Tips & Tricks for Outdoor Photography

Outdoor photography can be tricky, especially when trying to capture a great shot of a person and the environment they are in. The majority of my professional photo work is portraits of people that are taken outdoors. The two main elements that I need to get right before anything else are exposing my photos correctly and composing them in a way that the viewer sees my subject and their surrounding in the best light possible. So here are a few tips and tricks to make sure your outdoor shots the best that they can be.

Find a neutral tone to focus on. Just like a DSLR camera, your phone’s camera is going to decide how to best expose a photo based on the light metering it reads just before you press the shutter button. In this sweep panorama photo I took with my HTC One in Austin, Texas, I tapped the screen to focus on the gray road on the bridge and the camera balanced the exposure between the highlights in the sky and the shadows in the trees and the river. Had I focused on the sky, the clouds would have looked great, but anything below the horizon would have been extremely dark. Had I focused on the trees, then the sky would have been completely blown out.

Eric Krebs bridge in Austin Texas

Use your camera’s grid function and shoot in the “rule of thirds.” People much smarter than I am studied and determined that we as humans are more receptive to photos where the main subject isn’t positioned right in the middle of photo. Shooting in the “rule of thirds” positions the main subject off-center in the image and gives the viewer a more balanced shot of your subject and the environment they are in. This is especially true when shooting subjects outdoors. Notice in this picture of my son how he is positioned in the upper left of the photo. This would be a completely different picture if I had him smack in the center of the photo. To help, turn on the grid function in your camera settings to easily line up your subjects according to the rule of thirds and your photos will immediately take on new life.

Rule Of Thirds photo by Eric Krebs with the HTC One

Create a perspective that gives your viewer all the details. In this shot of my daughter walking along the stone ledge I give you, the viewer, a much more robust understanding of the environment we are in. By dropping down and placing the phone just above the stone patio, I create a depth of field gives so much more to the photo then if I took the photo from my normal standing position. In line with steps one and two, I focused on the neutral-colored stone in front of me to create an even exposure from the ground to the sky and positioned her in the upper left third of the photo.

Stone Ledge, HTC One photo by Eric Krebs

Look beyond the obvious. Daylight gives you a lot to work with when it comes to photography. Technical tips are great, but taking great photos is about being creative. Look for shadows, reflections, silhouettes, sun flares, and so much more. Sometimes, it is the imperfections of a photo that makes it so perfect.

Shadow, photo by Eric Krebs taken on the HTC One

Other Quick Tips

  • I always shoot at ISO 100 when shooting outdoors during daylight hours.
  • Reduce your contrast settings when shooting on a sunny day to help balance out the highlights and shadows.
  • If your subject is steady, try out HDR mode to balance your outdoor photographs.
  • Tony Chiang

    Please provide tips and tricks for shooting in macro mode. The macro on HTC One is horrendous. 8-10cm focus distance under macro mode and 8-10cm focus distance on normal mode, making either macro mode not working as intended or totally obsolete.

    If I move 1cm closer to the subject from its actual focus distance(8-10cm), it’s 10/10 guaranteed failed focus. My older Sensation has closer macro focus distance. Even the underpowered Sensation XL has far superior macro focus distance.

  • edijs benoit

    please push an update for camera to at&t already..

  • Billy Durr

    Very informative. Thanks.

    • EDKphotography

      Thanks Billy!

  • NightAngel79

    Great article

    • EDKphotography


  • abhijeet chandratre

    Simple but quite effective techniques.

    • EDKphotography

      Thanks Abhijeet!

  • Viggo

    Well I experience some rather dark Pictures like above… With my Nikon I get much lighter and more natural pictures. But I’ll give it a try. Still very happy with the ONE though! 😀

  • DeePo

    What about sharpness? I’ve lowered it one step and seen a little improvement, no more white/purple borders.
    Just wondering, using HDR I’ve noticed smoother lines with a very small loss of detail, does it automatically reduce sharpness, ore it’s just an effect of interpolation?
    I too agree about using ISO 100 for sunny days.