Introduction: 6 Easy Tips to Improve Your Outdoor Photography

Picture of 6 Easy Tips to Improve Your Outdoor Photography

Sure, you can spend many hours experimenting with f-stops, shutter speeds, filters, post-processing, and HDR... but most of the time these quick-and-easy tips are all it takes to make your outdoor photographs more appealing.

Step 1: Move Your Subject Off-center

Picture of Move Your Subject Off-center

You've all heard this one before... but it's the most effective photography tip out there. Focus on your subject, as usual, but before you click the shutter, pivot your camera just enough to put the subject off-center. For some reason, this adds energy and vitality to your picture.

Tip: make your pivot in a way that suggests movement towards the center of the pic. It gives a kinetic energy to the picture, as if your subject is about to move into that open part of the scene. The 3rd and 4th photos above are examples of this.

Step 2: Include a Foreground Subject

Picture of Include a Foreground Subject

Consider the first picture above. It's of Mount Shuksan in Washington State. Beautiful, yes... but a boring picture. There are a thousand others just like it, on postcards and calendars.

Include a foreground subject, and you'll add scale, depth, and interest to your pictures.

I like people shots, so even if I'm viewing an incredible landscape, I try to get people into the frame. You could also select an interesting rock or tree in the foreground. Either way, it makes your picture unique and separates it from all the postcard shots that are just "too perfect."

Step 3: Seek Out the Action

Picture of Seek Out the Action

A still picture is, of course, inanimate... but that doesn't mean your pic can't suggest motion. Be alert for those opportunities to capture action.

It doesn't have to be intense; even subtle, everyday movements add dynamism to your pics.

Step 4: Vary Your Viewing Angle

Picture of Vary Your Viewing Angle

A ho-hum shot can be elevated to an "oh, that's cool" shot just by choosing an unusual angle. I'd wager that 99% of pictures are taken with the lens at the photographer's standing eyeball level... just because it's comfortable.

Make your pic stand out by sprawling on the ground or finding other suitable positions. This is effective with shots of flowers, too -- everybody's seen flowers from eye level, but not so often from ground level.

Step 5: Take a LOT of Photos

In this age of digital photography, there is no reason not to take a lot of photos. Carry a fully-charged battery or two, and lots of room on your memory card, and fire away.

Step 6: ... But Only Show a FEW Photos

Some photo albums (physical, or online) go on and on for dozens of shots. Don't be that person.

Filter your pix ruthlessly. Only show the very best. If two great shots are essentially similar, ditch one of them.

A good photo album is like a good sermon: a good beginning, a good ending, and very little distance between the two.


pucksurfer (author)2014-08-20

I have to agree with all of these suggestions. They can turn you from a good photographer to a great photographer. Good job.

hchute (author)pucksurfer2014-08-20

Thank you very much!

GaleW1 (author)2015-12-11

All great suggestions, I might add one, if your album is about a trip or vacation, order your pictures so they can go alone with your story.

lynmiller (author)2015-06-07

This is great!

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-18

So nice. Thank you

hchute (author)SparkySolar2014-10-19

You're welcome!

Atmakuri Koteswararao (author)2014-09-18

very useful tips, thanks.

You are welcome! Thanks for your comment.

pattymac9060 (author)2014-08-29

Great tips! Also, avoid mid-day light! Try to shoot in early morning or evenings...richer light. Thanx for your contribution!

hchute (author)pattymac90602014-10-15

That's a great tip. Those "golden hours" at daybreak or early evening, when the sun is low, add a lot of depth to a shot -- for portraits and candids as well as scenery shots.

philmckn (author)2014-10-15

Great tips, the sort of stuff it takes years to figure out on one's own. Step one is a concept called the rule of thirds, which I've found particularly useful.

hchute (author)philmckn2014-10-15

Thank you. Yes, the rule of thirds is a good guideline. Although I don't often use this feature, some cameras have an option to show a 3x3 grid in the viewfinder, as a reminder to position the subject at one of the grid crosspoints. A handy reminder!

jolaco (author)2014-10-11

thanks for the tips!

hchute (author)jolaco2014-10-11

You're welcome!

jakethesnake007 (author)2014-08-26

Thank you for the great Tips!

hchute (author)jakethesnake0072014-08-26

You're welcome!

oshman6785 (author)2014-08-25

Wow. Thank you for these. After reading a couple of times, it all makes sense. But how do you weed through and delete the bulk of them?

hchute (author)oshman67852014-08-25

Thank you so much.
As far as weeding and deleting -- it gets easier with time. I find it helps to set yourself a limit. For example, I have a "policy" of keeping my Facebook photo albums to ten or fewer photos. In reviewing my shots, I might filter it down to 25 or so, and then I pick the absolute 10 best from those. Those might be shots that turned out really well, or they might be ones where I caught a really good expression on one of my daughters, but for whatever reasons those are the ten that give me the biggest emotional response.

