Want to take great photos of trees? You have come to the right place. I’ve been capturing trees for years, and in this article, I share many tree photography tips and tricks, including:
- Simple Creative Techniques You Can Apply to Your Tree Photos
- Interesting perspectives for beautiful images
- How to get a great “lonely tree” photo
- Much more!
I’m also including a handful of tree photography ideas so you never run out of inspiration.
So take a deep breath, fill your lungs with the oxygen produced by the trees and find out how you can take great photos!
1. Find a single tree standing on its own
The lone tree shot in the field is a classic in nature photography, and for good reason: you get a strong main subject, you get a nice background, and you can often frame the tree against a beautiful sky.
Note that you will need to carefully position the lone tree in your composition. If the tree is symmetrical, placing it right in the middle of the frame can work. Otherwise, you’ll want to consider the rule of thirds, which encourages you to place the tree one-third of the way in the frame.
If you can get close, try using a wide angle lens to show the entire tree in all its glory. You can also zoom out to create interesting minimalist images (with the tree framed by the beautiful background).
And if you can not get close to the tree, consider using a telephoto lens. You’ll get a more compressed look, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (and it can help blur the background, too).
So the next time you drive, look for potential subjects. Be sure to check the background as well, as you don’t want the viewer to be distracted by items positioned in the distance.
2. Look for tree tunnels
Here’s another classic tree photo: the tunnel of trees, which features two rows of trees leading into the distance:
Here it is important that you find two uninterrupted and symmetrical rows of trees. You need a strong guideline down the center, and the tighter the tree lines the better.
You can experiment with different depth of field approaches for creative images. A deep depth of field will show lots of detail, while a shallow depth of field has the potential to create highly artistic images.
If you can, include a person or two in the background; this way the viewer has an obvious place to rest their eyes.
The hard part is actually discovery the tunnel of trees. I would recommend doing some googling for ‘tree tunnels’, ‘fall foliage walks’, etc. You can also check out Instagram; see if you come across great images of tree tunnels taken in nearby areas.
Speaking of: if you can shoot during the fall – when the colors are looking surprising – or even in winter when the snow is falling, your results will be truly legendary.
3. Photograph the same tree for a year
The trees change throughout the year, giving you a fantastic time-lapse opportunity. It works best away from the equator, but you can try it just about anywhere (if you’re working in the tropics, the changes will be more subtle).
First, find a tree and carefully determine your composition. I recommend using a tripod to maintain consistency; take pictures of exact tripod position and height, then store them on your phone so you can easily reference them when you come back.
(If you can’t choose just one composition, feel free to come up with three or four. But you’ll need to carefully document each configuration so you can come back later.)
Next, determine your settings. Be sure to record the aperture to maintain consistent depth of field. And if you’re using a zoom, note the focal length.
Finally, take the same photo multiple times over the next twelve months! You can come back once per season or, if you want to create a more intensive accelerated series, come back monthly or even weekly.
Once the cycle is complete, you will have a beautiful set of images documenting the changing of the seasons.
4. Try some creative techniques
If your tree images look a bit like blandso why not try a fun creative technique?
For example, you can capture a:
- Tree silhouette. It works great with trees with beautifully shaped branches! Go out at sunset, make sure your tree is framed against the bright sky, and expose for the brightest part of the scene.
- Refraction shot. Bring a lensball, hold it in front of the tree and shoot through the glass. You will get an interesting inverted image inside the small glass sphere (see example below).
- Infrared scene. Go shooting on a sunny summer day with some clouds in the sky. Find a tree with lots of green leaves and use an infrared filter or an infrared-converted camera. You may have to experiment with the settings, but you’ll end up with a beautiful dreamy landscape shot.
- Long exposure photo. If you can find a tree near a river or framed against a partly cloudy sky, you can create a nice long exposure blur. Slow down your shutter speed (you may need a neutral density filter), use a tripod, then photograph the tree surrounded by movement.
5. Focus on the details
Compositions that include the whole tree are nice…
… but tree detail pictures can be beautiful too! In fact, trees offer all sorts of possibilities for amazing detail shots. Here are some things to consider:
- Leaves. You can focus on a single leaf and widen the aperture for a beautiful bokeh background. Or you can grab a macro lens and focus even closer (to highlight the leaf veins).
- Bark. The trees offer beautifully textured bark, so get up close and use great depth of field to get plenty of detail. For maximum texture, position yourself so that the bark is lit from the side.
- Chest. Observe the root system around the trunk. See what patterns you can photograph at the foot of the tree.
- Branches. Take a minute to watch at the top. Interlocking branches can create beautiful patterns, especially when set against a bright sky.
6. Use trees as a portrait background
Not all tree pictures need to use the tree as the main subject; you can also use trees as stunning backgrounds.
Portrait shots, in particular, benefit from tree backgrounds. You can use tree tunnels to frame your subject, or you can position a lone subject near a lone tree for a minimalist effect.
In addition, in summer and autumn, the leaves of the trees create a beautiful bokeh effect in the background. Simply place your subject in front of a leafy tree, widen the aperture and watch how you create breathtaking portraits! This approach works especially well if you are shooting during the golden hours and the background leaves are lit by the setting sun.
7. Try different viewpoints
Most photographers photograph trees from the most obvious angle: standing upright and looking straight ahead.
But if you want unique tree photos, why not mix them up a bit? Here are some fun perspectives you can use for more original tree images:
- Low angle. Drop down and shoot from the perspective of a four-legged creature. This will create an intimate image that will emphasize the height of the surrounding trees. You might consider adding a leading subject; try placing flowers in the foreground while keeping the tree in the background.
- Bird’s eye view. Descend low to the forest floor, but instead of pointing the lens straight ahead, point it towards the treetops. See if you can take pictures in the middle of a clearing with a wide-angle lens; this way, the trees will seem to reach for the sky.
- Bird’s eye view. For this angle – looking down from above – you’ll need a drone, helicopter, or some other way to get above the trees. It may take work (and money), but the results can be spectacular!
8. Include wildlife in your tree photos
Do you like photographing mammals, birds or insects? Try combining wildlife with trees for spectacular forest images.
You can start small. Take a close-focus lens, then see if you can find any ants, beetles, caterpillars, or butterflies to capture.
And if you have a telephoto lens, try creating portraits of local wildlife. Depending on your location, squirrels, chipmunks, and even monkeys will make great subjects.
Want to photograph birds? You can, but unless you’re shooting near a loader or working in a blind, you’ll need a really long lens. I would recommend 300mm as an absolute minimum, but 400mm, 500mm or even 600mm is ideal.
Tree Photography: Final Words
Trees make incredible subjects, plus they’re everywhere!
So remember these tree photography tips. Then go out with your camera and have fun. You are bound to capture great photos!
What type of tree images do you plan to take? Do you have any tree photography ideas you would like to share? Leave a comment below!