Whether it’s a youthful sapling or an old and sturdy oak, a tree is one of the most accessible and compelling subjects for photography. Here’s are four ways new and seasoned photographers can challenge their craft with tree portraiture.

Capture Scale

Image by Shishka4

Even if a tree doesn’t come close to scraping the sky, its basic structure gives you opportunity to play with scale and capture the tree in a unique way. Point your camera upward to photograph a large canopy, or get low to the ground to capture chunky, gnarled roots. You can also aim at the magnitude of a whole forest, using a long lens to focus on many tall, skinny trunks that might look insignificant on their own, but when photographed together look dense and commanding.

Make a Frame

Image by Kayo

Many trees with overhanging branches or long, draping leaves look great not only as the subject of photo, but also as the frame. Create a border around your main subject with a leafy branch that stretches over the ceiling of a photo, or a tree trunk off to the side. This natural frame will ground the composition of your photo and give it a true storybook appeal.

Play with Shadows and Light

Image by Edward-Ervin

Light is twisted and reflected as it peeks through the canopies and trunks of trees, making the forest an excellent place to play with shadows and light. Backlit leaves will glow with warmth, especially in the autumn months. In the winter, sheets of sunlight are cast against the stark landscape, leaving thick columns of light and shadow. If you’re looking for a particularly moody image, wait until sunrise or sunset, turn off the flash, and photograph the silhouette of a single tree against a colorful sky.

Find a Unique Subject

Image by Targn Pleiades

Trees can be captured in their entirety, or as many smaller components. A web of strong roots, a lacy canopy of leaves, a rough textured bark — these are all candidates for macro photography. Before you shoot, study the tree to determine its most interesting characteristics, paying attention to color and texture. It’s also helpful to think about editing as you shoot — certain characteristics might look flat in the original photo, but with some color adjustments in post production, they can take on an unexpected look.

Nature is always lending itself to great photography. Learn more about capturing the nature around you with this article on photographing wild animals; inspire your design with this article about the organic colors and textures of nature.

Top image by Edward-Ervin