The Art of Outdoor Photography: Capturing Beauty (Not Just Half a Squirrel and Part of Your Thumb)

Photography by Johanna McShan

Attention outdoor adventure seekers and accidental selfie-takers! This blog is for everyone wanting to unleash their inner Ansel Adams and capture some epic shots. Sure, outdoor photography might seem as simple as pointing your smartphone and praying for the best, but capturing the perfect shot is about so much more. We're here to share some tips that will make you look like a seasoned pro without actually having to understand what the hell an F-stop is good for. 

So, let's dive into the wild world of outdoor photography. It's time to click, laugh, and possibly run from bees—all in the name of art.

Words of Wisdom from Johanna, A Pro Photographer 
Lucky for all of us, our very own River Road Clothing Co. Founder, Johanna McShan, is an accomplished photographer who started her career taking pics of babies, sunsets, skylines, and everything in between. She gave us a load of tips to share.  

“I started photography when I graduated college,” Johanna told us in a recent interview. “I got a DSLR for my graduation gift, then never put it down. I even pursued photography as my career for ten years after college (instead of graphic design, which was my degree).”

Photography by Johanna McShan

In 2014, Johanna won the Newborn Photography Competition the National Association of Professional Child Photographers held for a pic of one of her own little babies. 

You can also find Johanna’s work on Wikipedia. A picture she took of Leslie Cochran—a once famous face around Austin, Texas—is used on his bio page. 

“I walked past him on South Congress, and it was the right time, right place,” Johanna said. 

Photography is all about timing and lighting, Johanna says. Golden Hour (about one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset) is the best time to take outdoor photos because the light just makes everything sparkle. Also, be sure to set your camera at Rapid Fire to ensure you catch that perfect moment. 

Outdoor Photography Tips & Tricks

Photography by Johanna McShan

Now, let’s guide you through the wilderness of photography faux pas, from avoiding photobombing squirrels to making sure your finger stays out of the shot. And don't worry, if you think ISO is the name of a new energy drink, we've got your back.

Understand Natural Lighting
As Johanna mentioned, lighting is a key element in outdoor photography. Avoid shooting during the harsh midday sun, as it can create shadows and washed-out colors—experiment with backlighting to add depth and drama to your images. And don't be afraid of a little bad weather—cloudy days can provide a diffused light that beautifully enhances colors and textures.

Composition and Framing
A well-composed photograph can make a powerful impact. Try placing the main subject off-center or placing a winding trail or a flowing river in the shot to guide the viewer's eye through the image. Also, try different angles (not just look straight at the object you want to capture) to add a little variety to your shots.

Capture Motion In Action 
Nature is full of movement, and capturing it in your photographs can bring them to life. As Johanna recommended, use the rapid-fire setting to pop off a bunch of shots all at once, and you’re likely to get a great pic of that bird in mid-flight or deer leaping through a field.

Photography by Johanna McShan

Pay Attention to Detail
Nature is teeming with intricate little details to discover. Get up close and personal with your subject to capture its textures, patterns, and colors. Pay attention to small elements like water droplets on leaves or the play of light and shadow on the forest floor. These details can add depth and interest to your photographs. 

Tell a Story
A compelling photograph tells a story and evokes emotions. Consider the narrative you want to convey through your image. Is it the tranquility of a peaceful lakeside scene or the thrill of a hiker conquering a mountain peak? Include people next to objects to convey scale or showcase the interaction between people and nature. 

Mastering Outdoor Photography Takes Time … And Lots of Pictures 
By understanding lighting, motion, and storytelling, you can elevate your outdoor photographs and create stunning pics. Remember to embrace experimentation, be patient, and look closely for the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

Whether you're attempting to capture majestic landscapes or wild creatures in their natural habitat (no, we don't mean your neighbor's fat lazy cat), as long as you know the basics and shoot with confidence, you’ll have a photo to proudly show off on Insta.

And be sure to TAG US IN YOUR PICS so we can see the fruits of your labor! 


Additional Photography by JohannaPhotos By Johanna McShan

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