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10 tips for rocking your outdoor & wildlife photography

Jul 28, 2018

One of those questions I get asked most (apart from the non-stop gear talk) is what ‘photography tips’ I have for people. Therefore I thought it could be helpful to list a few of my favourites in my personal ‘Top 10 for rocking your outdoor & wildlife photography skills’. At a later stage I’ll also run one for travel & portrait work. 

Stop talking about gear

My number 1 advise for becoming a better photographer: Stop talking about gear. And start taking photos. No matter which camera you own, the truth is that sharper lenses and more megapixels don’t necessarily enhance your ability to tell a story or compose an image. Real improvement only exists through practice and learning from failure. Not through purchase.

Explore your home

Many people think good photography requires travel. They’re wrong. You better visit that one interesting place close to home a hundred times instead of visiting a hundred different places further away from home only once. In doing so you’ll end up finding the conditions you’ve been dreaming about. Patience & persistence are key for distinct image making. Trust me, in the end, you don’t have to go somewhere new for wonder, just look at that same old spot with new eyes. Try it. I’m sure you’ll be surprised. 

Get up earlier

Even if you think you got up early enough, get up earlier! Don’t be one of the people that sleep through the good things. The hour before the sun rises is the most magical hour of the day with often every minute a different lightning situation. Plus the ‘sunset crowds’ are still in a deep sleep which gives you more space to do your own thing.

Learn to think in black & white

Set your in-camera settings to monochrome. I promise you that the entire game changes. When colours are absent you learn to look at light & composition in a different way which teaches you so much about image making.

Stop zooming

Ditch the zoom lens and learn to love the constraints of dealing with a fixed focal length. Simply because the most important lens you own, are your own legs. Moving ‘them’ instead of a zoom ring will instantly make you a better photographer. It increases the weight of your bag, but deal with it, its worth the pain. So stop zooming, start seeing. 

Convey emotion

Some people argue that one needs a human connection in order to feel emotionally connected to an image. But nothing is further from the truth. A still image can convey an even stronger emotion than any facial expression or human interaction ever could. Find that and try to convey it in your visual story telling. 

Create for yourself

Make photographs for yourself, not for your audience. Learn to trust your instincts and don’t always consider what others might like or not. I know this isn’t easy in times of heavy social pressure but YOU are the one that’s supposed to be enjoying the process, not everyone around you. And if you radiate the right energy, your images will start looking better and better which attracts the likes of those around you eventually too.

Trust your camera

Your camera equipment is tougher than you think. Run towards the rain, not away from it and with the right luck, you’ll catch the electric colours and mist from a clearing storm. Same counts for blazing sun or freezing cold. No matter how heavy the snowstorm or how freezing the subzero temperatures, get out there, get dirty, get wet! Create! You gotta risk it, to get the biscuit. 

Play with the details

Over time I’ve learned that many times in photography, it’s not the grand scale or epic nature that grabs me the most, but rather the small details that would normally go overlooked. Find them. For that sparkle of life in a place that feels like death, or highlight details in a scene that feels like infinity. It’s too easy to always opt for the vastness of a landscape.

Ask for help

With over 3 billion people only a click away through the Internet, never hesitate about asking for help. Whenever you meet a photographer (offline or online) ask questions. But please come prepared. Always remember: Ask for nothing and you receive nothing. Ask for the world and you will receive the world. 

I hope these 10 tips will guide you in finding your own unique visual language. They can be very helpful tools in the day-to-day creative process but always remember that photography is a very personal journey and to me, that’s the most beautiful aspect of it. Everybody sees the world differently. Use that.

Feel free to share this post with who ever could benefit from it. Next time I will talk a bit more about travel & portrait photography.

If you still insist on knowing more about gear, click here to see what equipment I use.

Location: Amsterdam
Author: Pie Aerts