Phototgraphy

16 Nature Photography Ideas (for Easy Inspiration)

Ideas to inspire your nature photography

Stuck in a creative rut? Looking for some nature photography ideas to help regain some inspiration? I’ve got you covered!

In this article, I share 16 inspirational ideas for nature photography, with a focus on subjects you can find in your own backyard (or, at least, near your home!). The ideas are simple, but don’t let that fool you; many of the best nature shots are taken with the most basic of subjects.

(I also offer plenty of nature photo examples. That way, as you go along, you can see the potential each idea offers!)

Let’s dive right in, starting with:

1. Flowers and leaves

nature photography ideas orchid

If you’re looking for the perfect backyard nature photography idea, then consider shooting flowers and leaves.

As you’re likely well aware, flowers and leaves are everywhere, and they offer an endless variety of colors, shapes, and textures for you to photograph.

You could create a collection of shots based on a single color scheme, or you could experiment with different compositions by photographing as many different leaf or flower shapes as possible.

nature photography ideas

And try working with different lighting directions. Head out in the evening when the sun is low in the sky, then try to take some beautiful backlit shots that emphasize flower details and leaf veins:

backlit daffodils
backlit leaves

Then adjust your angle until you get some nice front light, which will help describe the subject in all its glory:

nature photography ideas

Flowers are seasonal, and in temperate zones, spring and summer offer the widest variety of subjects. There are still flowers to be found in winter, although you may need to look harder. Don’t be afraid to photograph dead flowers, and don’t forget that weeds, such as dandelions, are also beautiful!

nature photography ideas

As for leaves, you can shoot them year-round, though autumn does provide the best color spectrum.

nature photography ideas

2. Trees

Trees in any season are great nature subjects. That’s why I like to photograph trees year-round!

Trees in spring can look lush, and when you can find, say, a magnolia tree in full bloom, the flowers are icing on the cake! But bare trees in winter offer skeletal branches, which also make for great photography. (I sometimes like to convert these shots to black and white, and really boost that contrast, for a graphic effect.)

Nature photography ideas

Finally, I love to capture more intimate photos of trees in autumn, showing their full range of colors. Here, I often search for trees that are nicely arranged, then shoot them from a distance with a telephoto lens. I also recommend getting up close with a macro lens and creating a nice composition with the branches, especially when you can emphasize those autumn leaves!

3. Fruit, berries, and seed pods

nature photography ideas

When the summer flowers disappear, fruits and berries are nature’s way of providing for birds and animals throughout the colder months. And these subjects can provide plenty of opportunities for photographers, too!

Many berries and seed pods ripen toward the end of autumn, and they can look great when shot against leafy backdrops.

nature photography ideas

And in the winter, you can photograph red berries against white snow. Make sure to choose your exposure carefully as snow-filled scenes can cause problems for camera meters.

You can also photograph acorns, pine cones, and nuts. I’d recommend shooting cloudy days, which will help you emphasize lots of intricate details:

nature photography ideas
nature photography ideas
nature photography ideas

4. Water droplets

Photographers love to photograph raindrops on window panes, but did you know that it’s possible to combine the beauty of raindrops with the lush, verdant hues of nature?

Simply wait until a rain storm ends, grab a macro lens (or your closest-focusing lens), and head outside. Get low to the ground, and carefully observe leaves and grass for water droplets:

nature photography ideas

Make sure to keep the background uncluttered to avoid drawing attention away from the droplets. Try shooting with a wider aperture and adjusting your angle to create distance between the droplets and the background. Both of these techniques will increase background blur, which will deemphasize distracting features and create a beautiful bokeh effect!

droplets on sticks
nature photography ideas

5. Reflections

Nature is full of water, and while you can photograph water – or water droplets, as I discuss above! – on its own, you can also use it for its stunning reflections! Whenever you find still water of any type – a pond, a lake, even a puddle – you can count on it to have some sort of reflection, whether it’s nearby trees, mountains, reeds, or just the sky.

Nature photography ideas

I like to play with my angle, because getting down lower to shoot the water from the side or getting up high so I’m practically looking downward will give me completely different subjects.

