Landscape Photography

3 Tips to Create Stunning Backyard Photography Images

June 21, 2020

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For various reasons, many of us are not able to be on the road as much as full-time landscape photographers. I have landscape photographer friends who lead workshops.  With that being the bulk of their business, they are traveling sometimes 50-75% of the year.  For the longest time, I focused on traveling to photograph grand landscapes. I wanted to travel, experience, eat, and soak up all the different cultures and locations. However, between Covid-19 and family obligations, my trips are much more selective and focused these days. This additional time at home has afforded me a lot more downtime to focus on my immediate surroundings and backyard photography.

Nature and Bird Photography Blog Post Cover Image
American Goldfinch captured from my window.

The irony is that I find myself picking up my camera more often and really having the time to focus on creativity.  At first, I really wasn’t feeling inspired. I’ve seen my backyard a thousand times before. Honestly, it is much easier to jump out of a tent or hotel bed at 5 am.  At home, I’m much more likely to hit snooze or tell myself I’ll get to it later because I have to do the 100 other things on my to-do list.

However, at some point during all this time at home, I started to really focus on the light, the flora, the fauna, and how things could look when the weather elements aligned.  Then after a morning or two of pushing myself to get out of bed early, I captured a few backyard photographs that I really liked. The ones that make you excited to start the editing process. That was all it took to spark a renewed passion for backyard photography.  If you’re not so sure how to get your mojo back, try these 3 tips to help get your creative juices flowing.

1. Bring the Tripod for Backyard Photography

It’s really easy to go into your backyard and leave the tripod in the closet. Do you really need it? Is it going to make that much of a difference?  Well, if you are still shooting nature backyard photography, then yes, it is going to make a big difference in the final product.

To start, I spent a few days simply playing with my camera. I wasn’t planning on really using any of the photos professionally.  Lo and behold, the minute I saw a few images in Lightroom, I knew I would have to go back and reshoot them with a tripod.  That desire for a crisp, razor-sharp focus in the focal area of the image is ingrained in landscape photographers.  For some scenes, shooting hand-held simply will not suffice. Moreover, recreating that same scenario with similar light and conditions isn’t easy. So pretend you’re on a mini vacation and drag that tripod outside.

3 Tips for Stunning Backyard Photography by Landscape Photographer Chrissy Donadi
Rose leaves after a passing rain shower taken with a macro lens and tripod.

2. Pull Out the Telephoto Lens

If you have one, grabbing a macro lens is often the first instinct. A macro lens really does make investigational fun for backyard photography.  You can make even make weeds look pretty.  And to be fair, I use my macro equipment quite a lot in the backyard.

Although, of late, my favorite photos have been taken with either my 70-200mm f/2.8 or my 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.  It has given me a fresh perspective of looking at my backyard.  I’ve literally had to take a step back and focus on finding interesting patterns in the leaves, the pines, and the flowers.  So give it a try. I mean, you’re only hiking from your front door to the yard. And you’re already lugging your tripod, you might as well mount a heavy lens to it.

The telephoto lens will also lend to lens compression. Because we tend to stand farther away from the subject with longer lenses, it gives the viewer the impression that distant objects are larger than reality. As a result, it gives the appearance that the background has pulled in closer to the subject. If your background seems distracting, keep lens compression in mind. By stepping back, you can isolate your subject against a single element in the background and simplify the background clutter. As you move your camera farther away from the subject, the foreground and background will appear closer together. This technique is great to create intimacy within the composition.

Nature Photography of a Eastern Grey Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel taken with telephoto lens at 400mm

3. Try Various Creative Techniques

The absolute best thing about backyard photography is that you can slow down, take your time, and really focus on exploring new techniques. If it doesn’t work one day or you aren’t feeling in the mood, you can always come back! For someone who has spent so much time on the road with the pressure to get the shot, this is exhilarating! I can come back day after day or wait for the light conditions to be perfect to capture my image.

For example, you can try panning with flowers or shrubs. I love experimenting with the shoot-thru technique on all the flora in the garden. Sometimes it’s a complete fail. Other times, you end up with something truly unique and artsy. It’s great to feel that rush after clicking the shutter when you explore and finally find a composition that works. That excitement of knowing you captured something amazing is still just as good at home as on the road. And the best part, the hike home is easy and you get to sleep in your own bed that night!

Shoot-thru technique of a pine tree along my driveway.

I hope some of these tips inspire you to spend some time outdoors and rediscover your surroundings. Best of luck with exploring some backyard photography and happy photographing!

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Fine art nature and landscape photographer, speaker, and Lightroom educator.

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