7 Personal Secret Tips for Taking Better Outdoor Photographs
Here are my 7 personal tips, sometimes counterintuitive, which will make you think differently about your outdoor photography game, and help get it better along the way.
Taking a photograph is easy. Taking a good one is a different kettle of fish. That’s especially true in landscape and outdoor photography. You may be standing right before an amazing view, then comes the will to take your camera and aim it right to the skyline, willing to crystallize the emotion you’re feeling right now. Without a few tips, you might be disappointed with the end result.
Here are my 7 personal tips, built through shooting thousands of not so good outdoor photographs. I hope it can help you and bring you a different perspective.
- Forget about the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most frequent photography advices you will find across books and the Internet. It involves mentally dividing your image in 9 equal parts, following two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, and placing the main elements at the intersection points. Forget about it. Trust your creativity and your eye. Try to fill the frame with textures or geometric elements, or use negative space at your advantage.
2. Use negative space at your advantage
Negative space is empty space, used to attract the viewer’s eye to the subject. It often creates minimalistic images, offering a different and creative point of view to your landscape photographs.
3. Have a subject
You can’t just shoot a landscape because it looks good. You need to construct your frame through composition. There is one key to this: find a subject, and highlight it. One, and only one, element should stand out. This is the key to creating the rhythm and balance of your photograph. It can be anything, from a tree or a person, to a road sign or an elephant butt.
4. Compose with lines
Speaking about composition, here is another key point. Composition is what creates structure and readability. In composition lives the power to attract and keep the viewer’s attention. Here again, you can trust your creativity, and find out what works best. But you can also focus on the lines, which have the power to guide the eyes. Use it to attract the attention on the point of your choice such as… your subject!
5. Take a moment to just look
Before composition comes observation. Take a moment to connect to the moment you are living, to the scene taking place under your eyes. Observe. Contemplate. Understand the structure of what you are looking at. Identifie what you like in this landscape, what focus your attention. And only after, think about the way you could use your knowledge and your creativity to highlight it. Absorb in all those visual and emotional informations, before composing your photograph. This it, to me, the best way to convey an emotion.
6. Play with the weather
In the list of things to look at before shooting is the weather. Morning fog brings something mystical and poetic, while clouds can easily create something dramatic, or a harsh sunlight dark and neat shadows. Use those things, which are beyond your control, to serve your creative intention. If needed, come back at different hours or days. And stay long enough to apprehend the subtle and quick changes that occur along time: that’s the magic of nature.
7. Fool the exposure
Sometimes (often), please, trust yourself. Natural scenes are often made of very different exposure levels, from a very clear sky to a very dark foreground. Your camera can’t get it all (HDR can, but please (please!) don’t do this). Then, you need to make choices, oriented according to your aesthetic intention. The tips here is to under-expose a bit the sky, so you won’t lose informations there. While editing, bring down a bit the highlights, so you will get very nice details in the clouds. Camera are made to be more tolerant in shadows, it will be much easier to bring up the shadows than to bring down the highlights.
I hope these tips will work well for you! And don’t forget: practice is the true key.
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