Landscape Photography Tips

The best light is during dawn and dusk. That’s when the light is warm, the sun is in the frame, and the mood is just beautiful. However, depending on what you want to do with your landscape shots you can shoot any time you want. I’ve read time after time  that the only time to shoot landscape shots is during dawn or dusk. I shoot mine when I see the moment. But it all depends on your style and what you want to convey. It’s better you capture the image than not just because you were busy waiting for the perfect light.

landscape photography

“Dead Vlei Namibia” captured by David Hobcote

I love incredible light, however. I can go excited—nearly ecstatic—from amazing light, but the moment will always go first. If I only have the crappiest camera with the shittiest light, I’ll still make the frame.

Use a tripod

You will not be able to hold the camera steady during low light circumstances without a tripod. Invest in a stable one and use the timer shutter, or invest in a remote shutter control. This way it doesn’t get influenced by the motion of you pressing down on the shutter button. I do have a remote shutter control, but I still prefer the timer because it’s with me at all times without using up space in my luggage. I can set the timer to merely two seconds which makes the it very convenient. Perfect for the shake to settle down and it’s a short enough time to wait for the shutter to trigger. Ten seconds can be bothersome, but two is nothing. A stable tripod costs a lot, but in many ways it will be worth it because just a little wind can knock your tripod down and wreck anything it holds. This can cost you the image, but it can also cost you the camera.

Divide the image for depth

Divide the image into foreground (for instance the ground or the beach), the middle ground (for instance the water) and the background (for instance the sky). This creates a sense of depth and will make a huge difference in your landscape photography.

Set the aperture value high

An aperture around f/22 should give you a nice sharp overall image. Many lenses are the sharpest around f/8, but that’s a whole other level of sharpness. Go with as high value as you can get and use a tripod, unless you are going for effects like freezing the flow of water. Since the shutter speed will be quite slow while shooting landscapes you should set the ISO to around 50 or 100, which will cause low amounts of noise in the picture.

taking landscape photography

“Waterfall at Sunset” captured by Ævar Guðmundsson

Focus in the middle

If you are looking for overall sharpness, always place the focus in the middle of the landscape. If there’s a focal point you want to emphasize, place the focus straight onto it.

Focal point

Are there any elements you can use in the picture as a focal point? For instance a road that swirls into the image, three rocks in the water, or maybe a tree? If you create a focal point in the photograph it will be so much stronger. Without it, the photo will just be flat. Always look for light, lines, symmetry, and elements that stand out. An easy way to do this is to look at the landscape—what exactly captures your attention? Make that your focal point.

Get an interesting sky

A clear blue sky is awesome, but it’s also just a blue boring sky. If you want drama in your picture, wait for the charismatic clouds to sweep in. As always, it depends on what you are going for but a busy sky always creates more of an emotional effect.

Never place the horizon in the middle

Okay, this is a little bit of a lie because sometimes placing the horizon in the absolute middle of the photograph can be amazing, but most of the time look at what’s interesting—the ground or the sky? Compose the image so that the most interesting part uses up more space. If you have a clear blue sky it will just fill you image with blue. If so frame the image so that the most of it is filled with an interesting ground. If you have an incredible texture of clouds before you and the ground is just boring rocks, shoot the sky. In short, choose what’s more interesting—the ground or the sky—and let the most interesting element be the dominant part of the image.

photography tips for landscapes

Photo captured by Anthony Smith

Think detail

Make sure the highlights don’t go too bright, and cram in as much detail you can. This goes for every photograph; detail captivates but when it comes to landscape photography the details are a massive part of the image. You can even use bracketing to create an HDR image with incredible amounts of detail. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and in short, it’s a way to blend several exposures into one with details in even the brightest and the darkest areas.

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6 responses to “Landscape Photography Tips”

  1. bycostello says:

    great image.. i think i have a shot of those trees too!

  2. Chris Smith says:

    When setting the aperture ‘high’, like at f/22, you get a seemingly sharper image because of the increased ‘depth-of-field’. This is caused by the small aperture, which allows less light into the camera per unit time and hence the exposure time is elevated. And an increased exposure time inevitably requires the use of a tripod to support the camera.

  3. The waterfall at sunset picture is great! What settings did you use for that shot?

  4. Jason says:

    f/22 won’t be the sharpest. As you said, most lenses are sharpest at f/8. By f/22 the image will be quite soft due to quantum effects.

  5. Len Pugh says:

    Great photographs; but a fundamental mistake in the text – for maximum depth of field at any aperture you have to set the focus point 1/3rd into the picture, so that you have 2/3rd of the image behind the focus point. You do not focus in the middle!

  6. Don Smith says:

    As Len Pugh said, approximately 1/3 third into the scene, not halfway in. Even better. learn to use hyperfocal distance and how to compute it. Several apps exist that will compute it for you.

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