8 Tips for Breathtaking Forest Photography

Looking to capture great photos of forests? We have what you need.

In this article, I share everything you need to create beautiful forest photography, including:

  • The essential gear every bush shooter should have
  • The best light for great photos
  • How to edit your forest images
  • Much more!

I’m also including lots of forest photography ideas and examples along the way, so you can see exactly what these tips can do for your images.

Let’s dive in!

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1. Use the right forest photography equipment

Although you can capture great forest photos with any equipment, there are are a few things that will help you consistently get high-quality forest images.

First, a sturdy landscape photography tripod is essential; forest environments tend to be dark, and without a solid support system for your camera, you’ll be forced to widen your aperture (and sacrifice depth of field) Where reduce your shutter speed until you can no longer get sharp photos.

Second, I encourage you to pack some lenses. A wide-angle or zoom lens will help you capture panorama-style photos, while a telephoto lens (such as a 70-200mm) is ideal for more precise forest photography (eg foliage, aerials, forest patterns ). I would also suggest grabbing a macro lens or at least a close focus lens like a 50mm lens. This way you can photograph all sorts of small details, including leaves on the ground, mushrooms on logs, and flowers growing on the forest floor.

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Forests are quite dirty, so fitting a clear or UV filter to all your lenses can be useful. If you go this route, be sure to buy a high-quality model; there are many cheap UV filters on the market that degrade optical quality. Alternatively, you can just pack a cleaning kit and keep your lenses well maintained (always use a microfiber cloth, not rags or towels of any type!).

Finally, a polarizing filter can come in handy, especially if you plan to photograph fall foliage. It will eliminate glare on wet leaves, deepen fall colors and reduce glare in bodies of water. Keep in mind, however, that polarizers reduce the amount of light entering your camera, so be sure to bring your tripod!

2. Take appropriate security measures

Before heading into the forest, especially if you plan to do a multi-day excursion, consider the potential dangers. It can be easy to get lost in the forests, plus they are often dark and feature rugged terrain. And if you’re not careful, you could be hit by a storm or a flash flood.

Always tell someone where you plan to walk and make sure you have a phone that will maintain a signal throughout your trip. Be sure to bring food, water, a map (if available, a topographical map is always best), compass, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

I also encourage you to bring rain gear for yourself and your camera. A waterproof cover will keep your camera safe, and unless your backpack is waterproof, I recommend carrying a cover as well. And bring a dry towel or rag to remove moisture, dirt or rain from any exposed gear.

3. Go out when the light is good

Forest photography, unlike most types of landscape photography, can be done any time of the day, even in direct sunlight.

You see, the forest canopy will filter out some of the harsh light, creating a more subdued lighting situation, the one you would normally expect to find just after sunrise and before sunset.

So don’t be afraid to go out on sunny days (although midday clouds can be even better!). If you find the light too strong, you can always try shooting in black and white. Look for interesting shadows, strong patterns and high contrast edges.

That said, the forests are quite magical at sunrise and sunset, so I highly recommend going out early in the morning or late at night. If the forest is near water, you may have ground fog, which can add a lot of atmosphere to your photos:

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Note that forest photography during golden hour tends to feature nice warm light which gives the trees a sort of fairy forest look – while forest photography during blue hour tends to feature a soft and cold light that gives a more ethereal atmosphere.

4. Remember to shoot in portrait orientation

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Most landscape photographers create horizontal compositions out of habit, but when it comes to forest photography, it’s a mistake!

Yes, you can capture great horizontal forest images, but I encourage you to try shooting vertical photos as well.

The vertical format will allow you to capture more of the scene (tree), and it will also give your images a sense of height. Be sure to pay close attention to the edges of the frame – you don’t want to cut any key elements! – and keep the horizon level. Although you can always correct errors during post-processing, you will lose pixels along the way, which is never a good thing!

Also, if you’re unsure whether a scene is best in vertical or horizontal format, just take both shots. Once in the editing room, you can evaluate comps and see which works best.

5. Color contrast is key

A drawback of shooting in a forest environment is the lack of color contrast. Unless it’s fall, the majority of your surroundings will most likely consist of green leaves and/or brown tree trunks, which can make for bland and boring photos.

So you should do everything you can to add pops of color.

For example, brightly colored flower patches can provide an eye-catching touch. Same with colored insects:

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And even if you can’t find a colorful subject in the area, you can still try using light. Including the sun or golden hour highlights in the frame will create beautiful oranges and reds (making your photo look more vibrant).

6. Try black and white

Sometimes when shooting in a forest, nothing looks right. Light doesn’t hit the way you want, colors are blurry, or you just don’t get the drama from your subjects.

This is a common problem among forest photographers; this is due to the overall color consistency from scene to scene and too many greens and browns making it difficult to highlight a subject.

But if you’re shooting in black and white, you can skip the color monotony and instead focus on light, tone, and composition. Look for interesting atmospheric effects such as fog and do what you can to organize the forest chaos into orderly structures.

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Note that you can create black and white images in two ways:

You can switch your camera to black and white mode…

…or you can work in color and convert to black and white in post-processing.

Either is fine, but both methods have their pros and cons. If you’re working in black and white, you’ll be able to review the monochrome image on your LCD screen (and if you’re shooting mirrorless, you can preview the scene via the EVF).

On the other hand, if you are working in color, you have the choice of converting to black and white or keeping the original shot. (This is an option available to all RAW photographers, whether they shoot in color or black and white, but if you shoot in JPEG format, you will not be able to convert a black and white image to a file. color.)

7. Post-processing to improve your forest photos

Post-processing is an essential part of forest photography; this is how you refine your photos and really pop them.

I recommend that you start your editing workflow by making basic corrections (exposure, white balance, cropping, etc.). Then move on to more advanced adjustments, such as targeted contrast and color grading.

Lighting tends to be more dramatic in the forest and can result in beautiful rays hitting the forest floor – so draw attention to these by adding contrast to sunlit areas. You can also try applying some Vibrance to the overall image and playing with the hue and saturation of individual colors to bring out a natural feel in the shot.

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For my own images, I like to decrease the Lightroom Clarity slider, which feels dreamy or magical. I then apply local adjustments to important areas of the photos, like the main subject. During the last phase of editing, I will often use a brush to increase the clarity and the sharpness for a little more crispness.

But there is no single better workflow for forest photography. It really is about experimenting and finding what works for you!

8. Leave the forest as you found it

The forest is beautiful, mysterious and amazing. It’s worth preserving for the next generation, so please, please, please do everything you can to keep it clean.

Whenever you’re on set, be sure to clean up all your trash, including plastic bags and water bottles. And if you see trash left by others, consider cleaning it up as well.

Also, respect the environment. Do not get too close to wildlife or disturb sensitive plants or trees (trampling, climbing, etc.).

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Such small things may seem insignificant, but if we all take care of the environment, we can have a positive effect on our natural world and we can keep it healthy for generations to come.

Plus, there’s an element of self-interest to consider: the cleaner the forest, the better your photos will be!

Forest photography: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to capture great forest photos.

So go ahead with your camera. Follow the tips I shared. And get great photos!

Which of these tips do you plan to use first? Share your opinion in the comments below!

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