Tips for Shooting in Manual Mode

When you first get your camera, you will probably spend some time shooting in automatic mode. The big “M” on your mode wheel might seem a little daunting. However, it doesn’t need to be with these tips.

When you first get your camera, you will probably spend some time shooting in automatic mode. The big “M” on your mode wheel might seem a little daunting. However, it doesn’t need to be with these tips.

Why Shooting Manual is Important

Shooting in manual mode gives you creative control over the picture you’re creating. Simply pointing and shooting a camera in automatic mode is totally fine when you’re just starting out. Chances are though, if you’re reading this it’s because you want to begin to create unique images. The only way to do that is by learning to control your camera.

Your camera is ultimately tool. The better you understand how to control that tool, the more expression you have to create images that didn’t exist before. That’s the difference between a “photo taker” and a “photographer”.

Two men throwing a duffle bag.

How to Make the Switch

The switch can be as gradual as you like. Stay in automatic for a while longer. Start to pay attention to what your camera settings are doing in different lighting situations. If you’re shooting in direct daylight with no cloud coverage, pay attention to what the settings are at. Look at your shutter speed, your aperture, and you ISO.

Understanding Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed refers to how quickly the shutter of the camera opens and then shuts again. The longer the shutter of the camera is open, the longer the amount of time light is being let into the sensor. The faster the shutter closes again, the less light will reach the sensor.

You’ll begin to see that in situations where there is a lot of light, your camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to be very fast. In lower light situations like shooting at dusk or dawn, the shutter speed will be a lot slower. That’s a clue for when you make the switch to manual.

Understanding shutter speed will become really important for all kinds of outdoor photography styles. Fast shutter speeds can be really important for shooting action sports, and moving subjects. Where as a slow shutter speed is crucial for long exposure photography which is a very popular kind of landscape photography.


Aperture is measured by “F stops”. Think of aperture as a pupil like the human eye. When you shine bright light directly into somebodies eye, their pupils will shrink significantly. Limiting the amount of light exposed to their retina (in the camera’s case, the sensor).

For example, if you’re photographing in direct sunlight, your shutter speed will be fast, like 1/640 and your aperture might be stopped down to F/16. The higher the F stop number, the smaller the aperture or “opening”. The lower the F stop number, the more open the aperture. It’s a little confusing, however it’ll begin to make sense once you start to play around the settings on your camera.

Aperture can affect the “fall off” or bokeh on a subject. For example, portraits can sometimes have a nice soft feel to them with a wide open aperture around F 2.8 or 1.4. With landscapes, you often want everything in the frame to be sharp and in focus. So you would want to typically have the F stop between F 8 and F 16.


ISO can be a confusing concept to understand initially. It’s essentially the camera using technology to increase the brightness internally. So if you require more light to hit the sensor, but your aperture is already wide open and you shutter speed is already veery slow, like 1/50, you’ll have to turn up your ISO.

Often with sports and action photography you require some extra ISO so you can still be shooting at a hight shutter speed to avoid motion blur in lower light conditions.

Couple hiking on coast Georgian Bay on the Bruce Trail.

Next Steps

Try shooting some scenarios where you might be forced to practice your new skills.

Portraits In Direct Sunlight

Typically you’d want to take portraits at dusk or dawn. It’s a good exercise though because it will force you to play with your settings. Try opening up your aperture to f4 and see how fast you need to adjust your shutter speed.

Shooting Landscapes or City Scapes After Sunset

Waiting for the sun to go down then take some photos of a landscape or city scape. Pay attention to how slow you might have to make your shutter speed. Keep in mind if you have some foreground in your photo, you’ll want everything to be sharp. Your aperture should be around F 8. You might have to push your ISO a little bit.

Moving Subjects in Low Light

Try waking up early and photography a moving subject like a friend running along the sidewalk or moving cars. Track the moving subject. Try to make everything sharp, and in focus. If you’re moving your camera to track a moving subject you typically down want to be shooting much slower than 1/250 to 1/400 depending on how fast the subject is moving.

If there isn’t much light outside from the sun yet, you’ll really have to bump up your ISO and have your aperture open as much as possible.


The learning curve for transitioning from auto to full manual is like anything else. It take paying attention and lots of practice. Luckily for you, practicing photography is a lot of fun and it shouldn’t take too long to get a grasp on how to get full control over your camera settings.

