Outdoor Tips

5 Tips for Outdoor Lifestyle Photography

5 Tips for Outdoor Lifestyle Photography

Mat Shaw Western Rise

Photography and outdoor adventure have always been two things that I have been found of, but it wasn’t until about a 2 years ago that I decided to merge the two.

At that time I was in Nashville working full time at a gear shop, freelancing on music video shoots and shooting portraits. For me, outdoor lifestyle photography started out as a hobby. It wasn’t until I started getting out with my camera a lot that I really began to contemplate a career in this field.

Now, I am in no way the best at what I do, and I am still figuring it out day by day, but I wanted to share a couple of things that I have learned along the way that can increase your chances for successful imagery. Here are five things to consider when you’re outside with your camera.

Mat Shaw Western Rise

1) Understand the sun.

The sun is one of the most important things to consider when shooting outdoor photography. Capturing beautiful light and nailing exposure greatly increase your chances at a successful image. It is always better to nail exposure in the camera than to save it in post.

The easiest way to do this is to practice. Get outside at different times of the day, in different types of whether. Work on shooting into the sun and away from the sun. Learn what the sun does to your images at high noon versus sun set, or what a partly cloudy day does versus total cloudy cover. Exposure is all about practice and memory. Learning this will go along way and save you lots of frustration in post.

Mat Shaw Western Rise

2) Find the action.

I think one of reasons I made the switch from portraits to outdoor lifestyle was the fact that it felt more authentic. I liked the idea of just capturing people in action doing what they loved versus posing a model. Now don’t get me wrong, if I have an idea of a shot, I may have the person take a couple of passes until I nail it.

Mat Shaw Western Rise

Work on capturing the action. It can be anything from capturing the perfect loop in the air as the angler reaches to the far bank for a rise, people gearing up for a climb pulling draws out of their bags and flaking their rope, or something as simple as a bunch of friends sitting around, laughing and enjoying a beer. 

Mat Shaw Western Rise

3) Find unique angles and perspectives.

Nature offers so many different opportunities to get high above your subject, below them looking up, or to even shoot through things. Experiment with all of these. Try shooting close up, and also to put some distance between you and your subject as well.

Mat Shaw Western Rise

Matt Shaw Western Rise

4) Create your own style.

I spent forever comparing myself to other photographers that were better and more experienced than me. It was really discouraging when my images didn’t turn out like theirs. it wasn’t until I started to just focus on my photography that I really became excited with what I was doing. Be confident and keep practicing.

Mat Shaw Western Rise

5) Remember to put the camera down.

The great thing about outdoor lifestyle photography is that we get to be outdoors. Even when we do end up back inside, we get to relive our adventures forever through our imagery. However, don’t get too consumed with capturing the adventure that you forget to actually experience it in real time.

Shoot some shots until you get a few that you’re stoked on, and then put the camera away and join in on the party. The most important thing is to be present in the experiences unfolding around you. There’s always tomorrow to shoot more.


Words and photography by Western Rise ambassador Matt Shaw, 

 | mattshawcreative.com.

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