5 tips to taking a better outdoor photograph

03 October 2022

Landscape photographer, James Kerstan grew up in Tasmania, where he was spoilt for choice when it came to outdoor adventure and stunning backdrops for his developing passion for photography. 


James now works as a Professional Travel and Landscape Photographer for a long list of international and local clients, while still calling beautiful Tassie home. 


James has shared his top tips for capturing the perfect shot of  natural Australia in all its glory!




I’ve spent countless hours, weeks and months exploring Australia’s landscape and travelling the world seeking my next adventure. As a professional photographer, I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences along the way and have formed 5 general rules of photography that I like to keep in mind for every adventure.


Now I’m not going to talk about composition guidelines like the rule of thirds, camera settings or my favourite piece of gear, I’ll leave that for another time. I’m simply going to outline the top 5 rules I always try to keep in mind while I’m out exploring. And as a general disclaimer, these rules do not apply to everyone or every scenario. There are times when I break my own rules on purpose, as we all know rules are made to be broken.




See below a list of my ‘rules’, in no particular order;



1. Tell a story.

Make your photo interesting! Make it stand out so your viewer is left feeling as if they are at the location you’ve captured. This can be done by placing someone or something in the scene, leaving something out of the scene, focusing on one object, or having a different angle of your favourite place. If your photo tells a story it will naturally be a better photograph.



2. Shoot in the best light.

I struggled to do this at the start of my photography career and still struggle to this day. The best times to get amazing shots are the ‘golden hours’, usually requiring early morning and late night shoots. The ‘golden hours’ are the first hour of sunlight after sunrise and the last hour of sunlight before sunset. This can vary depending on your location, season or weather conditions. Sometimes the ‘golden hour’ can last a few hours and other times it can be as little as a few minutes (you’ll know it when you see it!). If you stick to the ‘golden hours’ of photography you’ll see a major improvement in your photos. Leave the midday light for exploring, resting and relaxing.



3. Be original, find somewhere different but interesting.

Don’t we all love that shot of Cradle Mountain at Dove Lake with the boat shed off to the right, lake to the left and mountain in the background? I love it too and encourage everyone to get out there and shoot what you love. But what looks even better is when I see someone who has found a new take on the same location, be different and try to challenge yourself to find something different.

I know from time to time scrolling down my social feed I’ll see a photo from a very popular spot and think, ‘wow that’s a great photo’, only to scroll down further to see the exact same photo taken by someone else from the same spot that looks just as good. I’ve been guilty of it and it’s a hard trap to get out of, but when you start to be original you’ll thank yourself later for it.


4. Keep it real.

Remember what the scene looks like, it’s really easy to get your photos on the computer and bump that contrast all the way up, while also upping the vibrancy and saturation. But remember if it looks natural it will go further. Now I’ll be the first to say that this rule is very subjective, as all art is. Do what you feel is right, if you love the look of the photo you’ve just shot/edited, keep it don’t delete it! Everyone has different eyes and this is what makes you separate from everyone else.



5. Have fun. 

This is the one rule that has to be followed for every photograph, no exception. There’s a lot to be said with this, what’s the point in going out there and embracing the Australian landscape if you’re not enjoying it? If you’re having the time of your life you’ll naturally convey the emotion that you’re experiencing through your photograph, and you’ll want to go out there and get more photos in the process.


This should go without saying but none of these rules matter if you’re not out there exploring, remember to get outside and have an adventure!




For more stunning photography follow James on Instagram or visit his website.

Instagram: james.kerstan 


You may also like Tasmanian Micro-Adventure With Photographer James Kerstan.


To enter Merrell’s Photo Comp visit https://www.merrellaustralia.com.au/