Photographer Jenny Nichols in action capturing the beauty of the forest around her.
Photographer Jenny Nichols in action capturing the beauty of the forest around her. Credit: Morgan Heim.

NEXT TIME YOU VENTURE into the woods, be sure to take your camera: American Forests’ annual Forests in Focus photo contest is back! Open to amateurs and seasoned professionals alike, the contest celebrates the wonder of trees, from those in large forest landscapes to city parks and streets.

But before you head out, Colorado-based professional photographer Jenny Nichols offers her tips on documenting nature and capturing the beauty of forests:

  • One of the main challenges while photographing in a forest is the dappled light. The shadows and highlights make for a tricky exposure. But there are ways to work around that problem. Here are a few tips:
    • Keep a shallow depth of field. This allows you to have a smaller section of the forest in focus, thus increasing your chances of bringing the entire subject into focus. The soft background or circles of confusion that occur around the sharp part of the image can be beautiful.
    • If you want a wider shot, place your subject in either full shade or full sun.
    • Use a flash or reflector to even out light on your subject.
    • Embrace the dappled light and get creative with mood and story. What does it say if half of your subject’s face is in a shadow?
  • Something that is very cool about photographing in a forest is the endless layers. Have fun with depth of field!
  • Even in a peaceful forest, there is much happening that eludes our sight and hearing. The trees, plants and animals that make up the ecosystem are very busy. Bring a macro lens to get up close to some of those tiny features and creatures.

For more information about the Forests in Focus contest, see