There are plenty of exciting tricks and techniques in a multitude of different shooting scenarios where controlling your camera in full manual will really open up an entire world of possibilities for you. We’ll get more into techniques in our intermediate courses later.

For now, practice those scenarios. Shoot in tons of different lighting situations, and keep the stoke high!

Comprehensive Camera Gear Guide for Beginners

We’re going to strip things down to the bare bones. What’s the no BS, no frills, bare minimum amount of camera gear and equipment beginners need for creating epic images?


Are a good place to start. A camera body with an interchangeable lens is a good idea. Having the ability to swap out lenses can keep the initial costs low and still give you the ability to upgrade to better lenses down the road.

Here’s a few of my favourite cameras. They’re pretty well all mirrorless. The reason I prefer mirrorless for outdoor photography is because they pack the same punch as traditional DSLR’s at a fraction of the weight. That might not matter in the studio, but it sure does in the field.

Sony a6300

I’m not saving the best for last. Sony’s line of alpha cameras is second to none. They’re faster, lighter, and better quality than almost everything else on the market. Their interchangeable lenses are light, tact sharp, and fast!

The a6300 is the perfect balance of quality and affordability. It’s weather sealed for use in the elements. It’s tough enough for action in the field. It also shoots some of the fastest frame per second compared to anything in its’ class.

Nikon Z 50

I’ve personally never been a huge fan of Nikon. This just comes from my personal experience with the cameras and based off of what I know about their competitor’s technology. That being said, there’s a camera for everyone and what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.

The Nikon Z 50 is comparable to the a6300. The one advantage over the Z 50 has over the a6300 is that it has superior slow motion at 120 fps at 1080p. Otherwise they’re both quite similar. The feeling of each camera in your hands is also very different. That feeling isn’t overrated. A camera has to fit just right. Ergonomics is a huge deciding factor when picking the right camera for you.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

We’re really comparing apples to apples here. The thing to consider right now is long term advantages. If you stick with photography as a hobby for years to come. Any of these cameras will do just fine. If you’re looking to pursue photography and even filmmaking as a semi-pro or full time pro, you want to plan ahead.

That being said, Canon has great lenses, good colour science, and a lot of transferable perks when crossing over into filmmaking. Sony does too. These are just some things to consider. I personally don’t love Nikon bodies but their glass is amazing. You’ll never hear anyone arguing about the quality of Canon lenses.


This list can go on forever, Olympus, FujiFilm, etc. Reality is, all of these “pro-sumer” cameras will give get you started. I’ve personally published full spread covers in international magazines using a sony a6300 using a kit lens. It’s not about the equipment you use, it’s about how you use it.

That should be super encouraging in a world where you can easily spend thirty grand on camera equipment just to get a “pro” starter kit. If anything, creating epic images with lesser recourses will just make creating epic images with the right tools that much easier down the road.


now we’re talking. Glass, glass, glass. The single greatest investment you can make as a hobbyist or pro photographer is purchasing one single great piece of glass.

You are way better off purchasing one solid lens than having five decent lenses. First of all, being restricted to one lens will be a constructive restraint. Too many options early on can be a distraction, rein it in.

Secondly, one solid lens will stand out in your portfolio. A line up of decent lenses won’t. I’d recommend always starting off with a kit lens. Something you can get a feel for different focal lengths and f stops.

After you get a decent understanding of the capabilities of a kit lens, like how fast it is, how it responds to action, what it does in low light… then it’s time to upgrade pretty quickly.

A valuable lens is infinitely more valuable than a “valuable” body.

Makes and Models

This will depend entirely on the camera body you choose. Nikon lenses won’t mount to Sony camera bodies without a third party adaptor for example. Adaptors pretty much deem the autofocus useless, so that’s not really an option in outdoor photography.


Something else to consider is how lens focal lengths correspond to the cameras they’re attached to. The cameras I listed above are crop sensors. Meaning they use a smaller sensor which crops in the image. A 50mm lens on a full frame camera is comparable to what the human eye sees. However, a 50mm on a ASP-C crop sensor will zoom the image in, making a 50mm look like a full frame equivalent of an 80mm.

The biggest thing to consider is focal length and how fast your lens is. A 24-70mm 2.8 is a fast lens with optimal coverage for a wide variety of shots. In-fact that’s what I use 90% of the time.

