Landscape photography is an incredibly popular form of photography. It’s is also a tricky form of photography to master. Translating a beautiful scene or view into a great photograph is not as easy as it seems. Whether you’re new to photography or are looking to improve your landscape photography, here are ten practical landscape photography tips for beginners to help you.
Practical landscape photography tips for beginners
Do your homework
Don’t worry this is the fun type of homework but it’s a critical part of landscape photography. Before you head out to a location, try to learn as much about it as you can. Time is precious in photography, especially when it comes to landscape photos. Weather can change quickly, and the optimum light won’t last forever. By doing homework on your location you will not waste your time (or the precious light) searching around for the best angles, that is work you can do beforehand.
Resources such as Flickr or Google Images mean you can check through photos of your location before you go, you can see what angles or views you like the best. If the area is well known, you can often find great articles, like this one <link>, pointing out great places to shoot. Google maps is another excellent tool to help you get a better idea of the area you’re planning to shoot. A little bit of pre-planning can lead to some beautiful photos.
Wait for the light
The human eye can work a lot better in adjusting to different levels of light. It can be a lot harder to replicate that contrast with a camera. There are ways you can adapt to tricky light conditions, or you can give yourself a break and wait for the right light. It might seem like a bright sunny day is perfect for shooting, but it will create a lot of contrast, bright highlights mixed with dark shadows. That is a complicated mixture to get a correct exposure.
The golden hour is held in such high esteem by the photography world because of its beautiful warm glow and reduces the amount of contrast. Early morning and late afternoon are usually the best light conditions for shooting. Even cloudy days can help photographers, the cloud blocking out the sun can reduce contrast. There are apps like x and x <links> that will tell you what time the golden hours are in any location on any day.
Have a strong foreground element
Yes, the landscape is the hero of landscape photography, but even the best views could do with a little help. That help arrives in the form of a foreground element. A strong foreground draws the viewers eye and then leads them deeper into the image and the main subject. It will also give a sense of depth, and that will help the viewer have a better understanding of the scale of the scene.
What makes a foreground element? It can be anything, a small tree, a formation of rocks or a simple fence. What the element is doesn’t matter as much as where it is positioned. The general rule is to place the element in the lower third of the image and close to the camera. Bringing your camera as close as possible to the foreground can add dynamism to your composition.
Take care placing the horizon
It can be very tempting to just point your camera at the part of the scene you like the most and shoot. Yes, it’s great to photograph what inspires you but remember to take some time with your composition. Take some time to think about where you are placing the horizon in the frame.
Don’t just automatically place it in the centre of the picture. What is the most interesting part of the scene? If it’s a glorious, beautiful sunset, then set the horizon in the lower third. If it’s the landscape, then place the horizon in the upper third. Remember to think about what the hero of the scene is and then set the horizon accordingly.
Cut the clutter
I have covered some aspects to include in a landscape photo, but let’s consider what to leave out. A good general rule is, simple is usually best. When looking at a landscape photo, you should know what the main subject of the image is. The other elements already mentioned, foreground element, are used to draw the eye into the picture and create scale. If there are elements that don’t add any interest to your photo, change your composition to reduce or remove them from the frame. You can move your camera to get a different angle or use the lens zoom to move past these elements.
It’s easy to focus purely on the main aspect of the shoot and not to pay attention to the edges of the picture. Not spotting these unwanted elements can lead to distractions in your photo that take away attention from your subject. Before you shoot, look at the whole frame of your picture and try to avoid distracting elements, like a protruding branch, and remove anything that detracts from your main subject.
Change your perspective
It’s common, when taking a photo, to hold the camera to your eye level and shoot. Or if using a tripod to set that up to your eye level and then shoot. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, and it might bring the best picture, but many times by changing the perspective you will change the look and the feel of a scene. That may mean getting down on the floor or into a crouch, or raising your tripod higher to get a new angle.
If you’re lucky enough to own a drone, then you have instant access to whole new perspectives of a scene. Even without a drone, there are ways to get new perspectives so look to find them and open up a unique feel to the landscape.
There is one sin of landscape photography, and that is coming back home and checking your memory card and finding all your photos look the same. Luckily the solution is straightforward, move around! If you follow the first tip and do your homework, you should have plenty of ideas about where to stand for interesting views. You may have a ‘dream’ shot in mind, and that’s an excellent thought to have but don’t spend all your time and focus on that one image.
This tip is especially important when photographing famous landmarks, or well-known landscapes. By moving around and finding a new angle or view your picture can instantly stand out against so many others.
Use a tripod
If you look through any list of beginner photography tips, you will see this piece of advice. A good tripod will eliminate camera shake and will help you to take razor-sharp images. It is common to use slower shutter speeds in landscape photography, and a tripod is a must for this. When shooting in the great outdoors you are going to need a sturdy tripod that works well on rough terrains, just remember that whichever tripod you buy, you’ll be carrying it around all day.
Shoot in RAW
This is one bit of advice I would implore any photographer to follow. Shoot. In. RAW. If you like the immediate use of images that JPEG offers then using RAW + JPEG is totally fine, it’s my setting of choice. Shooting in RAW gives you a fantastic amount of room to edit your images. RAW files are larger than JPEG, but that is because they store much more data than JPEG and it’s that extra data that gives you so many options in post-production.
Try a long exposure
As mentioned in the previous tip, long exposure is popular in landscape photography. A slower shutter speed can create artistic effects that can elevate your photos. Long exposures can develop a sense of motion, even when you’re in a still setting. Slowing your shutter speed can make waves turn to a smooth white and clouds can be made wispy.
To take a long exposure, you’ll need a tripod; there is no way around that. Either use shutter priority mode or manual mode (I’d recommend using manual mode as often as you feel comfortable with). Set the shutter speed as slow as you’d like, be mindful that the slower the speed, the brighter the image will be, so you will need to adjust other areas of the exposure triangle <link> if you’re in manual mode.
Landscape photography can be very challenging but also incredibly rewarding. By following these tips, you should be able to understand the techniques and thoughts that are required to take great landscape photos.
What are your best landscape photography tips? Let us know in the comments below.