3 Habits Every Outdoor Photographer Should Develop to Avoid Missing Shots

3 Habits Every Outdoor Photographer Should Develop to Avoid Missing Shots


Have you ever been out to photograph a gorgeous sunset, just to realize that you can’t, because your batteries are dead? Perhaps you’ve come home and imported your images, and noticed that all of them are unusable due to hundreds of dust spots?

Don’t worry. Most of us have experienced the exact same things. Luckily, there are certain habits you can develop to avoid ever missing a shot again. None of them are time consuming, so there’s really no excuse not to implement them into your workflow.


Habit #1 – Charge your batteries

It might sound obvious that you should charge your batteries but you would be surprised how often I meet people that are out in the field without any battery power. In fact, I’m guessing you’ve experienced this yourself (don’t worry, so have I, and most other photographers too).

About a year ago I decided to take a seven hour drive to Åndalsnes in Norway, known for its spectacular landscape, in particular the iconic Trollstigen road. I had been there a few times before, but the weather was never ideal, so I wanted to go back and capture at least one good image. When I arrived at the scenic road and walked out to the viewpoint I managed to take a handful of pictures before my battery died. Weird, I thought, but no problem, I still have two spare batteries. Turned out both of them where empty too. I guess you can imagine my frustration when I realized that this entire trip was ruined because I had forgotten to charge my batteries.


I managed to capture one decent image before my batteries died

I made it a habit after that incident to always charge my batteries after I come home from a trip, or evening out photographing. I set my batteries to charging even before I import my images, because I know if I don’t do it right away I may forget.

Habit #2 – Clean your equipment

Cleaning your camera gear is extremely important (especially for outdoor photographers) not only to lengthen the life of your equipment but also to improve image quality. I always get a bit upset when I view a beautiful image that is broken due to hundreds of small (or a few huge) dust spots. This is so unnecessarily, and easy to get rid of, so why let others believe you’re not as talented as you actually are.

Honestly, you don’t need more than a cheap microfiber cloth to remove dust and dirt from your lens or filters. Even though that is enough in most cases (and something that should always be in your camera bag), I do recommend purchasing a liquid lens cleaner too, as this helps get rid of all smudges and especially salty spots.

After bad weather on Iceland my lens was filled with dus spots

After bad weather on Iceland my lens was filled with dust spots, as you can see here in Lightroom.

I’ve made it a habit to clean my equipment after each photo trip that lasts more than a day. If I’m out photographing seascapes or in windy/rainy conditions, I usually spend an extra minute afterwards getting rid of the worst. Making this a habit will help save you a lot of time in post-production using tools such as Lightroom’s Spot Removal.

If you’re getting serious with your photography, and perhaps you have even began selling a print or two, it’s even more important to get rid of those nasty spots. Just imagine selling a large print, then seeing that those small spots suddenly look large and take away the attention of the image. Don’t make that mistake!

Habit #3 – Don’t leave before it’s over

My final habit is perhaps one of my most important advice for any outdoor photographer.

Don’t leave before it’s over!

An unexpected sunset this winter in Norway

An unexpected sunset this winter in Norway

This is a habit I had to learn the hard way. It happened many times when I was an amateur photographer that I decided a sunrise or sunset wouldn’t turn into anything good, because the weather looked a bit shabby. Instead of staying at the location longer, I preferred to go home and hope for better conditions next time. What happened as I was driving back home? The sky turned red for just a few minutes.

Even though the conditions look a little dull it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a few minutes of good light. Alright, in most cases it doesn’t turn into something spectacular, but the times it does you will wish you had stayed for that 10-20 minutes extra.

So, remember this the next time you’re considering leaving early: it’s not over before it’s over. Stay a little bit longer, and perhaps you will be treated with great light that results in a portfolio worthy image. It’s worth it!

Bird flying through a stormy sunset at Liencres, Cantabria.

Bird flying through a stormy sunset at Liencres, Cantabria.

