CHAPTER 9-: This is the ninth chapter of “A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Professional Photographer.” – The love for capturing the wondrous nature around us is a chip that is planted deep inside the mind of every aspiring professional photographer. During the initial stages of their career, professional photographers struggle to take commendable shots of people and other everyday indoor and outdoor objects. However, when it comes to photographing Mother Nature, novice photographers around the world seem to have an innate ability to come up with high quality images without the assistance of a mentor. You know you are a photographer when you are more interested in moving yourself around to take a picture of the breathtaking view of the sunset instead of sitting down in a chair on the beach and enjoying the scenery with a cocktail in your hand.
Understanding Nature Photography
Before you can be a pro at taking pictures of nature, you need to first fully understand what nature photography really means. For a beginner who is just starting out his professional or academic career in photography, nature photography could be something as simple as taking a photo of a drop of rain sliding down the velvety surface of a fresh, green leaf. This is indeed nature photography, but this is surely not all that there is to it. Nature photography is actually a very broad term that is used to refer to a number of different kinds of photography. It’s safe to say that shooting leaves and the rain is not the only kind of nature photography that you can be involved in.
Subjects of Nature Photography
Subjects of nature photography are as diverse as the elements of nature themselves. Wildlife, trees, plants, flowers, snakes, insects, seascapes and landscapes, are all part and parcel of nature photography. You can be outstanding in taking pictures of small snails crawling over a pavement and you will be considered as a talented and skilled nature photographer. It is important that you do not adhere to a narrow and contrived definition of nature photography. Take into account every possibility and try to embrace all forms of nature photography as equals. Just because a photographer spends his days shooting great white sharks jumping out of the ocean and preying on seagulls does not make him any better than a person who can take adorable pictures of a chick hatching out of an egg. Both forms of photography are unique, ingenious and praiseworthy in their own way.
Variations Based on Photographic Views
The variations in nature photography are not only restricted to the change in the subjects. There is a wide range of photographic views that a nature photographer can be interested in including extreme macro photography, close-up photography and even humongous panoramic triptych photography.
Nature Photography Versus Documentary Photography
It is also important to understand that nature photography is not quite the same as documentary photography or Fine Art photography which are fields of expertise reserved for advanced level photographers who have much greater experience than beginners. Documentary photography or Fine Art photography revolves around the notion of showcasing an artistic point of view for the purpose of shedding more light on a subject matter. Nature photography on the other hand is not as complicated as the two mentioned above and is simply concerned with providing aesthetic pleasure to the viewers.
In other words, as long as your photographs of nature, wildlife and landscapes radiate a glow in people’s eyes and carve a smile on their mouths, you know that you are doing a fantastic job as a nature photographer. Through the media of colour, depth and perspective, nature photographers aim to reveal the beauty of their subjects. Another way in which nature photography differs from documentary photography is that it leaves the photos open to interpretation on part of the viewers, while documentary photography is intended to impart a specific knowledge or impose a certain belief on the viewers themselves. In simple words, nature photography is an honest expression of your passion for nature while documentary photography is based on telling stories or one side of the story for that matter.
4 Types of Nature Photography
As mentioned before, nature photography is a very generic term and the art itself contains a number of different subcategories. Broadly speaking, nature photography can be divided into 4 popular groups or categories. These are wildlife, landscapes, seascapes and plants. With that being said, there are certain forms of nature photography that may not pertain to any of these 4 categories and are eligible to be regarded as exceptions to this rule of categorization. As strange as it may sound, taking close-up pictures of mouldy bread is an example of nature photography that cannot be placed in any one of the 4 categories mentioned above.
a. Wildlife Photography
Photography that is concerned with the animal kingdom is labelled as wildlife photography. This is one of the most exciting brands of photography and it often requires the photographers to risk their lives and travel to some of the most dangerous, most remote and exotic locations in the world to capture a glimpse of rare wild animals in their natural habitat. Imagine how exhilarating it would be for you to ride on a dilapidated boat in an unknown spot in the Amazon River just to take a photograph of a giant Amazonian Anaconda or a man eating crocodile. Needless to say, wildlife photographers are some of the most sought after and highly reimbursed photographers in the world.
b. Landscape Photography
If you are the kind of person who likes to depict nature it all its glory and grandeur, then landscape photography is where your true calling lies. Massive land masses, surreal mountains, enormous mountain ranges, spectacular sunsets, remarkable cloud formations, sublime waterfalls and enthralling coastal vistas are just some of the elements that are captured as subjects in the photos of landscape photographers. The presence of human beings is not needed to come up with a brilliant piece of landscape photography, but sometimes the addition of human beings can be a boon for landscape photographers. With that being said, the smart thing to do would be to take pictures that are void of human beings as it allows landscape photographers to encapsulate the raw beauty of a location that is uninhabited and undisrupted by the existence of humankind.
c. Seascape Photography
As the name suggests, seascape photography has everything to do with gigantic bodies of water in the form of seas, oceans and bays. Similar to landscape photography, the presence of human beings or animals in seascape photography is not something that is direly needed, but it is also not objectionable for you to incorporate a human being or an animal into the mix of things. For example, you can take a scintillating panoramic view of the ocean and enhance its visual appeal by capturing whales floating on the surface or people enjoying a relaxing cruise on the ship. Seascape photography offers you plenty of room to flex your “photographic muscles” and exhibit your creativity as a professional photographer.
