Photography Guide Part 3: Shooting outdoors

The unpredictable outside can make for some of the most breath-taking photographs. This guide shares eight handy hints to help you capture the outdoors at its wild best.

19th May 2017
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With a few simple techniques, you can make sure that your pictures really stand out from the crowd. One joy of digital photography is that it is easy to experiment, so enjoy playing with the framing and remember – your subject doesn’t have to be in the middle!

Patterns - If you only look at the view, you may miss the smaller wonders by your feet. Most cameras will focus close-up (macro), so get low, get near and surprise yourself with the beauty of patterns. Take care with the autofocus, or focus manually, to attract the gaze to the right part of your picture. 

Timing - This is a skill you can only improve with practice, practice, practice. Even with a simple image like waves washing on a sandy beach, success can depend entirely on timing. Take several shots of the same image so you can choose the right one afterwards. Many cameras have a 'burst' function, which takes lots of shots depending on how long you hold the shutter, which is a handy shortcut!

Against the light - The usual advice is to put the sun behind you when taking a picture but that’s not always right. Be brave! The sun is so bright it affects the exposure, so if you have manual control, try experimenting – you can delete duff ones later. Try to balance the sun being too burned out against the rest of the image being too dark. A layer of cloud can help dim the brightness of the sun.

The focal point - It’s important to position the most interesting part of your subject with great care. The simple ‘rule of thirds’ is one way to do this: imagine some lines dividing your frame into thirds – vertically and horizontally – then place your point of most interest where these lines cross. 

Colour - When composing a picture,  consider colour as well as shapes. An image can become dull and uninteresting in black and white, but colour can transform it. A good example of this is a sunset against dark clouds. The volcanic hues of the sun are eye-catching against the bruise-like tones of a rain cloud.

Making space - Often, moving further from your subject gives it space. If you want to tell a story about the location, instead of a person or object, allowing the location to take up most of the image is key.

Leading you in - In a flat, two-dimensional image, we always rely on perspective to see depth, so diagonal lines, like the edges of a track, rive or road, make for strong photographs. A wide angle lens can also enhance this, as it appears to alter the size of objects further away.

Natural frames - Photographs come in very few shapes, predominantly rectangles, but you can use natural framing to break up their artificially hard edges. Overhanging trees can create a more interesting frame, and it helps if the foliage is in shade, as the focus of the image will pop in contrast.

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