Tips for taking good outdoor photographs

Tips for taking good outdoor photographs

With long days and short nights currently the norm, we tend to spend more time outside than at any other time of year.

And since almost every modern smartphone has a built-in camera, photo opportunities are never far away.

From flaming barbecues and street parties to holiday photography and action shots of sporting events, there are many opportunities to immortalise a spontaneous moment.

However, if they’re not properly framed, these images quickly become the type of photo our parents binned when packs of freshly-developed 6’ by 4’ prints came back from the chemist.

Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in photography to take stylish images ready to be shared on social media or included in screen saver montages.

To ensure outdoor photography captures every moment to its fullest, these are our recommendations for taking external pictures during daylight hours…

Composition and framing

  • If possible, take pictures with your back to the light. Foreground objects tend to look dark with bright lights behind them, so try to avoid taking photos directly towards the sun
  • Seek out foreground interest. A desert scene might look dull, but if there’s a road snaking through the sand, it’ll draw the audience’s eye towards the middle and far distance
  • Remember the rule of thirds. This photography mantra says it’s fine if objects appear off-centre, providing they’re one-third or two-thirds of the way across a landscape image
  • Crop out clutter. Good photography is about what you don’t see, not just what you do. Crop out bins and street furniture, heads of people in the foreground of crowd scenes, etc
  • Try to avoid shadow. Hard light creates strong shadows, which will never be clearly visible in outdoor photography taken with the limited lenses of today’s smartphones.

Settings

  • Disable the flash when outside. If the phone’s flash fires, the lens may be confused about how much light is available. This leads to oddly-lit pictures and unexpected reflections
  • Remain zoomed out. Smartphones reduce image size as you zoom in, so distant zoom objects appear pixellated. You can always crop the edges off a high-res photograph later
  • Set shutter speed above 1/60. If the second number is lower than 60, photos could appear blurry. Low ISO numbers are only recommended for stylised movement shots
  • Turn on grid lines. Most camera phone screens have grid lines for making horizontals and verticals straight – avoiding issues like buildings ‘leaning’ to one side
  • Activate location tags. This uses GPS to identify and store details of where outdoor photography was taken – ideal if you’re visiting multiple destinations during a holiday.

General tips

  • Bide your time. Perhaps the sun is just about to frame a building, or a speedboat is approaching a beach. Waiting a few moments often results in a better photograph
  • Take two photos. It’s surprising how often taking two snaps of the same object or event delivers a ‘better’ image suitable for sharing or posting, and a ‘worse’ one to be deleted
  • Save photos in the highest resolution possible. Just because a 200KB file looks fine on-screen doesn’t mean it’ll look good on a PC monitor, or casted onto a friend’s HDTV
  • Avoid using filters. Snapchat fans are obsessed with applying filters, but these often misrepresent colours and give a false impression of successful outdoor photography
  • Head-height shots are boring. Buildings often photograph better from elevated spots like up a flight of stairs on a building across the street. Always seek out new perspectives.
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