How to Take Dynamic Landscape Photographs

Most of us know that take great landscape images we need a tripod and good light, but there is a lot more to it than just setting your camera up in front a pretty scene and snapping a picture. As Tim Cooper explains in the following seminar, there are lots of secrets and tips the professionals use that many amateur photographers are not aware of. Watch the presentation to learn some of them and to  improve your landscape photography:

Setting Up The Camera

  • Shooting in RAW allows you to retain all the details in your image and gives you more flexibility in post-production.
  • Keep your ISO to the lowest setting possible. In general, landscape photographers try to stick to 100 or 200.
  • Understand how white balance works, but don’t overthink it. Set your white balance to the prevailing light. If you are shooting outside under the sun, change the white balance to daylight–not auto.

Use the Daylight White Balance setting when shooting sunsets.

Circular Polarizing Filter

According to Tim Cooper, a circular polarizing filter is the most important filter to have in your gear bag. Cooper says he uses a circular polarized about 85% of the time. Take a look at the two photos below to see one of the reasons why:

Without A Circular Polarizer.

Without A Circular Polarizer.

With A Circular Polarizer.

With A Circular Polarizer.

Neither of the two samples shown above have been edited in any way. The dramatic difference that you see was accomplished solely through the use of a polarizing filter. These handy filters are well known for their ability to remove glare and reflections from water and other shiny surfaces, but as you can see they are also useful for maintaining and improving colors.

Depth Of Field

For landscape photography, you generally want everything in the photo to be in focus. This means the background should be equally as sharp as the foreground elements. To accomplish this, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

First, use a small aperture, but don’t be tempted to set your camera to it’s smallest setting and never change it. Oftentimes, the smallest aperture will degrade the quality of image due to light refraction. Instead, try using an aperture a few stops below the smallest aperture.


Secondly, learn the 1/3 – 2/3 rule. This will teach you to choose the proper section of the landscape to focus on, and how to extend that focus throughout the image for maximum overall sharpness. As a rule of thumb, your focusing point should be a 1/3 of the way through the scene. Use a wider aperture to get tack sharp focus 1/3 of the way through the scene, then begin stopping the aperture down to a more narrow setting to extend the focus across the entire scene. As you stop the aperture down, the focus will extend 1/3 towards the camera 2/3 away from the camera, thus the 1/3-2/3 rule.

 Other Considerations

One of the factors Cooper discusses in the seminar is camera position–which he says is the most important factor in landscape photography–and rightfully so. Composition is key in any genre of photography. He also covers lens distortion, focal lengths, and the all important light! If you don’t have time to watch the entire hour and half video, bookmark this page and come back to it later–it’s well worth the time.

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