These days most of us are taking our cameras just about anywhere we go and landscape photos are a dime a dozen, but if want your landscape photos to stand out from the crowd there are a few landscape photography tips and techniques you’ll have to keep in mind:
1. Take a Moment to Let Yourself Fully Enter the Scene
One of the primary purposes to landscape photos is to capture the magic of a place, to encapsulate its essence in a moment of time. The best way to find that magic is to give yourself a few moments to connect with the scene, before setting up. You can even use this time to explore the scene from different perspectives – sitting, kneeling, climbing up on a rock, etc.
Relax and find the spot where the most amazingness hits you – this will be what you want to communicate to the viewer. Unless you’re quickly losing the light, there isn’t really a lot of reason to rush.
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2. Use a Tripod
A lot of amateurs forgo this step thinking it’s too much trouble, but really, this step can really make or break a set of photos. Using a tripod will not only ensure your photos avoid unintentional blur, they’ll also allow you to experiment with different settings on the exact same scene (vital for HDR photography).
They’re also essential for any photography that needs a longer shutter time (like getting a softer texture on water). Taking the time to set-up a tripod also give you the added impetus to think in terms of composition and perspective. We also discuss the importance of using a tripod when capturing landscapes with a telephoto lense.
3. Pay Attention to Your Composition
Composition is also one of those features that set apart amateurs from accomplished photographers. As with most photography, placing key elements on the ‘thirds’ in the frame (otherwise known as the ‘rule of thirds’) will usually yield far better results than using the center of the frame. Also, including leading lines and interesting foreground elements will help to add depth to your photos.
4. Shoot with an aperture no smaller than f16
You’ve probably been told that you need a smaller aperture (higher f-stop) in landscape photography to get the maximum depth of field, but with most lenses there’s a maximum point beyond which things begin getting slightly softer. That being said, every lens is sharpest at a different aperture and knowing the qualities of your lenses can make a big difference, but either way, sticking between f7.1 and f16 will give you the best results.
Use an aperture of f/11 or above when shooting sun or lights directly, it creates a nice start burst effect, the starburst effect depends upon the number of blades used to construct the lens, this can be found on the lens specification. Do not go to the extreme end of the aperture above f/16 to f/22 as the lens starts diffracting.
5. Use ISO 100 or 200
Always aim for the lowest ISO your lighting and camera can handle (another reason to use a tripod). Low ISO’s will give you rich, high-quality landscapes free from noise.
6. Focus a third of the way into a scene
Focusing a third of the way into a scene will maximize your depth of field (i.e. get more of your scene in focus). If you’re using a fairly modern camera, you can use Live View to make sure you nail the focus you’re looking for.
7. Shoot in RAW (or RAW+JPG)
Shooting in RAW will give the maximum amount of wiggle room when it comes to post-processing your photos. RAW photos contain much more tonal and color information that JPEGS, allowing you far more control over the final output of your photo.
8. Work with the Golden Hours
Lighting is one of the most important parts of any photography and with landscapes this usually translates into shooting during the “golden hour” – the hour right before sunrise and after sunset. This is when the lighting can really make your landscapes come alive.
Times to avoid are when the sun is highest (i.e. afternoon), when the intensity and angle of the light creates hard shadows and washed out colors. This also allows for you to capture incredible scenes as the light is scattered through the clouds.
9. Level Your Horizon
This may seem obvious, but it’s a step that many amateurs and even some pros neglect. Human perception is hard-wired to see everything level, even if what we’re looking at isn’t. By leveling the horizon for us, you keep our brains from spending that extra effort on keeping things straight (which is slightly uncomfortable).
10. Enhance Your Photos Using Lightroom Presets
In today’s digital age, your photos aren’t completely finished until you edit and retouch your photos. There are many programs and photo presets out there to help you improve your photos. We recommend using Landscape Lightroom Presets, specially created to highlight and enhance your scenic shots.
These presets are designed for photographers of all levels, so you don’t have to worry about complicated controls or interfaces.
Shooting landscapes is a challenge in itself, considering the varying light and weather conditions. Using these Lightroom presets can help you control the areas of your photos that just need that extra oomph of contrast or light.
These presets and brushes are fully customizable so you have complete creative freedom in your workflow.
Bonus Tip: Shoot Different Exposures
If you are shooting at sunset/sunrise it’s difficult to capture the entire dynamic range in a single picture, try to bracket the exposures, Usually an exposures of -2 (underexposed), 0 (correct exposure) 2 (overexposure) will work.
Do not use the third party HDR plug-ins for creating the HDR images by inputting the different exposed images. Use the Lightroom CC’s Merge -> HDR feature for better results to begin with. Luminosity masks are much advanced and gives outstanding results.
Landscape Photography Courses from Udemy
If you are looking to get more of our tips for photographing nature, take a look at our landscape photography course.