It’s easier than ever to snap amazing photographs. And, with the rise in popularity of Instagram, growing participation in outdoor activities, and ever increasing capabilities and affordability of cameras, anyone can take great photographs that thousands of people can see.
1. The Best Camera is the One That’s With You
This may go without saying, but actually, bring your camera!
It doesn’t matter if your camera is a smartphone, flip phone, GoPro, a small compact camera that you found in the drawer of a desk, or a full-fledged professional DSLR – any camera is better than none (if you’re trying to take photographs, of course).
About the photo (above): Ski touring near Squamish. This image was taken on an iPhone – it was the only camera I had with me that day, but better than none! With technology nowadays, even phone cameras are capable of taking incredible images.
2. Make the Camera Accessible
Now that you have a camera, make it accessible and easy to reach! If your camera is buried in your pack, it’s about as useful as a rock weighing you down. How often do you think you’ll stop to take your pack off, pull out your camera, take a photo, put your camera back into your pack and be on your way?
Think about it – if you’re proficient, that’s about a minute of your time, multiple times a day, devoted to getting your camera accessible. By then, you’ve already missed a photographable moment.
Make your camera accessible to give yourself the best chance possible to capture those split-second instances.
About the photo (above): Climbing Mt. Baker. I often have my camera strapped to my pack’s hip belt for easy access. In this instance, I was able to quickly get my camera ready to snap this photo of my climbing partners approaching me.
3. Ask yourself – What story am I trying to tell?
We’ve all heard the saying: “a photo is worth a thousand words”.
Think back to all of the incredible National Geographic images, or the images that you most like on Instagram. Why did you like them? We are naturally drawn to photos that tell a story within the image.
When you’re in the outdoors, ask yourself: “what story am I trying to tell through my images” and “how can I best represent that.”
About the photo (above): Jesse Warren on Dreamcatcher 5.14d. This cave is super abstract, with lots of jagged angles and weird ways that light plays on the walls. I knew that I wanted to capture the uniqueness of the setting in an image.
4. Pay Attention to the Light
The most important quality in photography is light, and there is much more to it than it just being night or day. If there is one thing that will make your photography better, it’s being especially picky about the light that you are photographing in.
It’s important to know that cameras see what our eyes see, except worse. The human eye is 50 times more sensitive than today’s camera sensors, and our eyes interpret light and shadows much better than camera sensors.
The takeaway here? If the light that you are seeing seems good – it probably is! Take photos.
Some examples of ‘good’ light include the golden hue given off by sunsets/sunrises, light streaming through clouds, or diffuse sunlight. If it seems bad, such as being foggy, overcast, or just flat and lacking depth – it might not make for the best photos.
About the photo (above): Mt. Baker Sunset. The golden light given off at sunset and sunrise are often the best times to take photographs. The colours are more vivid and the shadows cast are less harsh due to the sun’s lower angle to the earth.
5. Anticipate the Moment
What is Likely to Happen
Photography in the outdoors is all about anticipating the moment and having some idea of what is likely to happen, or what the scene is likely to look like at a certain time of day. In a photography studio, you can control virtually any aspect of an image, whereas, in the outdoors most moments are spontaneous.
What Might Happen
That said, although they are spontaneous, you can also reasonably predict what might happen. Going on a summer hike with friends to a lake? You can probably predict that you may jump in the lake to cool off – that would make for a great photo! Hitting your favourite mountain bike trail? Bike ahead of your friends, and take photos of them as they ride past you. Hiking to an incredible vista for sunset? Bring your camera!
Taking eye-catching images is much easier if you can anticipate the moments that would make for great photos, and put yourself in a position to proactively capture them.
If you’re five steps behind your friends on a hike, you’ll be taking photographs of their butts all day.
About the photo (above) : Chief Highliner. I had hiked the chief one day and was surprised to come across a group of high liners. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a rush to get down so I hung out for a few hours, knowing that there would be a good opportunity for a photo of them walking the line with a dramatic backdrop of the Chief behind them.
Too Long, Didn’t Read:
Photography all comes down to these simple tips.
- Bring your camera
- Make it accessible
- Think about what story you are trying to tell
- Consider the quality of light
- Take lots, and lots of photos