The payoff? Way more people will open and view your album if it only contains a few pictures. People will take a pass on it if your album has, say, 40 pictures in it. So... that's your reward for the ruthless culling!!

spylock (author)2014-08-25

These are some good,and what should be common sense tips,but are a lot of the time overlooked,for those interested there are some other good free stuff,if you google Light Stalking,or Picture Correct.Thanks for bringing these up,they are important parts of taking nice photos.

hchute (author)spylock2014-08-25

Thank you so much! Those both look like excellent photography sites... I just followed them both on Facebook.

spylock (author)hchute2014-08-25

Glad you like them,if you join Light Stalker which is my favorite,they will send you a question page to find out what you like,and send you some really cool tips,and downloadable stuff thats really usefull.They sent me an email from a real person welcoming me.Thanks again for the tips,like I said good common sense things that most skip over,to get to the "cooler stuff".Happy shooting.

simssity (author)2014-08-24

Great pictures, and thanks for the tips, i like to know which camera are you use in the pictures?, in the 1st pic, seems it's a Canon Camera with 300mmm Lens, is correct?. Sorry for my bad english

hchute (author)simssity2014-08-25

Thank you! Yes, that one is actually a borrowed camera -- the one I used for the other pics is my Nikon D90, with a standard 18-105 lens. It's a real workhorse of a camera and has all the features I need for virtually all of my photography.

schnitzle (author)2014-08-24

Good, and most importantly, easy to follow tips!

hchute (author)schnitzle2014-08-25

Thank you!

Ricardo Furioso (author)2014-08-24

Thank you for your kind instructions.

hchute (author)Ricardo Furioso2014-08-24

You're welcome!

anthony.desiderioscioli (author)2014-08-24

Thank you for reminding us of the basics in good photography. Hope to see more in the future.

You are welcome! Thank you for your comment.

Thank you very much!

turtle_legs (author)2014-08-24

Thank you, now I know where I've been going wrong - perspective. Much better than point, shoot and hope for the best!

hchute (author)turtle_legs2014-08-24


Jack Rodgers (author)2014-08-24

My prime suggestion is don't step in the poison ivy! While approaching an alligator and walking to the edge of the water in the Everglades I stepped in poison ivy as I did not know what it looked like. My leg still has the burn marks from it and it cost me $200 in medical bills and $60 to for a new cleaning of the motel room.

I enjoyed your photographs.

hchute (author)Jack Rodgers2014-08-24

Yowch, that sounds horrible! We have poison ivy in B.C. and we also have to look out for that glossy triplet of leaves. It affects some people more than others; sounds like you got a major dose!! Thank you for your comments.

Battlespeed (author)2014-08-23

Tip #6: Hit the deck early. Dawn-to-sunrise (even more so than sunset-to-dusk) is where a lot of the magic lives.

hchute (author)Battlespeed2014-08-23

Yes -- very good tip for outdoor photography! It's worth getting up early, or staying around for dusk, to get those "golden hours" for photography. Thanks, Battlespeed.

FrankenPaper (author)2014-08-22

Thank you! I believe you have found the right balance for Instructables too !

hchute (author)FrankenPaper2014-08-23

Haha! Following my own advice! Thank you.

نسيم محمدا (author)2014-08-22

thank you >> :)

You are welcome!

kc8hps (author)2014-08-21

Great advice. I often shoot 1000 pictures and throw 875 away for even the slightest reasons BE PICKY !

hchute (author)kc8hps2014-08-21

Absolutely! It's a luxury we have with digital cameras - those extra throwaway pictures cost $0, and helps you get to those rare gems that are keepers.

Jobar007 (author)2014-08-21

A lot of digital cameras now have an option to turn on a grid (usually a 3x3). To follow the first tip, just make sure that your subject is at most partially in the center grid (never a majority of the subject in the center).

A lot of digital cameras now have a feature that allows you to take a lot of pictures in rapid succession. Use this with tip 3 (by drawing on tip 5) to get that "perfect" action shot. It also helps when trying to get a good shot of a child. Most of them don't stay still for long.

Excellent tips. These really are the fundamentals of good photography and if you start to utilize them, you start to see why a good photograph is good.

hchute (author)Jobar0072014-08-21

Great advice on those digital camera options -- thanks!

Jobar007 (author)Jobar0072014-08-21

Here's my desk at work. Using the above tips, you can see the difference. The first picture is following the tips and the second is the "control" picture.

Jobar007 (author)Jobar0072014-08-21

Here's my desk at work. Using the above tips, you can see the difference. The first picture is following the tips and the second is the "control" picture.

tofugami (author)2014-08-20

Great ible with nice pictures to go with your points. I actually like the last suggestion the best. I take tons of pics for my ible but only a few make the cut.

hchute (author)tofugami2014-08-21

Thank you. It's such a simple thing, but I believe the best way to have people appreciate your pictures is not to show them too many of them. :)

baecker03 (author)2014-08-20

moving the camera away from the person puts the focus elsewhere. the person becomes a participant rather than the focus.

hchute (author)baecker032014-08-20

Yes, that is a good way to put it.

Sometimes, when I want the person to be the main interest point, I'll step back and use my zoom so that the background is blurred... but even then it makes for a better shot to move the subject off-center when framing the pic.

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