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How to Improve Your Hiking and Outdoor Photography

26 May 2023

Are you ready to take your hiking photography from “meh” to magnificent? Capturing the beauty of the great outdoors can be daunting, but with the right gear and knowledge, it’s easier than you think. In this article, we’ll provide tips on adjusting your camera settings for different situations and composing better photos. Plus, we’ll give you our three best tips for better hiking photos. So get ready to snap some stunning shots and take your photography to the next level!

Gear 

When it comes to gear for hiking photography, you don't necessarily need a high-end DSLR camera to capture great shots. In fact, your smartphone camera can be a great alternative. It's compact, lightweight, and always within easy reach. Nowadays, most smartphones have high-quality cameras with features like optical image stabilisation and multiple lenses, making them capable of producing excellent images. 

Additionally, you may want to invest in some accessories, such as a tripod or phone holder, to make your hiking photography experience even better and allow you to take self-portraits and group shots without holding the camera. A flexible Gorillapod is an excellent option for more creative angles and perspectives. These lightweight and compact tripods can be wrapped around trees or rocks, making them an essential addition to your hiking gear. 

Composing your shot 

Composition is key when it comes to taking great hiking photos. It's not just about the subject but also how you frame it. In this section, we'll cover some basic principles of composition that can help you take more visually interesting and appealing photos on your next hiking trip. 

Leading lines:

Utilize natural lines such as trails, rivers, or tree branches to draw the viewer's eye into the image and create depth and interest. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find the most effective lines. 

Rule of thirds:

Imagine your frame divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, and place your subject or point of interest along these lines or at the intersections. This creates a more visually pleasing and balanced composition. 

Depth of field:

Use a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject and create a blurred background or a deep depth of field to capture more elements in focus. Adjust your aperture accordingly to achieve the desired effect. 

Using people for scale and drama:

Including people in your images can help convey a sense of scale and add drama to a scene. Experiment with different placements and poses to create more dynamic and interesting compositions. 

Get low:

Taking a picture from a lower angle can add a sense of depth and dimension to your photos, making them more visually interesting. It can also create a different perspective and make your subject appear more imposing and powerful, which can be effective when photographing landscapes.  

Learn your camera

Before taking your camera hiking, it is essential to familiarise yourself with it first. Knowing your camera and its settings will ensure that you can capture the best shots and make the most out of your outdoor photography experience. Here are some basic settings you should learn to adjust: 

Basic Camera settings

Aperture

The aperture is the lens opening that regulates the amount of light entering the camera and affects the depth of field. Choosing a lower f-number (e.g. f/1.8) results in a shallow depth of field with blurred background, while a higher f-number (e.g. f/16) results in a deeper depth of field with more elements in focus. 

Shutter speed

The length of time that the camera's shutter remains open determines how long the camera sensor is exposed to light. It affects the amount of motion blur or freeze in an image. A faster shutter speed (e.g. 1/1000s) can freeze motion, while a slower shutter speed (e.g. 1/30s) can create motion blur. 

ISO

The camera's sensor sensitivity to light is known as ISO. Higher ISO values allow the camera to capture more light in low-light conditions but can cause more digital noise in the image. On the other hand, lower ISO values like 100 produce a cleaner image with less digital noise.  

White balance

White balance is the adjustment of colour balance in an image based on the colour temperature of the light source. It helps to reduce the colour cast in the overall picture. 

How to adjust your camera settings for different situations

Shady forest

In a shady forest, use a higher ISO to compensate for the low light. Try a wider aperture to let in more light and create a blurred background. Use a slower shutter speed or tripod to prevent camera shake. 

Action shots

To capture action shots, set your camera to a faster shutter speed to freeze motion and use a wide aperture to create a blurry background. Turn on continuous autofocus and burst mode to take multiple shots at once. 

Blurred background for portraits

If you want to take a picture of someone and make the background look blurry, try using a wide aperture like f/1.8. This will help to separate the person from the background and make them stand out. You can also use a longer focal length to make the background appear even more blurry and create a pretty background effect called bokeh. 

Harsh sunlight & sparkling snow

When shooting in harsh sunlight or snowy conditions, use a lower ISO and higher shutter speed with a narrow aperture to prevent overexposure and blown-out highlights. Slightly underexpose the image using exposure compensation to avoid overexposure. 

Three tips for taking better hiking photos 

When you have mastered the camera settings and figured out how to best compose your image, here are three awesome tips for taking your outdoor photography to the next level: 

Golden hour:
Golden hour refers to the time just after sunrise or just before sunset when the light is soft, warm and diffused, creating beautiful, glowing light for photography. Plan your hike and photography around these times to capture stunning shots. 

The early bird gets the worm (or best picture):
Besides capturing the golden hour at sunrise, going early also means less crowded trails. With fewer people, you can have better views and greater control over framing your shot. Having an unwanted subject in your perfectly composed image can be irritating, and you may have to edit it out in post-production. 

Wearing bright colours:
Black can be hard to capture in photos, so consider wearing bright colours to add a pop of interest to your photos, especially when capturing natural settings. Incorporate a brightly coloured shirt or hat to add visual appeal.

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