My Number One Tip For Outdoor Photographers

Crane Photo by Scott Bourne


Bosque Sunrise Photo by Scott Bourne

If you photograph anything outdoors, whether it’s people, landscapes, scenics, wildlife, birds, nature, etc. and you want to improve your photographs. This is my number one tip.


Whether or not you’re a morning person, you need to get up and go out. Amazing things are happening that 90% of the world just sleeps through. This magic goes hidden from most and if you’re there with a camera you can document it for those who are snoring their way to oblivion.

Morning is a special time. The dew on the flowers makes the plants look alive. The air is usually cooler and the birds and wildlife are more active. The sun is cresting the horizon leading to what we call “Magic Hour” – the light at this time of day has a quality that is surreal. The light is low in the sky, casting interesting shadows. The light is diffuse and flattering.

Because the morning light is soft, muted and low in the sky, it’s less contrasty. That makes it easier to avoid blocking up the shadows or blowing out the highlights.

The morning light is something so special that no filter or Photoshop action can quite replicate it. Your subjects will have an otherworldly feel to them when photographed in morning light.

Of course everyone knows that it’s also hard to beat a great sunrise!

Cranes in the Fire Mist by Scott Bourne


To see this for yourself, I want you to conduct an experiment. Go to your favorite place at sunrise – then come back every two to three hours and stand at the exact same spot. Notice the differences each time. Notice the different color of light, direction of light, quantity of light, quality of light. Notice the different behavior in animals. Notice how the plants look. Just note everything you see. As the day goes on, the landscape changes right before your eye. What was an amazing, magical moment just after sunrise, can be a dull, drab and boring moment after lunch.

Crane Photo by Scott Bourne


If you want to get better photos, get up early. Drop the phone, get out of bed and go make some pictures.

The first light is the most magical light of all. Not only will it make your photographs better, spending time in that light – during the quiet hours of the morning – when there’s less traffic, fewer people, mellow sounds and refreshing air, will make you a happier, more peaceful and centered human being.

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