However, It’s not very unique focal range unless you make it so. 70-200mm at f4 or f2.8 is great if you find yourself shooting tight, zooming in and getting personal with people and places.

Tight or Wide

What about getting really personal? I mean really being in the action. I personally love the look of super wide shots. Feeling the intensity of being right there in the action with the subject is priceless. It can’t be emulated and there’s nothing more intense than being in the eye of the storm.

Figure out what you’re leaning to the most. Pull the trigger on the lens that best suits the style of photos you enjoy creating the most. Photography is like anything else, triple-down on what you’re good at, and what you love, and forget everything else.


I’m still using my first tripod I ever bought. I have two of them. They won’t die. Sometimes I wish they would break so I could justify something lighter and tougher. The truth is, tripods are a piece of equipment that can quickly eat up a ton of your hard earned cash. I use a cheap MeFoto backpacker tripod. It’s not great but it does the trick.

If the occasion calls for a greater tripod. I’ll rent one. It’s rare and I can almost always get away with just using my beaters. Save your money and buy that awesome lens. Tripods won’t help you create epic photos the way a fast lens will.

Additional Gear

The list just goes on and on. It’s pretty easy to go broke by purchasing your initial kit. Truth is though, you don’t have to. Skills trumps tools. You get skill with experience. If you give a pro a kit lens and consumer camera, he’ll still find a way to shoot a magazine cover, no problem. Don’t let the bells and whistles distract you from time spent shooting.

The best way to take better photos is to spend time shooting in the field. Do, be, become. Most photographers spend more time on forums reading up on the next big thing being released in the camera world that will supposedly make their photos better. Truth is, if those people spent that time shooting instead of staring at a screen. They’d be way better off.

We’ll get into specific tripods, straps, filters, computers, all the bells and whistles. They play an important role in the life of a professional outdoor photographer and filmmaker. Truth is though, they just make things easier, none of that will make you better or worse.

Get outside, try everything twice. Create what you love and then use that as inspiration behind your purchases. Don’t get caught up in clever marketing. You know best.

Your Hashtags are Giving Companies Permission to Steal Your Photos AND Copyrights

Find out how you are unknowingly giving away the copyrights of your photos to be used by the brands you admire.

User Generated Content.

If you make on honest living as a creative, you’ve probably learned to loathe the term “user generated content”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this new marketing term… User generated content is content that is published online by an end user, and then gets republished. Often republished from commercial entities like tourism boards, hotels, and clothing or equipment brands.

Pre instagram, commercial organizations would allot a percentage of their earnings to be spent on marketing. Then a fraction of that marketing budget would be assigned to hiring a professional photographer or filmmaker. Said photographer or filmmaker would be commissioned to create a marketing campaign specifically tailored to the brands vision.

They’re stealing the one thing no photographer would ever sell too.

Today, in large, commercial companies have worked out a way to legally steal your photographs, instead of hiring you to create them. They’re not just stealing your photos either. They’re actually stealing the one thing a photographer would never ever sell, the copyrights to their photographs.

How they’re doing it.

They’re counting on you basically being too lazy to look at the fine print. All of these companies have their terms pertaining to user generated content hidden deep inside their websites. Not on Instagram where they intend to steal your work. Definitely not in plain site either.

The paragraph below is a screenshot from the outdoor apparel brand Fjallraven. This is their “terms and conditions” for user submissions. User submissions is what they consider to be anyone whom tags their account or uses their companies hashtags. The hashtags they promote and encourage everyone to use to “share their adventurers.”.

Here’s the important bit.

In connection with User Submissions, you affirm, represent, and warrant that you own and have the right to assign and transfer to Fjällräven, without permission or consent of any third party, all right and interest in the User Submissions and in the intellectual property, and any other proprietary right, contained therein without limitation.

C. By tendering the User Submissions to Fjällräven, you warrant, represent and agree that all intellectual property rights contained in the User Submissions, including all copyright, trademark, trade secret, and any other proprietary rights are thereby assigned and transferred to Fjällräven without any further documentation and that Fjällräven shall thereafter be the sole and exclusive owner of the User Submissions and of all intellectual property rights and proprietary rights contained there without exception or limitation.

By tendering the User Submissions, you warrant, represent and agree that Fjällräven shall have the sole and exclusive right of use of any and all patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights in and to the User Submissions without limitation.

I’ll break that down.

