Friday, February 20, 2015

The (Only) 5 Things You Need to Start Nature Photography

This week I bring you...a list! That's right - we're going to talk about nature photography - what you need, and how to get started. Contrary to what you might think, you only need 5 things to start doing nature photography. So, read on to find out!


Many people falsely believe that they need tons of expensive equipment to get into nature photography. While it is true that some aspects of nature photography do require specialized equipment, all any beginner nature photographer needs is a camera.

It doesn't even have to be a DSLR.

Taken with the iPhone 5 + HDR

As I talk about here and here, you can even use your smartphone.

If you do have some disposable income, an entry-level DSLR is a worthy investment, but don't feel like you "need" to buy an expensive camera to take great pictures. You just don't -- and an expensive piece of equipment won't automatically guarantee beautiful works of art.


Another myth about nature photography is that it requires one to travel to exotic locales. And, again, if you have the time and money to travel to such places - go for it! But I don't. And you don't need to, either. Like I mention here, the only thing you need for nature photography is a little square of nature.

If you are willing to travel a little bit, there are many beautiful and wonderful state parks. A great resource is to google "your state" + "state parks." Many states have informative websites with maps and widgets that can help you find some lovely green space within a short drive of your house.

For example:

However, even your backyard (if you have one), can host a bevy of interesting creatures and plants. Don't neglect easily accessible areas because they seem unexciting - you never know what you might find!

Grasshopper Nymph spotted in the flower pot outside my apartment


Light, as I discuss here, is very important for photography. You already know this. If you strip away complicated equipment and advanced techniques, the lighting of your subject matter becomes even more important. Luckily, lighting is free - it just takes a little extra effort for you to get up early in the morning (I know, I know).

See how the golden quality of the light on the trees makes them seem more alive? The dappling of the light also adds motion and interest to a still scene, as it encourages the viewer's eye to move around the frame.

This photograph was taken with no special equipment, aside from a DSLR. I used a simple "kit" lens that came with the camera when I bought it. I did not even use a tripod.

With the advances being made in smartphone cameras, they are more and more able to handle dappled lighting conditions like the one above. Additionally, HDR functionality improves their performance in situations with contrast-y lighting. So, in short: you can also use your smartphone, your point-and-shoot camera, whatever, to take images like these.

The keys to a good photograph are the same regardless of what camera you use: lighting, composition, subject matter.


Digital cameras are designed to produce low-contrast images so that detail is held in both the highlights and the shadows. However, this means that images usually come out of the camera needing some kind of tweaking. There are many programs you can use to edit your photography, some of which are free. I have a post here in which I detail my own image processing habits.

I usually edit photographs to look how I saw the scene in real life

Gimp is a very powerful free image editing program that mimics photoshop itself. For the iPhone, I personally like the Photoshop Express app (which is free). Picasa is another free editing tool that I haven't personally used.

For someone who is looking to spend a little bit of money, Photoshop Elements is a great program that should satisfy all of your editing desires.


Okay, so this one is really a bonus item. You don't need a tripod, but it is a really handy tool to have. As you know, a tripod will stabilize your camera and prevent your shaky hands from blurring the image. 

Tripods become essential for wildlife photography that employs long telephoto lenses which magnify camera shake. However, they are also indispensable tools for the landscape photographer, evening/night photographer, and, really, anyone who can't hold a camera stable (me).

You can even find versions now for smartphones and small point-and-shoot cameras.

So, have you been inspired to start shooting nature images? What equipment do you like the best? Let me know in the comments!
Check back next Friday for the next installment of...TwoFeetPhoto. Please remember to share, follow, and subscribe via the fancy sidebar options! Here is my tumblr and here I am on bloglovin.

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