Landscape Photography Tips for Better Photos
1. Search for the Best Composition.
Ø There’s a temptation when you get to a location to pull your tripod out and set up for the first decent composition you find, or the most obvious one. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it is recommended to take a bit more time to explore the area and consider alternative compositions.
Ø Human nature tends to make us focus on the first thing we see and miss others that may be even better.
Ø Spend a bit more time working the scene and looking for other shots that you might like more than the first one you see.
Ø You can always go back to that first shot if you can’t find anything better, or you can take multiple compositions from multiple positions regularly.
2. Shoot with a ‘Normal Lens’ before going Wide
Ø Training your eye is essential to be able to judge if a composition works for a given scene. Getting used to landscape photography framing means that you should start with a ‘normal lens’ before reaching for the wide-angle
Ø A normal lens is also much more prone to the effects of depth-of-field than a wide-angle lens. That means that un-sharp areas in your photos are exaggerated, teaching you tricks like focusing a third into the frame and the hyper-focal distance more effectively.
3. Get close, then get Closer
Ø Sweeping vistas are only as sweeping as your foreground. Get your camera insanely close to your subject to make it unequivocal what your photo is about. Now check and see if the lens will still focus this close. When it does with ease, try to get even closer to your subject until you’re struggling to get the image sharp. You’re now at minimum focus distance.
Ø With wide-angle lenses, the foreground will appear to be larger than things in the distance because of the converging lines it creates.
Ø Shooting at minimum focus distance with wide-angle lenses will launch your photos to the next level, because it will enlarge your foreground subjects and tells the viewer what your picture is about.
4. Include the Foreground.
Ø There is a natural tendency to think of landscape photography as grand vistas that capture big mountains, oceans, sky, etc. Those things definitely make for beautiful landscapes, but often including the foreground element can really make the photo.
Ø There is a saying in landscape photography: put a great foreground in front of a great background.
Ø A great foreground will grab the attention of the viewer, especially with a wide lens which will make closer objects look much bigger.
Ø Add something interesting in the foreground of the landscape like some rocks or flowers and use that to guide the viewer’s eye to the beautiful background.
5. Get Down Low
Ø When you get your camera nice and close to the ground you can get a really interesting perspective on the scene you’re photographing. It allows you to add more of the foreground into the scene without having to crop out the background or sky.
Ø If you are shooting with a wide-angle lens, objects that are closer will appear to be bigger, which means that the ground will get bigger in your frame as you get closer to the ground.
Ø This can work really well if your foreground includes small, interesting objects like flowers. It can also work well if the ground has an interesting texture like sand. I use this technique a lot when I’m photographing the beach and seascapes. It can also work well when your foreground includes moving water like a river.
6. Consider the sky.
Ø Most landscapes will either have a dominant foreground or sky – unless you have one or the other your shot can end up being fairly boring.
Ø If you have a bland, boring sky – don’t let it dominate your shot and place the horizon in the upper third of your shot (however you’ll want to make sure your foreground is interesting). However, if the sky is filled with drama and interesting cloud formations and colors – let it shine by placing the horizon lower.
7. Layer Your Landscapes
Ø One of the defining characteristics of natural landscapes are the layers that exist everywhere. No matter where you look in nature they are there. There are always at least two – earth and sky. Usually there are many more though
Ø Often in the same scene you can see layers of sand, grass, trees, water, mountains, clouds, sky, etc. That’s not even considering man-made elements.
Ø Try composing your landscapes to capture a variety of layers within the same frame to display the different elements of the scene. Sometimes these layers may line up beautifully, sometimes they will crisscross and have no pattern to them. Both can look great.
8. Using Leading lines.
Ø Leading lines refer to elements within your frame that lead the eye through the frame like I mentioned in tip #x. Most of the examples you see of leading lines in landscape photography use straight lines, but your lines can take the viewer’s eye on a bit of a journey through the image without needing to be straight.
Ø One of the questions to ask yourself as you take Landscape shots is ‘how am I leading the eye of those viewing this shot’? There are a number of ways of doing this (foregrounds are one) but one of the best ways into a shot is to provide viewers with lines that lead them into an image.
Ø Curved lines that lead the eye can be more pleasing, especially if the scene is all-natural with no man-made objects. A hiking trail or footsteps in the sand or the bend of a river can lead the eye in a much more natural way.
Ø Lines give an image depth, scale and can be a point of interest in and of themselves by creating patterns in your shot.
9. Make Your Subject Clear
Ø When you look at a photograph your eye is searching for a route to take and a place to rest. Nothing will ruin an image quite like a busy scene that doesn’t draw the eye.
Ø If your eye is searching for something to focus on and doesn’t find it, you won’t look at that image long. Including a clear subject within your landscape photography is a vital part of creating visually pleasing images.