As a photographer who is working with seascape photography, your primary objective should be to uphold the mystique of the sea, the power of its waves, its harmony with the blue sky and white clouds above it, and of course its relationship with the living beings above and underneath it. Seascape photography is very close associated with beach photography that includes coastlines, seashores, sandy beaches, tropical scenes (coconut trees swaying in the breeze perhaps) and soothing images of sunsets.
d. Plant photography
Wildlife photography covers the fauna. Therefore plant photography is needed to hand over the spotlight to the flora. You may not know this, but taking pictures of plant life can be equally enthralling if not more than taking pictures of wild animals exuding their dominance in nature. Plants have the unique ability to fill up your photo with an aura of calmness, composure and serenity. In a world that is struggling to tackle the challenges of climate change and global warming, now is a better time than ever to focus your attention towards plant photography. By taking pictures of beautiful and majestic trees that are being cut down, you can educate society on the ill effects of deforestation and how all of that leads to global warming in the long run. With incessant commercialization and unplanned industrialization of countries around the world, plants are becoming a rare sight by the minute. As a photographer, you can contribute immensely to the preservation and regeneration of plant life.
Nature Photography – How to Shoot Nature Like a Professional
Mastering the art of nature photography is easier said than done. As with any other form of photography, you need to acquire specific skills and learn about certain techniques if you want to produce nature photos that are worth of people’s admiration and applause. Remember, nature photography is not only about falling in love with nature and going on unplanned and exciting expeditions into the depths of planet Earth. Sometimes, you need to keep your head in the game and think of ways in which you can take photographs that will attract the attention of people and will be considered saleable or marketable.
At the end of the day, you are professional photographer who is trying to earn a living by selling your craft. If your work in nature photography is the same as that of a 10 year old taking a picture of a leaf with a point-and-shoot digital camera, then you may have to consider a different line of photography. Each nature photograph you take must have the x-factor that gives people a new perspective on nature and makes them crave for more of your works on a similar subject or a different subject. With that being said, here are 5 simple tips which will help you to shoot nature like a pro.
1) Find a Worthy Subject
There is a little bit of conflict in opinion among the experts of nature photography on the matter of the subject of the photograph. Some experts believe that you as long as you can incorporate an artsy touch to your photos, then taking pictures of any random element of nature will reap you the rewards. This is not entirely accurate since nature photography deals more with the beauty of the object itself, while documentary photography tries to sheath the subject with a layer of artistic charm. Therefore, it is always more preferable that you select objects that demand the interest and the attention of people. This is the reason why you see nature photographers crowding zoos, national state parks, wildlife reserves, botanical parks and so on, to find a rare component of nature that can mesmerize people and leave them awe-struck.
2) Find the Right Light
There is an appropriate time for everything and nature photography is certainly no exception. When it comes to taking photos of the nature, you have to be at the right place at the right time. This is why so many photographers get up early in the morning before sunrise or flock to the beaches during sunsets to take unearthly photographs of earthly elements. In other words, sunrise, sunset and twilight hours serve as the perfect time for nature photography. This is when nature uses the golden rays of the sun to adorn itself with intangible ornaments of splendour and gorgeousness. Taking a photo in good light can turn it into an exquisite work of nature photography from being just another picture of nature.
3) Strive for Perfect Balance
Not every single element in nature is equally beautiful or spectacular. Some catch the eye more easily than others. This is why, you need to balance a composition my focusing more on the unique and intriguing elements of nature rather than the ones that are more common and less interesting. Let each element that is worthy of being the subject find room to exhibit its true magnificence. To remove unwanted distractions, you should scan the edges of your frame.
4) Look for Contrast in All Aspects
In nature photography, contrast is not only confined to colours but it also applies to textures and tones. Find out ways in which you can depict light and shadow playing off of each other through your photos. Subjects that have compelling texture and detail should be a part of your photos, while those that don’t should be included or simply blurred out.
5) Use Filters
The perfect positioning and the timing is sometimes not always enough to get you across the line in nature photography. You need to resort to using filters to accentuate the sheer majesty of the scenery. You can change the aperture to attain enough depth of field. You can adjust the ISO settings to improve the clarity of the picture. Using neutral density filters can also help you produce the perfect shot of nature.