Landscape photography is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding and enjoyable forms of photography. Who doesn’t want to get outside more, to breathe the fresh air, and to connect to nature? Whether your pastime is to capture awesome sunsets at Bali, the orderly structure of a metropolis skyline, or peaceful forest nearby, these landscape photography tips will help you make the most of your next photo expedition. Landscape photography tips
What is landscape photography?
Landscape photography is the art of capturing images that embody the essence of nature and the outdoors. A great landscape photograph transports the viewer and gives them the sense of being there and seeing something incredible. As a landscape photographer, you want the viewer to connect with the emotions you felt when you shot the photograph.
Everyone wants to capture the beauty of new locations. Even if you are fortunate enough to visit the most beautiful locations on Earth, photography is a never-ending learning and growing process. Landscape photography tips
Plan Where To Go
Researching locations might just be one of the most fun parts of shooting landscapes. Whether it’s a favorite place that you’d been to a million times or an entirely new location far away from your home base, a little research can go a long way in planning to take the best shots possible. You can use online maps to plan your route to the spot and different vantage points that you think will make the best shots.
Once you have an idea of where to go and how to get there, consider when you want to be there. You’ll want to plan quite a bit of time to scout the location in person, set up your gear, and move around the place. But beyond that, you’ll want to plan for the best light. You might wind up taking some sample shots and realizing that you really want to come back at sunset, or even after dark.
Consider a “Do Over”
Just because you have shot a location doesn’t mean you have to be done with it. If you had a great time shooting a location and were super impressed with the photos afterward, consider a return trip. Photography, like any endeavor, is a learning experience. With each trip into the field, we learn more and more about ourselves, our equipment, and our environment. By returning to the same location after we have seen some results, you will be inspired with new ideas for new angles and new approaches to try out. You also might be inspired to hike a little farther and dig a little deeper.
Three Legs are Better than Two
One of the most significant aspects of shooting landscapes is to capture the sharpest detail possible over a wide area. When shooting at the low shutter speeds common in landscape photography, your tripod will become your new best friend. Pick a tripod that is beefy enough for your heaviest gear, but also portable enough to not be a burden. If your tripod is too heavy and too cumbersome, you will find yourself leaving it at home more than you should. Pick wisely….
Use ISO 100 or 200
Always aim for the lowest ISO your lighting and camera can handle (another reason to use your tripod). Low ISO’s will give you rich, high-quality landscapes free from noise. Landscape photography tips
Dramatic Skies and the Importance of Clouds
A blah sky makes a blah photo. While the Golden Hours around dawn and dusk can make even the most dreary vistas beautiful, consider all your options.
Clouds often add interest and drama to a photo. Even just a few fair-weather cumulus puffballs can make a world of difference to an otherwise uninteresting landscape. Streaky cirrus clouds reflect pinks and oranges during sunset, and dramatic and contrasty cumulonimbus thunderheads change the tone of a photo entirely.
Work with the Golden Hours
Lighting is one of the most important parts of any photography and with landscapes this usually translates into shooting during the “golden hour” – the hour right before sunrise and after sunset. This is when the lighting can really make your landscapes come alive. Times to avoid are when the sun is highest (i.e. afternoon), when the intensity and angle of the light creates hard shadows and washed out colors. .
Add Foreground Interest
A great landscape photograph really stands out when it is balanced with depth to it. This means something needs to be in the foreground: a character tree, a piece of driftwood, a sailboat, or a mountain creek. Where ever you are, look for foreground objects that help tell your story. An island in the distance is pretty, but a sailboat passing an island in the distance is epic.
Camera Settings for Landscape Photography
Modern cameras are fantastic in their ability to capture images quickly and to work in very dim light. There is a tradeoff, of course, in that pictures taken at higher ISO settings are very grainy. This is another reason why tripods are so crucial to landscape photographers. Keep the ISO numbers as low as possible. This will result in longer exposure times, but you will be rewarded with higher quality and sharper photos.
Landscape photography invariably requires high f-stops. Apertures of f/11 or f/16 are not uncommon. This ensures that the lens focuses details in both the foreground and background with a very deep depth of field. To achieve both high f-stop and low ISO, slow shutter speeds are a must. At low shutter speeds, remember that a tripod must be used to avoid blurry images from camera shaking. Question: what is your aperture sweet spot of your lens.
The histogram display on your camera can be a great help to all photographers. When used correctly, this informational display can tell you if the bright whites have been clipped or if the blacks are underexposed. This can be invaluable when setting up the shot and picking your camera settings for the perfect exposure.
The Aperture Sweet Spot of your lens
The lens sweet spot is the aperture of your lens that produces the highest possible quality in sharpness. It’s common that photographers think the wider apertures, like 1.4 and 2.8 would be the sharpest of a lens. … In fact, typically the sharpest aperture is 2 to 3 stops smaller than the widest.
There is some generally accepted rule of thumb that to find the sweet spot of a lens you must stop down about 2 to 3 stops from the widest aperture, perhaps even three. So if you’re lens wide open is at f/4, the theory states your sweet spot is about f/5.6 or f/8, and then up to f/11 you should be fine with diminishing returns after that due to diffraction.
Use RAW Formats
RAW files contain more information than their JPEG counterparts. While it might seem simpler to save in the camera as a JPEG, you will be losing valuable information that could be important during post-processing. With the ability to adjust color balance and exposure details much more accurately, developing a good workflow with RAW files can be invaluable.
As landscape photographers, we can’t really ask the mountains to change poses. Our models don’t move, so we have to. Try as many new viewpoints and vantages as possible. Move around a lot. Try way up high and way down low. Be creative.
Another great way to add excitement to a scene is to focus on movement. Water in a stream, cars on a road, or waves on a beach all blur with longer exposure speeds that are common for deep, luscious landscape images. An ND filter can help you achieve just the effect you are looking for while keeping the scene’s details sharp and interesting.
Camp Out and Move In
Plan on spending some time in locations that you love. Come back when the light has changed. Come back after dark. Come back with different lenses. If your spot of choice is too far off-the-grid, consider staying for an entire afternoon with a picnic or even camping overnight. Make the photography just one part of the adventure. .
For this very reason, you may find that your favorite landscape locations are close to home. If they are easy to access and you travel there often, you will see the best lighting, season, and angles for a location. Keep this in mind on your next photography trip. Don’t rush.
Don’t be Afraid to Try New Things
A beauty of shooting with a digital camera is that there is never any harm in trying. Got a wacky idea for an awesome photo? Just try it. In photography, maybe even more than other hobbies, there are no real rules. Try out your crazy ideas, have fun, make mistakes, and most importantly learn from those mistakes. .