In other words, all you need to do to “submit” your photo, and give Fjallraven complete ownership of your intellectual property, is to to post an image on your account and use their hashtag. #fjallraven and #natureiswaiting.

Most users hashtag their favourite brands as a way to share photos in their niche community.

Since all these organizations have learned that users are so keen to share their photos with them to be republished. It’s made exploiting users even further just as easy. Now, instead of just sharing your photos and basically acquiring free social media marketing. These companies are stealing your copyrights so they can use your stolen photos for all of their marketing needs.

They used my photos for facebook ads and marketing ads.

I used Fjallraven’s hashtag on Instagram. Instead of simply sharing my photos on their accounts. I found them running Facebook ads and marketing ads with them. I’ve had work stolen before. So I promptly sent their marketing a cease and desist letter. The letter stating they had the option to pay for the photos they were using, or to immediately stop advertising with them.

This was the response I received:

This is one company among thousands and thousands.

I’m picking on Fjallraven because they’re the only company I have personal experience with. However, I’ve since taken the time to research other brands who encourage their users to hashtag them. I won’t list them all here because the list goes is infinite.

I can guarantee you that most of the hashtags you’re using right now are giving permission to random companies to take your copyright. Making money from your intellectual property and unique vision.

Stop using hashtags by companies, tourism boards, hotels, etc.

User generated content is saving massive corporations millions of dollars on marketing every single year. Instagram is now the largest advertising platform in the world. Thanks to us photographers who simply want to share our memories, favourite travel moments, or online portfolios. Now commerce and greed has followed close behind.

Your work has value. Know the value and charge what you’re worth. Most importantly, protect your assets. If you’re a photographer, your most important assets are your photographs and your intellectual property.

Pro Outdoor Photography on a Budget

If you’re looking to shoot like a pro but don’t want to break the bank, this budget friendly photography set up will allow you to start shooting quality images.

Picking the right gear when getting into outdoor photography can be extremely overwhelming. Finding that perfect starter setup to fulfill your needs while on a budget is downright tough and takes time. A lot of people might think it should be simple, just pick a camera that can take quality pictures and get out and shoot! You and I both know that there is so much more to consider than that- there’s factors like DSLR or mirrorless? Used or brand new? Prime or zoom lens? With endless camera body options, lenses, and accessories, equipment research is exhausting.

There’s an ancient myth out there that says you need an expensive photography setup if you want to achieve amazing photos. Today we’re going to completely squash that myth and examine how pro photography can be achieved on a budget.

Budget Acceptable Photography

Before we get started, I want to ingrain a message in you that I hope you will revisit throughout your photography career:

Pro tip: the best camera is the one you have with you.

Photography at Joshua Tree National Park

It does not matter if you have a $12 000.00 camera or an iPhone camera, if your composition is garbage and you can’t adequately use the equipment you have then your photography won’t be solid.

With that being said, there is a way to achieve a quality setup on a budget if you are looking to begin your photography journey. I recommend starting out with these three basic pieces of equipment before delving into all the bells and whistles.

See: Outdoor Photography Fundamentals

Camera Body

For outdoor photography specifically, I am a huge advocate of mirrorless cameras. Imagine hiking up a mountain or rock climbing with a heavy 10 pound DSLR attached to you. Personally, that doesn’t sound like fun at all so I prefer shooting with a lightweight and compact mirrorless camera.

The best starter mirrorless camera on the market is the Sony a6000. For about $680.00 CAD, the a6000 is a small but capable machine. In terms of image quality, the a6000 is the best you can get at this price point. Similar to most DSLRs, the camera has a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sensor that produces quality images. The a6000 performs well in low lighting conditions and can go up to about 6400 ISO ,when shooting in RAW, before the image gets too noisy.

The Sony a6000 outperforms its’ competitors in the same price bracket due to the fact that it can shoot 11 frames per second on high continuous mode. Additionally, the AF is considered the world’s fastest autofocus. It’s fast and sharp which makes the a6000 a perfect option if you’re interested in shooting wildlife or action sports outside.

Photography in the Yukon


As you dive further into your photography journey, you’ll feel compelled to grow your lens collection. My suggestion is that before you start adding more glass, get comfortable with a solid all around lens. The Sony a6000 kit lens honestly gets the job done while still producing exceptional images. The kit lens is a Sony E 16-50 mm f/ 3.4-5.6 OSS which utilizes Optical SteadyShot image stabilization to prevent camera shake.