Ø Knowing what draws the eye is key. Colour, contrast, brightness, and size are a few of the things that affect the way the eye is drawn through a photo. Think about which part of the scene you want the viewer to look at, and what’s the main subject you want them to focus on.
Ø When it comes to landscape photography, the expression “less is more” is highly relevant. A busy image with a lot going on is confusing to the eye. If we’re not naturally drawn into it, we won’t look at the photo for long.
Ø Another way to avoid this is to exclude elements from the frame. In some of the most dramatic landscapes you can use minimalism well. Often all that’s needed for a great landscape photo is a shape or a texture.
Ø Try looking at your composition and ask yourself which elements of the scene you can remove to simplify it. Sometimes you’ll need to re-frame your image. Sometimes you’ll need to zoom in. Often, you’ll need to pick up your gear and move into another position.
Ø There will be times when there are elements out of your control that you simply have to include in the frame. You may be able to remove them in processing.
Ø When most people think about landscapes they think of calm, serene and passive environments – however landscapes are rarely completely still and to convey this movement in an image will add drama, mood and create a point of interest.
Ø Examples – wind in trees, waves on a beach, water flowing over a waterfall, birds flying overhead, moving clouds.
Ø Capturing this movement generally means you need to look at a longer shutter speed (sometimes quite a few seconds). Of course, this means more light hitting your sensor which will mean you need to either go for a small Aperture, use some sort of a filter or even shoot at the start or end of the day when there is less light.
12. Zoom In
Ø Although I love the look of wide landscapes, zooming in on part of a scene can also create some very striking landscape photos. It’s easy to try to fit everything you can see into one photo, but sometimes isolating just part of the scene can make for great photos.
Ø Often you can get multiple images that look completely different from the same scene.
There are a couple of ways to do this. The first, and most obvious, is to use your feet and move closer to the part of the scene you want to isolate. The other option is you can use a telephoto or a zoom lens to focus in on that part of the scene
Ø Each of these options have pros and cons, but they both open up new possibilities other than the wide landscape.
13. Natural Framing
Ø If you’ve ever noticed how much different a photograph can look when it’s put into a frame then you know how dramatic framing can be. Finding natural frames in your landscape photography can change the way the image looks and feels.
Ø It is about shooting through a gap in some trees, through a window, between two buildings, or under a bridge. You can even shoot a frame within a frame.
Ø You can get really creative with this. Natural frames can focus the viewer, add interest, or obscure uninteresting parts of the scene.
Ø Rules are a great way to understand and improve your photography composition, but sometimes those rules can be broken. One of those times is when you use symmetry in your photography.
Ø Symmetry is visually pleasing to our eyes in many ways, and photography is no exception. Try looking for symmetry in your landscape photography using natural or man-made elements, or both.
Ø The hard, straight lines of a building can contrast well with the natural lines of a landscape to create a great symmetrical photograph.
Ø You’ve probably noticed that reflections are popular in landscape photography, and this is for good reason. There’s something about a photo with a reflection that’s very pleasing to the eye. They can play tricks on our eyes too, which makes us take a second look at the image.
Ø You’ll most commonly see reflections in water, such as a calm lake, but you can find them in other places like windows.
Ø Reflections are a great way to add symmetry to your landscape photography.
16. “Great light” is overrated
Ø To only go out at golden hour isn’t great for a diverse and interesting portfolio. Some of the best atmospheres can be captured in “bad weather”.
Ø A scene can change dramatically depending upon the weather at any given moment. As a result, choosing the right time to shoot is of real importance.
Ø Look for storms, wind, mist, dramatic clouds, sun shining through dark skies, rainbows, sunsets and sunrises etc. and work with these variations in the weather rather than just waiting for the next sunny blue-sky day.
17. Landscape Photography Editing is like a Friendship
Ø Embrace the power of the digital darkroom. I’m not talking about adding anything in; not even creative effects like the ubiquitous Orton effect hat’s responsible for that dreamy, soft look.
Ø Learning to balance colors, control levels and curves and hand-blend difficult, high dynamic range images are some of the tools the best landscape photographers use on a daily basis.
Ø Cherish your landscape photography editing like a friendship and be rewarded with better end-results.
18. Learn to Appreciate the Landscape Around You
Ø Traveling to far-away places is exciting, but an intimate appreciation of the landscape around the corner is hugely rewarding.
Ø You’ll notice subtle things. A change of seasons in the flowers or the wildlife around you can herald potential masterpieces.
Ø If you’re attuned to the area, you’re much more likely to come back with great photos.
19. Create unity in your Work
Ø While a diverse portfolio within your genre is the key to success, having a signature line, style or personal approach is even more important to make your work stand out from the crowd.
Ø Creating stand-out shots is not something that develops overnight, though. Years, even decades can pass before you actually find your style. It just helps when you spend more time within your genre and stick to it.