Tips to Help Improve Your Hiking Photography
To help you make the most of the hiking season, let’s talk about 10 awesome tips to improve your hiking photography.
The sun is back, the snow has melted, and there are more places than ever to go hiking – it’s summer! After a long few months of being restricted by snowy mountains, the wait is over, and the hiking season has officially begun.
For photographers, the start of summer also means more places to go with your camera. More trails to explore, mountains to climb, and adventures to be had.
The trouble is that hiking with all your camera gear tends to pose a unique set of challenges.
So without further ado, let’s get on to 10 ideas to help you find the perfect shot, stay more organized, and still enjoy the adventure. These tips are a must for any hiking and photography fanatics!
#1Focus on capturing the experience
What’s the main reason people like to go hiking? For the view, of course! But too many people leave their camera packed away until they reach the top, only to snap a photo of the final lookout. Don’t let yourself get stuck in that bad habit!
When you leave your camera packed away for the majority of the hike, you miss countless photo opportunities. What about those moments of struggle grinding up a steep trail? Or that beautiful section with the perfect light?
When you stay in the mindset of “the best photos are at the top” you really limit your photography
Some of the best candid moments are found during the actual hiking part of your adventure.
Candid moments are perfect to showcase what it felt like to be there with your subject. Think of your camera as the extra person (aka your audience) in your group just tagging along for the ride. What would they want to see to make them feel like they’re part of the experience?
These shots don’t have to be all smiles and rainbows either. Even when the going gets tough, get your camera out and see what things you can capture. Those are the moments that will always more enjoyable to look back on later, compared to just the typical viewpoint photos.
#2Bring a tripod to capture some self-portraits
Perhaps you love doing solo hiking trips. If that’s the case, bring a tripod on your hike so you can take some self-portraits!
Setting up your camera with a delayed shutter (use the 10-second timer) is the perfect way to play photographer and model at the same time. When you’re alone, self-portraits open up more possibilities as to what you can photograph.
Then you can never use this excuse, “This shot would be perfect if a person was standing right there.” With the help of a tripod, you can easily frame the shot exactly as you want, while also being in the photo.
#3Use a holster for easy camera access
A camera holster or camera clip is one of the most useful photography accessories for hikers. These holsters clip onto your backpack strap and securely mount your camera in front of your chest.
This way, you can keep your hands free while still having quick access to your camera.
Nothing’s more annoying than seeing the perfect shot but having to unload half your backpack just to get to your gear. Using a camera holster completely solves this problem.
Two great options for camera holsters are the Cotton Carrier G3 Strapshot or the PeakDesign Capture Clip. Both are worthy candidates and will keep your camera secure no matter what terrain you face!
#4Wait for golden hour whenever possible
If you want to put in all the work to hike somewhere, why not get the best light possible?
When you have the time, aim to arrive at the top just before golden hour. Nothing compares to a sunset or sunrise in the mountains, and it’s nearly impossible to get a bad photo at this time of the day.
To plan for golden hour, consider the recommended time to hike the trail versus your fitness level. Trail websites like All give relatively accurate time estimates for thousands of hiking trails near you. They’re a useful reference to work from if you aren’t sure where to look!
Next, find out when golden hour will take place. Remember, this occurs twice a day – the hour before sunset and just after sunrise. If you show up right at the time of sunset, you’ll have already missed the show!
Try using a free web app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris to get accurate information for golden hour at any location. Another great app is Photo Pills. It’s not free (under $10) but it does many things really well like sunset/sunrise times, when the Milky Way is visible, Moonrise, etc.
Just remember it will be dark heading down after taking photos at sunset. Be sure to pack a headlamp and stay safe.
#5Spend the night out
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, pack your bags and head out for the night. Camping in the backcountry provides a more memorable experience while offering more time for you to take photos.
Since you’re spending the night, you can see both the sunset and sunrise from an epic vista.
After you set up camp, grab your camera and explore around the area. Check out places you wouldn’t have the time or energy to do during a day hike. You’ll be amazed by how many hidden lookouts, viewpoints, and photo opportunities you’ll encounter.