What’s amazing about this lens is that when bundled with the Sony a6000, the price is about $780.00 CAD.

It’s important to make the most out of your kit lens in order to really understand its’ limitations. Once you find your photography being held back by your lens, you will know it’s time for a new lens addition!


No matter what level you’re at, a tripod is an essential piece of gear for any photographer. There’s so many situations in the outdoors especially where a tripod is absolutely essential. Long exposure landscape photography is among my favourite types of photography to shoot. Personally, there’s nothing better than backcountry camping in the mountains and shooting astrophotography.

In order to attempt long exposure photography, a solid tripod is a must. I recommend the MeFOTO Backpacker Travel Tripod. This was my first tripod and one that I still use all the time. The MeFOTO Backpacker tripod is durable, inexpensive, and incredibly lightweight.

I mention weight because it’s really important to consider your tripod’s weight depending on the type of shooting you’re doing. Again, it would suck to be caught multi-day hiking with a heavy camera and equally heavy tripod. Weighing in at 2.6 lbs, this tripod is one of the lightest tripods on the market.

Additionally, the Backpacker Travel Tripod costs around $185.00 CAD which makes it super affordable.

Final Thoughts

Coming in at $965.00 CAD, the Sony a6000, kit lens, and MEFOTO backpacker tripod is a budget friendly option if you’re looking to start your pro outdoor photography career. These three pieces of equipment will allow you to just get out and start shooting without having to break the bank.

Photographing Trail Running

The sports’ increasing popularity is also creating its’ demand for photographing trail running. This is what I’ve learned over the years.

Trail running in the mountains is getting bigger and bigger here in North America. The sports’ increasing popularity is also creating a huge demand for photographers well versed in photographing it. I’ve been photographing trail running professionally for over three years now. This is what I’ve learned.

Two trail runners in desert sand dunes.

Story > Everything Else.

This is universally true with photography. However, I find it especially applies to trail running. Why? It’s not high action like other sports. It’s not ripping on downhill bikes. It isn’t flipping off 100″ vertical jumps into pow. It’s running. So how do you make an endurance sport as compelling as a high action sport like snowboarding or mountain biking? Easy. The story.

The photo above was taken in the middle of the African summer in the oldest desert on earth during a huge expedition called Trans Namibia. The two runners in frame were running 1850 km across the Namib Desert. The runners were raising awareness and for their not for profit organization that empowers youth to explore the world by facilitating youth expeditions. The photo becomes instantly more compelling with just a touch of context.

Trail runner dumping rocks from shoe.

Flip the Script. Change the Viewers Perspective.

I was running in one of my favourite places on earth, Canmore Alberta. I was descending down the back side of a popular mountain in the area. Every few minutes I had to dump pebbles out of my shoe because their was so much loose, dry scree. I instantly recognized that so many runners could relate to this feeling. I pulled out my wide angle and snapped a photo of my pouring pebbles out of my shoe.

Photographing trail running in a way that takes the viewers on a journey and pulls them into, not just the landscape, but the actual experience of being there is the ultimate goal. Pulling them into your world for a brief moment. That’s special, that’s what outdoor photography is all about. And that’s what you should be aiming for when photographing trail running.

Trail runner freezing feet in cooler.

Photographing Trail Running and Its’ In-between Moments.

I shot this at 3 day stage race. The runner pictured here had his feet completely mangled from the 150 km he had just ran. His feet looked like ground beef. The photo manages to tell so much about his 3 day experience. Best part is, it has nothing directly to do with “running”. Images like this leave a lot to the imagination. Instantly you start to wonder how gnarly the trails were, to destroy his feet so badly he had to soak them in Ice.

Sometimes the best trail running photos are taken at camp. Maybe they’re taken pre race, post race, at a hut, the trailhead, parking lot, home. There are so many in-between moments that build a better visual story by bridging the gap with powerful suggestions rather than obviously visual descriptions.

Making Money with Photography – Read Full Article HERE.

Trail runner creating puddle splash.

Don’t Forget the Details.

I wouldn’t usually think to take a “detail” shot on a wide angle. It just happened that the detail of the water droplets were wide spread. The message remains true though. Whether your shooting your frame tight or wide, it’s important to incorporate little details, not just massive sweeping landscapes.

