Exploring 101

Not a Pro Photographer? No Problem: Here’s How to Capture Your Best Outdoor Shots

photography tips
Written by Jacalyn

When I first began documenting my outdoor adventures and explorations, I snapped image after image to capture memories and nostalgic moments for myself. I never thought of these photos or experiences as relative to, say, my online persona, reputation, or network. It was only until I began following various outdoor accounts on Instagram that I realized how positive an impact sharing our adventures can have, and how inspirational these images could be. I am by no means a professional photographer, but after having this revelation, I recognized the power of decent photography and started using better equipment to document my travels, explorations and adventures into the great outdoors. Coincidentally – and perhaps luckily, as well – taking better photography of my leisure activities in nature led to my posting better content on social media, which in turn led to brands and platforms discovering me and reaching out to collaborate. This may be an important aspect to consider if you utilize your Instagram account or other social media platforms for free exposure and to gain the attention of brands or individuals you want to collaborate with.

But not everyone is a professional photographer, nor do most of us have thousands of dollars to spare on professional photography equipment to take photos on par with the pros. Knowing this, we may lack the confidence to document our adventures, post certain content or put our photography out there. With a few good tips, however, you can start capturing better photos and highlighting the content you want to be noticed. These are the same tips I generally employ when taking photos, choosing which content to post to my Instagram, and how to best showcase that content. Using these tips has allowed me to capture better imagery and has played an instrumental role in my gaining greater exposure, which may be what you are also looking to achieve.

1. You don’t have to be a pro to invest in pro equipment

Although owning an expensive camera with all of the trimmings would, of course, be wonderful, not all of us can afford to spend a few thousand dollars on such equipment used by professionals. There are, however, a couple of solutions to this problem that will save you money whilst producing similar results. My first tip is to look for used equipment that is sold at a reduced price; for example, you could post an ad on Kijiji looking for used camera equipment, or perform an Internet search for sales on professional cameras at discount or second-hand stores. If you are not looking to make a living as a professional photographer, used equipment may be the way to go without breaking the bank; just ensure the equipment is in good working condition before purchasing! My second tip is to skip the clunky cameras altogether and invest in Moment lenses. Moment is a US-based brand that manufactures high-quality lenses which attach to your Smartphone and allow you to take better quality images by enhancing the already decent abilities of your phone’s built-in camera. Moment lenses work particularly well with iPhones and come with a plethora of accessories. The best part? Each lens from Moment ranges between $79-$99, making them a cost-effective yet functional alternative to pricey camera equipment.

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2. Get to know your Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most basic tenets of professional photography, but unless you attended school for or have previous knowledge about photography, you may have missed this lesson. The Rule of Thirds is a basic principle whereby an image is “broken down” into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) resulting in nine parts. This rule helps photographers place important points of interest of the image they’re capturing in their camera’s frame for a more comprehensive, well-captured photo. The purpose of the Rule of Thirds is to make an image more pleasing to the eye and allow the viewer to interact more freely with the photo. You can easily learn how to harness this basic rule in your own photography by getting to know more about the rule here.

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3. Try a new angle

Most of us likely use a Smartphone of some variety to document our adventures; they’re lighter than a camera (in most cases), are quite travel-friendly, and allow us to quickly snap a pic and upload it to social media without budging an inch. But most of us are also likely to use our Smartphones for photography using the basic angle of shooting straight, or dead-on. In other words, we may not consider the power of taking a shot with our camera from a different angle. Shooting from a lower vantage point, for instance, offers a wider and often more detailed perspective of the sight or image your capturing, whilst shooting straight upwards can extend the line of your image’s subject (such as a building, or a cluster of trees), making the subject of the image seem larger-than-life. You can try various angles when documenting your outdoor adventures and see which ones work best for you, but first, you can learn more about the tricks of using these angles here.

4. Work with what nature already gives you

One of the biggest mistakes we are likely to make when it comes to capturing images outdoors during our adventures is forgetting to take advantage of natural light. Natural light can transform a photo from drab and dull, to beautiful and breathtaking; it’s no secret many professional photographers love working with natural light, and this could not be truer for outdoor photography. Whatever you’re capturing a photo of, natural light can soften features, emphasize a scene, highlight an object of focus…you get the picture. The best part about harnessing the power of natural light, though, is that nature sets a scene for you and you rarely have to work at getting the light “just right” as you have to do with indoor photography. Natural light can also act as a backdrop and works well if you’re taking product or brand shots outside during your explorations.

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5. When in doubt, tweak

Typically, our photos do not come out looking professional nor even perfect. Many of us are inclined to either delete most of the images we take out of fear they aren’t “good enough” to put on social media, or simply reject them based on the fact that they were taken with, say, a Smartphone and not a Cannon DSLR. However, with the right tools, you can easily edit and tweak your photos like professional photographers do, just without the many skills needed to traverse Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. My favourite apps for editing the light, contrast and saturation (as well as the clarity and focus of photos) are Afertlight and VSCO; these apps are quite popular with just about anyone who owns a Smartphone and an Instagram account, and allow for easy yet tasteful editing of photos, as long as you don’t go overboard and try to overedit a shot. SKRWT is another photo-editing app which helps to properly center and balance photos, which is perfect for those of us capturing on-the-go shots. If you’re looking to take a few images of meals you’ve cooked or enjoyed outdoors – say on a camping trip – Foodie is a great app that helps to emphasize food photography. Though these apps are awesome for turning everyday photos into Instagram-worthy ones, my advice is to be careful with how much editing you do to your photos. Overediting can result in photos that not only look obviously overedited, but which may distort the natural beauty of the shot you took.

~All imagery included in this post is courtesy of the author

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About the author

Jacalyn

Jacalyn Beales is a freelance writer and content creator based in Ontario, Canada with a focus on environmental conservation and sustainable living. When she's not busy crafting beautiful content, you can find her hitting the trails and exploring the great outdoors.

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