Whether you realize it or not, trees are a huge part of photography. They are popular subjects for landscape photographers, and great scenery for wedding, portrait, wildlife and fashion photography. Yet, so little time is spent on understanding how to take the most amazing photographs of these pillars of nature, its no wonder a photo with a tree in it can go so horribly wrong. Walk up to any given copse of trees and try to photograph them alone – its not as easy as you think it will be!
Meadow and a lone tree during summer
Trees are enormously complex subjects, with deep shadows and a towering presence, making it difficult to get any kind of real perspective on them. So how do you take great photos of trees? Let’s take a closer look at these 10 tips for photographing trees successfully.
Take some time going through these tips, then rush outside and take a photo of a tree for better perspective into the difficulty involved.
#1 The Lone Tree
Its hard taking photos in a forest, when all of the trees are clumped together, and your photos look 2D and boring. That’s why the classic shot of the lone tree is such a gem. Every photographer should have a few of these, and done right – they could be a welcome addition for any professional portfolio. Concentrate on the composition, and keep the area around the lone tree simple and clean.
Take a few photos of the classic ‘lone tree’ a photo that always works!
#2 Attractive Angles or Patterns
There are a lot of different parts to a single tree, so when you’re photographing one or more – you have a lot to watch out for. Try to find appealing angles in the branches, or zoom in close to capture interesting patterns in the leaves. This way you’ll be able to find the right spot to photograph, instead of spending ages taking bad photos of the trunks. Just because it’s a tree, doesn’t mean you have to try and fit the whole thing into your viewfinder.
Look for attractive angles, shapes and patterns to help you frame each shot.
#3 Look For The Frame
Before you take a photo of a tree, have a look and see if there is anything beyond the tree that you could include in your photo. Some of the best compositions are of buildings in the distance, with a strategic branch that encircles it up close. Photos like these are always interesting, you just have to find the right position and subject matter.
Try to frame objects or buildings in the distance with the branches of the tree.
#4 Use The Right Light
Light is the most vital feature when photographing trees. The wrong light could leave your forest scene dull and 2 dimensional. What you want is to find the perfect light source that you can amplify, or a specific time of day that makes your tree come alive. The best times are dawn, and sundown – when the light falls through the trees branches.
Use light to enhance the look of your tree photographs, and wait for the right time of day.
#5 Weather Conditions are Important
Upwards view of Maple tree during autumn
The weather can affect the way your tree looks, so it’s important to be aware of it. A fog in a forest for example, could add the much needed depth to the photo that you’ve been waiting for. Other great examples are snow covered trees, or high resolution photos of a tree caught in a storm. Make a mental note of interesting trees you come across, and return there when the seasons change.
Remember that a boring tree could turn into a masterpiece in the right weather.
#6 Add People or Objects
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, a tree scene on its own just doesn’t work. That’s when you need to include a stronger subject – like a person standing in a clearing, or a few well placed lamp posts skirting the tree line. When your tree doesn’t have enough character to stand alone, all you need is to add a few choice elements into the scene to tip it over the edge.
Add people or other objects to your tree photos, when you’re struggling to make them work on their own.
#7 Unique Perspectives
We all know what trees photographed from the front look like. There are thousands of photos like this out there. The difficult part, is coming up with a new perspective, or to give people something to think about when they see your unique tree image. Try lying below the tree and photographing it from there, or climbing the tree and getting a shot from above.
Search for unique perspectives that will set your tree images apart.
#8 Focus on Color
Color is always important in photography, but it’s even more so when photographing a stationery subject like a tree. They have a habit of being dull, so when you get a chance to liven up your photo with splashes of color – take it! This could mean getting a photo of a tree from a distance, shrouded in bright red flowers, or a close up of their berries while standing beside them.
When you get a chance to add some color to your tree images, always do it.
#9 Include The Ground
Winter landscape at sunset – Spruce tree forest covered by snow
A common mistake is to photograph a tree from the bottom of their trunk up. Instead, get a fair amount of ground in your image, for size perspective and depth. It can also make your tree images more interesting, with a snow covering or leaves strewn all over the place. Look for clearing so that you can skirt the side of a forest or a park, and get in the ground distance you need.
Include the ground in your tree images for improved depth and perspective.
#10 Use Dappled Light
Trees cast some amazing shadows, and that’s why they are a favorite in wedding photographs. Dappled light is romantic and fantastical, and it’s something you can use as the focal point of your image. Search for a small clearing with some nice dappled light coming down through the branches, then compose your image and shoot.
The dappled light that trees create can be a great subject to photograph.
These 10 effective tips will have you taking pro photographs of trees in a matter of minutes. Try your hand at using these tips to improve old tree photos you’ve already taken, and compare them. See how much better they look.