Honestly, big landscapes and little runners can sometimes be a little bit of a gimmick. Too many shots like that can dilute your ability to share the entire experience. Remember, immersing your viewer in the moment, and telling a story is the key here. Not just beauty shots and low hanging fruit. Include some details. Include a lot of details!

Female trail running in desert.

Put Away Your Camera on Blue Bird Days.

Stormy skies add are my secret specialty sauce when it comes to trail running. Like I said early, running isn’t high action. So you have to be creative to compel your viewers. Weather is always an interesting element to have in your photos. Landscapes are rarely photographed before or after storms. People aren’t used to seeing dramatic, sometimes melancholy photos with trail runners as the subject!

Two runners in trail running race.

Photographing Trail Running Events are Like Commercial Shoots on Speed.

It’s going to be easier to get your feet wet photographing trail running events than picking up commercial gigs right away. Shooting races is a great way to get involved with the trail running community, meet athletes, and give you more opportunities as a result. Commercial trail running gigs are a lot easier to shoot, but harder to come by.

If you can create “commercial-like” compositions for 200 real-life race participants running their guts out, you’ll be that much better at creating stronger compositions for ad companies with a controlled environment and model when the opportunity presents itself.

Man trail running on mountain ridge.

Manipulate Colours.

…And I don’t mean in Lightroom! Plan ahead. I knew what to expect on our trail running trip to the Yukon. I chose a jacket that would stand out against the often cloudy skies, and the green environment. Had I chosen a black or green jacket, I would have been completely lost in 90% of the photos I had taken during my trip.

Epic Trail Running in Yukon – Read Full Article HERE.

Are their specific hurdles you’re finding difficult to overcome when photographing trail running? I’d love to hear them! If you found this article helpful, please share and pass the knowledge around.
If you want to take this article into the field with you. Download the PDF for reading offline. Just enter your email so we can stay connected.

Photographing in Cold Weather Conditions

It’s minus 40 degrees with the windchill. We’ve got a 9 hour shoot planned with our friend and Mountaineer, Heather Geluk. Shooting in cold weather conditions like this isn’t easy. Here’s some tips to get ahead.

It’s minus 40 degrees with the windchill. We’ve got a 9 hour shoot planned with our friend and Mountaineer, Heather Geluk. Shooting in cold weather conditions like this isn’t easy. Here’s some tips to get ahead.

Looking After Numero Uno.

You can’t be creative if you’re freezing your butt off. Before you even start thinking about which camera bodies or lenses you’re going to take with you. You should be thinking about what you’re going to wear. How you’re going to protect yourself from the elements.

Think about the activity you might be photographing. For example, are you skiing, maybe you’re on a snowmobile. Look after yourself first and foremost. If you can take care of yourself and do your best to keep warm no matter the conditions… You won’t be limited by the amount of time you can be photographing in cold weather conditions.

Do Your Housekeeping Before You’re Working Outside.

Be as prepared as you possibly can be. Very simple tasks in cold weather conditions, can be impossible tasks. Looking for batteries in a disorganized backpack, swapping SD cards, changing lenses or finding lens caps. Pretty much anything you can imagine doing, will take a lot longer. Time is precious when you’re shooting in cold conditions. Realistically when it’s -40, you can only do so much before you have to pack it in.

Don’t waste precious minutes on tasks that could have been handles the day before from the comfort and warmth of your living room sofa. Format SD cards, have them lined up and organized in your card wallet. Make sure camera bag is clean and sorted. Be sure that you’ve anticipated everything you might need ahead of time.

Getting the Shot with Jon Golden Arctic Extreme – Read Article

Budget Your Time.

I mentioned we planned a 9 hour or so photo session. Well, when the forecast changed from bad to worse. I took the time to scope out are designated area before-hand. Which is good practice, regardless of cold weather conditions or not. However, especially important when it’s freezing cold, to ensure you can be that much more efficient.

Instead of taking 9 hours for our shoot. I was able to grab all of our shots within 4 hours because I scouted, and shot a “dry run”. I was able to figure out some compositions I liked. I created a few poses in my head at the location, I photographed a bunch of the area to study the photos the night before. All of this saved us the following day. There’s no way we could have been outside for 9 hours in those conditions. Not safely.

Special Considerations for Success.

