Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

As a photographer, you’re now a light master and are capturing some seriously deep outdoor photos. If this doesn’t sound like you, you’ve either skimped on your homework, or you’ve missed class. Head on back to part two in our three-part series:

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: Light & Depth

For those with perfect attendance in our series, it’s time to tackle the part that many people get most excited about in photography—both the photographers and those viewing the pictures: capturing people (and adventure) in action.

No need to delay with a long intro:

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

Keep people candid

Keep the people authentic and catch them in the midst of their natural behavior—you’re not doing a family portrait. (Or are you? Pose away, then.) The more authentic something feels, the more those who are viewing will be able to relate and connect with it, creating a stronger reaction for most people.


Pay attention to how you crop people

If you have people in your photo, please don’t cut them off their joints or crop off any portion of their feet. Though this is a basic rule—and like most photography rules, has its exception—if you’re just starting out, this is a good one to put into practice.

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

Wear bright colors and/or contrast your subject against a background

Friends don’t let friends get lost outdoors. This includes in photos. If you’re planning on taking photos during the day, give your crew a heads up to dress in their colorful outdoor clothes. Plan your clothing colors around the environment (after making sure the clothing is also appropriate for the weather and activity—safety first!).

For example, if you will be hiking through Zion National Park, wear something that will stand out against the reddish-orange color of the rock (e.g. blue or green). Backpacking through dense evergreens? Wear bright, light colors (e.g. yellow or a fluorescent version of other colors). In general, stay away from blacks, whites, and grays—unless you have a specific angle you’re going for.


Change Your Perspective

Most people shoot what they see at eye-level, which turns out pretty standard-looking photos. Instead, try to show people a different way at looking at the world. If there’s a great line to the trail, get down on the ground and let it take up one to two-thirds of your frame. Does the rock have awesome striations? Put your camera lens as close as you can beside it and allow the focus to follow the lines as they move out away from your camera. Get up to higher ground and shoot down—anything to create a fresh perspective.

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

Think Ahead

Don’t always try to capture photos in the moment. Plan ahead. If you perceive that a cool shot might be coming up, tell your crew to hold their horses, run ahead of them, and look at different angles that’ll create interest as your crew moves through the landscape. For example, be mindful of how the trail or landscape appears most attractive and keep a lookout for leading lines, curves, and lighting. Try the different perspectives listed above (getting low the ground, up on a rock, to the side, or directly in front) then focus on the point you think is most interesting and capture your friends as they move through that point.


Capture Serious Action

Want to get creative? Capture a crisp moment in movement while blurring the background. To do this, either use a  tripod  or a pair of steady hands. Before the subject approaches, get a feel for where you want the subject to end up when you snap the photo, then come back to the subject and follow them with your camera at the same speed that the person (or object) is traveling. As they get close and move through the point you picked out earlier, snap photos, still moving at their speed, through that point. You’ll freeze the subject and capture motion simultaneously.  

* Suggestion: set your camera mode to “Continuous Shooting” to help get successive photos more quickly—but know how many photos your camera can take in a row before it overloads the processor.

Improve Your Outdoor Photography: People & Action (Pt 3)

Bonus Tip:

Backup photos in the field

SD cards fill up fast and can easily get lost when you think they’ve been safely stored (ever forget to zip up a pocket?). Backup your photos in the field and get more space on your drives by bringing an adventure-ready  portable hard drive  with you. Again, it’ll cost you in some weight savings, but no one ever said the life of an adventure photographer was ultra-light!


Have your own tips to add? Got a bone to pick with the author (I am human, after all)? Reach out on Twitter & let us know.

And if you loved the series and want to do it all over again (you over-achiever, you!), head back to “Improve your Outdoor Photography: Foundations! (PT 1)

About the Author


Gina Begin

Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Over the years, she has been consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.