By Ana Mireles on | No Comments
I used to see gorgeous landscape photos taken by other photographers and often thought how lucky they were to have stumbled on such a fantastic location.
And the first few times I found a great location myself, I couldn't capture images that looked anywhere near as nice as those other photographers.
If either of those scenarios sounds familiar, read on. These ten tips will take your landscape images to the next level!
Being in the right place at the right time is an expression generally associated with luck. However, when it comes to landscape photography, it has more to do with research and planning.
There are several good apps and websites that will help you to organize your next landscape photoshoot. Try using 500px and Instagram to find well-known locations - this is especially recommended if you are a beginner. Make sure you move on and try finding more unique locations once you get the hang of it.
You can also use Google Maps and Google Earth to explore your locations beforehand. If possible, scout the area in person at different times of the day; that way, you will know WHEN TO GO and WHERE THE BEST SPOTS TO SHOOT ARE.
For more specialized location shooting information, try PhotoPills, Photographer’s Ephemeris. And if you are shooting a particular type of photography, try Aye Tydes and TideGraphs for ocean landscapes, Sunrise Sunset for sunset and sunrise shots, and Lightning Maps for thunderstorms.
Even though location and timing are significant success factors in landscape photography, always keep your eyes open for the unexpected. Be sure to turn around, wander off, change your angle of view, etc. Your planned photo might be good - but you might come up with a great one on the spot!
A great way to ensure better landscape images is to allow yourself enough time to walk around the location to find the perfect point of view.
This will also give you time to set up your equipment and take a few trial shots. Of course, the light can change quickly as you get your camera equipment ready, so you might have to readjust your exposure again before you start shooting.
If you’re planning on photographing the sunrise, sunset, or a specific natural event, make sure you arrive even earlier to give yourself additional time to prepare.
For example, if you want to photograph a sunset, try to arrive about 45 minutes earlier. That way, you will have enough time to get your camera ready and find the best spot to take full advantage of the golden hour. And don’t rush out afterward because the blue hour (the period of time just after sunset) can also offer great photo opportunities.
To achieve the best results, take control of your camera and shoot in manual mode.
For landscape photography, you should choose which of the three factors is most important to achieve the creative vision for your particular image - then compensate with the other two factors to find the correct exposure.
For example, if you want to incorporate motion blur or freeze your subject, prioritize "shutter speed." On the other hand, if you are trying to find the correct depth of field - prioritize "aperture."
Make sure you set your exposure mode and white balance for best results.
If you prefer to ease your way into manual mode, try using semi-automatic modes first until you are more comfortable.
The aspect ratio is the proportion between the height and width of a photograph. Most people use their camera's default aspect ratio without considering its impact on the final image.
While it’s true that every camera sensor has a specific aspect ratio, some cameras allow you to change it. If not, you can use the crop tool in any photo-editing program to change the aspect ratio. Just make sure you consider this future crop when composing your image in-camera.
When discussing landscape photography, most people think the more expansive an image is, the better. This is undoubtedly true if you want to create a panorama or capture the vastness of a particular location. But it’s not the only way to capture a great landscape image.
So, which aspect ratio is better for landscape photography? This depends on the particular location and the message you are trying to convey with your image.
Unlike other types of photos, you will want your landscape images to be fully in focus. I know this is easier said than done, so here are some tips and techniques you can use to achieve proper focus:
Unlike a portrait photo, where the main focus is a person, it's not always easy to find a focal point when shooting landscapes.
In landscape photography, EVERYTHING IN THE FRAME IS A PART OF THE SUBJECT. So, how do you find a focal point to draw a viewer’s attention?
One way to do this is by adding a human element. Following in the footsteps of the early 19th-century romantic landscape paintings, this technique demonstrates the vastness of nature combined with the fragility of a human being.
Consider using an ACTION as a focal point within your landscape scene, such as a lightning strike, a wave crashing, the sun peaking in between mountains, etc.
Finally, one of the most common techniques is to add a foreground element which will give the viewer something to focus on and add depth to the image by creating different planes.
While we might not always notice it, nature is never standing still. Let's look at a few great ways to capture and communicate motion in your landscape images.
Long Exposure: Long exposure is a technique where you leave the shutter open for an extended period of time in order to capture motion blur, which is perfect for capturing beautiful waterfall photos, for example. When doing this, your camera needs to be perfectly still, so make sure you use a tripod.
