How To Take Better National Park Photos – An Introduction

You spoke, and we listened! Earlier this year we posted a survey about how to take better national park photos. We know how important it is to capture your vacation memories. We also know how frustrating it can be to get a photo ‘just-right.’ That’s why we’re teaming up with National Park Patch Lady, Sandra Ramos, for some lessons on how to take better national park photos! Sandra has been featured on our list of Top National Park Instagram Accounts to Follow. Right now you can see her photos on display at an exhibit at the Biscayne National Park Dante Fascell Visitor Center Gallery. Check out today’s introduction post to find out about the topics Sandra’s going to cover in our series:

Sandra Ramos, the National Park Patch Lady

Have you ever looked at photos from your favorite National Parks and thought, “why can’t I take shots like that?” 

I’m Sandra Ramos, some of you may know me through my Instagram feed, National Park Patch Lady.

I’m a road tripping photographer with a passion for telling visual stories of our National Parks. Of the 419 park sites, I’ve photographed 185 of them, but still have a long way to go. For my day job, I’m the Director of Education for Fort Worth Camera, in Texas.

The awesome folks here at Park Chasers have asked me to help out those who may be photo-challenged with a few blog posts including tips on different types of photography in our national parks, and I’m happy to oblige.

national park photography collage in different locations

How I got started photographing the parks

My journey to photograph our national parks really began with a trip to Gettysburg in 2012, where I fell in love with our public lands. Some of my favorite parks include White Sands National Monument, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Everglades National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Cumberland Island National Seashore. 

In an effort to engage more people to understand and protect our history (both political and natural), I took up an Instagram handle, and the rest is… history.

What’s In My Camera Bag?

What do photographers love more than taking photos? Gear! Later in this series, we’ll have a whole post dedicated to gear, but for now I’ll just show and tell my personal stuff.

national park camera gear

My gear bag consists of various types of items, but I do have my go-to favorites. I carry two cameras (Olympus OM-D E-M10 mII and the new EM1X), tripods of various styles, circular polarizers, neutral density filters, a GoPro and, occasionally, my Rolleiflex film camera.

Remember, photo gear doesn’t have to be expensive, but you do have to know how to use what you have in order to get great shots. There are great resources online – just google your camera type or invest in a basic course from a site like CreativeLive to get a handle on your equipment.

About the “How to Take Better National Park Photos” Series

Some of the topics I’ll cover in the upcoming posts include:

  • Things to pack in your camera bag to help you get the best shots
  • How to take better national park landscape shots 
  • How to take night photos in a national park
  • A National Park Photography Bucket List, including a list of scenes/locations everyone should capture
  • What you need to know about national park photography, including permits, habitats, rules, and etiquette.

I’ll reach out to friends and other professionals in the field and get their perspectives (so you don’t just have to take my word for it!) Hopefully when we’re through, you’ll feel confident to take some great travel shots while out on the trails.

national park photography walking on the trail

Here are some general tips for you to think about:

Tip #1: If you’re shooting with a digital, there is no reason for you not to take the shot.

Sure, there are two types of photos, a snapshot, and the photograph. The first is the quick snap to remember what you saw, a quick moment, or another photo without much thought. And there is nothing wrong with them – we all take snapshots.

A photograph, on the other hand, is a well-thought-out, artistic expression of a scene that makes you yearn to take that shot. Digital SD cards for your camera are relatively inexpensive, so get a bunch and just take the shot! Your photography won’t get better if you’re not shooting.

Tip #2: Don’t buy the gear because someone else has it.

Think about what you want to shoot and invest in the gear that you’ll use. The best camera is the one you have on you, and if that’s a point and shoot, so be it. Learn all the functions of the camera you can and use it. Ask a professional at your local camera store about their suggestions and take the time to do your research. This will save you a lot of time and money.

Have questions in the meantime?

Feel free to drop me an email at sandra @ nationalparkpatchlady. com, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!

To sign up to receive all of Sandra’s “How to Take Better National Park Photos” posts in the series, click the image below:

Note:  Some of the links above are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases from these and other items from support this site. To see our full disclosure statement, click here. We appreciate your support and rely on it to continue our Park Chasing adventures!



Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 130/423
Next Stop: @hawaiivolcanoes


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