Insider Secrets to Photography in Hawaii - Artist Andrew Shoemaker Shares his Top 5 Tips

There’s a lot more to quality landscape photography than pulling out your phone and snapping a few pics. While the following tips are important for photography anywhere, they are especially important for photography in Hawaii......

I love creating nature photography of all types including landscapes, beaches, sunsets, forest scenery, and more. Because I live on the Island of Maui, I have access to some of the most beautiful locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands. There’s a lot more to quality landscape photography than pulling out your phone and snapping a few pics. While the following tips are important for photography anywhere, they are especially important for photography in Hawaii.

panorama of the island of Maui photographed from a boat off of Olowalu featuring a rainbow

I captured this amazing panorama of west Maui from a moving boat. It was actually during my son's first birthday party and with the rainbow and the majestic clouds, I just had to capture this beautiful moment

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1. Know Your Camera

When everything is coming together for your photography shoot, you don't want to be unfamiliar with your camera and fumbling around looking for buttons or settings. This is especially true if you’re trying to capture wildlife or fading light.

Take the time to watch YouTube videos or read the instruction manual and practice. Even if you're just sitting around on the couch, play with your camera and its different settings so you don't miss the shot.

2. Plan Ahead

Most photographers who come to Hawaii do research on whatever interests them most. This could be waterfalls, sea turtles, lava flows, black sand beaches… You get the idea!

If you have a shot or location in mind, it's important to scout the location ahead of time. If you are able to explore the area several times at different times of day, you’ll get a good idea of how changing factors will affect your shot. Some of these factors include:

· Lighting

· Visitors/amount of people

· Obstructions like boulders or trees

· Angle – Try hiking up to a ridge or getting down near the water

Lead the viewer’s eye towards your subject or to simply add interest to your image.

photograph of a heart shaped rock formation with incoming waves on the west side of the hawaiian island of Oahu. High resolution photography by Andrew Shoemaker

Sometimes the island just shows you a sign that we need more of something in the world. This heart shaped rock formation isn't super obvious until it fills up with the incoming waves, but what a lovely scene to capture on the island of Oahu. Hope you enjoy!

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With some pre-planning, you’ll get a really good idea of where and when you need to be to nail the shot. Determine exactly where you need to set up, what camera settings to use, and what you want to include in the photo.

Become familiar with your surroundings and you may find something else interesting that you've never noticed before!

3. Follow the Light

One of the most important things about any photograph is the light. The mood and feel of an image depends on the direction, color, and quality of the light.

To get a really great shot, you’ll want to spend time scouting out your location ahead of time. If you’re able to explore the area several times in different lighting conditions, you should get some very unique results.

sunrise panorama photograph of kualoa mountains on the hawaiian island of Oahu.  Fine art panoramic photography by Hawaii artist Andrew Shoemaker

A very special scene I've wanted to capture for quite some time, the Kualoa mountains are just stunning. As I got to this location it was a little bit too windy to capture the reflection and then right as the sun rose, it was calm for several minutes allowing this beauty to be captured.

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In Hawaii, the weather can change very quickly. On the day of your shoot, get there with plenty of time before you're anticipating the right light.

4. Use Color

I've never seen anywhere with such a vibrant spectrum of colors. Hawaii offers many complementary colors (such as a bright blue ocean and green trees), which can create stunning images. Blue is very calming, and Hawaii offers many opportunities for shots of the water and sky.

Palm tree shadows on the golden sand with stunning clear emerald colored water photographed from the air by Andrew Shoemaker

An astonishingly beautiful scene I came across while observing an aerial view and different perspective on a deserted stretch of Maui coastline. The world is just so peaceful from the sky!

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Sometimes, the colors are even lined right up for you in Hawaii!

a very colorful surfboard fence in the same sequence as the rainbow found in Paia on the north shore of Maui

Surfboard fences first became a thing on Maui. Having your fence in the same spectrum as a rainbow is taking it to the next level. Classic north shore Maui scene right here

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The golden hour is always lovely, lending a softer feel to images

beach sunset on a golden sand beach just south of Secret Beach in Makena on the island of Maui with a sun star

This stretch of beach can disappear for months at a time but when it's here, it's sure a thing of beauty. I decided to capture the sun itself in this scene as well and it made a really nice sun star

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5. Careful Composition

Perhaps the most important thing about a landscape photograph is the composition. If you’re not familiar with the basics, check out this blog by Adobe (

Some factors that create visually interesting shots are:

· Rule of Thirds

· Balance

· Leading lines

· Focus

· Depth of field

I generally like to try several compositions if I can, quickly review them and decide which one I'm liking most. It's good not to get tunnel vision on a scene and move around and experiment with new compositions. Maybe it looks totally different and unique with the camera 6 inches from the ground for example than eye level. Most of us are generally focused on the grand landscape, but pull out the telephoto once in a while and find those tight compositions too. Play around and be creative

lava ocean entry photography at sunrise on the Big Island of Hawaii in Volcanoes National Park

One of the most epic scenes that I've ever witnessed, lava entering the ocean with the pacific crashing against it in opposition is just truly amazing! You literally have fire and water opposing each other here so it's a battle of two forces

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Photography in Hawaii

Remember that although Hawaii is beautiful, it can be dangerous. 40-foot waves, sink holes, and wet, slippery rocks can be fatal, so watch your step! If you do plan a photo excursion, remember to do your research and be prepared.

If you'd prefer to just enjoy the photography, please stop by my gallery if you're on Maui or discover the online galleries.

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