> >
May 1, 2023 8 minute READ

Outdoor Photography Tips to Make Your Pics Pop

tags Adventure | Inspiration | Travel
locations All
Tips for improving your landscape photography.

Welcome the season of color! Spring brings out multitudes of blooms in magnificent hues. It revives life as tender, green sprouts break through cold, hard soil and delicate buds form on spindly, gray branches. Spring paints a vivid scene on the dull canvas winter leaves behind. 

And, as life fills barren landscapes in vibrant tones and shades, it also restores our hope that all things come full circle – that new beginnings are possible. Color is an awe-inspiring, life-affirming force.

The opportunity to capture the spirit of the season through an array of colors inspires the artist in all of us, and it’s no wonder why spring is one of the best times of the year to take along a camera on your hikes as we head back outdoors. Capturing colorful outdoor scenes is a big part of experiencing the outdoors so that you can keep the memories for yourself and share the beauty you encounter with fellow outdoor lovers. 

In the following list, Mast General Store Marketing Photographer Austin Lawrence offers some pointers on how to take breathtaking photos whether on a DSLR, or “traditional,” camera or simply on your phone. He also provides tips on how to compose an eye-catching landscape shot that’s sure to show off a world of color.

While not all of us take photos like a pro, Austin’s advice will certainly help you improve your camera skills. Most importantly, Austin said, “Photography takes time, and it should be a fun process, even if you don’t take amazing photos every time.”

Take a look at Austin’s list, incorporate his advice into your next outdoor photo session, and remember, wherever you go with your camera in hand, always be patient and respect nature’s beauty.

Phone Photography

•    Enable grid lines on your camera. Most often this is in the “Camera” section of your phone’s Settings app. 
•    Now that you have your grid lines enabled, keep your horizon line straight. This not only makes for a more pleasing composition to the viewer, it also gives a more realistic representation of the landscape. 
astrophotography•    Insiders’ Tip for Apple users: Although Apple iPhone cameras take amazing photos, they tend to slightly over-expose them naturally. They intentionally do this because most photos taken on a phone include people, and this feature helps properly expose subjects’ faces. This, however, does NOT help in landscape photography. You will be surprised how much difference is made when you under-expose a landscape photo. To do this, tap the screen before taking your picture and see the yellow sun icon appear. Slightly drag down and watch as the beautiful detail and contrast appear in your photo. Careful though! Less is more, and all adjustments should be minor.

•    Zoom with your feet! Figuratively speaking, that is. When taking phone photos, the more you zoom on the screen, the more quality your photo loses. This is because phone lenses are very compact and flat (unlike the curved lens of a DSLR camera), so they do not have the ability to capture depth in a photo. If possible, physically move closer to your subject and take the photo with the normal focal range in your camera. It is always better to take the photo first and crop later. 

•    Do NOT use your flash in low-light situations. When you use the flash in landscape photography, it washes out any contrast and detail which will make your photo very flat and uninteresting. Instead, try to stabilize your phone before taking the photo for much better results.

Traditional Camera/DSLR Photography  

•    Use filters. Although this applies to phone photography as well, it is much easier to find high-quality filters for your lenses. I recommend a circular polarizer filter for landscape and nature photography. This filter helps preserve contrast and color in your image. 

•    Try out a tripod. Although cumbersome to carry, a tripod makes a difference! It is widely known that tripods give a much more stabilized photo, especially in low light. 

•    If your shot doesn’t allow you to set up a tripod, or, like me, you prefer not to carry one at all, keep your shutter speed to a minimum of double your focal range. For example, if you are shooting with a 35-millimeter lens, you will want to double that number for your shutter speed. So, your shutter speed should be set to 1/70, but, as you might notice, that is not an option for a shutter speed setting. In this case, you will round up to the next shutter speed number which, in most cases, would be 1/125, which is one – one hundred twenty-fifth of a second. 

Using morning light•    Shoot in RAW format. This tip should be used ONLY if you plan to edit your photos afterward. Shooting in RAW format makes your image flatter to preserve much more detail. You will notice that by shooting in RAW format, you will get larger files where you can bring out even more details, contrast, and colors in your photo. 

•    Use mid-range apertures. When photographing a landscape, it is best to use a mid-range aperture setting if possible. If your aperture is adjusted too low or too high, you risk losing clarity in your photo. It is best to stick around f/8 to f/11 when photographing landscapes.

•    Use the histogram. When taking any photo, especially landscapes, the histogram is your best friend. The histogram is a reading of the tones in your scene. The left side of the histogram contains the dark tones of your scene, while the right side of the histogram contains the light tones of your scene. It is best not to lean too far toward either side of the graph if possible. Instead, aim for a bell-shaped curve in the histogram where all your tones are in the middle. Most modern cameras have a histogram setting.
•    Bonus Tip for stargazers: If you want to stun your friends with amazing star photos, flip your camera into manual mode and try out these settings: ISO 1600 to 3200, Aperture f/2.8 or as low as possible, Shutter speed 15 seconds or 30 seconds. Set your white balance to incandescent/ the setting with the light bulb. It is important that you also turn on a timer before taking astrophotography, and I recommend a 10-second self-timer. Remember that these settings may not be exact and may need to be adjusted depending on your scene, but they will get you close! (See photo above featuring the Milky Way.)

General Landscape Photography Tips

Adding objects to convey scale
•    Take photos early in the morning or late in the evening to get amazing light. Light can be particularly stunning if a scene is reflected in a body of water. To take your landscape reflections to the next level, remember that the lower you get toward the water, the more prominent the scene’s reflection will be. 

•    Bad weather can be good! Few people like to be out in bad weather, but if you are looking to up your photography game, go out while the weather is bad (as long as the conditions are safe, of course). Bad weather often creates interesting compositions and subjects. Look for interesting cloud patterns or water drops for those up-close, detail shots.  

Use leading lines to draw a viewer into the photo•    Use leading lines as foreground elements. Leading lines will guide your viewer’s eye throughout the photo’s frame, which keeps the viewer interested longer. Some fitting examples of leading lines can be a fence along a field, a river or stream, a road or path, or trees and branches. Foreground elements can be many different things such as flowers, trees, or rocks. This will add depth to your photo. Take some time to look for these leading lines and foreground elements to make your photo more compelling.

•    Add scale and perspective. Often you can do this by placing a subject in a scene whether it be a person, car, animal, or an unusual object. Adding scale gives the viewer a sense of what it’s like to be in the landscape themselves and how large the landscape is. This is a chance for you to be creative! 

•    This is the most important tip on the list: Have fun and respect nature! Photography is a process that involves patience and persistence. The more you go out to take photos, the more chances you will get to take an amazing photo. It is also important that you allow nature to remain in its natural state. Be sure to stay on trails and respect the surrounding habitats. Although you may find an interesting photo composition that is off-trail, it is best that you miss a photo and work to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds us all! 

join catalog mailing list tell me more