5 Tips to Better Compose Your Nature Travel Photos

Winding Path to Jack Longstreet's CabinAn Article By Catherine Cairns-OKeefe

You’re driving along in your RV and you see the most stunning scenery.

You find a safe place to stop. You get out your camera and snap away.

Everything is great. But when you look at your photos later, do you find yourself wondering why your photos don’t always justify how amazing the view is?

If yes, today’s photo tips can help you.

They’ll put you on the first step towards taking the types of photos that are so good, you could even sell them if you wanted. Many people do, in fact, sell their travel photos as royalty-free travel or royalty-free nature photos.

So how can you get started taking better pictures?

One way is learning how to compose your photos better. The composition is a way to arrange the main subject and elements in your picture – in a way that’s eye-catching and interesting to the viewer.

Here are five photo composition tips for your next RV trip:

1) Use natural surroundings to “frame” your picture

The framing technique is similar to the purpose of a real picture frame – it literally “frames” your image and draws people’s eyes to what the main subject is. Framing can add a creative effect to your photo. It can also help you remove unwanted elements such as a dull, overcast sky.

Take for instance this photo I took of a church. The sky was overcast. So I stood under a big tree to get this shot. The leaves hung above my head, but by positioning my camera correctly I was able to get the leaves into the shot and “frame” the church. Those leaves filled the space where a dull-looking sky was.

royalty free photos

You’ll notice the overall photo and the tree leaves are a bit dark though. I’ve learned more about editing since taking this photo. I was able to brighten the scene – including the leaves in editing recently. This helped me show a bit more texture in the leaves that are framing my image. Here is the difference:

royalty free photo tips

Now, in that church photo, there is a cross sculpture above the door. It’s hard to see in this picture. So this brings us to the next tip…

2) Get closer to your subject

The church photo (in tip #1) shows the architecture of the church quite well. But it’s easy to miss the beautiful cross sculpture above the church entrance. However, look at what happens when I get closer to the subject (which is the cross in this example)…

photo composition tips

To get this shot, I stood in front of the church entrance, pointed my camera up, and got this photo. I did use a zoom lens for this close-up. I use the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm VR zoom lens.

3) Use the classic guideline — the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is best used when you see scenery – and you want to show as much as possible – in an interesting way. The rule is simple: do not place your main subject in the centre of your photo.

So where does your subject go then? Imagine if you drew two horizontal lines across your image and two vertical lines – like I have on this royalty free desert photo. The four areas where the lines intersect (where I’ve marked an “x”) are all places where your main subject can go – or at least, close to those “x” marks.

This royalty free photo uses the Rule of Thirds extremely well. Look at how the desert buttes obey the Rule of Thirds. They are very close to two of the intersecting lines. Even the sky horizon obeys the Rule of Thirds, in that, it is not in the middle. (The yellow lines I added to this desert picture are to show you the best placements of where the sky horizon can go in your nature photos.)

I also like how the aging bark (or aging desert wood) is off-centre. Plus, it anchors the photo. Meaning, it helps connect me to the environment. I feel like I’m standing close to that bark, looking off into the distance – to see this magnificent desert landscape.

tips for better photos

4) Look for patterns and fill the frame

This royalty free farm photo is a good example of patterns. Farm land is something you’re likely to see as you drive on the highway in your RV. Just look at this pattern…

royalty free photo tips

The photographer filled the frame well, too. By this I mean, you don’t see any of the road where he or she stood to take the picture. It’s clear what this picture is – a fresh, healthy-looking crop – made even more interesting by the pattern. Even the horizon is near the top of the picture – obeying the Rule of Thirds (which you learned in tip #3).

5) Look for S-curves

An S-curve is a snake-like natural line – created from elements like winding roads and rivers – that help draw a viewer into your picture. I prefer to look for the letter “S” shape in a landscape. If I can see an “s-shape,” I feel it’s a good example of an S-curve. Here are a few examples (look for my yellow “s” shape in these royalty free nature photos).

This royalty free nature photo is a good example of an S-curve:
photo composition tips

Here is another royalty free nature photo that uses the S-curve well:
photo composition tips

I hope these tips can help you take better pictures on your RV trips. Just remember: they’re guidelines. They will help you improve your photos while you’re seeing amazing views on your travels. But always keep your creative spirit.

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