I recommend coming back on different days and at different times, too, because different skies – and different levels of wind – will give you various effects! Also, you can play with incorporating only the reflection, or you can include the actual subject along with its reflection for a different look.

Mushrooms are ugly photo subjects, right? Not necessarily!

You see, while mushrooms might seem ugly at first glance, once you spend time studying them, you’ll find plenty of hidden beauty worth capturing.

You’ll generally need a macro lens – most mushrooms are tiny, after all! – and you’ll need to be prepared to get down in the dirt for the best images.

These mushrooms looked boring, but when I flattened myself against the ground and found the right light, they suddenly became interesting:

nature photography ideas

When is the best time to go mushroom hunting? I’d recommend heading out in autumn and winter, though you can also find good subjects just after a spring or summer rain. Look in damp, mossy places, on the sides of trees, and in log piles.

My personal favorites are the red toadstools with white speckles. They are evocative of fairy tales and magic, and their colors are incredible:

nature photography ideas
nature photography ideas

7. Shoot up and down

Don’t just photograph the nature subjects right in front of you; instead, go for a walk in the woods, and make sure you spend plenty of time looking up into the sky and down at the ground.

You can create beautiful tree-canopy images using a wide-angle lens:

tree against blue sky looking up
nature photography ideas

And you can have lots of fun just lying on the ground, shooting up at the branches. Bonus: It can be pretty relaxing!

Also, when photographing upward, notice how the light changes from early morning into late afternoon and evening. Branches contrast beautifully against a blue sky, and their look is in constant flux depending on the lighting.

nature photography ideas

Clouds can make beautiful subjects, too. Look for vertical cloud formations, white fluffy clouds, and those lovely soft colors around the edge of the clouds at dusk and dawn.

You can also turn your attention downward. The ground features a million microcosms; look among the moss, around the lawn, between paving stones, and in the fallen bark and leaves. Lie flat on your stomach and peer into another world. And don’t forget that close-up lens!

nature photography ideas

8. Sunrises and sunsets

Yes, it’s a bit cliche, but sunrises and sunsets are classic nature photography subjects, and you can shoot them from literally anywhere, including your backyard.

Nature photography ideas

Of course, not all days offer equally stunning sunrises and sunsets – the trick is to bring out your camera on those days when you have a mix of sun and clouds. The clouds will add plenty of color, and if you can ensure that the sky is partially clear, you can often prevent the cloud cover from ruining the light show.

You can also just regularly poke your head outside to check the quality of the sunrise and/or sunset, then rush out with your camera if things are looking good. (Sometimes, the fun is in the surprise!)

9. Black and white beauty

When we think about nature photography, we often imagine bright colors and stunning sunsets…

…but it’s possible to create beautiful black and white nature photos, so you definitely shouldn’t dismiss the idea.

Nature provides sculptural shapes and contrasting textures that make great black and white subjects. For instance, you can photograph succulents and cacti in harsh light, then watch as they become artistic abstracts after a quick black and white conversion.

nature photography ideas

Smooth pebbles, rough bark, snail shells, acorns, and pine cones all look fabulous in black and white, too. Look for intense, directional lighting, and don’t be afraid to push the contrast in editing:

nature photography ideas
When I converted this file to black and white in Lightroom, I played with the sliders in the B&W panel. The photo on the left has the Blue slider pulled all the way down to -100 to darken the sky. The photo on the right has the Blue slider set to 0.

10. Experiment with sun flare and haze

Nature photographers often obsess over perfect technique, but the truth is that you can capture stunning photos by embracing, rather than avoiding, issues like sun flare and haze.

Simply find subjects that are backlit – such as tree canopies in the middle of the day, or flowers at sunset – and capture some shots. Each time you take a photo, be sure to review it on your camera LCD to see whether you like the effect (it can be pretty hit and miss, but over time, you’ll get better at predicting your results).

nature photography ideas

It can often help to position the sun in the frame or just outside of it. You might also try positioning the main subject so the sun peeks out from behind its edges.

