The Perfect Shot

Preparing for the notorious vacation slideshow hangs over every vacationer's head. Whether shooting for a slideshow or Instagram, opportunities to capture unforgettable images of the breathtaking mountain landscape, a majestic bull elk and cascading waterfalls abound in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Read our photography tips below, curated by local professionals, before pointing your lens toward the region's amazing wildlife and natural wonders. Want more help? Book a photo safari with one of our talented, experienced photographers.

Nature Photography 101
  1. Learn the Rules: We all know rules are meant to be broken, but knowing them in the first place can certainly help you break them well. For example, the ‘rule of thirds' says the focus of the image should be at the cross-section of the vertical and horizontal third dividing lines.
  2. Be Familiar with Your Equipment: Whether you are using a state-of-the-art camera/lens combo or the latest HDR app on your smartphone, get to know it before your trip - or at least on your way to Estes. Read the manual (or the app info), experiment with various lighting/settings/subjects and play with the results in Photoshop (or Instagram).
  3. Get to Know Your Subjects: Whether it is a crash course at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center or months of research on YouTube, get to know more about the animals you may encounter. The better you can predict their behavior and reactions, the better you will know when, where and how to get the perfect wildlife shot. This rule goes for your friends and family as well.
  4. Be Aware of the Light: Light is always important in photography, but when outdoors you may have the advantage of using the time of day to accentuate your subject. With wildlife, you may have time to slowly, quietly move around the subject to find the right lighting angle. For mountain landscapes it may be more about elevation than perspective.
  5. Find the Subject: This may sound obvious, but often isn't easy. You may know you want to photograph that bull elk, but getting his face and antlers at the right angle will be the challenge. Try several zoom levels to get all options - you can decide which one's the best later.
  6. Consider the Subtle: Putting the subject in the center of the image might seem like the logical approach, but perhaps making an elk part of the landscape would have a greater impact. Or, try capturing the profile or silhouette of that mule deer against the mountain sunrise. For landscapes, look for reflections or shadows to make your image unique.
  7. Be Patient & Fast: At times, the more pictures you take, the more likely you are to get the perfect shot - especially in high-action or high-speed situations like that fishing bald eagle. On the flip-side, you need to be patient and wait for just the right time to start, or stop, shooting.
  8. Love Nature More Than the Shot: You'd love to take home a memory card full of award-winning photos. Just remember that the land and animals you are exploring are wild, and would like to stay that way. So remember to pack it in and pack it out, be respectful of their habitats, and to back off when you see danger signs. Our wild animals are actually wild and can be dangerous if you get too close or forget to pay attention to their reactions.
  9. Don't be Afraid to Get Dirty: To get the most magical shots, you may be required to crawl on the ground, wade in the marsh or lean across the car into your kid's ice cream cone. These are the prices we pay. Get over fact, love it! Your slideshow will be much better with a few tragic tales to go with it.
  10. Savor the Moment: Sometimes we get so caught up in capturing the perfect photo that we forget that there is beauty. Don't spend so much time looking through the lens (or touch screen) to notice the great views you might be missing - like the ones of your family.
More on Wildlife

Peruse our Wildlife Watching section to get to know the animals you may encounter while visiting the village of Estes Park or the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park - a good first step to wildlife photography.