Outdoor Photography Tips

Outdoor photography is one of the most satisfying things you can do with a camera because you’re recording the beauty of the world around you.

You can go at this as a pro or semi-pro with all the cameras and equipment, jargon, and technical terms or you can just skip all that and take great pictures you and your friends will oo-ahh over.Here are some simple outdoor photography tips to follow.

What you’ll definitely need:

1. A camera!

You’ve probably already got one, but if you haven’t, go buy one. Don’t spend a fortune. The bottom of the range Sony Cybershots are excellent little cameras for beginners that take great pictures. Since the advent of digital the quality of images from most (not all) small, simple cameras has shot up.

We have a simple guide here at Digital Camera Reviews.These are from a simple stick-it-in-your-pocket Sony Cybershot:

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The camera doesn’t see the picture – you do.

Yes, you definitely can go high-tech, get a top of the range Canon or Nikon, get a bunch of lenses, get special filters and tripods but the photos are still only going to be as good as you are.First get good at ‘seeing’ pictures, get some cool shots under your belt and then when your creativity has exceeded your technical limits by all means expand them.

2. A skylight or UV (ultraviolet) filter.

These filters reduce haze caused by UV. But that’s not why you buy the filter. You want this filter to protect your lens.

Have a look at the surface of your lens – you can do this with your glasses too. The pink or green tint is the “anti-reflective coating.”

This coating reduces flare and glare and lets the maximum amount of light through the lens. This is a coating. It can be rubbed off. Every time you clean the lens you’re in danger of wearing off that coating – and scratching your lens.Outdoors you can get dust, pollen, mist, water on your lens. Lenses are expensive, filters are cheap. So get a filter on the lens fast and if you have to clean, clean the filter while the lens stays protected.

3. Another battery.

There’s nothing worse than being out somewhere with great shots all around and your camera chokes. You can usually still squeeze a shot or two out of a digital even when it dies, by turning it on and getting the shot fast before it shuts down again.

You can even do this a couple or even a few times but this is desperation and says your powers of foresight suck. Just buy another battery and keep it charged.

4. Another memory stick.

It really hurts when you have to hunker down and perform triage on your shots – ‘Should I delete this one? How about this one? Maybe this one isn’t so good….’ If you follow the primary rule of all digital photography “Blaze away! Take lots of shots!” you will get a percentage of frames that are total duds and it’s good form to do a clean up when you have time – so long as they are total duds you are deleting.

But sooner or later you will run out of storage. Just buy a second memory stick and avoid the pain.

5. A bag to carry all this stuff in.

You need a bag for two reasons. First you want something to carry the camera, any lenses you have, spare batteries, spare memory sticks, snickers bars, manual for the camera, any filters you have, etc. Usually the bags that come with the camera won’t let you pile all this stuff in.

You also need a bag that’s relatively waterproof in case of sudden downpours. Cameras don’t like water or mud. Same for your lenses and other stuff. Lash out and buy a decent camera bag.

6. Some kind of image editing software

Most cameras come with a CD of software. Usually this program is pretty minimal, and is designed for anyone to use so it is easy to learn but will do a limited number of things.

I’ve tried various kinds of photo editing software but I always go back to Adobe Photoshop Elements. Adobe Photoshop Elements is sufficient for anything you’re likely to run into. It looks a little daunting but actually it’s quite easy to learn at a basic level. Almost anything you can do in the camera in terms of exposure correction, color, tints, you can do just as easily in Photoshop.

Comparable software with a more easily learned interface is Corel Paint Shop Pro. What you can’t fix is blurred, out of focus, or seriously over-exposed (too pale or whitish) or under-exposed (too dark) images.

What you could need/optional extras:

7. A tripod.

Some purists say you shouldn’t leave home without one. This is probably good advice for a pro or semi-pro, but if you get a cheap flimsy tripod you will soon learn to hate it, and a decent, solid, useful, tripod can be quite expensive and a hassle to lug around. A tripod’s main purpose is to eliminate blurred images due to camera movement.

Outdoors, your subject is usually pretty well lit, unless you’re shooting sunsets, dawn or dusk scenes, or night shots. Most digital cameras have an automatic exposure function that works just fine in low light by slowing down the shutter speed to let in more light. However, unless you have trained as a special forces sniper, when your shutter speed goes below 1/60th of a second, you’ll probably get camera movement.

With a telephoto zoom, any slight tremble or shake is magnified when you press the shutter. 1/125th is about the lowest you can safely go with tele zoom without some aid like a tripod. The simple solution is to rest the camera on something: a rock, a stump, a fence, or lean against a tree. Failing that, loop the strap under an arm so you are holding the camera against the restraint of the strap.

You can still get movement when you depress the shutter (even with a tripod), so now set your self-timer and use it to trigger the shutter while making sure the camera is as still as possible. Don’t breathe.

This shot was taken with tele zoom resting the camera on a fence post and using the self-timer.

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Outdoor Photography Tips continued…

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Outdoor Photography Tips P.2

This was taken standing (to get the angle), with the camera (Sony DSC 707) stressed against the strap. There is actually a tiny bit of movement in the wavelet but not in the rest of the frame.

