20 Indispensable Photo Tips
by Ian Plant
All rights reserved. This book, and all of the photographs and written text contained therein, are the intellec-
tual property of the author and are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. No part of this book
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the author.
Author: Ian Plant
Editor: Chris Flack
reamscaped sian plant photography
My mission is to educate, inspire, and entertain others in the art of nature photography. So I make my
books practical, informative, fun to read, and pack them with plenty of delicious eye candy.
This eBook introduces you to many important concepts in nature photography. The ideas in this eBook are
covered in greater depth on my blog and in other books and video tutorials for sale on my website; to
delve deeper into how to improve your photography, visit the or my .
Enjoy the bookyou'll be taking better photos in no time!
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Twenty photos. Twenty tips. Simple as that.
World-renowned professional nature photographer and writer Ian Plant is a
frequent contributor and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a
Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, and a monthly columnist
for Landscape Photography Magazine. Ians work also appears in many other
books, calendars, ad campaigns, and magazines available worldwide. Visit his
for plenty of gorgeous images, and daily inspiration and education in
the art of nature photography from top pros in the business.
We all love beautiful sunrises and sunsets, so it
almost goes without saying that you should take
photos at these timesbut Ill go ahead and say it
anyway. When the skies light up with color, you
should be taking photos! Sunsets and sunrises are
usually most intense when partly to mostly cloudy
skies prevail; as long as there is a large enough
gap on the horizon where the sun is going up or
down, youre likely to get colorful light striking
the clouds, as is the case with the image to the left.
Los CuernosTorres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Canon 5DII, 45mm, polarizer filter, 2-stop graduated
neutral density filter, ISO 200, f/11, 0.4 seconds.
Quick Tip: A two- or three-stop graduated neutral
density filter can come in handy when shooting
sunrise or sunset, helping to balance bright skies
with relatively dark foregrounds.
1shoot stunning light
2I was getting nasty lens flare from the setting sun just outside the image frame. My
solution? Use the flare creatively. Selecting a small aperture, I created a radiating burst
of light framing the lone tree in the meadow. Whenever a technical or artistic problem
arises, find a way to turn it to your advantage. Light is LifeMt. Rainier National
Park, USA. Canon 5DII, 37mm, ISO 100, f/16, 0.4 seconds.
turn obstacles into opportunities
It is important to wait for the moment
when your subject does something
interesting; stretching its head, yawn-
ing, bitingor as is the case with this
sea turtle, surfacing for air. Becoming
a master of the moment will greatly
improve your photos. Ideally, the
moment will tell a story about your
subject. It may take some waiting, but
when the right moment comes, youll
be glad you were patient. Snorkel-
ingGladden Spit and Silk Cayes
Marine Reserve, Belize. Canon Powershot
S100 with Fisheye Fix Underwater
Housing and Fix UWL-28 Fisheye Wet
Mount Conversion Lens, ISO 200, f/4,
3wait for the decisive moment
Nothing demands our attention more than leading
elements. Leading lines in particular can be very
powerful, but leading elements can include other
shapes, or even a progression of objects from fore-
ground to background. Leading elements encour-
age the viewer to travel deep into the composition,
creating a high level of visual engagement. For the
image to the right, I used a strong leading
lineformed by the reflection of the sky in the
water within a flooded slot canyonto direct the
viewers eye from foreground to background.
Into the West AwayGlen Canyon National
Recreation Area, USA. Canon 5DIII, 14mm, ISO 100,
f/11, 2.5 seconds.
4 lead the eye
Quick Tip: Lines provide an obvious visual cue
pointing to what is important in an image. If you
use a leading line, make sure it points somewhere
interesting. If it points, for example, outside of the
image frame, then youre not going to excite view-
ers, but rather confuse them.
Although humans perceive the passage of time, help you capture a new perspective on reality,
cameras can record time in ways our eyes can- and show the world in an unexpected way.
not. Moving elements gradually lose distinct- MoonscapeAdirondack State Park, USA.
ness and form, becoming abstract and artistic Canon 1DsII, 12mm, ISO 100, f/11, 17 minutes.
blurs and brush strokes. Long exposures can
5go with the flow with long exposures
Nature has an infinite variety of cool and interesting
shapesuse them to your advantage! Look for swirls, cir-
cles, triangles, curves, and other simple, powerful shapes to
create boldly graphic and visually engaging imagessuch
as this curve created by the interaction of shadow and light.
Shadows and SandDeath Valley National Park, USA. Canon
5DII, 50mm, ISO 50, f/11, 1/15 second.
6focus on shapes
Reflections are a great way to add some extra style
to your nature images. Still water often works best,
although rippled or moving water can create
abstract reflections. Reflection images often work
well with a 50/50 split between the subject and its
reflection; sometimes, however, other variations
make more sense. Consider photographing only
the reflection itself and add a hint of mystery. For
the image to the left, my position was such that the
reflection (at first glance, at least) doesnt quite
seem to match the birds above, adding an eerie
quality to this photograph. The GatheringDing
Darling National Wildlife Refuge, USA. Canon 5DIII,
500mm, ISO 800, f/9, 1/500 second.
7make a statement with reflections
8Radiating diagonal lines leading from the image corners to the center can be very
effective at grabbing the viewers attention and holding interest over time. The key to
success is to also have areas of off-center interest, creating a visual tug-of-war between
the center and other parts of the composition. The Devils EyeApostle Islands
National Lakeshore, USA. Canon 5DII, 14mm, polarizer filter, ISO 400, f/11, 0.5 seconds.
draw attention to the center
The best photographs tell a story
about their subjectsuch as a
well-earned nap after a hard day
of monkey business. The Politics
National Reserve, Peru. Canon
5DIII, 500mm +1.4x, ISO 800, f/5.6,
9 tell a story
10use visual anchors
Visual anchors are bold, eye-catching elements
which help simplify an otherwise busy composi-
tion by attracting the viewers attention. The
visual anchor provides an obvious reference
point, and a place for the viewer to start their
visual journey. Other elements of the scene may
attract the eye, but the visual anchor will always
command attention. The best visual anchors lead
the eye deeper into the scene, and then attract
the eye back to the anchor, staring the process
over (and hopefully over) againthe boulder in
the foreground of the image to the right is a
good example. The effect is a composition which
captivates the viewer, making it hard to tear
their eyes away. Virgin WatersChugach State
Park, USA. Canon 5DII, 21mm, polarizer filter, ISO
100, f/11, 0.8 seconds.
Flash is a vital, although often ignored,
nature photography accessory. Flash has
multiple uses: it can be used at low power to
add an attractive catch light to a wildlife
subjects eyes, it can provide fill light for a
subject in shadow, or it can be used at night
and during twilight to create surreal images
(such as the one to the right). Start experi-
menting with flash, and look for interesting
ways to incorporate flash into your work
flowit can open up many bold creative
opportunities. Night HeronBlackwater
National Wildlife Refuge, USA. Canon 20D,
500mm, flash, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/4 second.
11 light up the world with flash
Quick Tip: A flash extenderbasically, a
lightweight, portable device which focuses
and concentrates the output of your flash
through a magnifying filtercan help you
illuminate distant subjects.
Dont just zoom in tightconsider taking a wider
view to provide context and show your subjects
interacting with their environment. For this
image, I didnt just want a picture of elephants;
rather, I wanted a picture that s