Tips for Photographing Local Parks

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SouthAfrica_Park_KavDadfar

Parks are wonderful places to capture fantastic, unique photos. Besides the obvious fauna and flowers, you will often also find people interacting with each other and the environment. All of which can lead to some great photos, to highlight another point of interest at a destination.

Here are some simple tips to try out next time you are heading to a local park:

Check the Rules

Often you will find that local parks (e.g. parks in cities) have guidelines regarding photography. The majority of the time if you do not intend to use the photos for commercial purposes (i.e. they are just for yourself) you will be fine and should have no problem. But, be on the lookout for signs in the park which indicate otherwise. However, if you are intending to sell the images you should check the guidelines and rules that apply. For example some of the Royal parks in London allow photography for editorial use but not commercial. This means the photo can be used when in context to a story, or feature about the park or London, but not advertising something – so make sure you check the rules before selling your images.

Be Selective with Your Photos

One of the great things about parks is the wealth of things you can photograph. Flowers, wildlife, trees, lakes, animals, statues and even people, all offer great opportunities for photos. But instead of trying to photograph everything, think about what the park represents, and is famous for, and focus on a few subjects that will bring it to life. This will mean you end up with a few great photos that really highlight the best attributes rather than a hundred that end up being repetitive.

London_Park_KavDadfar

One of the most iconic things about Hyde Park in London is the Peter Pan statue.

Look for Details

It is often tempting to take photographs that capture everything but sometimes the photos that really stand out are of the details that most people miss. Instead of standing away, move in and get close, and really capture the details of the tree, leaves, flowers or statues. Not only will you end up with wonderfully abstract photos, but they could also end up being great sellers in stock libraries.

Cornwall_Park_KavDadfar

Get close to things and completely fill the frame. It provides wonderful abstract results.

Capture Moments

The moment that the couple kiss. The moment the guy playing soccer scores a goal. The moment the birds fly away. These moments are what can make your photos unique and really highlight something different about the park. So be on the lookout for people interacting with each other, nature, and even animals.

London_Park_KavDadfar

The combination of people, nature and wildlife mean there will be ample opportunities to capture those unique moments.

London_Park_Sport_KavDadfar

A different prospective of the park showing a completely different story.

Planning is Key

As with any form of travel photography, often you have to be willing to be patient and wait for the right moment to capture your shot. So if you spot a scene where you think it could be improved or the light isn’t right; either sit and wait, or be prepared to come back later in the day. The key is not to cram too much into your shot list for each day so that you enough “waiting” time.

Cornwall_Park_KavDadfar

This scene would have been pretty dull without the boy running. But I had to wait for it to happen.

Parks are a great place to practice any form of photography you are interested in. Most often they are easily accessible and with the plethora of subjects on offer to photograph, it means it is easy to hone your skills. Just do your research before hand, and if time permits even scout the park out.

Now it’s your turn. Share your photos, thoughts and tips below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar

is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and traveling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express, and many others.

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  • Jules

    i know this isn’t very on topic, but I’ve been trying to adjust my ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture to be happy with my shot, but once I’m in manual mode, the Shutter Speed and Aperture change together, and the same happens on Shutter Priority mode. I have an ND lens coming my way so maybe it won’t be the biggest of problems, but it’s hard to prolong my shutter speed with the aperture that it stays at. Any advice?

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  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Jules, hmmm, that is strange. In manual mode you should be able to change all 3 settings independently (that’s the point of the manual mode). What camera is it that you use?

  • Jules

    I use a Nikon D5200. See, it all works fine in Manual Mode and Aperture Priority Mode, but not Shutter Priority Mode. Is Shutter Priority mode a necessary Mode to use when taking long exposure photos? That’s what I’ve been trying to do lately. Thanks for replying, by the way!

  • Josh

    Sound more like your in Program Mode, rather than manual…

  • Josh

    Depending on your lighting situation, manual mode & bulb are your “go to” setting for long exposures.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Jules, generally speaking shutter priority mode is most useful when you are wanting to influence the action (i.e. freeze action e.g. a car that is moving, someone who is running etc. Or alternatively when you want to add motion blur e.g. water looking smooth, or showing movement etc). It is also useful when you shooting at low light and want to ensure that you are staying within the boundaries of being able to keep a camera handheld so that you don’t get camera shake. For long exposures I would use manual mode as much as possible as I can have the most control. You should be using a tripod for long exposures so shouldn’t really have any need for shutter priority mode. Hope this helps. Kav

  • Jules

    This helped hugely! I messed around a bit more, took everyone’s advice, and now that I have my ND filters I think I’ll finally be able to do this!

  • Michael

    I am looking forward to visit our Chicago botanic garden in Glencoe, IL. Now since I bought a new Canon EOS 6D, the full frame image quality should stand out comparing to my old Canon EOS 20D. Kav, I always have my Canon Speedlite with me as even being outside in day time ambient lightening, I still use my off-camera flash as a fill-in light for close-ups shots against bright backgrounds so to balance my deep shadows with bright back lightening. Do you use your flash outside too? I’ve found out my back-lit shots always come out great. Great article! Thanks!

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    Remember that both Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority modes still allow the camera to choose what it thinks is the “correct” exposure value. So as you adjust one the other changes to compensate, up to a certain point – typically one end or other of the range of the camera’s aperture or shutter range. So as you lengthen the shutter time, the aperture will close down and vice versa. That should NOT happen in Manual mode.

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  • Andrew Marshall

    I am very fortunate to live in Sheffield, which boasts one of the greatest concentrations of green spaces in Europe. I live within comfortable walking distance of at least 3 city parks, the closest being about 5 minutes away. If I’m ever stuck for somewhere to photograph it’s often my go to location as I can always find something different to capture, or the same subjects can be found in different light or different stages of the seasons. Consequently I have hundreds of photos to choose from. In this picture I tried to show a view of the city, framed by the trees in the park to highlight the green city tag. I don’t know if I was successful but I like it.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0613f29430bbf8ee33e16f15fdbf420d4cab12a6e168ac3d241a8ab912060983.jpg

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