6 Ways To Get Great Photos On Your Next Hike

T-minus: 146 days

One of the main guidelines of Leave No Trace Principles is leaving what you find, and this makes photography a huge help when it comes to hiking. Not only can you photograph that cool antler or rock you found, but you can also capture some of the beauty of the forest to show your friends back home.

1. Top of the Line Gear Isn’t Always Necessary

Although getting a fancy full frame or mirrorless camera definitely helps, most people can’t afford to drop over a grand on camera gear (especially when planning a thru-hike). At the end of the day, the person with an eye for photography will always have a more interesting image than someone with just a nice a camera. With that being said, do your research when shopping – look for a point and shoot camera made with a nice lens that allows you adjust exposure settings and has a high megapixel count. You’d be surprised what you may find for just a couple hundred dollars. (Keep in mind that the cameras on smartphones are also getting insanely good).

Willing to spend a little more? Look for a DSLR that is lightweight (you will be thankful for this feature when climbing a 4,000 ft mountain), a high ISO, and a high megapixel count. When buying a lens, look for something that will cover more than just one type of photography. For example, a fish eye lens is really cool and can add an extra punch to certain images, but most people will rarely find use for this with landscape and outdoor photography. Purchase lenses more along the lines of prime (50mm), wide (under 50mm), or zoom (over 50mm). Play around with different lenses and figure out what best meets your needs and photographic style, but keep in mind that bringing the least amount of gear will keep your pack lighter and keep you happier in the end!

2. Get a Sturdy Tripod

Trying to take silky smooth waterfall shots or astrophotography? A tripod is necessary to keep your camera still during the long exposure times. A quick google search for ultralight tripods will give you tons of options that weigh next to nothing. Read reviews and look for tripods are are sturdy, tough, but still lightweight (packing up small is also a nice feature).

3. Pay Attention to Lighting

Believe it or not, but a difference in lighting by as little as 15 minutes can make or break your photo, and without the right lighting, that sweeping landscape may actually end up looking dull during midday light. Try shooting when the sun is more at an angle, or during the golden hours surrounding sunrise and sunset. The dramatic lighting will give your photos that added punch, plus it’s always nice to take a photo break during the most beautiful times of that day! The light is also more subtle and a lot less harsh during these times, which leads to a better image in every aspect.

4. Background is Important

When shooting, pay just as much attention to the background as you do to the foreground image. Whether the background be a sunset, a sweeping vista, or just some interesting rock formations, having an equally interesting (yet not distracting) background is key to keeping your viewer interested throughout the whole scene.

5. Use the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds simply states that images are more appealing to the eye when the interesting content in the image can be divided into three equal parts, both horizontally and vertically. You may not even notice, but many professionals use this technique to help your eye move around the frame and keep you interested throughout the whole frame. This powerful, yet subtle technique can add a more professional look to your photos. You can see a more detailed explanation of this technique here.

6. Have Fun and Get Creative

The best way to develop your own photographic style is by trying out all sorts of new angles and exposures. The beautiful thing about digital is that you can delete any images that you decided you don’t like, so there is no reason not to photograph as many images as it takes for you to be satisfied with the final product. Take a few steps back from your subject, try shooting from the ground, or get off the trail and shoot from a perspective few have seen before. Have fun, get creative, and explore!

Happy Hiking!

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