Landscape photography, simply put, is photography that displays spaces on our planet. These spaces can be huge and seemingly endless, just as they can be extremely tiny. Normally, landscapes show off nature photographs, yet it’s also common for this genre to emphasize manmade disturbances in the landscape.
It’s rare for landscapes to display any human involvement, as they’re usually focusing on depictions of nature in all its glory. Subject matter that’s typical includes weather, ambient light and memorable landforms.
Photographers of all skill levels can jump into landscape photography because of how accessible it is. Here are some pointers, so you can get the hang of this and master landscape photography more quickly!
Landscapes need a focal point, as does any good image. After all, the eye needs something to train on, and landscapes without such a focal point will look barren and uninteresting. People looking at your photograph won’t have a place to rest their eyes, and photographs like that generally encourage viewers to quickly move on to another picture to look at!
Focal points in landscapes can be as simple as a building, a silhouette or a natural formation like a tree or a giant boulder of some kind.
Here are two, huge things to keep in mind when deciding on the focal point:
- What it is
- Where it is
When positioning your focal point in the shot, use the Rule of Thirds to help you place it appropriately in a location that makes the picture the most attractive to the eye.
Using Lines to Your Advantage
In an image, the use of lines has the primary goal of leading viewers’ eyes to something significant in the shot that you want your viewers to fixate on. Of course, lines can be a point of interest in and of themselves in the shot, too! You can achieve this interesting effect with lines when they create unique patterns within the shot.
Photo by prehistoricplague
In other words, lines help the composition of your image. They do so by providing division, unity or emphasis to a certain part or parts of your photograph.
When deciding on a landscape, analyze the scene and think of how the natural lines in the scene itself can create a better photograph by leading the eye or creating an interesting pattern.
Contrary to popular belief, movement and landscapes don’t have to be at odds with each other. Sure, when people think of landscapes, they usually think of still life shots, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you observe any landscape in real life, you’ll notice a good amount of movement!
Think of these scenarios:
- Wind blows through the forest
- Waves crash against a beach
- Water moves over the edge of a waterfall
- Ducks flying over a canyon
All of these are movement shots and help to make a landscape more meaningful.
Photo by diah123
To take these movement shots, you’ll have to use a longer shutter speed of a few seconds. Since this leads to more light hitting your sensor, that means relying on a smaller aperture or even utilizing a filter. Another option would be to shoot when it’s close to dusk, so there’s less light.
Getting the Timing Right
They say that comedy’s all about timing. Well, landscape photography is exactly the same way! That’s mainly because the weather is going to be such a huge factor in your shots. At any moment, the conditions could go from sunny and fair to rainy and windy.
That’s not to say, though, that you should be only waiting for a perfect day with sunny conditions. Sunny days might present easier shooting conditions, but the mood and atmosphere in the shot—both so important to conveying a theme and emotion in your image—will be less exciting.
Photo by clif_burns
Instead, try this: Scan the weather forecast for a day that’s gray and overcast with menacing, darker clouds. Such a scene will give you opportunities to shoot landscapes with the sun peeking through menacing clouds, the mist settling in, and even a possibly dramatic sunset if you go later in the day.
Considering the Horizon
This is perhaps the most important tip of all: think about how you’ll use the horizon in your landscape. You should think of incorporating the horizon into your shots in the following two ways:
- Based on its straightness
- Based on it helping the overall composition
Photo by Norma Desmond
Yeah, you can straighten out the image in post-processing after the fact, but getting it right in the shot makes things so much more efficient for you. As for composition, we advise placing the horizon in the top or bottom third of the image, if you dissect it according to the aforementioned Rule of Thirds. Of course, you can play around until you find the perfect placement on your own, but the general rule is to avoid putting the horizon right in the middle of the shot, if you divide the landscape in half, horizontally.
Stellar Ideas for Landscapes
To finish off this landscape guide on a high note, we’re including actionable suggestions on what subjects make for great landscapes.
Photo by Moyan_Brenn
- Flowing water – Both the speed of the water and its reflections help to make such a scene stand out on camera.
- Forest – Locating a point of interest in a forest, like a tree trunk or a nice-looking clearing, will give the viewer something special to train his eyes on. Compositional elements like lines and patterns in the trees will also elevate the shot.
- Plains and Prairies – Finding a point of interest is also useful here. Besides that, look for the composition and angle that can communicate the scene’s personality, such as the sky.
- Desert – Try to get the sun in the landscape to convey the harsh heat of the desert, but shoot in manual mode to prevent anything from being underexposed.
- Shoreline – Look for elements like palm trees and sea spray shooting over rocks to give the scene personality.
- Mountains – Think of light, composition, weather and angle to create a landscape that evokes the feeling or atmosphere you’re after.
Bio: Marc is a copywriter and content marketer who covered photography. These days, he runs The Glorious Company, a content marketing agency.