How to Become a (Great) Nature Photographer: 9 Essential Tips

Want to be a nature photographer? You are in the right place.

Becoming a great nature shooter is not as difficult as one might think. With the right tools, techniques, and approach, you can improve your camera skills, find amazing subjects, and have fun with photography along the way. And if you really are, really dedicated, you might even become a paid professional.

Below I offer my top 9 tips for successful nature photography – so if you’re ready to capture stunning birds, wildlife, plants and more, then let’s dive in!

1. Make sure you like it

Nature photography takes a lot of time and effort. You’ll often spend long days in the field, only to come home empty-handed when the light isn’t cooperating, your subject isn’t cooperating, or you just can’t get the shot.

And even when things do go to the shot and you get that perfect picture, scouting, moving and waiting can be tricky.

I’m not saying you have to be head over heels in love with nature photography from the start; over time, your passion may grow and you will come to love certain elements of shooting that you previously found tedious.

But you should As nature photography, and you should be able to see yourself liking it over time. In other words, to succeed as a nature shooter, passion and drive are essential.

2. Stand out

Nowadays, nature photography is extremely popular. Everybody wants to photograph nature, and while it’s great to have people around the world appreciating the natural world, it brings a lot of competition.

So if you want to stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of magazines, you have to be different.

Think about your interests. Is there a specific type of subject – like songbirds or bears – that you could focus on? Also think about your technical approach. Could you capture unique photos using light in unconventional ways? Could you use a focal length or depth of field typically avoided by wildlife photographers?

I spend a tremendous amount of time photographing red squirrels, and my dedication has allowed me to capture behaviors like this:

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3. Take risks

I don’t mean that you should take physical risks; instead, be prepared to take risks with your time because, as the saying goes, “Nothing dared, nothing won”.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, nature photography is rarely a sure thing. Light is hard to predict and subject behavior – if you like to photograph birds or wildlife – is even harder to predict. You will be strike once in a while, and it will be frustrating, but if you never take risks, you will miss all the best shots!

So don’t be afraid to plan nature photography trips, even if you’re unsure of the light. Don’t be afraid to discover new locations, even if you’re not sure they’ll happen.

Recently there was an Northern Lights display in the North of England. As a general rule, it is difficult to predict this phenomenon and the forecasts available only foresee an hour in advance. The display can end as quickly as it started, so it’s not really possible to schedule such an event. I decided I wanted to capture the Northern Lights with a British castle in the foreground, but the structure I had in mind was over two hours away.

Nevertheless, at 2 am, I dropped everything and headed for the coast. When I arrived the display was dim but after two hours of waiting the lights flashed in front of me. Came home at 8am, but the picture was worth it:

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4. Always be ethical

Unfortunately, not all photographers are nature-friendly – but in my opinion, adopting an ethical approach in your photography, above all when photographing animals, is of utmost importance.

You’ll have a much better time shooting if you don’t harm wildlife in the process. And there are also self-interest reasons to consider: photographers who are unethical are shamed by others in the industry, and they lose the respect of the majority of photographers who care about their subjects.

No photo should come before the welfare of an animal or a place. It’s that simple, and if you remember this rule, your photos will improve in the long run. The best photographers don’t cut corners and they also have a great affinity for the environment.

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5. Think about what you want to express

Once you’ve found a good subject, you might be tempted to just press the shutter button, but if you click without thinking, you’ll often end up with boring photos.

Instead, after finding a good topic, ask yourself: What do I want to convey to the viewer? How do I want them to feel? How do I make the viewer feel like I belong?

Then, once you realize what you’re looking for, tweak your gear, settings, composition, and lighting for the perfect result.

For example, if you want to capture a dramatic and stunning landscape, you can deliberately choose a wide-angle lens, find a strong foreground subject, and go low so it pops into the frame. This way you will get an image filled with amazing depth and lots of detail.

And if you want to capture a beautiful bird portrait, you need to choose a long lens, get close to fill the frame, carefully position the bird in the overall composition, and wait for the bird to strike an engaging pose.

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6. Convey scale

One of the hardest parts of nature photography is communicating the size of a subject, whether it’s jaw-droppingly large (as in the case of a mountain, castle, or of an incredible sunset), or absolutely tiny (as in the case of a bird, a flower or an insect).

Fortunately, nature photographers use a clever trick: they introduce well-known objects into the scene, which then serve as a point of reference for the viewer.

If you’re shooting a huge mountain, for example, you can adjust your framing to include a house at its base; if you are photographing a small frog, you can include a daisy in the background. (And if you ever have trouble finding an object that works, you can always get in the picture!

For this next photo, I chose a location with a tree in the foreground, which helped to render the expanse of the sky:

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7. Try a different lens

Once you become a more seasoned nature photographer, you may find yourself taking the same type of shot over and over again. Luckily, it’s easy to get out of these creative ruts:

Just change your lens!

Taking on a different lens will require you to experiment with new compositions, think about new approaches, and perhaps capture something unique.

So if you’re used to doing wide-angle photography, try bringing out this telephoto lens. And if you typically shoot with a super telephoto lens, go wide-angle or even consider using your macro lens for a completely different perspective.

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8. Remember to plan before your shoots

Nature is relatively unpredictable…

… but that’s no excuse not to plan before each outing! Planning can help you:

  • Figure out where the sun will be when you get there
  • Increase your chances of finding wildlife
  • Make sure you have the right equipment for the job

Yes, it can be fun to go on a spontaneous photography excursion. But when there is nothing Wrong with the occasional impromptu expedition, I encourage you to stop and think before every trip. Do location searches, view tide charts, and watch sunrise and sunset times.

That way, when you arrive, you’re more likely to capture that perfect, once-in-a-lifetime shot!

9. Don’t give up

Becoming a serious nature photographer is not impossible, but it is not very easy either. (If it was, then everybody would be a phenomenon of nature photography!)

Nature photography takes a lot of time, effort, and knowledge, and there are times when you might want to throw in the towel.

But when you’re feeling down, just remember the good time. Look at your past photos and remember why you chose nature photography in the first place.

Results are not instantaneous and it takes practice to get great images. But if you put in the required hours, you will eventually get great results.

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How to Become a Nature Photographer: Final Words

Well, now you have it:

9 tips for becoming a top nature shooter. Nature photography can be incredibly rewarding, and while it’s not always easy, it’s definitely worth pursuing.

So remember these tips, take a deep breath and become a nature photographer!

Which of these tips do you plan to focus on first? And what kind of nature photographer do you hope to become? Share your opinion in the comments below!












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