National Parks

National Parks Photography Tips

Digital cameras make it difficult to take a truly lousy picture, but there are still some things even the best models can't do without your expertise. The tips below (some of them classic photography techniques) won't turn you into the next Ansel Adams, but they might prevent you from being upstaged by your 5-year-old with her own digital camera.

The Golden Hours: The best photos are taken when most of us are either snoozing or eating dinner-about an hour before and after sunrise and sunset. When the light is gentle and golden, your photos are less likely to be over-exposed and filled with harsh shadows and squinting people.

Divide to Conquer: You can't go wrong with the Rule of Thirds. When you're setting up a shot, mentally divide your LCD into nine squares and place the primary subject where two squares intersect. (If all this talk of imaginary lines makes your head spin, just remember not to automatically plop your primary focal point in the center of your photos).

Lock Your Focus: To get a properly focused photo, press the shutter button down halfway and wait a few seconds before pressing down completely. (On most cameras, a light or a cheery beep will indicate that you're good to go.)

Circumvent Auto Focus: If your camera isn't focusing on your desired focal point, center the primary subject smack in the middle of the frame and depress the shutter button halfway, allowing the camera to focus. Then compose your photo properly (moving your focal point out of center), and press the shutter all the way down.

Jettison the Jitters: Shaky hands are the most common cause of out-of-focus photos. If ice water doesn't run through your veins, invest in a tripod or put the camera on something steady—such as a wall, a bench, or a rock—when you shoot. If all else fails, lean against something sturdy to brace yourself.

Consider the Imagery: Before you press that shutter button, take a moment or two to consider [i]why[/i] you're shooting what you're shooting. Once you've determined this, start setting up your photo. Look for interesting lines that curve into your image—such as a path, the shoreline, or a fence—and use them to create the impression of depth. You can also avoid flat images by photographing people with their bodies or faces positioned at an angle to the camera.

Ignore All the Rules: Sure, thoughtful contemplation and careful technique are likely to produce brilliant images—but there are times when you just need to capture the moment. If you see something wonderful, grab your camera and just get the picture. If the photo turns out to be blurry, off-center, or over- or under-exposed, you can always Photoshop it later.