Taking Environmental Pictures

Go green with environmental pictures.
Go green with environmental pictures.

If you are interested in taking environmental pictures this article will help outline some tips for techniques and subjects.

What Is Environmental Photography?

When many people hear the phrase "environmental photography," they think of cute animals and lush landscapes. While environmental photos may involve these objects to some degree, the topic has more to do with the environment as a whole.

Environmental photography fits in the photojournalism category more than it does taking exposures on the beach. The goal is to encapsulate a single moment in its environment. It focuses on reporting what is happening during a single moment in time. This means capturing a rainstorm or snapping a few shots of a forest fire. Whatever capturing the realism of the environment means to you is perhaps the most important element.

Tips For Taking Environmental Pictures

Still interested in taking environmental pictures? Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  1. Research. A great way to give an image more context is to have an idea of what's going on around it. For example, imagine you are heading out to take photos of flooding in your local park. You could probably take stronger images if you understood more of the background of the area and the flooding concerns. Perhaps there is a particular area where rainwater falls off strongest. A little bit of research can go a long way.
  2. Stay local. There is no need to hop on a jet to a destination halfway around the world in order to take environmental pictures. Document the environment within a few miles of your residence. You may find this more rewarding because you are connected to your area physically and emotionally.
  3. Make friends. Try to network with other photographers in your area. Can't find any? Put out a listing in the local newspaper or online. Looking for new subjects? Making connections with other photographers can help you find new locations. Make friends outside of photography too. Call local science facilities and see if there is anything that you can photograph there. Use networking to your advantage and open your own doors.
  4. Focus on realism, not what is pretty. There are lots of pretty environmental scenes out there. However, sometimes focusing on what is pretty detracts from what is actually happening. Look to capture something real in the best possible light.
  5. Use people as props. A major part of most environments are the people who live in them. Environmental photos can often be made stronger if people are shot within an environment and a viewer can look at a photograph and feel a connection.

Do I Need Specific Camera Gear?

The time comes in every photographer's career when they wonder if their gear needs to be upgraded. This question normally comes in conjunction with exploring a new photography style. After all astrophotographers and sports photographers don't wear the same gear. If you find yourself seriously interested in pursuing environmental work and you don't have an SLR, consider upgrading to either a film SLR or dSLR. The advantage to doing so is that you can purchase lenses in a variety of focal distances. It will also provide you with pro quality. A general wide angle lens (such as an 18 to 28 mm) and a decent telephoto range lens should be great starter lenses for the environmental photojournalist. You will also find that as you get more involved, additional lens may help suit your personal needs better.

Final Thoughts

If you plan to pursue environmental work on a professional level, remember that there are places like National Geographic where environmental pieces take focus. There are also many stock sites interested in quality work. Build a diverse portfolio and you can be on your way!

Taking Environmental Pictures