The sun has been shining, the trees are starting to blossom and spring has certainly arrived (although today’s hailstorm suggests otherwise). To us spring is the best time of year with new colours, wildlife and the promise of summer warmth. You couldn’t ask for better conditions for photography. But how do you take advantage of this time of year to get great photographs?
Whether you have a digital SLR, compact or even just an iPhone camera, here’s our short guide to getting the best images out and about this spring:
Shoot in the best light – at ‘golden hour’
With the clocks going back and the evenings drawing out, making the most of the beautiful evening light is becoming a lot easier.
More often than not, stunning photography relies on good light. Generally, natural light is at its best during what we call the ‘golden hour’. This is the time just after sunrise (like in the picture above of birds at Colwick Country Park in Nottingham) or just before sunset. The light is softer and has a golden colour to it (hence the name). As the evenings grow longer, you can now make the most of this beautiful time after work!
On top of that, cool nights brings a much higher chance of early morning fog forming in low lying areas. Rays of early morning sunlight coming streaming through this fog, or half covered trees or mountains sunken into it can allow for some truly exquisite landscape photography.
Make the most of your natural surroundings
You don’t have to live in the countryside to find amazing subjects to photograph. Explore your garden, local park or even just your neighbourhood or street – you’d be amazed where you find nature when you really look for it.
Woodlands and forests
Woodlands and forests are special places in spring. From bluebells blanketing the forest floor, stunning foxgloves rising up above the foliage and gigantic rhododendrum bushes, to an abundance of creatures emerging from hibernation.
Compose your images with leading lines that draw your eye through the scene; for example, a winding path surrounded by beautiful foliage or an avenue of trees. Another favourite technique of mine whilst on a country walk is to include a path or signpost indicating the direction of travel. This helps to tell a story; where were we headed?
Parks and gardens
Whether they have formal gardens or are a bit more wild and natural, parks and gardens can make for fantastic sources of spring subjects. Blossoms, early flowers or trees coming into leaf are all abundant in these locations. You’ll often find good structures like trees or fountains can help to frame your images and pathways can help to make those leading lines, drawing your eyes through the picture.
Be creative with composition
Most people see something they want to photograph and quickly take the picture as a snapshot of that moment. But if you really want the scene to tell the story or convey the atmosphere you experienced, you must think about how to compose the various elements within the frame. This is called composition, and there are a number of different techniques that you could use to make that image great.
The rule of thirds.
There’s a lot you can do with the rule of thirds, but I’m going to keep it simple and stick to the most effective, which is for landscapes (more on this at a later date!). Break your photograph into thirds, either horizontally or vertically so you have three equal parts to your frame. Then put the horizon on the two-thirds line, so the image is either two-thirds sky or two-thirds land.
Get down low.
By getting down low and looking up you can really explore the intricate colours and details in nature.
Use The Sky As A Background.
Whilst you’re down low, look up. Bright blue skies or stunning sunrises/ sunsets can make for a fantastic background. So look up and consider shooting the underside of a tree, flower or building.
If you have a telephoto (zoomy) lens you can get in close (otherwise physically get closer yourself). When getting in close, think about the background. An open, simple background can really emphasis an object in the foreground.
Think about framing.
When you see a stunning view, stop. Think about how you could provide a natural frame for that view. Maybe an overhanging branch or gap in the trees.
Consider your foreground.
A great view is one thing but it doesn’t always evoke the true atmosphere of the scene. Add in a pop of colour or an interesting object that you can see in the foreground, such as some pretty branches, flowers or a rickety fence. You’ll be showing what you can actually see and help the observer feel as though they are there, in the picture.
Adjust the brightness (or ‘exposure’)
Exposure is about how much light reaches your camera sensor and, as a result, the brightness of your photo.
It’s actually fairly straightforward to adjust the exposure even when using a mobile. If using an iPhone: frame your shot, tap the screen to focus on your subject and then click on the little sun, swipe up or down to adjust the brightness until you get what looks best to you. With Android phones, it’s very similar, click to select the area you want to focus on and on the right hand side there will be a scale which you can drag up or down to increase or decrease the brightness.
When it comes to compact and DSLR cameras, I could actually a whole new blog (or several!). With the variety of systems out there its pretty tough to give a simple answer, but there are plenty of guides out there. This video explains the principles of when to adjust different settings. Each camera will have slightly different settings and approaches to change the exposure, we recommend you check out your cameras user manual (or google your camera make and ‘how to change the exposure’)
Find a friend and make the most of your natural surroundings
As fun as exploring nature is by yourself, it’s even better with a friend, or one of your little explorers! They might also make for a great model and you’ll get some fun shots of them enjoying the countryside too, making it much easier to tell the story of the day.