Photography tips for the outdoors and hiking

Photography tips for the outdoors and hiking

During our Snugpak Ambassadors meet up, I shared some photography tips with the other ambassadors when it comes to the outdoors and using your mobile phone.
If done well, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a phone shot or the camera.*

*To a degree, phones have limitations in zoom and low light situations but following a handful of tips can improve the quality and make it comparable to that of a camera.


Don't shoot in auto - Go manual and take back control.
Especially in bright light. You're phone/camera doesn't know what is best all the time. You can recover a lot of 'lost data' using post production which you can use free editing apps such as Adobe Lightroom for iPhone and Android.
It is easier to recover shadows, rather than highlights so under expose and recover later.
With Adobe Lightroom you can unlock the power of ‘RAW’ with your phone, this will give you a much larger file with more data to edit and recover shadows, highlights and push beyond the limitations of a standard phone jpg file. However, it is still no match to an actually camera. A phone’s zoom and shutter speed is the snagging point but I’m sure we will see major advancements to come.

Crop in, move closer, don't go wide angle.
As nice as it is to see the full landscape, it doesn't always do it justice. Look for something smaller in the foreground. For example, scrap metal to frame an element of the mountains or patterns in the sand, flowers. Something to put in the foreground or frame the subject and connect you with the landscape.

Orientation - Not everything has to be landscape.
Its easy to only stick to landscape but in many instances shooting portrait will get more in the foreground and help position you in the surrounding landscape.

For example; Astro photography, some of the best situations have been in portrait to frame the tent, mountains and get the most stars/milkyway in one shot.
And if it doesn't fit, shot a "panoramic" making a square frame in portrait so you get the best of both worlds. But don't go over board with the panoramic mode. You don't want a long letter box shape with a little bit of water in the bottom, sky at top and tiny trees/mountains in the centre. Less is more as they say.

Vanguard Vesta Mini Tripod

A tripod is your best friend.
Tripods come in all sizes and weights. Like you, I am weight and pack size concious so use the smallest and lightest options possible. From a small pocket tripod which is perfect for timelapses or behind the scenes with the mobile phone to a larger travel tripod which can mount a camera or phone.

The tripod I showed you yesterday is called a Vesta Mini and the other I was meant to show (Left in the car... Sorry) Is the Veo 2Go.

Glowing tents at night.
Using a head torch can give you bright spots on the tent which looks odd so use your water bottle or bladder to defuse the light. Another great option is your mobile phone, leave it unlocked and turn the brightness up full and let your camera do the rest. You can expose for the stars and not have your tent looking like a lighthouse and spoiling the shot.

Keeping batteries safe and warm.
Its annoying when you go to a phone, camera or anything electronic and it has died from the cold or wet.

You may already know but don't leave your electronic items in exterior pockets. If a midlayer has pockets, put them in here. If not inside your rucksack - The Snugpak Impact fleece makes the perfect camera/electronics protection in cold weather, also makes a very good pillow!

If in extreme colds sub -10 degrees, use the hand warmers which last for 12 hours. They come in small packs, weigh nothing and cheap - Amazon UK pack of 20 for £8

Dealing with extreme light.
Sunrise and Sunset are often referred to as the best conditions and light. Its soft, colourful and just a great feeling to be up and watch a sunrise in the mountains regardless if its for a photo or not.

Your phone will struggle with the extremes in dark and light here but to salvage something in only this method, use the tripod and take multiple photos.
One for the dark areas, another for the light and finally a third for the standard (mid tones/no difference in control) and merge these three together to create a HDR.

The next best option and what I personally use is a camera, rather than smart phone and a series of graduated filters or bracketting.

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