This shot would probably not have been possible with a tripod unless it was a big heavy one and who wants to carry one of those down to the beach for a sunset swim?

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8. Polarizing filter.

These filters work the same as Polaroid sunglasses. If you want the tech on this check Wikipedia.

They eliminate reflections off water, shiny objects and so on.

The air is full of water particles, so when you see a shot with a vivid blue sky it is usually because the photographer used a polarizing filter.

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Here are two shots with and without filter to demonstrate.

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Caution: The blue of the sea, or a lake, is the reflected blue of the sky. When you eliminate that reflection you get a green sea…erk…

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9. Other nifty filters and stuff.

You can add more warmth with a yellow filter, more blue with a blue filter. Darken the sky with a gradation filter and so on. But you can do all that with Photoshop Elements.

I’m not knocking these filters at all. If you want to be a perfectionist about outdoor photography – or if you want to do it semi-professionally, just take the family down to your camera shop and ask if they will do a trade-in.

Semi-pro photographers buy top of the range cameras for thousands of dollars and get all the whistles and bells that go along with them.

But until you’re actually really seeing pictures, until your ‘eye is in’ (you can see a good shot when it’s there in front of you), the odds are that you’ll outlay a fortune, still suck as a photographer, and the camera will sit in the cupboard.If you don’t believe me here, go spend $8000 on the best Canon, drive to a nearby scenic location, leave the camera there, come back the next day and download the pictures it took… Oh, it didn’t take any? “But I paid 8,000 smackeroos for the little devil and it’s got a Super XV 7 filter!” Go figure.

Next Page: 5 Photography Tips for Great Outdoor Shots…

Outdoor Photography Tips P.3

5 Outdoor Photography Tips for Great Shots

1. Blaze away. You have a digital camera so what’s holding you back? Shoot lots and lots of pix.

If you can see it you can shoot it. If it looks good, pretty, beautiful, intriguing, colorful – go ahead and shoot it. Shoot it as soon as you see it. Then refine the shot, get a better angle, play around with the composition if you can, but don’t ‘wait for a better moment’. This is the better moment, so get the shot first, and then improve on it…2. When in doubt shoot it now – fix it later.

Photos can suffer from these illnesses that Dr Photo Editing Software can treat:

  • Too dark/Light.
  • Too ‘flat’ – too little contrast, so no sparkle or good definition of the forms and shapes.
  • Too much contrast.
  • Wrong colors (especially if you’re shooting indoors) or in shade.
  • Something distracting in the image that spoils appreciation of the subject – bad Composition – you can fix this to a degree.
  • Out of focus.
  • Blurred.

You can usually fix all of these except for the last two. Sometimes you can even fix bad focusing in Photoshop Elements if it’s not too severe. So don’t be shy – SHOOT!

3. Be competent with your camera. Read the instruction booklet…really!

These are written by people who do their best to take the engineer’s incomprehensible technical jargon and translate it into human-speak. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail.

Read the whole thing with your camera in front of you and a dictionary beside you. Use the dictionary – don’t guess. Touch all the parts that are described. Turn everything on and off. Take test shots so you can see the differences between things like the white balance functions and so on. Then put it away.

Go out and shoot. Critique your shots. Now you may notice some technical problems. Find the section in the book that deals with that and restudy it. Go shoot again…

The main point is be competent enough with the camera so that it doesn’t get in the way of the shot and allows you to translate what you’re seeing with your eye into the same (or better) image on a screen or a print.

4. Use the viewfinder – not the display screen…

  • Yes, I know it looks so cool to stand there staring at the back of your camera while you compose the shot…
  • Yes, you could smudge your eye makeup if you used the viewfinder…
  • Yes, you may have to take off your glasses (most decent cameras have optical view-finder adjustments)…

Actually it looks a bit dumb and is the mark of a rank amateur, however that’s not the only reason to use the view finder.

You want to shoot what you see and the most direct, intimate and accurate way to see is through the viewfinder.

Outdoors on a bright day or with the sun behind you, you won’t be able to see the screen clearly enough anyway unless you put a bag over your head, and that can detract from the magical quality of the moment. So get out of the TV mentality and get in the habit of using the viewfinder.

5. Take your camera with you.

This sounds pretty obvious but count up how many times you saw something stunning and you didn’t have your camera. This is an argument in favor of small pocket cameras. Big, black beasts with long lenses look sexy but can you carry them with you? Don’t underestimate the little pocket digitals. There are millions of stunning shots going begging.

Do your own neighborhood – it’s probably very photogenic.

Here’s my local park:

Here’s a friend’s local park.

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Here’s a shot from the roof of a hotel I stayed in.

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Life is happening all around you and someone should record its glory!

Why not you?

If you really want to learn how to take great photos, outdoor or otherwise, and get good at this stuff we highly recommend FroKnowsPhoto as a resource.

It covers everything you need to know from beginner to pro in an interactive format you can study or refer to at your own pace and at your level of experience.

Click Here to See the Beginner Digital Photography for Yourself