Dust off your cameras and get hiking, photographers. Our 7 best nature photography tips are here to help you document your travels. America’s national parks offer plenty of opportunities to capture the country’s hidden beauty. They also provide you with memories to take home as souvenirs of an incredible journey. Since you can’t go wrong when it comes to picking a location for your wildlife and nature photography in the national parks, let’s discuss some ways to make the most of your efforts and produce photos that will help you savor your wilderness adventures.
Our 7 Ultimate Nature Photography Tips
1. Look Up Sunrise and Sunset Times Before you Leave
Photo by Jennifer Rogalla
Tiny details are important! Knowing the exact times of sunrise and/or sunset at your location will save you so much sitting around and waiting time. Arriving 10-20 minutes ahead of the exact moment will give you enough time to find your spot, adjust your settings, and wrestle with your tripod.
2. Learn Animals’ Cues
What do ear positions mean? Are they flicking away flies, or showing signs that you’re getting too close? When you know your subjects’ behavior well before you head out on your wildlife and nature photography shoot, you can prepare yourself to respond to certain behavioral cues that indicate a dynamic shot is on its way. The better you know the animals you’ll be photographing, the less likely you’ll be to miss a moment of the action.
3. Do Your Homework
Research both the location and subjects you’ll be photographing ahead of time. It won’t do you much good if you arrive at a site with the intent of taking some sunset photos, but discover that the park closes well before twilight. Or maybe you want to use your photos to document the behavior of a particular bird species, but it isn’t until you arrive at your destination that you realize they’ve already migrated for the season. Preparation may seem like an obvious nature photography tip for optimal wildlife and nature photography, but you’d be surprised at how often it’s overlooked. Just watch a national park parking lot after closing hours for the frustrated-looking photographers marching to their cars. Do your homework, and you’ll learn about the best spots and times to capture the wildlife and nature you want.
4. Don’t Forget the Essentials
Sunhat. Sunscreen. Sunglasses. Water. Nature photography tips = nature. Forgetting any of those essentials will leave you sunburned, dehydrated, and awesome photo-less. Heading into the Everglades in Florida? Bug spray is a must. Heading out at dusk? Bring a jacket. A comfy photographer is an effective photographer.
5. Don’t Poke the Bear
Or the bison. Or chase the elk. Safety considerations for photographers include, first and foremost, maintaining an appropriate distance from your subjects. This way, they aren’t disturbed, don’t feel threatened, and aren’t provoked to attack intruders. While taking your wildlife and nature photography, also be careful not to disrupt the natural habitats. Remember: you’re a guest and, just as you would when staying in someone’s home, you should take environmental considerations into account and leave the areas as you find them.
National parks recommend staying at least 75 feet (or about two bus-lengths) away from all wildlife. We advise keeping at least 120 feet (or about three bus-lengths) away from black bears, moose, and mountain lions.
6. Think About Background vs. Subject
When photographing wildlife, ensure the backgrounds in your photos don’t compete for attention with your subjects. Are there too many trees in the background? Does your subject blend too much into the background? A little forethought on background will lead to far stronger photos.
7. Don’t Carry Too Much
Photo courtesy of the Towns of Dillon and Silverthorne
Be selective about the equipment you bring. If you’re hiking for a while, don’t carry so much with you that you weigh yourself down. Still, do bring everything necessary to set up and ensure quality photos. This includes e.g. a tripod and lens capable of capturing intense detail.
Are you a seasoned or novice photographer planning your first or next trip to America’s national parks? Check out our itineraries page for help planning your next national park photography trip.
What are your favorite nature photography tips? Let us know!