Are you guilty of missing these 3 habits? Have you developed any other habits, either in the field or when you’re back home? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

This week we are doing a series of articles to help you do nature photography. This is the first – watch for more coming soon! 

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Christian Hoiberg Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. Visit his website to get a free download of his eBook 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography.

  • Lev Bass

    #4 Check your settings before shooting. If it’s a one shot only opportunity you better not be in manual focus mode. You’ll figure it out eventually but the moment will be long gone. A good approach might be to return the camera to ‘normal’ settings after each shoot.

  • Greg

    #4.1 – I revert my camera to series of “default” settings I’ve picked that usually work as soon as I get back. Same effect as #4; it’s just easier for me to remember when I’m finished than when I’m about to start.

  • Brian

    The battery issue can be minimized by buying a car charger. Usually the cost of fuel for a return trip would pay for it.

  • Greg

    #5 – Go where others don’t. That doesn’t mean you have to do backpacking or mountaineering (though I prefer that), but get far enough from the road that you can’t see – or hear – cars. And whatever you do, #exploresafe!

  • I’m so guilty of #3 as I don’t have the best patiens, but I’m getting there

  • Jim Gilbert

    #6: Turn Around! When looking at the sunset, turn 180 and see the “blue hour”…

  • DGrant

    #7 : Make sure you have at least one empty card for your camera, nothing more frustrating than going to take an amazing shot, and realizing that you are out of space…

  • Christian Hoiberg

    I used to be like that too, Cecilia. But after missing more than one shot due to leaving early I learned my lesion. Good luck!

  • Christian Hoiberg

    I agree. Often you don’t even need to go far to see something unique. On a recent trip on Iceland I walked for about 15 minutes away from the crowds and got some unique images!

  • Christian Hoiberg

    That’s a good tip!

  • Ryan Bruce

    #8: Check your lesser used settings
    Remember when you set that custom white balance earlier in the day for some indoor photos? Enjoy those horribly blue photos outside that not even Lightroom can fix!

  • Nanette Cordell

    I found a charger on amazon that is dual… car and plug – so I take it with me when I go camping and leave it on the shelf when I’m home so I have two.

  • Tim Lowe

    Well, none of my cameras take batteries but point taken. The other two ring very true.

  • David Gordon

    I almost always have a freshly charged battery in my camera bag or pocket when I go out to shoot. I shoot until the battery is exhausted (I read somewhere that this helps to keep the battery power up) and then switch batteries. The cost of a spare battery is minimal, especially if your camera will accept after market manufacturers’ batteries (my point and shoot does, my reflex doesn’t).

  • Jim Singler

    You must be shooting with kits from the early 70s. Just about every camera since the Canon AE-1 (or before) has used a battery of some sort. Maybe not removeable, but a battery nonetheless.

  • Tim Lowe

    LOL! Not even close. 4×5 and 8×10 view cameras. Occasionally Hasselblad 500 c/m when I’m too lazy to carry 30 or 40 lbs of camera, tripod, film holders…

  • Yahart 53

    Thanks for your tips. I can say “amen” to your tip #3
    I practiced tip and was rewarded and helped another photographer on the same scene to get the reward. We were taking sunset photos over the Gulf of Mexico and the clouds came in seemingly to obsucre the scene for the rest of the event. The other photog was about to leave and I said, you might want to wait just a bit to see if the clouds would lift to reveal the final sunset. He waited and we both got the shot with the clouds lifting and the sunset just beneath the clouds and just above the horizon.

  • Paul McKelvey

    One of the best nature shots I have taken was of a storm on the North Sea off Ireland. The sun was setting just as I got there. I grabbed my camera and shot over the car door just as the light vanished. There was one shot. The next was dark. In the frame I got, spin drift swirls from the top of the waves. Framing the shot is a vertical explosion of water from a wave hitting the base of the cliff.

  • Paul McKelvey

    Is there a charger we can take in the car?

  • Michael Sexton

    Never pass on a good shot while looking for a great one.
    Not sure if anyone else ever said this but I do.

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