Having great photos of your park or park event can help you attract volunteers, build your social media profile, strengthen your funding proposals and make your posters really pop. 

Here are some steps to help you take awesome shots that show your park in the best possible light.

Ready, aim, plan:

Before you bring out the camera, ask yourself – what story are you trying to tell with your photo? Is it about the natural beauty of your park, the sense of community, or the fun atmosphere at an event? Thinking about the story first will help you come up with a short mental list of images you want to capture. Before you head to the park, write a shot-list based on the story you want to tell. It’s also useful to have a shot list so you don’t forget any important photos. For example, if your City Councillor shows up, it would be great to grab a snap for the local papers. 

Compose the shot:

  • Rule of thirds: Beginner photographers commonly place the subject smack in the middle of the photo. Frame photos using the rule of thirds: Mentally divide your image into thirds along the longer edge, i.e., when shooting a horizontal picture, the imaginary lines dividing the photo into thirds run vertically. Place your subject—person, bunch of wildflowers, animal, whatever—in the right or left third of the frame. Similarly, do not compose a photo with the land-sky horizon cutting straight through the middle. Instead, give the sky one-third of the picture.
  • Declutter: Take a moment to remove bags and any unnecessary objects from the shot. Keep your shots simple to keep the focus on your subject.
  • Line things up: Steal an idea from the painting world and use natural lines, like pathways or rivers, to draw the viewer’s eye into the image.


Think Sideways:

  • Get up high or down low: Standing and pointing your camera gives your photo the usual perspective on a scene that we see with our eyes. Crouch down low, get up on a rock or bench, or take a few steps up a hill to get above your subject. This can make your image more interesting, help create a sense of scale and reveal more of the background of your image.
  • Consider details: When you are looking for locations, keep your eyes peeled for beautiful details. Sometimes you just need a small wall, shrub or doorway to create the perfect photo. The same rule applies to photographing people. Sure, it’s good to take a group shot, but sometimes a facial expression or hand gesture tells a powerful story.
  • Embrace bad weather: The sun can’t shine every day. And, we think that’s a good thing. Don’t be afraid to take photos in the rain or snow and capture how the seasons impact the look and feel of the park. Use inclement weather to make your photos interesting.


Make light work for you:

  • Put the light source behind you: Use natural light when you can and always shoot with light behind you, not facing into the light.
  • Embrace shade: Sunshine is a great natural light source, but it can throw harsh light and shadows, particularly in the middle of the afternoon. Try taking photos in the shade to soften the shadows.
  • Use the magic hour: One hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset is known as the “Magic Hour”. During these times the sun is low in the sky, which produces a soft light. One thing to keep in mind while shooting during “magic hour” is how fast the light changes- you definitely want to factor in any set up time to ensure you take advantage of magic hour.

Aim for quality over quantity:

Have you ever scrolled through dozens of photos after an event, not finding any that you like? Sometimes we can be focused on capturing everything, at the expense of spending more time on setting up a few great photos. Spend the time upfront and your future self will thank you!

Get permission and share:

Share event photos on social media. Consider printing a great photo and using it in a thank you card for key supporters/sponsors/volunteers. If you’re going to use a photo for promotion, don’t forget to get permission from the people in the photo.

Photo Credit: Carlos Felipe Pardo