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7 Quick Tips for Better Outdoor Photography

Nature is an incredible muse for so many art forms. From painters to poets and photographers, almost every creative field has turned to nature to get inspiration, perspective, and subject matter for their art. Perhaps, the most diverse of them all is the photographer. No matter how many times a landscape has been photographed, there is always something new to see and document in each situation.

With a little bit of patience, perspective and some good old fashion luck of being in the right place at the right time – outdoor photography has the ability of beaming us off to magical places with just the click of a button (an intentional reference has been made to Star Trek!). Nature is actually quite spectacular in her own special way but it behooves us to keep a few tips in mind when photographing outdoors.

#1 Watch for the best light

While some people may argue that light is light, photographers know that all light is not equal. There are many different kinds of light and learning to read and understand each of them is in every photographer’s best interest.

  • Early morning soft light
  • Harsh midday sun
  • Cloudy overcast skies
  • Golden hour
  • Blue hour

Each scenario has its own benefits. I love golden light and blue hour. In both these cases, as the sun sets, the light grows softer and less harsh on the subject. Colors become more vibrant and the environment becomes more contrasty and dramatic. This is also a great time to get creative with silhouettes.

7 Landscape Photography Tips

An unusual subject against the setting sun…I love the shadows as much as the actual subject!

Image: Blue hour – image by dPS Editor Darlene Hildebrandt

Blue hour – image by dPS Editor Darlene Hildebrandt

#2 Create perspective by adding a sense of scale

Adding elements like humans and/or objects like vehicles can add a sense of scale, as well as create some interest in an otherwise mundane landscape. These elements give the audience perspective, a sense of scale and also helps them relate to the grandeur of the environment. Add some contrast by looking for elements that stand out in an otherwise monotone environment.

Kayaking on a lake - 7 Landscape Photography Tips

These kayakers were heading out for a day on the water in Glacier National Park.

#3 Creative use of natural or manmade reflections

Reflections, either natural like water or man-made like windows, are so often overlooked but they add so much interest and perspective to a landscape photo. I absolutely love taking photos of landscapes from the car side windows. I have been known to have my husband (a.k.a the designated driver in our family) take back roads and stop the car in the middle of a rural road just so I could take a shot with my subject in the side view mirrors. Water surfaces, when used as reflectors provide a great sense of symmetry to an image.

Landscape Photo of mountains - 7 Landscape Photography Tips

Water surfaces and car side-view mirrors are great tools in landscape photography…use them creatively!

#4 Change your angles

We, humans, are such creatures of habit. We are used to finding our comfort zone and sticking to it, and we almost always default to seeing the world at eye level. To push yourself creatively, try and switch up your focus and add some variety.

Either get down to ground level and point your camera upwards or get on a rock or picnic bench and look down. Create depth by focusing on the background and blurring out the foreground. Once you actively start to think in terms of unique angles, you will realize that there is so much more to see than what meets the eye!

Image: Image by Katie McEnany.

Image by Katie McEnany.

Valley of the Gods, Utah by Anne McKinnell

Take a low camera angle and point up.

#5 Think outside your camera bag

If you typically travel with a certain set of lenses, push yourself and try something different the next time you get outside. Use a fish-eye lens or an ultra-wide lens. Carry a tripod and try a long exposure or slow shutter speed to capture motion blur. There are millions of ways (well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration!) to get creative and try things outside your norm to get unique landscape photography images.

Motion Blur Photo - 7 Landscape Photography Tips

Motion blur here was achieved by placing my camera on a rock for stability and slowing down the shutter to 1/10th or so.


Adding a few seconds to an image of a waterfall gives it a lovely marshmallow effect. Image by dPS writer Leanne Cole.

#6 Friendly neighborhood hero – off-camera flash

Your photography doesn’t need to stop the moment the sun sets and darkness has cloaked the earth. Instead, grab your flash, or even a headlamp, and head out to create some interesting outdoor photographs. Have a friend hold a headlamp or flashlight with a steady hand to light up the landscape.

Image: Image courtesy of dPS Managing Editor Darlene Hildebrandt.

Image courtesy of dPS Managing Editor Darlene Hildebrandt.

#7 Reach for the night sky

I am fascinated with the night sky and the milky way, stars, and the Aurora Borealis is high on my “must-do-before-I-die” bucket list. There are many different ways to photograph the night sky. One of the ways to do that is to use a tripod, keep a really wide aperture, crank up the ISO as high as you can without introducing noise and experiment with shutter speed to either get relatively bright stars or long star trails.

To be most successful at night sky photography, you have to travel away from the cities so as to minimize light pollution. All the more reason to get out and practice landscape photography – you have new tricks to try during both day and night time!

If night sky and stars are difficult to find where you are because of the light population, use the same principal and try to capture the vibrant colors of the sky just after sunset.

Image: Photo by Scott Wyden Kivowitz

Photo by Scott Wyden Kivowitz

What are some of your favorite landscape photography tips?

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Karthika Gupta
Karthika Gupta

is a culture, people and travel photographer, based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural, and her love for nature makes it way into most of her images. She also has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course, a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.