Tips + Techniques

6 Top Tips for Taking Incredible Forest Portraits

August 16, 2022

By Jacqueline Tobin

Woods and forests can make beautiful backdrops for wedding and engagement photography. The deep greens of the trees, the sunlight filtering through the leaves, and the fresh air create an unforgettable setting with seemingly infinite creative opportunities. Forest portraits, however, are not without challenges such as low light, a green color cast, and other factors. To help you navigate the challenges, here are 6 tips for creating incredible forest wedding and engagement photos. Here’s what we’ll be covering on taking great forest portraits:

  • Your Best Lighting Is Often at the Edge of the Forest
  • Look for Streaks of Light
  • Consider Keeping it Moody
  • Find Foregrounds and Frames
  • Consider Adding your Own Flash for Separation
  • Consider Staying Above the Trees

(The following images are provided by Wedding Maps with permission from each of their photographers.)

1. Your Best Lighting Is Often at the Edge of the Forest

One of the main challenges of photographing portraits in the forest is that when you enter a lush forest with tall trees and vegetation, a lot of your light is cut out. While you can raise your ISO and drop your shutter speed to overcome the low light factor, you’re still often left with flat light with a heavy green tint. So before hiking deep into the forest, consider taking at least some of the portraits at the edge where you may have better lighting. See some examples below:

incredible forest portraits tips
Image © Jessie and Dallin | Website

bride and groom in field at edge of forest
Image © Jessie and Dallin | Website

couple on log by waterfall
Image © Mauricio Urena | Website

2. Look for Streaks of Light and Light Direction

The next tip for incredible woods and forest portraits is to look for streaks of lights streaming through the trees. The dappled sunlight creates a soft, romantic glow that can make your photos truly radiant.   This might come from above if you’re shooting during the day or from an angle if you’re shooting closer to golden hour. See two examples below:

forest portraits tips and techniques couple at tree
Image © Jay Cassario | Website
lens flare breaking through trees in forest.
Image © Angela Nelson | Website

In the next set of images below, notice that while the light streaks aren’t visible, the photographers found great directional light and used the right angles and compositions to highlight the subjects.

bride and groom hugging in forest.
Image © Finn and the Fox | Website

Indian couple in wilderness
Image © Chad Winstead | Website

3. Consider Keeping it Moody for Forest Portraits

Woods and forests naturally have a magical, moody vibe, so consider departing from the idea of “perfect lighting” and going with a creative, dark and moody approach. With the right vision and creativity, the results can be dreamy and beautiful, as you can see from the images below:

bride and groom having dinner in forest.
Image © Thien Tong | Website
forest portrait of bride and groom with lens flare.
Image © Jay Cassario | Website
Fall in forest with leaves on ground around bride and groom.
Image © Party of Two | Website

4. Find Foregrounds and Frames in Forest Portraits

Woods and Forests create seemingly infinite opportunities for interesting compositions, including foregrounds and frames. 

In the image below, notice how photographer Jason Vinson found gaps in the leaves to shoot through, combining the compositional concepts of negative space and foreground elements.

forest portraits example
Image © Jason Vinson | Website

In the next image, notice how the curving trees create a natural frame for the couple. The photographers found the perfect angle and distance so that no distracting elements were directly behind the subjects.

leaning trees around couple
Image © Jessie and Dallin | Website

Here are a few more examples of interesting compositions, foregrounds and frames for portraits taken in the forest.

bride and groom in sunlight in nature.
Image © Lin and Jirsa | Website
forest bride and groom
Image © Tanya Parada | Website
bride and broom in snowy forest.
Image © Jos and Tree | Website

5. Consider Adding Your Own Flash for Separation

Adding a back flash helps make the subjects “pop” off of the background. If the natural light is flat in your forest portraits, dark hair or clothing can easily blend into a dark background. This is when adding your own flash can help create separation. Here are some examples:

bride and groom with leafy trees surrounding them.
Image © Jason Vinson | Website

The image below is a particularly great example of using a back flash for separation. Imagine the image without the back flash. The couple would be far too dark and would blend into the forest vegetation behind them.

twisty. lush trees
Image © Angela Nelson | Website

forest with bride and groom
Image © SMJ Photography | Website

6. Consider Staying Above the Trees

Of course, one other option for capturing beautiful forest portraits is to find a vista that overlooks the trees. Up there, you don’t have to worry as much about the green color cast or lack of light direction.  Yet you still get to capture the magic and beauty of the trees and nature.

Here are some of our favorite examples below:

couple atop rock as sun sets.
Image © Rey Benasfre | Website
lens flare example on trees.
Image © Holding and Co | Website

couple embraces on rock overlooking forests.
Image © Marissa Joy | Website
couple on top of mountain overlooking trees
Image © Wes Shinn | Website


The natural beauty of woods and forests create many opportunities for photographers, and with the right preparation, forest portraits can be truly magical. The wealth of interesting textures, colors, and shapes, with the light filtering through the trees can produce some stunning effects. For all of these reasons, forest portraits can be an incredibly rewarding type of photography to pursue. We hope that the tips above help you on your next photographic adventure into nature.

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