Of all the different environments to photograph, forests are arguably the most unique and challenging. Everything from the lighting to the surroundings are completely different to any other kind of landscape. Follow these forest photography tips, and you’ll be well on your way to capturing some fantastic forest shots!
1. Best Time of Day for Forest Photography
One of the most common photography errors that beginners make, no matter the environment, is taking photos in the middle of the day. The general rule is, take your photos at either the beginning or end of the day. This is because the light is much softer at this time of day.
This generally does still apply to forest photography, but not always.
With the right camera set up and approach, wooded areas, particularly dense forests, can look incredible in pretty much all conditions. If you know what you’re doing, you can get eerie, mysterious shots in low light, overcast and mist. Or, on a sunny day you could try and capture the light piercing through the trees, picking up the contrast between the shadows and the light.
If you’re not sure though, I would still stick to the classic words of photography wisdom – Go at either end of the day.
2. Turn Your Camera
Captain obvious here, but trees are tall, sometimes really tall. Some of the best forest photos are ones where you can really appreciate the size of the trees.
If you are sticking to landscape shots then you will likely struggle to pick up the full height of the trees in your image. So, turn your camera and get some portrait shots! I’m not suggesting every photo you take is portrait, but when you’re trying to capture the full height of the trees, it’s often better to do that in portrait.
Are you heading to the forest in the winter or snow? Combine the forest photography tips here with our advice for snow element photography to get the best possible results.
3. Use Leading Lines
A very common and simple photography technique is utilizing leading lines in your photos. It’s not something that is necessary in all the photos you take, but there are definitely times when it can be useful. Forest photography can be one of those times.
Try to find a bridge, path or waterway that can produce leading lines in your photo. The advantage of doing this in a forest is that it can help simplify the scene for the viewer, as well as making it easier for them to immerse themselves in the photo.
It should be fairly easy in a forest, as there is often both natural and man-made leading lines dotted about.
4. Find or Add Some Colour
Another Captain obvious moment here, but forests are mostly very green, brown and not much else. Now, while this combination can look fantastic in its own right, sometimes it can be beneficial to get some other colours in the photo. The main advantage of this is that it helps you create a focal point in the image, which basically just means it captures the viewer’s attention. It also just helps simply break up the blend of greens and browns.
When it comes to capturing these colours, you can either add in into the photo yourself or find something which does the job for you. For example, if you’re out in Spring, you might be able to capture some of the beautiful wild flowers in bloom. Or, you could take matters into your own hands and throw some colour in yourself.
My best tip would be to add yourself (or a friend) into the image, wearing some bright colours. Apart from adding colour, capturing a person in amongst the trees does wonders for providing depth and scale. It helps the viewer to appreciate the size of the trees and the vastness of the forest.
5. Get Out Your Macro lens
This tip obviously only applies to those of you that have a macro lens. For those of you that don’t know, a macro lens is designed for capturing small objects up very close, providing great detail.
They can be a nice addition to your camera bag, but I wouldn’t recommend buying one unless it’s something you are going to use regularly.
Anyway, thanks to mother nature, forests are excellent places for macro photography. You can capture the crisp detail in the forest floor, the bark of the trees, little tree saplings and much more.
6. Make Depth a Priority
One of the most challenging aspects of forest photography is adding enough depth into your photo. Sometimes it can feel like you’ve just got a load of random trees and branches crossing all over the place, and your photos can feel a bit two dimensional. The way to stop this happening is to add depth to your image.
The easiest way to do this is to widen your aperture and get the background of the shot to blur out slightly. You can also look for leading lines as mentioned previously, and take advantage of any natural depth that you can find in the forest.
7. Add Something Extra
I’ve already spoken about adding a person into your shot, but why not take it further? To make your photo really stand out, you could consider using a photography tool such as a lens ball or a tinted lens filter.
If you’re sensible and not breaking the law, you could even build a campfire and get some awesome fire photography amongst the trees.
Photography is all about having fun and being creative, and adding in your own props and tools might help feed your creative thinking.
8. Forest Photography all year round
Forests are one of the environments that change the most depending on the time of year. Nowhere else does the entire feel of a place change so much from season to season. As a result, you can get completely different, yet equally stunning, forest photography throughout the year.
Make sure you go back to the forest in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. That way, you can pick up everything that the forest offers in different conditions.
9. Get Up High and/or Clear
While a shot in amongst the trees can be spectacular, so can a shot of the trees from above. Try to get to a high point in the forest, and capture a shot looking down across the trees. If you’ve got a drone, take it a step further and get right above the canopy. The results will highlight the vastness of the forest and show a view that wouldn’t be possible on foot.
Another tip is to get out into a clearing of some kind, if you’re lucky this could even be a lake or river. This again will break up the type of shots that you get in the forest, and allow to showcase the openness of your surroundings.
Final Thoughts on Forest Photography
I hope you find these tips useful when you’re next out in a forest or wooded area! As always, be sure to tag @_peopleoftheplanet_ on Instagram if you take any shots using the tips in this article. We love seeing what everyone comes up with.
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