dusk.

Gear.

Photo gear.

Chances are you think you need better gear. You can waste a lot of great photo opportunities if you’re at home bummed, because you think you need better gear. Sure better gear makes life easier. Creating amazing images despite your access to top of the line gear though, that will set you up for success in so many ways. You’ll learn how to problem solve. Problem solving is the most important component to shooting pro. Additionally, you’ll just be better. You’ll be better at creating that image in your head.

Gear you wear.

Outdoor photography is unique. It’s unique because typically in photography, your expenses are usually just your camera, lenses etc. Unlike outdoor photography. Your major expenses are outdoor apparel and equipment. Proper rain jackets are up-words $500, backpacks, $300, maybe you’re climbing so there’s rope, harnesses, shoes, etc.

Anything that assists you in creating your photos, and participating in the sport or activity your shooting, is gear. And all of that gear needs to be considered, and not overlooked. Forgetting a down jacket on your overnight camping trip could majorly affect your ability to shoot fun campfire photos.

Two women hiking.

Visualization. Think it, create it.

Plan ahead. Not just logistically – which is also super important. Also mentally. Think about what your destination might look like, who will be there, what will be happening, and how will you shoot it? Don’t just visualize best case scenarios either. Think about what could go wrong, and then plan for the salutions that might absolve those issues. Stay one step ahead.

There’s a laundry list of things that could go sideways. Weather, poor lighting, weather, did I mention weather? Just remember, when you’re outdoors, you can’t be creative if you’re cold or hungry. Look after yourself first and foremost.

Shooting techniques critical for outdoor photography.

Vantage.

Chances are, if you’re shooting at eye level, you’re not creating anything new. Change your vantage. Get up high. Maybe on a tree, or your car. Try shooting from underneath your subject. Take the viewer with you. Avoid “snapshots”.

Variety.

Shoot all the vantages, and then take wide shots. Take tight shots. landscape, portraits, details, everything. Memory is cheap, it costs practically nothing and you’ll never regret having too many photos to choose from. However, you will regret not taking enough.

Long exposures.

Switch it up. Try long exposures anytime there is any kind of motion or action in frame. Long exposures will change the way you see moving subjects!

Break all the rules.

Know them all first though. Don’t break a bunch of rules because you’re just being lazy or shooting unintentionally. But if your creative brain is telling you to shoots 2 stops over exposed, try it. Maybe you want to place a subject in a jarring place in the frame. Typically you’d never centre a subject. Sometimes I think it demands authority when you do though.

Acacia Tree at sunset.

Seek Inspiration Daily.

There are so many incredible photographers in the outdoors. See what they’re creating. Try to see what they saw. It will help you visualize and help keep you motivated to create new things.

8 Photographers You Should be Following.

Post Processing is 33% of the Creative Process.

Vision, capture, enhance.

Know how your camera, know the files and the power and capabilities, as well as the limits of post processing. Enhancing your final images is a big part of the entire process of any images. When you know how far you can push and pull in Lightroom, you can change your shooting style in the field to better compliment your creative style in post. This will ultimately shift how you think of creating images too.

Man on truck.

Still interested in learning even more about the fundamentals of Outdoor Photography?

Check out my lesson at on Skill Share where I cover so much more.

Think this guide would be helpful on your next shoot? Take it with you. Download this article right here for reference on your next outdoor shoot.

2 comments

Leave a Reply