By: Mecca R. Dennehy
Some of our best stories are from moments deep in the woods, high up on a mountain, or with our best friends under a cotton candy sky. Moments like these don’t come very often, so being able to look back on photos and say, “look what we did!” is so important. Ready to up your photography game for your next adventure? We’ve got some great outdoor photography tips to help you take stellar photos with your DSLR camera.
Master Your Settings
Shooting in Manual Mode will give you way more control over your photos, so mastering your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed combinations is key to taking great photos. If you want to challenge yourself or try something new, switch your White Balance mode to Kelvin to control the temperature of your photos, or change your autofocus to back-button only so you can control where your camera focuses. Reminder, always shoot in RAW if you want to edit like a pro in Lightroom and Photoshop!
It’s All About The Lighting
We all know that places look completely different during different times of the day. Places that looked ‘okay’ during midday look magical at sunset, and places that looked dark and shady at dusk look warm and inviting at sunrise. Lighting plays a huge part in the outcome of your photos, so knowing when the best time is to shoot is huge!
Golden-hour is the hour before sunset. This is when the magic happens and everything looks creamy, sun-bathed, and vibrant. There are no harsh midday shadows and the lighting is even. While golden-hour is always the best time to take photos, blue-hour (the hour after sunset) is also a fun time to create. Blue-hour could also be a fun time to capture photos by the campfire, or fun photos with your headlamps.
If you’re planning on heading into the mountains, golden hour technically may happen earlier than what your weather app says, since the sun disappears over the mountains! A helpful app for this is called Sun Seeker, where you can enter a location and date and see how the sun moves and the sunrise/sunset times for that specific location and date.
If you’re really ready to push your outdoor photography skills, here are some composition challenges for you to master:
Rule of Thirds: Instead of centering your subjects, try locking in focus and then composing your image so your subject is on the right or left third of the photo. Just be sure to use back-button focus so your subject is still in focus even if it’s not centered!
Little People Big World: One of our favorites for outdoor photography. This type of composition works well for night sky photos, mountain photos, or really anywhere in the great outdoors. It’s a very fitting composition for adventurers!
Background/Foreground Focus: Click your focus switch on your lens to manual and get creative with what you focus on. Maybe you’re sitting at the campfire and want a photo with the sunset in the background, but want the sunset to be in focus and the flames to be blurred. Or, you have your friends with the mountains in the background and want to focus on the mountains with your friends blurred. Try out different focus compositions for fun effects!
Self-Portrait Set Up
When there isn’t a random passerby available to take your photo, it’s up to you to figure out how to set up your camera! And, while setting it on a rock and pushing the self-timer button works, it’s not the most effective or easy way to snap those ever-important self-portraits and group photos. Having a tripod and a remote will make taking photos so much easier! Remotes are especially handy since they can focus with you in-frame (instead of you behind the camera, pushing the self-timer button and then frantically running to your spot, only to find out it’s out of focus!) and you can snap multiple photos over and over again. Plus, having a tripod also allows you to take night-sky photos!
Don’t let these moments only live in your memory: they’ll easily disappear. Being able to freeze moments in time and print them out is such a gift. With a little know-how and lots of practice, you’ll soon be able to take incredible photos of the outdoors that you’ll be able to look back on, years from now. Happy exploring!
About the Author: Mecca R. Dennehy
Mecca is an adventure writer and photographer based in Oregon and loves everything the rainy PNW has to offer. You can find her hiking to alpine lakes or camping with her husband and her two rescue pups, Finn and Ruby. She is also an adventure wedding and elopement photographer and loves to capture couples as they start the most epic adventure of all together.