7 Tips To Improve Your Outdoor Photography

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If you’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, chances are that you’ve witnessed an absolutely picture perfect scene once or twice. When you’re in a place like this your first instinct might be to take a photo so you can look at it later, remember the moment, and share it with your friends. If you’re not a professional outdoor photographer your photos have probably turned out somewhat underwhelming once or twice. Great outdoor photography is the second best thing to actually experiencing those unreal natural locations.

Here’s how to take your outdoor photography skills to the next level and make all your Instagram followers extremely jealous. Speaking of Instagram, shoot me a follow – @lukebender

1. Shoot When the Light is Softer

Shot at sunset with iPhone. Edited with the Lightroom mobile app.

This first tip is pretty straight forward. Lighting is incredibly important when it comes to any type of photography, typically sunrise and sunset will give you the best light to work with. Be aware of what time the sun rises and sets when you’re planning your next shoot or outdoor adventure.

Occasionally, foggy or cloudy weather can provide nice, soft lighting for photography. These type of conditions will allow you to create moody-style images.

PRO TIP: If you know you’ll be shooting a touristy location but you really want to take an epic photo like all the ones you’ve seen on Instagram and you don’t want anyone else in your pictures, go at sunrise. All the best outdoor photographers go to these iconic locations at sunrise to get the best lighting and avoid the crowds.

2. Know Your Equipment

One friend shooting with Canon 6D and the other shooting with iPhone.
This tip doesn’t mean you need a professional or expensive camera, just know how to use the one you have. Smartphones these days have great cameras, so as long as you know how to use the camera feature a little better than the average person you can create amazing, high-quality images. Make sure you are familiar with all the settings on your smartphone camera, including how to adjust the exposure and focus different subjects.

If you do have a nice DSLR camera or point-and-shoot with lots of different settings that’s great, learn as much as you can about that camera and how to use it. YouTube is a great place to increase your knowledge in this area.

3. Look for Eye-Catching Features

When you’re taking photos outdoors, continuously be on the lookout for unique, natural, or man-made features to use in your pictures. Sometimes you don’t notice the less-obvious features if you aren’t looking for them. Anything you add in the photo to make it more interesting will increase the quality of your photography.

The little things count, if you notice something you think might look good in a photo, it’s worth the extra hike to get there to check out the scene. This is what will set you apart from all the other standard photos being taken in that area. Which brings me to my next point, get those unique angles!


The bell tower makes this photo more interesting. I’m also standing on a rock and holding the camera over my head to get a unique angle.

4. Find Unique Angles to Improve Your Composition

Being unique is incredibly important when it comes to photography, it’s how you can set yourself apart from average photo-takers and take steps towards becoming a better photographer.

Don’t be afraid to look like a weirdo and put in the extra effort to get your camera in the ideal position. Photographers do some crazy things to get the angles they want! You’ll see them climbing up things, holding cameras above their heads, laying down on the ground, or even hanging from things.

Composition is another cornerstone of photography, so do your best to be conscious of how your subject lines up with the background or foreground. Be aware of all the different lines coming into effect and place them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing within the frame. If you have no clue about how to compose a decent outdoor photo it wouldn’t be a bad idea to quickly educate yourself on this subject using Google and YouTube. Composition comes naturally to some but others may need to learn it.

5. Create a Dynamic Range by Using Foreground and Background

Shot at sunrise and used bushes in foreground to create a dynamic range.
By giving your photo a clear foreground and background, your images become more engaging to look at. If you don’t have human or animal subjects to work with, do your best to find at least two interesting things to put in your frame before taking a photo.

The subject doesn’t always have to be in the foreground, shooting through trees or bushes and focusing on a subject in the background will give your photo a cool look as well.

6. Know Your Surroundings, Learn Them as Quick as Possible

When shooting in the outdoors, it really helps to know the location well if you want to get the best shot within the short timeframe of ideal light during sunrise and sunset.

If you’re going to a location that you’ve been before and you know you’re going to shoot, visualize it and start creating photos in your mind before you go.

When you’re going to a new location that you never been to before, it can be more difficult to get the best shots. When entering a new area, look for all the unique natural and manmade features around you. It’s also good to know which direction the sun is rising or setting, so you can use the sun as a subject or know how the light will affect your photos. It’s important to get an understanding of the location as a whole so you can know exactly where you need to move to get the best angles. This will also allow you to work better with people you want in your photo because you can instruct them exactly where to walk, stand, sit, etc.

7. Use Lightroom to Edit Your Photos

Adobe Lightroom

This tip is pretty simple, if you learn and use Adobe Lightroom it will dramatically improve your outdoor photography.

Lightroom is the standard for photo editing among professional photographers of all kinds. This is an incredible tool that you need to be using if you want to take your photography to the next level.

Don’t be intimidated, Lightroom isn’t some complicated and expensive software, the mobile app is free and easy to use. The app is a great option if you’re just doing photography for fun, or if you’re using your smartphone as your main camera.

If you’re serious about photography and want to possibly do it professionally someday, I highly recommend getting Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography plan which includes Lightroom and Photoshop for only $10 per month.

Don’t be afraid to dive in and experiment! YouTube has an endless supply of Lightroom tutorials, even tutorials for the mobile app so no excuses.

And that’s a wrap! Implement these 7 strategies and the quality of your outdoor photography will increase dramatically. Keep these things in mind during your next outdoor adventure and don’t forget to follow my photography on Instagram. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions!

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