No how your equipment operates ahead of time. My Sony batteries are awful in the cold. My camera also occasionally shuts down and crashes. I carry tons of extra batteries and wear them inside my chest pocket so they stay warm. I always have an extra backup camera incase one fails.

Backloading camera bags are great. You can put your camera bag face down and retrieve contents without getting snow inside your pack, or risk having snow get in-between your back and your camera bag on your back. It’s all little things, but they make a big difference.

Can you think of a time where you stopped shooting because you were unprepared for cold weather conditions?

Let me know what other tricks you might use to keep warm, keep your gear working, and shoot longer in cold weather conditions. I’d love to hear more tips and ideas.

These Four Photography Fundamentals Will Make Your Photos Go From Zero to Hero

What exactly makes an epic photo? Well, if you don’t know yet, you’re about to.

Outdoor photography is an entirely different beast than any other photography genre. Outdoor photography has more variables and moving parts. You no control over the elements, or the light. Half the challenge of shooting outside is just getting to the location of your shoot. So here are some outdoor photography fundamentals to help stack the cards in your favour.

Female Photographer on glacier.

4 critical elements for creating epic outdoor photography.


Subject placement is crucial. Nature has so many dynamic elements. All of which are worthy of being the main subject in a photo. It’s important that you pick one subject though. Lead the viewers eye to it. Use framing techniques, leading lines, and depth of field to help clearly identify the primary subject in your shot.

Natural Light

This isn’t a controlled three light set-up in a controlled hipster studio attached to a trendy cafe. This is the outdoors. One “key light” (primary light source). The sun. Use it to your advantage. If you have to fight it, be creative. Shot into the sun, try overexposing your subject, create silhouettes! If you’re shooting portraits, avoid harsh shadows on their face. Shoot your subject fully backlit (sun behind subject).

Stopping Power

Ever find yourself walking down the street and then you see an insane ad on a bus, something that just pulls you in and grabs your attention. Photos that stop people in their tracks and make them go “holy crap”. That’s stopping power. Try shooting for that.


Don’t date your photos. Outdoor brands can be pretty obnoxious when it comes to branding and logos. So this one is sometimes difficult to avoid. However, do your best not to include logos, trends and other elements that might quickly date your photo. Great photos should stand the test of time. That statement is practically counter culture thanks to Instagram, but it’s truer now than ever.

Joshua Tree as dusk.


Camera Equipment

Chances are you think you need better gear. You can waste a lot of great photo opportunities if you’re at home bummed, because you think you need better gear. Sure better gear makes life easier. Creating amazing images despite your access to top of the line gear though, that will set you up for success in so many ways. You’ll learn how to problem solve. Problem solving is the most important component to shooting pro. Additionally, you’ll just be better. You’ll be better at creating that image in your head.

For more on camera equipment checkout our Comprehensive Camera Gear Guide for Beginners

Gear You Wear

Outdoor photography is unique. It’s unique because typically in photography, your expenses are usually just your camera, lenses etc. Unlike outdoor photography. Your major expenses are outdoor apparel and equipment. Proper rain jackets are up-words $500, backpacks, $300, maybe you’re climbing so there’s rope, harnesses, shoes, etc.

Anything that assists you in creating your photos, and participating in the sport or activity your shooting, is gear. And all of that gear needs to be considered, and not overlooked. Forgetting a down jacket on your overnight camping trip could majorly affect your ability to shoot fun campfire photos.

Life Outside Reviews All the Gear You’ll Need in the Field

Create in Your Head and Execute in the Field

Plan ahead. Not just logistically – which is also super important. Also mentally. Think about what your destination might look like, who will be there, what will be happening, and how will you shoot it? Don’t just visualize best case scenarios either. Think about what could go wrong, and then plan for the salutions that might absolve those issues. Stay one step ahead.

There’s a laundry list of things that could go sideways. Weather, poor lighting, weather, did I mention weather? Just remember, when you’re outdoors, you can’t be creative if you’re cold or hungry. Look after yourself first and foremost.

Acacia Tree at sunset.

Shooting Techniques Specific to Outdoor Photography.


Chances are, if you’re shooting at eye level, you’re not creating anything new. Change your vantage. Get up high. Maybe on a tree, or your car. Try shooting from underneath your subject. Take the viewer with you. Avoid “snapshots”.


