10 Landscape Photography Tips

If you don’t know what to look for in a landscape to create your final shot you could end up disappointed with the results, even in perfect locations. These tips will hopefully give you some new ideas to capture the best landscape shot possible.

Tip 1: Location

Location is key to a good landscape photo, so if you’re in a bad location you’ll probably end up with a bad shot. Finding a good location is one of the biggest challenges for landscape photographers, but there are a few websites that can help you find the perfect place for your shot.

Shot Hotspot
With Shot Hotspot you can type in a location to search for hotspots in that area, after that it displays a map with hotspot points, then you click on one to view photos taken in that area. You can also filter the location by type, such as landscape, nature and urban.

MapMyPhoto
MapMyPhoto is similar to Shot Hotspot in that you type in a location to find hotspots in that area, and then a map is displayed with hotspot points which you can click on to view photos taken of that location. This website also has the ability to search by type, such as landmark, landscape and nature, but also gives the option to search by what lens is required to take the photo, such as wide angle and telephoto.

For more ideas on locations worth shooting, you could simply browse google images or a photo sharing website such as Flickr for some landscape shots you like, then take a note of where they were shot. A good location doesn’t always equal a great photo though, because there are many things such as smells and sounds that the camera won’t pick up.

 

Tip 2: Background

First try and find a viewpoint that catches your attention. Once you’ve found one, you can start looking at the background and composition. Try to find a key subject to include in the background, such as a big building or mountains that catch your eye.

Tip 3: Foreground

After you’ve chosen your background subject, look for some objects in the foreground to include.

Here’s a few ideas for your foreground:

  • If you’re on a beach perhaps a sun lounger or a washed up buoy.
  • A large rock or tree is a good choice with mountains in the background.
  • A river or waterfall.

 

Tip 4: Arranging The Elements

A good tip to catch the viewers attention is to have one focal point in your image, which is the main, and usually most interesting subject in your image. When you’ve chosen your foreground and background subjects they need positioning in your shot, and for this you can use lead in lines and the rules of thirds. Lead in lines are useful for draw the viewers eye into the image, usually from the foreground to the focal point of your image. These are usually vertical lines beginning at the bottom of your image moving up towards or into the focal point. Some examples of common lead in lines are roads, fences and shorelines. Next you can use the rule of thirds to place your foreground subject at one of the intersecting lines at the bottom, and your background on the line a third from the top or at an intersecting point. Finally, with landscape shots you may want to show a sense of scale in the photo, for example if you have mountains in the background you could try including some trees or a building below them. These rules are really just guidelines, but they are useful to create an image that’s pleasing to the eye.

 

Tip 5: Lighting

Lighting is a big factor which can make or break a photo, but unfortunately it’s out of our control, so watching the weather forecast and predicting what the conditions will be like is well worth your time if you’re serious about landscape photography. The best times to shoot a photo, especially for landscapes are at sunrise and sunset. The light created at these times is often much warmer and dramatic, creates long shadows, and emphasizes forms and textures. The light at midday is often a lot flatter than at sunset and sunrise, especially in summer, and you will usually get a much cooler white balance to your photo at this time of day. If the light is flat, which is common on an overcast and cloudy day, you’ll struggle to get a good landscape shot and it may be worth waiting for the sun to appear. In the event of flat light there are some subjects you can photograph that work well in these conditions, such as plants and macro photography.

 

Tip 6: Exposure

A common problem with landscape shots is getting the sky and landscape at the correct exposures, because often the sky is a lot brighter than the landscape and so the camera will underexpose the shot to compensate, which makes the landscape too dark, and details lost. There’s a few ways to overcome this, one of which involves taking different exposures of the same shot, (which you’ll need a tripod for) then combining them in Photoshop. Another option is using an ND graduated filter to make the sky darker, and then the image should expose correctly.

Tip 7: Evaluate

Take a look at all the photos you’ve taken in the past and evaluate all their strengths and weaknesses. You can start with evaluating the most important technical details such as shutter speed, aperture and exposure and decide whether you would change any of them if you were to shoot them again. This is a useful practice for learning what settings work for different scenes, and eventually you will know what settings to use automatically. Take a look at the composition and think of ways you could compose it differently- you could try cropping your photo if there’s a lot of wasted space, or your main subjects aren’t quite catching your attention. If your photo doesn’t conform to the rule of thirds and looks unbalanced or not quite right, cropping your photo to move the subjects onto the lines and intersecting points could improve your photo substantially. Finally take a look at the weather and lighting in your photos, perhaps the light is very weak, and waiting longer for a gap in the clouds would’ve lit the scene up better.

Tip 8: Get Creative

By simply tweaking a few camera settings you can change the whole focus and look of your shot. If you want to add a bit of movement to your photos, for example if you’re photographing long grass and it’s a windy day, you can try blurring it to give the appearance of motion by simply using a slower shutter speed. Also you could try this with moving water, such as a waterfall or river to give it a smooth and unreal look. When using a slower shutter speed you need to use a tripod to keep the rest of your image sharp. To get a slower shutter speed there are a few options, such as using a smaller aperture, decreasing the ISO if you can, or using an ND filter to reduce the amount of light going through the lens. Also playing around with the aperture (using a wider aperture) can create some interesting results by only focusing on part of your landscape, while blurring the rest of the scene.

 

Tip 9: Filters

To get the most out of your scene, and capture all the colours and details possible, learning to use different filters is a good idea. The two most important ones for landscapes are the ND grad and polarizer. The ND grad is useful for darkening a part of your image, which is usually the sky because this often overexposes, being a lot brighter than the landscape, so this filter will balance out the exposure across your image and ensure no details are lost in the sky or landscape. Also useful is the polarizer filter, which slightly darkens your photo, but it’s main use in landscapes is for removing reflections such as water reflections and increasing the saturation, for example a blue sky will appear a lot darker and bluer.

 

Tip 10: Camera Settings

  • Always use RAW or RAW+JPEG if you do a lot of post processing.
  • Aperture priority mode is the best option for landscapes, because you will be changing the aperture for every photo, or full manual mode is even better if you know what you’re doing.
  • Use the lowest ISO possible to reduce the amount of grain in your photos.
  • Your shutter speed should always be at least equal to your focal length to avoid blur, for example a 50mm focal length should have a shutter speed of at least 1/60s.
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