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photo by RyanJLane via iStock
It’s summer! That means more outdoor activities for many of us. Summertime allows for more opportunities for some types of photography, so let’s talk about outdoor photography tips and techniques, photography gear for outdoor photography, and a few fun outdoor photography ideas.
Outdoor Photography Gear
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When I get asked about outdoor photography tips for beginners, I find that many of these photographers are wondering about what photography gear will help them be better prepared to capture excellent images.
Asking about photography gear is a natural part of growing as a beginner photographer, since anyone making the move into serious photography will wonder if what they have will allow them to grow or should they upgrade.
Beginners moving into serious photography usually already own a nice camera, because even entry level cameras with kit lenses are capable of outstanding results. So, I like to offer advice about some of the wonderful accessories and gadgets I’ve found that help us use our outdoor photography techniques that we learn.
There are many times when we should use some sort of camera support for stabilization instead of relying on the camera’s image stabilization, but we don’t always want to carry a tripod. A fine tripod alternative I have been using for a while is the OctoPad Camera Mount.
What makes OctoPad such a useful item is how it’s designed. It is small, lightweight, and inexpensive, yet it can hold our camera gear rock steady in a wide variety of situations we might find ourselves in when doing outdoor photography.
You can set this camera mount on virtually any type of surface, even if that surface is angled pretty stepply, up to 45 degrees. OctoPad is a weighted, semi-rigid disk with a non-slip pad on the bottom and a ball head on top.
You can also extend the reach by adding an articulating arm, which adds minimal weight and carrying space. Since the OctoPad is relatively compact compared to the heavier duty tripods that are good for outdoor photography, it is easy to carry in our backpacks, sling packs, or camera bags.
This is a great way to take advantage of some of the outdoor photography techniques beginners are learning, such as depth of field control, blurring motion, or ultra close up photography.
Outdoor Natural Light Photography Tips
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When we’re outdoors, the Sun or skylight is often our primary light source. We can’t reach up and reposition the Sun or adjust a dimmer knob on it, but we can control sunlight in several ways.
As we’re taking pictures of our friends or family doing all the fun stuff we do in the Summer, we also like taking portraits of them in these outdoor settings. We can also simply have a plan to take some outdoor portraits of people as the outdoor activity we’re doing.
One of the more basic outdoor photography tips for portraits is to turn our portrait subject’s faces away from the Sun or other direct light. This accomplishes at least two things. It allows the person to have a more natural expression since they won’t be squinting, and it provides some nice modeling effects with the play of shadow and light.
A simple collapsible reflector can be added into the mix to provide a pretty catchlight for the eyes or to fill in some of the deeper under chin or side of the nose shadows that happen when we turn our subject away from the direct sunlight.
Look for Skylight
photo by pidjoe via iStock
Included in my general outdoor natural light photography tips for taking people pictures is to look for situations where the primary light source is the open sky without direct sunlight. It’s the sky itself, and the Sun, providing the light.
The Sun is a point light source, and the shadows produced by direct sunlight have sharply defined lines. In other words, it’s often contrasty. This gives us interesting modeling effects, as mentioned earlier, which can be used to emphasize texture in facial features, skin, clothing, hair, or when photographing inanimate subjects besides portraiture.
The sky itself is a large light source, like having a soft box hundreds of miles wide. This light is soft and less contrasty, which we can use to deemphasize texture or lessen differences between light and shadow. Sometimes, the light from an open sky can be virtually shadow free.
Open skylight is much cooler in cooler temperatures than direct sunlight. If we’re shooting in RAW, we can readily adjust this in post processing, often with just a click of a box or from a drop down menu. If shooting JPEGs, we can either keep the white balance in auto or assign it as open sky or skylight, whichever term your camera uses.
Be Ready to Get Close
photo by Stephen Harker via iStock
Being outdoors in nature or in man made areas gives us outdoor photography ideas that run from vast, sweeping scenic views to smaller areas of these views such as trees, buildings, and other structures.
Be on the lookout for even smaller aspects of the scene. Sometimes, an individual tree can be more interesting than the forest. A smaller part of that tree, such an oddly bent limb or part of a leaf might become your next subject. And if you find a butterfly or some other bright insect on that leaf, you have another subject for outdoor photography.
Many of the kit lenses on entry level cameras have close focusing ability which can be used for small subjects. Oftentimes, we can get very close and then zoom in a bit more to capture an image that we can turn into real art.
To get closer than the near limit of zoom lenses, we can add simple close up filters, also known as diopters, to enhance our lens’ close focusing limits. For subjects in the natural world, those close up filters are a fantastic item to have in our outdoor photography gear bag. These filters are inexpensive and simple to use.
By zooming in on a smaller part of the scene or by getting physically closer with just our lens or with filters, we can multiply our possible outdoor photography ideas manyfold.
Protect Your Gear
photo by RyanKing999 via iStock
Being in the great outdoors is fun and provides a lot of photographic opportunities but it also adds areas of concern for us. Just as we protect ourselves from harm by using sunscreen, good shoes, and comfortable clothing, we can protect our cameras with padded bags, comfortable straps, and lens protection such as lens hoods and UV filters.
Sometimes, those items were included in the kit originally purchased when we decided to step into more serious photography, otherwise, these are inexpensive add ons.
Use these outdoor photography tips and techniques to get the best out of whatever gear you already own and then add what inexpensive accessories you think fit in with your needs and style of shooting.
Do you have outdoor photography tips for Summer that you swear by and want to share? Drop us a line or join one of the discussions in our forum to let us hear them!