Are you ready to hit the world of outdoor photography? Well – welcome to the crew! Outdoor Photography is one of the most challenging field of photography. The light is changing all the time and the conditions are changing every couple of minutes. Freezing outdoors or waking up early before sunrise sounds like some new challenge for you? Then let’s get started 🙂
There is basically one thing that I would like to teach you directly at the beginning. The most important thing about photography in general is: JUST DO IT! Learning by doing is the key to stunning photos. Knowledge is important, but you need to get yourself out of the comfort zone. So grab your camera after reading these five steps and start practicing!
1. The Exposure Triangle
You probably heard about the Exposure Triangle before. What is meant with that triangle? Well, it is basically just another way of talking about your three most important camera settings:
Those three settings together are in control about how much light will hit your cameras sensor. Every aspect of photography is based on these three physical settings – the ISO, the Exposure/Shutter Speed and the Aperture. But there is some knowledge needed to be able to control them:
1. ISO: How light sensitive your digital cameras sensor is
2. Aperture: How open or closed your lens is while taking a photo
3. Shutter Speed: How fast and long your cameras shutter is open
Those three settings are in charge of basically everything that is required to take a photo. Let me explain them shortly:
ISO: For most of us the ISO might be the crucial and the most complicated point. It tells you how sensitive your cameras sensor is to light. In terms of digital photography – with a high ISO your camera will be really sensitive and capture a lot of light which good when it is getting darker, a low ISO will capture less light which is good when there is already lot’s of light outside during the daytime. For the ISO I’m always going as low as possible. During the daytime I am shooting with ISO 64 to 200, during night I am going to 2.000 up to 4.000 if needed.
Aperture: Do you know these shots where the foreground is perfectly focused but the background is completely blurred out? That effect is reached with the aperture value. A value of f1.4 or f1.8 up to f3.5 will lead to a really small area that is focused, a value of f5.6 to 8 will lead to a bigger area that is focused. The aperture also tells you how opened or closed your lens is. The more it is opened (f1.4 up to 3.5) the more light will float towards your cameras sensor, the more it is closed the less light and the darker your image. For myself my rule is going like this that I am shooting portrait with an aperture of f2.8 and landscape with an aperture of f8.
Exposure/Shutter Speed: Last but not least – the exposure just tells you how long the light will hit your camera. For myself I’ve learned the exposure by try and error. My approach goes like this that I am setting the ISO first, then focusing on the aperture value and then finally I am starting to set the exposure by try and error. Which goes like: The photo is too bright -> shorter exposure. The photo is too dark -> longer exposure. It usually does take 3 to 5 photos to set the exposure speed right.
That’s all you need to know about the theoretical stuff. It’s time to take the camera now and start practicing.
2. Understanding Light
When talking with experienced photographers about their key experience they refer to one specific moment – the moment when they started to understand the light. At the beginning of my photography journey I avoided to topic light for a long time. Please don’t do the same mistake, start experiencing light from the beginning.
The word “photography” says it all. The origin language is greek: Photos means light, graphe means drawing. Photography is basically just playing and drawing with light – light is everything for us as photographers. It is important to know your cameras settings, but that knowledge is useless without knowing how to hunt and get the light.
Light can basically make or break your photos. Light is the difference between a boring shot and a stunning image. The good thing about natural light: it is changing all the time (it is a good thing because it’s challenging you each time). During the sunrise and sunset the light is filled with red and orange colours, the time short before the sunrise and shortly after the sunset is called blue hour – because you will be able to get these stunning blue touched photos.
Start playing with different light situations as soon as possible. It is crucial to get a feeling about the light and his influence 😉
3. Setting the focus like a pro
Setting the focus is another key aspect of photography. The new cameras are pretty good with their auto focus systems, there is nothing to complain about. Those cameras automatically select the area of focus when you press your shutter button half way. Easily said with the auto focus on some algorithms are the decision maker where your camera is going to focus.
Out of experience these algorithms are not always the best solutions. Especially when you’re doing outdoor photography it happens quite often that your camera is focusing something, but not what you want. Learning how to set your own focus point will help you to take your photos to the next level.
By setting your own focus point you are going to be the one who is doing the focus decision, not the algorithm. Check your camera for the AF (auto focus) button (or check the manual) in order to set your own focus point. For myself I’m only using one focus point for everything. It gives me the freedom to set the focus where ever I want it to be and it helped me a lot to get better results.
4. Finding the perfect spot
Imagine having the best equipment and all the technical knowledge, but the place you’re shooting looks boring. Guess how the photo will be: boring.
Imagine shooting at one of the most beautiful and stunning places you’ve ever seen. Guess how the photo will be, no matter what equipment you’re using: The photo is going to be awesome because the place is awesome.
When heading into a new country the number one challenge each photographer is facing is the challenge about finding the perfect spot. That breathtaking and beautiful landscape spot. Let’s say you’re looking for an amazing spot with mountains in the background and some beautiful and clear lake in the foreground. Furthermore you’re looking forwards to photograph that place either during sunset or sunrise. A pretty tough challenge for each of us.
As I love scouting and looking for new places I just wrote down an eBook that will help you to search new beautiful looking places in your area. Be sure to check it out here if you want to push your level of photography!
You basically can do stunning shots with your mobile phone. That’s the point about equipment, it does not matter at all. The only thing that matters when it comes to stunning images is how much you know about the settings and the light as well as how much you practice. Please don’t get stuck with blaming your equipment for bad photos, it’s all about how much you practice.
In case your still thinking about upgrading your equipment check out the article “Crop vs. Full Frame – Which Camera Is Better For Your Need?” 😉
Getting started with your photography journey is a intensive and exciting time! Learning the cameras basics and getting the first results is such a good feeling, I’m still remembering my first photo sessions.
I hope that these beginner photography tips will help you with your journey and that you understood and learned some things about the basic principles in order to take stunning images.
Let me know how you liked this tutorial down in the comments! 🙂