Intentional Camera Movement: This interesting technique also involves a long shutter speed, but this time the camera is MOVING while taking photos rather than standing still. This can create some fascinating abstract landscape photos.
Time Lapse: A time-lapse is when you take the same shot at regular intervals of time which can be seconds, minutes, hours, or even days. The individual photos are later composited in post-processing. This is a great way to demonstrate motion or capture change over a period of time.
Composition refers to how you frame a landscape and can be the difference between an amazing shot and an average one.
Many composition rules can help take your landscape photos to the next level, but remember that some of these guidelines can contradict each other, and that’s OK - because it’s ultimately up to you and how you want to tell your story.
The rule of thirds, for example, tells you that you shouldn’t have the horizon running through the center of the frame. Instead, you should place the horizon on the upper or lower third of the frame. However, if you are striving for a more symmetric composition - then it’s perfectly OK to have it in the middle.
The critical thing to remember is that WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE, DO IT FOR A REASON. So, if you choose to follow one composition rule over another (or break the rules altogether), do it consciously if it benefits your photograph.
Whether you have an entry-level or a pro-level camera, the right accessories can help to improve the quality of your landscape photos. Here are some of the basics to consider:
Tripod: A good tripod will help you improve your composition techniques and keep your camera steady, which is very important when using slower shutter speeds.
Trigger: A remote trigger or control will also help you avoid camera shake when using slower shutter speeds. If you don’t have one, make sure to use your camera's self-timer so it will have time to stabilize after you press the shutter button.
ND Filter: This refers to a neutral density filter that prevents some of the light from coming into a camera and allows you to take long exposures even during the day. A graduated neutral density filter (GND) helps you to even out the exposure in contrasting scenes - for example, a bright sky with a dark foreground.
Polarizing Filter: A polarizing filter is an excellent accessory for enhancing rainbows, controlling glare, enhancing color contrast, darkening the sky, or many other effects that can be useful in landscape photography. It also adds stops to your exposure, so it can be used in place of an ND filter if you don’t have one.
Lens Hood: A lens hood is a handy accessory, as it will allow you to block sunlight from entering the side of your lens, creating unwanted flare.
RAW is a photo file format produced by some cameras and smartphones. It's called a raw file because it stores all the raw data of a photo before processing it.
Each brand and manufacturer has its own raw file type. For example, Nikon's raw files are called NEF, Canon's are CR2 or CR3, and Apple's iPhone raw files are called ProRAW. There is also an open source raw file called DNG created by Adobe in the attempt to set an industry standard for maximum compatibility.
Regardless of which type of raw file your camera produces, a RAW file is the ideal format to process and create gorgeous landscape photos because they have SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION AVAILABLE FOR USE WHEN DEVELOPING AN IMAGE - highlight and shadow details, for example.
Most landscape images benefit from higher contrast and saturation. While all presets from Pretty Presets will work on landscape images, my favorites include ALL of the presets included in the Landscape Preset Collection, the "Clean Bright Color" and "Clean Rich Color" presets included in the Clean and Colorful Millennium Collection, and the "Bomb Pop" preset included in the Bomb Pop Collection.
Here is a before and after example using the "Copper Fields" preset INCLUDED in the Landscape Preset Collection.
Here is another before and after - this time using the "Spice It Up" preset, ALSO INCLUDED in the Landscape Preset Collection.
When editing landscape photos, begin by adjusting the exposure and white balance. Then, add a preset and make any additional global adjustments that are needed based on the particular image you are editing.
For example, you may want to increase the contrast, add additional saturation, decrease highlights, and increase shadows. As a final step, use the Lightroom Masking Tools to add filters, brushes, or a Sky filter to make changes to specific areas of the image.
As you can see, most of these tips are not related to expensive gear - you can apply them with any camera or smartphone.
Start by implementing a few of these tips to improve your landscape photography today and gradually add more as you get comfortable. I hope they give you the boost you need to bring home some gorgeous landscape photos!
Do you have any questions or comments about Landscape Photography? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it!)
Ana Mireles is a Mexican photographer and researcher with a passion for writing and teaching. She’s collaborated in artistic and cultural projects in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.