Quick Tips for Better Yellowstone Photos

Learn the golden rules to taking great photos of geysers, wildlife, and landscapes.

1. Best Time to Shoot in Yellowstone Park

Pre-dawn, mid-morning and late evening until after dark, in any season, is the premier time to take photographs. Yellowstone animals tend to be more active during these times and the lighting is best.

2. Best Composition

Remember the rule of thirds. Have your subject occupy one third of your frame.

3. Taking Photos of Yellowstone Animals

You don’t need the big lens. 300 mm and below are enough unless you’re shooting dangerous animals.

4. Taking Landscape Photos

Use a focal length setting of 10mm up to 300mm on your wideangle, telephoto or all-in-one zoom lens and put a subject in the landscape to capture the sense of place with the animal or subject in its environment.

5. Optimal Summer Photo Conditions

In June and July, optimal photography conditions in Yellowstone are a blue sky with clouds. If you’re out early, dawn often creates a magenta sky with red and orange clouds.

6. Be Patient

When shooting photos in the outdoors and in a natural wonderland like Yellowstone Park, patience is a must. It’s definitely a waiting game.

7. Don’t Shoot With the Sun Behind You

Contrary to popular belief, don’t shoot with the sun directly at your back. Doing so will make the light on the subject flat. Move so the light is at an angle and you’ll get more texturing and shadows — and a much more interesting photo. Most great photos are either side-lit or have the light coming in from a different angle.

8. Night Photography

When shooting photos at night in Yellowstone Park, “paint” the area with a flashlight to experiment with lighting up otherwise dark scenes.

9. Don’t Be Too Rigid in Your Goals

Take advantage of the opportunities that come up. You might go by the same place 50 times and one morning it looks different. Take advantage of the opportunities that arise. Try not to be too goal-oriented, and look for what is there at the present. Be flexible and opportunistic.

10. Midday for Shooting Water and Steam

Lighting is best when the sun is high and light filters deep into the water, creating a stunning luminescence. A slow shutter speed lends the water and sprays a smooth look and enhances the movement of the scene. Don’t forget to shield your lenses. Geyser spray contains silica and calcium carbonate, which can build up on lenses in a hard-to-clean film.