Walking in a forest is peaceful, relaxing, and inspiring—so why not document it in photographs? Forests provide endless interesting subjects, from trees to flowers to insects and animals. And, unlike region-specific landscapes like beaches and mountains, forests are accessible nearly everywhere.
If you want to try your hand at forest photography, you will need a few key pieces of equipment and a good understanding of your camera settings. Find everything you need to know in this guide.
- What Is Forest Photography?
- Necessary Equipment
- Essential Camera Settings
- Tips for Landscape Forest Photography
What Is Forest Photography?
A category of nature and landscape photography, forest photography is the art of capturing images of wooded areas. Though the term forest may make you think primarily of trees, there’s much more to it than that. Forests incorporate a wide variety of elements, including streams, moss, plants, stumps, rocks, and sticks.
To capture the perfect shot of a forest, photographers must consider the season, weather conditions, time of day, and more. After all, a wooded area may be lush and green in the summer but an array of bright oranges and yellows in the fall.
There are a few key pieces of equipment you will need for forest photography.
You can capture great images of forests with nearly any digital camera. For the highest image quality, make sure to choose a camera with at least 16 megapixels—but more megapixels will allow you to crop your photos during the editing process without sacrificing details.
All in all, however, most photographers find getting the right shot depends more on the type of lenses you use with your camera, rather than the camera itself.
Different lenses can help you create a variety of different images. In addition to the standard lens that comes with your camera, consider these three additional lenses for forest photography:
- With a shorter focal length than standard lenses, a wide-angle lens allows you to photograph more of a scene without moving farther away. Look for a 16mm to 55mm lens for most forest landscapes.
- For more magnification, try a telephoto lens, which has a physical length shorter than its focal length. Generally, anything with a focal length longer than 50mm is considered telephoto. A telephoto lens allows you to isolate a particular detail within a forest scene.
- If you want to capture close-ups of objects like moss or flowers, a macro lens makes objects appear larger.
Filters, which are small, circular pieces of glass or gelatin that you attach to the end of your camera—basically the shape and size of a lens cap—change the way light passes through to your camera. In a forest, a polarizing filter is particularly helpful to reduce glare from condensation or wetness from rain or dew. On bright days, a solid natural density (ND) filter can reduce the light passing through to your camera sensor without affecting the color of the image.
Especially in low light, a tripod is useful for capturing tack-sharp photos. Setting your camera on a tripod will allow you to avoid camera shake while using a slower shutter speed.
For forest photography, it’s best to select a tripod that’s lightweight, since you may be hiking or walking long distances to get to your desired location.
Essential Camera Settings
For any kind of photography, it’s essential that you get familiar with your camera. By learning how to adjust your camera settings, you can take different types of photos in all types of weather and light conditions. Below, we walk through just a few of the fundamentals.
ISO refers to your camera’s sensitivity to light. A lower ISO is less sensitive (which is good for bright environments), and a high ISO is more sensitive (ideal for low light). Because light can vary greatly in different parts of a forest, make sure you understand how to change ISO based on current conditions.
Your shutter speed is—as you might guess—how quickly your shutter closes. A fast shutter speed creates a shorter exposure, while a slow shutter speed creates a longer exposure. In a forest environment, it’s often best to use a fast shutter speed to avoid blurriness from movement like branches or leaves swaying in the wind.
The opening in your lens that allows light to pass through to your camera, the aperture influences the amount of light, depth of field, and sharpness of a photo. A narrower aperture allows you to focus on an object in the foreground while slightly blurring the background—which is perfect for focusing on forest subjects like individual trees, flowers, or plants.
Deep Dive Into Camera Settings
Fundamentals of DSLR Photography
Tips for Forest Landscape Photography
Get Creative With Framing
Forests can be incredibly dense, so it can take a little experimenting to find the right framing and composition. Don’t be afraid to get creative to find new and unique angles. For example, point your camera upward to capture the grandeur of the trees. Or, get down low and use the complexity of the forest floor—covered in leaves, plants, shadows, and light—to capture interesting images from a different vantage point.
Use Foreground Elements to Convey Scale
Especially when you’re capturing wide expanses of a wooded area, incorporate an object, like a tree, into the foreground of your image. This can help convey the scale of the landscape and create depth.
Look to the Edges
The edges of the forest are often some of the most visually interesting spaces. You may find the forest transition into a canyon, beach, or lake—and incorporating both into your photo can create a dramatic point of contrast.
Embrace Inclement Weather
Does the forecast indicate fog, rain, or snow? Embrace it! While these weather conditions may seem less than ideal (especially if you have to hike into the forest), they can produce stunning photos. A dark, misty forest can be the perfect backdrop for moody, complex images. Just make sure to invest in some good rain or snow gear before you begin scouting your location!
Explore the World Around You
Forests are complex places with no shortage of interesting things to photograph. Whether you take wide landscape photos or close-ups of individual insects or plants, forest photography is an inspiring way to explore and capture the beauty around you.
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