Photographing in National Parks: Six Tips to Keep in Mind

Natural Bridge Springbrook National Park.
Natural Bridge Springbrook National Park. Source: Shutterstock

America’s national parks are some of the most beautiful places on earth. Encompassing a wide range of ecosystems, the majesty of such places can be difficult to put into words. As a result, you are just as likely to see people taking pictures in these places as you are anything else.

Source: Kristi Blokhin/

No matter, if you are making a living or just making memories, shooting in national parks, can result in some stunning pictures.

That said, there are some things you will want to keep in mind to make your time there as smooth and productive as possible. For instance, it is wise to bring along the right gear, such as a tripod, a protective camera hard case, lenses of various focal lengths and the like.

Equipment aside, there are a number of other tips to consider as well, including:

1. Understand the Rules and Guidelines

The National Park Service has a variety of laws, policies and regulations that govern various forms of activity in national parks, including photography. Therefore, it is important to understand the latest rules on photography and filming before you find yourself in the middle of the park.

If you find anything confusing while conducting your research, it is best to call the park directly and ask clarifying questions.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that rules and guidelines laid out by the National Park Service are only applicable to national parks in North America. Thus, if you are traveling to a park outside of the U.S., you will need to check with your destination’s local park authorities.

2. Head Out Before Sunrise

When most folks are still tucked into their sleeping bags, the animals are busy roaming. Therefore, getting out before the sun rises promises to allow you to get a shot of some majestic creatures.

On the flip side of that coin, it is best to stay out late as well. Some of the best photographs are captured when the sun is low on the horizon. This is commonly known as the “golden hour” by photographers and tends to result in some stunning shots.


Source: Michael Andrew Just/

You can also stay out until after dark to get some low-light shots. Since many animals will come out as the darkness creeps in, you can get some really cool photos by turning your ISO up to make the camera more light-sensitive.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Bad Weather

Bad weather happens. Luckily for photographers, this can result in some incredibly dramatic shots. Therefore, don’t stop shooting when clouds start approaching. That said, this does not in any way mean that you should sacrifice your safety to get a good picture.

Your safety should be of the utmost importance.

That note aside, clouds, fog and lightning and other such events can all make for some incredible moments that you will want to get on film.

4. Snap Some People, Too

While many folks tend to think exclusively about landscapes and scenic views when photographing national parks, it can help to enhance a shot by getting a person in the picture as well. The reason for this is that it can help the viewer to imagine what it is like to stand before such a scene.

Additionally, incorporating people into shots can help to provide a sense of scale, thus conveying the enormity of the beauty being photographed. Just make sure they consent to have their photo taken beforehand.

5. Get Off the Beaten Path

While getting a person or two in a few shots can make for some great photos, national parks are often crowded places and you aren’t looking to photograph throngs of people.

Therefore, it is a good idea to venture into the backcountry where most others don’t venture. Truth be told, most park goers will stick to the same touristy areas of the park, which means that by hitting a trail and heading off in a different direction than the crowds, you can get some wonderful shots.

Source: Galyna Andrushko/

However, it is important to remember that when you are entering more secluded areas that you must be extremely careful and keep your safety in mind. Additionally, if you encounter any wild animals, keep your distance as they are, well, wild.

6. Enjoy Yourself

There are going to be parts of the day that are less-than-ideal for shooting photos. Be sure to take this time to set your camera down, soak in your surroundings, go for a hike and generally enjoy the park.

This is also a great time to rehydrate and grab something to eat. Therefore, be sure that you bring along beverages, snacks, a durable hard cooler and everything else you will need for your time in the park.

Capturing Your National Park Adventure

While there are plenty of other great tips for photographing national parks online, this list will provide you with a solid foundation for getting out there, taking some great shots and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Follow these tips next time you head out to capture the majesty of creation.

Also read: Beautiful Parks in Surrey BC

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