The Best Settings For Nature Photography

If you’re a fan of photography, then we’re sure that nature photography might be at the very top of your list. 

The Best Settings For Nature Photography

Still, given the fact that nature photography covers a broad range of different shooting locations and subject matters, there are various scenarios that can fall under the nature umbrella. 

To help cut through any confusion, this guide is going to provide you with a rundown of the best settings for nature photography. From aperture to ISO, we’ve made sure to cover all bases in this guide.

So, with that in mind, just keep on reading to learn what the best settings for nature photography are.

Recommended Camera Settings For Nature Photography

As we’ve said, nature photography can cover a white spectrum of things, so it can be hard to know which settings you should use.

To help simplify your photography experience as well as you can, let’s take a look at our top camera setting recommendations below.

Pick The Manual Exposure Mode

First things first, it’s important to note that the majority of nature photos typically tend to occur during unpredictable lighting conditions.

This can mean that, if you were to shoot in automatic mode, your camera would likely have a hard time understanding which ISO, shutter speed, and aperture settings to use. 

When shooting outdoors in automatic mode, it’s highly likely that your camera will try to minimize shutter speed in order to create sharper images, which will mean that the aperture and ISO will be drastically increased.

This can then lead to photos that lack perception depth, as well as noise across the images that will greatly reduce the overall quality of your image results.

For that reason, when it comes to shooting nature photography, you’re going to want to make sure that you are shooting with your camera settings to manual.

This will mean that you are going to need to manually adjust the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed settings on your camera. 

Set The ISO To The Lowest Value Possible

Now that we know that the best images will be achieved by manually adjusting the settings on your camera, we’re going to be starting with the ISO value.

When it comes to nature photography, you’re going to want to opt for the lowest value possible, as this will be able to maximize your camera sensor’s dynamic range.

In turn, this will reduce the amount of noise on your image quality.

Ideally, we recommend that you choose an ISO value that is around the value of 100, as this will be low enough that you will be able to reap the benefits of no noise without compromising on the amount of dynamic range you are going to be able to achieve in your images.

On the other hand, if you are planning on shooting nature photography during the evening or while in low-light conditions – we recommend slightly increasing the ISO to help increase the amount of light that your camera’s sensor is going to be able to work with.

However, we only recommend doing this if you absolutely must, as it can cause images to have more noise.

Pick A Narrow Aperture

Along with opting for a low value ISO, it is also recommended that you go for a narrow aperture, rather than a wide one.

Wondering why this is? Well, when it comes to shooting nature imagery, it’s highly likely that you’re going to be spending most of your time shooting landscape-style photos. 

For this reason, you’re going to want to make sure that you are maximizing the depth of field that your camera lens is going to be able to offer, as this will help to make your images appear more detailed, realistic, and visually interesting to look at. 

In addition to this, shooting with a narrow aperture will also help to ensure that everything within the frame (not just the main subject) will be in focus in the image.

This means that a narrow aperture will be perfect for nature photography, especially when shooting landscape imagery. We recommend starting out at f/8 and experimenting up to f/16 to see which narrow aperture works best for you. 

However, if you are thinking about shooting close-up images of flowers, plants, or even wildlife – then you’re going to find that shooting with a wider aperture is going to be the best option for you.

This is because, when shooting with a wider aperture, there will be a shallow depth of field which means that while the subject will be in focus, the background will be blurred out.

If you’re going to be shooting close-up nature subjects, we recommend shooting around the f/2 mark.

Switch To Manual Focus

We know – switching off the automatic focus can be scary!

The Best Settings For Nature Photography (1)

However, if you have experience under your belt with photography and you’re confident using your camera – we highly recommend that you switch off your camera’s automatic focus and manually adjust it yourself, instead. 

By doing so, you will have complete control over your camera’s depth of field, which will allow you to take more sophisticated imagery.

If you have never used manual focus before, we recommend that you ideally focus somewhere just before you reach halfway of the frame especially if you are thinking about primarily shooting landscape nature photography

This is because, if you opt to use your camera’s automatic focus, your camera will ultimately decide for you what the main focal point of your image will be, and this can be disastrous.

By controlling your camera’s focus yourself, you will be able to decide exactly where the focal point of your frame will be. 

On the other hand, if you are a beginner just getting started with photography and you don’t feel overly confident to manually adjust the focus yourself, this is totally okay.

If you want to simplify your photography process while you’re working on your technique, then using your camera’s automatic focus function will work pretty well. 

Once you have built your experience, though, we do recommend making the switch to manual focus, as you will have complete control over the depth of field in order to have control over where you want the focal point to be.

Shoot In The RAW Image Format

When it comes to capturing images, most photographers tend to overlook shooting in the RAW format because it uses up a lot more space than other formats. However, we think that the image quality certainly makes up for it. 

By making the decision to shoot in the RAW format, you are ultimately going to be achieving the ability to manually adjust vital aspects of your image that you might otherwise be unable to, including the exposure, noise-reduction, white balance and much more.

This can help to make any post-processing adjustments for your clients (or even for yourself) a lot easier to achieve.

Switch Off The Flash!

When it comes to nature photography, the key is to make your images appear as lifelike, realistic and, pardon the pun, natural as possible.

For this reason, we recommend that you switch off your camera’s built-in flash function, as it can often distort the image quality and negatively affect the depth of range.

In order to do this, you will typically need to tap a button somewhere on your camera to switch it off. Although, in some instances, you might need to turn your camera’s built-in flash function off via the control area.

If you’re stuck on how to do this correctly on your particular camera model, we recommend taking a look at the owner’s manual that you will have received upon purchasing the camera.

Experiment With Shutter Speed

Last but not least, the final camera setting tip that we have to share with you is to experiment with the shutter speed!

If you want to make sure that your nature pictures are clear, crisp and the best quality possible, you should opt for a fast shutter speed so that your camera will be able to “freeze” the landscape or subject it is capturing. 

On the other hand, if you want your nature photos to have a dreamlike quality to them, you might want to consider slowing down the shutter speed.

This will lead to your camera’s response time being a little slower while catching images, which can result in a soft blur that can look very pretty.

Ultimately, the shutter speed that you choose to shoot with will ultimately come down to what your or your client’s personal preferences are. 

The Bottom Line

We’ve made it to the end. Now that you have taken the time to read through our guide to nature photography, we hope that you have been able to learn more about what the optimal settings on your camera for nature photography should be.

Thanks for reading, we hope this guide has been helpful to you.

Laura McNeill
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