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  • Writer's pictureRachel Z

How to Photograph Trees

One of the most overlooked things to photograph has to be trees. They are always there, but it seems that no one ever talks about an experience of photographing them specifically. Well, just like with most things in life, there are a few tips on how to photograph trees. Hey! I’m Rachel with Rachel Z. Photography, your San Francisco, California photography guide and today let’s talk about trees!

Top Tips

You don’t have to wander into a forest to photograph trees. A lone tree, a row of trees, a cluster of trees, or even a dead tree can add interesting detail to your image if used correctly. Here are a few ideas for incorporating trees into your images.

Look for the Light

Regardless of the type of lighting, or weather, you can still get some excellent shots. Deep in the forest on a bright sunny day, you can get some amazing light as the sun shines through the trees. Or, look to capture trees on a day that’s cloudy. Keep in mind that the lighting will affect the feel of your resulting images–a foggy day can lend a sense of mystery to your images while a sun-dappled forest floor can make for a fresh, beautiful, warm summer shot.

Adjust Your Angle

Like any other landscape photograph, the angle you choose will play an important role in your composition as well. While many photographers enjoy getting a bird’s-eye view from above the trees, looking up from the forest floor can provide a stunning view as well. This is especially true in the thick woods, where photographing the canopy above can offer an interesting perspective. Likewise, you can get low to include above-ground roots in your tree images, or get closer to create a close-up of the tree’s bark or the patterns on the leaves. If you’re not happy with your image, often just a simple change to your angle can cause a completely different image, so don’t be afraid to try different perspectives until you find something you’re happy with.

Depth of Field

In most cases, you’ll want to shoot with a narrow aperture, for a wide depth of field–to ensure that most of your image is clear and in-focus. Though, if you’re hoping to showcase one tree, or would like part of your image to be softly blurred or out of focus, look to use a wide aperture, or narrow depth of field, to blur out the surrounding details while throwing the subject into focus.

Adding Contrast

Contrast is the name of the game for powerful photography, and for capturing tree images. This is certainly the case. A decent amount of contrast in an image can help to generate interest and grab attention. Contrast can take the form of complementary colors, like a blue sky or the blue sea in the background against green trees–or even in concept–like a new sapling growing out of the old-growth of a fallen log. Look for contrasting shapes and forms too–like the soft, billowy mist and the sharp, jagged forms of trees rising above them, or delicate, new leaves poking out of sturdy, rough branches.

Create Silhouettes

Trees can also be great subjects for silhouette images. Using backlighting, you can create a tree silhouette that emphasizes the details of the tree. Tree silhouettes can be made more interesting by taking advantage of an especially colorful sky or background, so look to capture them at evening or in the early morning hours.

Different Seasons Produce Different Results

While many landscapes have their peak seasons, there are great opportunities to photograph trees year-round.

• Spring–Springtime is an especially appealing time since many trees are budding. The soft colors that appear in spring are especially beautiful, and the delicate lighting that’s found this time of year–along with the beautiful flowers that often grow at the edge of the forest makes this a great time for creating beautiful images featuring trees or woodland scenes.

• Summer–summer is another great time of year for capturing tree images. Heading into the deeper woods on a bright summer’s day will often present a great opportunity for capturing the light-dappled forest floor.

• Fall–In some areas, fall is arguably the most favorable time to photograph trees or forests. While the changing colors of the leaves don’t last long, this brief window of opportunity can present an amazing opportunity for some breathtaking images. Even after the leaves have fallen, the colorful foliage on the ground can provide you with some amazing colors that can play a big part in your composition.

• Winter–Finally, the winter months aren’t without their own sense of beauty–especially for trees. The bare branches can provide you with powerful elements that can feature as main focal points in your images, while fog, mist, and rain also give you some interesting weather elements to work with to help you create some moody and dramatic shots.

About Rachel Z Photography

I’m a 28-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, activist, tattoo enthusiast, and guardian of 2 lovely rescued birds. I adore doing portrait photography for others, whether that’s indoors or outdoors, covered in flowers and nature or covered in fake blood. My goal with my photography is to empower you by taking the essence of who you are and turning it into works of art. I want to hear what YOUR ideas are and help make them into a reality. I want you to feel powerful. I want you to feel beautiful. I want you to feel confident, because we all deserve that.

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