Nature Photography for Beginners

Sunrise with crescent Moon
Nature photography – Sunrise with crescent Moon outside my bedroom window.

This nature photography for beginners series of articles is my take on taking great photos outdoors.  My nature journal has been greatly enhanced with the addition of photographs.

I like photographs in my nature journal. The photos give a different look and feel to a nature journal. I like the mix of drawings and photos.


Keeping Nature Photography Super Simple

I always wanted to take photographs but was intimidated by the recommended equipment.

I don’t have tons of equipment just a few select pieces that make up my “Minimum System”. The camera is my basic equipment. I don’t use extra lens, filters, flash units, etc. And my photos are pretty decent. I focus on using the features built-in to the camera. By doing this my skills have grown beyond what I would have thought possible.

nature journal page with nature photography
My nature journal page with nature photography and drawings

Working with the Limitations

What helped me the most is knowing the limitations of my camera and to work with those limitations. I would love to take super sharp closeup of warblers in trees, but my camera limits me. But I can take halfway decent photos of birds at my feeders. The photos may not be super sharp and crisp, but they are not that bad.

Even with no extra lens or filters, I take pictures of a wide variety. I use the shooting modes built into the camera to take pictures of special scenes, like snow. I take closeups with my built-in zoom lens and super macro modes. I also use a tripod to steady the camera.

The Swivel Viewfinder is Key

An extremely important feature for me is a swivel viewfinder. Many of the Canon cameras have them. My Canon SX30IS 14.1MP Digital Camera with 35x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 Inch Wide LCD has one. This is a good small camera. I realized I could learn so much by becoming an expert on the features of a small simple camera.

Today’s point-and-shoot cameras have professional adjustments that were not available before digital cameras came along. Aperture, speed, ISO adjustments were all available on SLRs but are now available on point-and-shoot cameras.

Making Background Sharp or Blurry

The most important feature for nature photography is depth of field. Depth of field (Av- aperture mode) is important in how your subject stands out. I learned how to use the Av – aperture mode, by just keeping the camera on this setting all the time. The aperture set at a low number like 3.0 will blur the background and make the main object stand out. A high aperture setting of say 7.0, will make the object and background sharp and clear. The best way to learn is to take a series of photos of the same object only changing the depth of field change the aperture setting.

Forsythia blossoms
Forsythia blossoms taken with Magnifying Glass phone app.

My Camera Phone and Apps

I have a iPhone. I tend to buy a couple of models back, instead of the current expensive model. And my camera phone takes decent photos. I just have to work with the camera’s limitations. Most photos in the world are now taken with camera phones. There are photography classes that focus on only using a phone’s camera.

An app I find useful to take photos is, “Magnifying Glass”. By using this app I can take better close ups than my camera can without it. It’s available in both the Apple and Google Play stores. Here is a photo I took with the app.

To prepare my photos for adding to my website pages, I use a Mac app called “PhotoBulk”. This app resizes, optimizing and adding a watermark to one or more photos at once.

The Big Take-Away

Take thousands of photographs. There will be a few few that surprise and delight you with their quality. I take thousands of photographs a year, and a handful are very good. But I try – over and over again. I do think my digital camera takes better quality photos than my camera phone.

Do you take more nature photos with your camera phone than a digital camera? What photos do you like best? If there are camera apps that you use and find useful, feel free to share in the comments below.

More Nature Photography Posts

How to Photograph Moving Water

Secrets for Capturing Stunning Bird Photographs

Autumn Photography Ideas (Videos)

Tips on Photographing Butterflies

Winter Nature Photography Tips

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