And for the strongest flare effects, make sure to remove your lens hood. That’s how I captured this image:

nature photography ideas

11. The night sky

Astrophotography has been gaining in popularity as of late, especially since phone manufacturers have increased smartphones’ night-sky photography capabilities. I don’t really recommend using a smartphone for the highest-quality images of the moon and stars, but you can take this approach if you like!

Nature photography ideas

Regardless, I always use a tripod for this type of work – otherwise, the resulting images will be useless due to camera shake – but if you don’t own a tripod, you can also stabilize your camera by placing it on a hard surface, such as a table or even the ground.

I also encourage you to experiment with a variety of compositions. For instance, if you use a longer lens and crop out everything but the sky, you’ll get one type of shot. But if you go wider and incorporate foreground elements into your frame, the images will look very different!

12. Snails, bugs, and spiders

This nature photography idea is one that you can follow from your backyard (or even from inside your house!).

Simply hunt around for spiders, ants, centipedes, bees, dragonflies, caterpillars, moths, butterflies, and snails. Then, when you find them, get down low, get close, and capture some amazing shots!

I’d recommend using a longer lens; that way, you can avoid scaring the subjects (and you can avoid getting too close yourself!).

And for especially creative shots, make sure to play around with different apertures and lighting effects.

13. Wildlife

Nature photography ideas

I’m going to be honest:

Compared to flower and leaf photography, photographing wildlife is hard.

For one, it requires specialized gear. The longer your lens, the better – and 300mm is generally considered a wildlife photography minimum.

Plus, it requires a lot of patience. You can spend long minutes or even hours waiting for subjects that never seem to appear.

If you’re willing to put in the money and effort, however, capturing wildlife can be a lot of fun!

I’d recommend doing some research into local wildlife hotspots. Then head out with your longest lens during the early morning and late evening. See what you can find.

Make sure you keep your shutter speed fast enough to freeze any action, and be sure to set your camera to its fastest burst mode setting.

14. Backyard birds

Nature photography ideas

Did you know that you can produce pro-level bird photos from your backyard? It’s true! Just set up some feeders, regularly add seed, and pretty soon, you’ll have some birds stopping by.

You can add in some branches as “natural” perches, then photograph the birds from your window – or, if you want to get really into it, you can set up a tent as a blind, wait a few days for the birds to get acclimated, then use it to capture frame-filling close-ups!

One quick bird photography tip: Pay careful attention to the light! If you can, shoot during golden hour, and position yourself so that your shadow is pointed at the bird to ensure plenty of nice detail.

15. Local landscapes

Nature photography ideas

Who says that you can’t do landscape photography near your home? Even if you don’t happen to live in a picturesque location – and let’s face it, that’s true for most of us! – you don’t have to travel far to create amazing landscape shots.

I like to capture landscape photos in nearby parks, and as long as you can find some nice woodland, wetland, or prairies nearby, you can do the same.

One trick here is to use a longer lens. While landscape photography is generally done with wide-angle glass, if you use a focal length in the 50-200mm range, you can get in tight to focus on the more intimate natural colors and patterns, like trees behind a beautiful pond, or cattails surrounded by falling snow.

And if you can’t get any good shots at first, persevere. The more you get to know your local parks, the more opportunities you’ll start to see, and the better your images will turn out!

16. Portraits in nature

Nature photography doesn’t have to feature only nature. It’s possible to combine nature scenes and human subjects for beautiful images:

nature photography ideas

Scout around for potential backgrounds. Look for a bank of flowers, a bed of autumn leaves, or just a green hedge.

Then wait until the light is right (a cloudy day is generally safe!), take your subject to the location, and do a fun photoshoot!

Pro tip: If you plan to shoot in a location with lots of colors, such as flowers or autumn leaves, pay attention to your subject’s outfit. Pick simple clothing without eye-catching patterns:

nature photography ideas

Nature photography ideas: final words

So there you have it: Plenty of ideas for beautiful nature photos, whether you like to capture landscapes, wildlife, or close-ups.

So no matter the seasons, get outside with your camera and try an idea or two! See if you can regain some of that creative spark. And at the very least, just try to enjoy the process.

Now over to you:

Which of these ideas do you plan to try first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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