Shoot all the vantages, and then take wide shots. Take tight shots. landscape, portraits, details, everything. Memory is cheap, it costs practically nothing and you’ll never regret having too many photos to choose from. However, you will regret not taking enough.

Long Exposures

Switch it up. Try long exposures anytime there is any kind of motion or action in frame. Long exposures will change the way you see moving subjects!

Breaking Rules

Know them all first though. Don’t break a bunch of rules because you’re just being lazy or shooting unintentionally. But if your creative brain is telling you to shoots 2 stops over exposed, try it. Maybe you want to place a subject in a jarring place in the frame. Typically you’d never centre a subject. Sometimes I think it demands authority when you do though.

Man on truck.

Seek Inspiration Daily

There are so many incredible photographers in the outdoors. See what they’re creating. Try to see what they saw. It will help you visualize and help keep you motivated to create new things.

8 Photographers You Should be Following.

Post Processing is 33% of the Creative Process.

Vision – Capture – Enhance

Know how your camera, know the files and the power and capabilities, as well as the limits of post processing. Enhancing your final images is a big part of the entire process of any images. When you know how far you can push and pull in Lightroom, you can change your shooting style in the field to better compliment your creative style in post. This will ultimately shift how you think of creating images too.

5 Outdoor Photography Mistakes Beginners Make

Sometimes, the most effective way to rewire a photographers thinking, is by starting with “what not to do”. Working backwards from zero. Here are 5 outdoor photography mistakes beginners make.

Sometimes, the most effective way to rewire a photographers thinking, is by starting with “what not to do”. Working backwards from zero. Here are 5 outdoor photography mistakes beginners make.

Where is the Subject.

Canyon at sunset.

It’s often difficult to tell what the subject is. Clearly define what the viewer should be looking at, and engaging with. The outdoors provide an endless variety of possible subjects. Trees, mountains, lakes, athletes, wildlife, etc. Show the viewer exactly what they should be looking at, guide their eye.

It’s very important to use leading lines, soft depth of field. Perhaps try using grass or trees as foreground. Another helpful way to isolate your subject is with framing. Sometimes it’s as simple as placing some flowers and branches around the edges of your frame.

It’s a Matter of Perspective.

Dried river bed.

Chances are, if you’re taking your photo while standing at eye level, the shot has been taken before. Create something unique by changing your perspective. Climb on a rock, climb a tree, stand on the roof of your car. Alternatively, get low. Get on your back and point your camera up. Try this, getting below your subject. Create images that people don’t see every single day.

You Only Have One Light Source, Use it.

Joshua Tree sunset.

If you’re shooting in the great outdoors. You definitely don’t have the luxury of controlling light. Considering you are probably in remote places. Maybe you’re backpacking or camping. You only have one light source, the sun.

Use this to your advantage. Try to shoot in low light situations, right before and after sunrise, and sunset. Learn astrophotography and shoot late at night. If you can help it, avoid timing your photo shoots between 9am and 5pm.

Great Photo, What’s the Story.

Man fastening rope.

Beginners and pros alike share this mistake. Taking a visually compelling image is just a small part of what makes a great photo. What are you trying to say with your photos? What’s the underlining theme. Does the photo tell a bigger story. Is it just a pretty picture or are you using the photo as a tool, to tell a story or share an experience or moment in time?

Take one scroll on Instagram and you’ll see tons of “great” visually compelling photos. A lot of those “great” photos are just the low hanging fruit. The obvious shot. Anyone can point and shoot at glacier point in Yosemite, or prop a pretty blonde in front of a waterfall in Iceland. But the photos with heart, feeling, power. Those are much harder to come by. Find your voice, and photograph with purpose, direction, and intention.

It’s Not About the Tools, It’s how You Use the Tools.

Woman taking photo in desert.

Beginners often feel as though they outgrow their kit lens and starter camera long before they really do. It’s okay to want nice things, and eventually the investment of new gear, sharp glass and a full frame camera will be very important. However, don’t ever be so discouraged by your current set-up that you don’t even bother to go out and shoot.

Reality is, the more practice you have making great outdoor photos with shittier equipment, the more successful you’ll be at creating even more epic photos when you finally make that upgrade. Truth is, you shouldn’t ever let gear be an excuse, find a way to to make it work.

What are some mistakes you find yourself trying to overcome?

Download this article here for offline reference on your next outdoor photography adventure.

All Photos by Life Outside Studio Photographers Ryan and Hailey.