10 Professional Outdoor Photographers Share Their Photography Advice

A successful outdoor photographer has many years of experience of learning their photography techniques and style that leads to their work being elevated to the next level of becoming a professional. Whether their focus is finding beautiful landscape compositions in unique places or hanging off a wall in Yosemite taking photos of world-class climbers, success and great images takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

We asked 10 professional outdoor and landscape photographers to share their photography advice and tips with our readers and here are their responses. Hopefully these words of wisdom and general insights from those who have found success as a professional will help further your own photography aspirations.

Chris Burkard

monument valley
“The most important aspect of success is the desire to want to do something good with your work. Make sure you have a mission statement that all your work can live behind and it will make those long hours, never-ending flights, and cold nights worth it. That is all there really is to it. If you don’t have a purpose, other than collecting a paycheck, you will slowly, but surely burn out.”
– Chris Burkard (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Grant Ordelheide

eichorn pinnacle
“Creating meaningful landscape photos takes time, patience, and hard work. For the best photographers, the landscape is more than just a subject. Spend time in nature and develop a personal relationship with the wild places you are trying to photograph. Having that connection not only makes the trips more meaningful and enjoyable, but it will show through in your work.”
– Grant Ordelheide (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Jack Brauer

Bluebird Lone Eagle
“Successful landscape photos capture not only a special scene but also a memorable moment in time when the light and weather conditions align to elevate the scene beyond the ordinary. To increase the odds of being in the right place at the right time, a photographer can study topo maps and astronomical apps, and watch the weather forecasts to time their outings on the edges of stormy weather when the most dramatic conditions are likely to occur. But most importantly, simply spending more time outside is the number one way to witness and photograph extraordinary moments, and the best way to do this is by getting out camping and backpacking to really immerse oneself in nature. After a few days away from roads and unplugged from civilization, your mind has the chance to calm down and soak in the surroundings in a much deeper way, which I believe is conducive to more meaningful and unique photography as well as personal well being. These experiences surrounding our photography are just as important as the photos themselves, if not more so.”
– Jack Brauer (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Mark Denney

Jordan Pond
“The most powerful thing I’ve learned while shooting landscapes is that image isn’t everything. This genre can be extremely calming and therapeutic when the sole focus is not on the end result, rather the overall process of creating the image. Shooting landscapes allows me to slow myself down and enjoy each step of the creative journey. My happiest of places is when I locate that ideal composition, camera settings are dialed in and all that’s left to do is wait for that perfect moment – this is what it’s all about.”
– Mark Denney (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Guy Tal

winter trees guy tal
“With so much of the discourse around photography focused on tools, techniques, and visual gimmickry, and so little attention given to topics relating to creative expression, many end up seeking their style in obvious visual effects or feats of technology, rather than in expressing their own sensibilities—the very thing that makes them unique human beings—in their work. When it comes to personal style, too many photographers spend too much time worrying about the style portion and not enough time nurturing the personal aspects of their work.”
– Guy Tal (Website, Facebook)

Ted Hesser

fisher towers by ted hesser
“In my opinion, photography is as much about creativity and technical skills as it is about life choices. Those who succeed tend to structure their lives around photography. This implies sacrifice. For me, this has meant leaving a stable career in cleantech and moving into a sprinter van to travel full-time as a photographer. There are myriad ways in which life choices can create a structural advantage for quote ‘being a photographer’. The point is that it’s an important part of the equation that can easily be overlooked. If you love something enough, your going to have to make sacrifices for it.”
– Ted Hesser (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Rich Bacon

Elk Lake Cabin Sunrise
“And one of my favorite quotes, although simple and from my childhood, comes from Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a good reminder to be adventurous like a kid when exploring our beautiful world and also a reminder to not take photography too seriously: ‘It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy. Let’s go exploring!'”
– Rich Bacon (Website, Instagram)

Colby Brown

iceland summer
“Learn to appreciate the idea of failure. Sadly most of western society has been taught that failure is a negative experience…something to be embarrassed by. In reality, life (and business) works differently. Nearly all success stories you see out there in the photo industry are built on a string of failures that allowed the photographer to learn and grow from. If you aren’t willing to let yourself fail, you can’t expect to achieve much success in this industry.”
– Colby Brown (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Pete Alport

tumalo falls
“I get asked this question a lot: what advice can you give me to make it as a photographer? My answer is always the same: passion is priority, you have to be driven by passion each and every day. Don’t go shooting what everyone else has shot, get creative, explore, try and reinvent the wheel.”
– Pete Alport (Website, Facebook, Instagram)

Jerry Dodrill

lake tahoe
“Magic hour, the half an hour before and after sunset or sunrise, is often cited as the best time to take landscape photos. I can’t disagree, but in reality, my favorite time of day is during the deep blue light that occurs 45 minutes to an hour after the sun has set. As it gets darker the stark contrast of daylight continues to reduce until the light is flat and buttery. Exposure times become long, an effect which works well to smooth rough waters like those seen here at Sand Harbor along Lake Tahoe’s east shore after a windy summer evening. With the increased exposure times, objects that are otherwise lost to the naked eye become visible below the water’s surface.”
– Jerry Dodrill (Website, Facebook, Instagram)