Memorial Day has passed and at least here in southern New England, summer is in the air. Around this time of year I find myself outside more often than not, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, the work load is too much and I get stuck in the studio or working in front of a computer for long hours during the day. If you're anything like me you can only take so much time indoors, so getting outside is essential. If the long days, warm nights, and sunshine aren’t enough to get you into the outdoors with a camera, here are a few reasons why getting outside can help you become a better photographer.
1.) Spending Time With Your Equipment
Getting to know your equipment is absolutely essential to becoming a better photographer. I am not saying you have to have the latest and greatest gear, but what makes you think you need a brand new full-frame DSLR when you don’t even take advantage of all that your current camera has to offer? It is important to completely understand your camera, what each setting does, and how you can use it to improve a shot. Experimenting with different settings are great ways to learn new techniques. The more comfortable you are with your camera, the more seamless your shooting will go.
Recently, I was shooting a wedding. It was my first one of the season and I was using a camera that I had bought only several months prior. Thankfully, I had spent those few months shooting outside as much as I could. Because I had spent the time getting comfortable with my new camera, I was confident using it and the wedding went smooth. Just because your shooting different subjects, doesn't mean it won't benefit you every time you get out there with your camera.
2.) Shooting in Different Light
This part can be frustrating if you are going for a certain look, but it can also be instrumental in helping you understand light. Shooting outside, you are faced with varying conditions. It may be harsh direct sunlight one minute and much darker the next. You quickly learn what looks good and what doesn’t. It also helps you to learn how to adjust exposure quickly, and as you can see, this is where knowing your equipment really comes into play.
Unless you are shooting in a studio, chances are you are going to have to deal with changing light. I have found time and time again, when I am shooting an event or wedding outdoors, I can relate to a time I have shot in a similar condition. Whether I was photographing a person or a landscape, having experience in a wide variety of natural lighting conditions gives me confidence and helps my shoots go smoothly.
3.) Trying Something New
Whether it is a new technique or shooting in conditions you’ve never been in before, why not try something new? You could try experimenting with long exposures or bringing a strobe outside and mixing artificial and natural light. Learning how to shoot for HDR or shooting star trails are fun ways to experiment and will test your postproduction skills as well. Trying new techniques are great ways to spark creativity and learn skills that will help you out down the road.
In a recent article I wrote, "How to Easily Create a Tasteful HDR Image Using Photoshop," I explain how to shoot and edit an HDR image. This is a technique I learned in my free time. It has proved useful in many different situations and helped me to create some beautiful images. I learned it while simply shooting for fun, but it has paid off in my commercial work several times.
What is more inspiring than nature? So many of the greatest photographers have been inspired by the outside environment. Whether you are on a 10 day backpacking trip, a day hike, or just stepping outside of the office for a few minutes, bringing your photography outside can give you a new outlook and inspire you in new ways.
For me, this is so important. I spend at least 40 hours each week shooting products in a studio. However, my real passion is being outside. Sometimes, spending so much time inside gets to me. Nothing seems to spark my creativity like some time outside shooting. Whether I am with a model or shooting landscapes, getting outside is my favorite way to get through any road blocks or creative frustrations.
5.) Understanding Motion
Things are constantly in motion when you're outdoors. My roots in photography go back to shooting my friends surfing. I learned so much about stopping motion and making adjustments on the fly in my early years. These are skills that have proven themselves time and time again. Whether you are shooting weddings or a portrait session, understanding shutter speed and how to stop motion in the way you envision is essential to taking a good photo. Find something fast paced that interests you, whether it is surfing, soccer, or even weather, give it a try and watch how it will pay off in the future.
For most of us, getting outside to shoot is a pretty common thing, but more often than not, things don't work out the way we plan. Sometimes long work days catch up to you and getting outside isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is days like this that I force myself to get out and try something new. If you can’t find time during the day, don’t let the night stop you. Grab a friend and find a spot to shoot stars or a nighttime cityscape. All in all, I think the greatest benefit of spending time shooting outside is getting to know your equipment. Nothing will help you become more comfortable with your camera faster than spending time using it. For me, getting outside always seems to renew my inspiration and give me a new outlook. Give it a try and see how it works for you. Feel free to share some of your favorite locations, techniques, or any tips you have for shooting outdoors.