Landscape Photography: 9 Tips to Learn the Lie of the Land

Landscape Photography: 9 Tips to Learn the Lie of the Land

Landscape photography is a niche that has always held great appeal for amateur and professional photographers. If you’re passionate to specialize in this area, be prepared to invest in more than just the right photo kit. The ability to capture Mother Nature in all its awesomeness and beauty takes skill. No point taking the same pictures as everyone else – that would be boring. With landscape photography perhaps more than any other genre, it takes a lot of practice, hard work and patience to see, compose and shoot amazing images that really stand out.

Here are the key things you need to consider. Cover photo by Luca Micheli.

1. Location

Obviously, landscape photography is geography-based. Before you set off into nature, prepare thoroughly to research and select the exact location of your shoot and how to get there safely. Find the right weather conditions, the ideal time of day and the best season that will let you capture the perfect image.

2. Patience

Understand that it may take some time to get the outdoor conditions just right for your shot, as per the above. It can be frustrating if the elements conspire to ruin a perfectly composed photograph or anything else gets in the way. You may need to wait for tourists, cars, planes or even clouds to pass before you’re ready to take that picture.

3. Curiosity

The greatest landscape photos have impact because they are taken in a way we’ve never seen before. Try to avoid easily accessible viewpoints that every other sightseer or photographer uses. True professionals look for unique spots and vistas that offer amazing scenes, just as long as you can get there and back safely.

beautiful sunny landscape photography

[Image source:Photo by Sebastian Unrau]

4. Light

Light is a key factor for any photographer but it’s especially important for landscapes. Put bluntly, if the light is no good, the image is no good, no matter how great the location. Early morning and late afternoon are generally preferable to the harsh midday sun but part of the challenge is to adapt to different conditions and use the light to influence the look and feel of your photo.

5. Composition

Make sure your composition is spot-on through the viewfinder. It takes time to develop an eye for seeing the right scene, visualizing and analyzing it in your mind but with practice it will become second nature. You can use many techniques to help your composition, including the Rule of Thirds, Leading and Diagonal Lines.

6. Depth of field

landscape photography

[Image source: Photo by AyeMin AyeMins]

Panoramic landscape photos tend to require most of the image, foreground and background, to be sharp, meaning you need a deeper depth of field to achieve this than for, say, portraiture. However, experienced photographers know how to play with the depth of field, using it as a creative tool to highlight certain subjects while keeping the rest of the image blurred.

7. Tripod

An essential piece of kit for every nature and landscape photographer, a tripod will keep your camera wobble-free, helping you to set up, compose and capture a scene using a slow shutter speed or long exposure, and take photos in low light conditions. And do make sure you always shoot in RAW for maximum image detail, information and post-production options.

Related: Comparing Top Tripods for Video and Filmmaking

8. Filters

Every landscape photographer should know how to use neutral density filters and polarizing filters to manipulate light or enhance natural elements. Getting a balanced exposure in-camera, say between a darker foreground and bright sky, can be achieved with ND filters, while polarizing filters can help you minimize reflections from the sun, e.g. on the surface of the water, while enhancing your greens and blues.

9. Histogram

Most DSLRs have an option that shows you the histogram of an image after you’ve taken it (and the more expensive ones have a live view option). Learn how to read the histogram and use the findings to improve your photos. See how the image looks in terms of luminosity and recognize if it is too bright, too dark or has pure black or white areas (‘clipping’) and make corrections, either by recomposing your image or adjusting the exposure.

Landscape photography can be an art as much as a science, and to obtain the most individual results, develop your own style and go pro with your photography, you not only need to learn the rules and techniques that make a good image but know when to break them too. 

Experimenting is part of the creative process! The beauty of digital photography is that you can always take another shot without worrying about wasting money on old-school negatives.

Some final words of advice to budding landscape photographers: Don’t underestimate what you can do and don’t settle for photos that are just OK. If you’re not thrilled with the shot and you could do it better, then do it better. It’s true that a lot of time and effort goes into landscape photography and it’s often tempting to lower your standards and settle for a ‘good enough’ photo rather than waiting or coming back another time. But don’t sell yourself short. Shoot for the moon. The results, when you get it right, will speak for themselves.

Author Bio: Dakota Murphey is an established freelance writer based in the UK. She specializes in business growth, cybersecurity, digital marketing and HR.

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