Landscape photography can be a frustrating genre of photography to be involved in. If the conditions are right you can capture some remarkable photos. If not, it can be demoralizing and a waste of time. But then, that is often the case whenever you are relying on outdoor conditions. As important as the conditions and light are to a landscape photo, there are other elements that also need to be considered. If you can get all these aspects correct, you will end up with a photo that you will be proud of.
Start with your location
Landscape photography is as much about being in the right place as it is about being there at the right time. Where you are taking a photo from can make a whole world of difference to the end result. That is why research and planning are so vital in landscape photography. But nothing compares to actually being at a location and seeing it for yourself. So if possible always try to get to locations and scout them out before shooting. This is also something that is very useful to do on those days when the weather isn’t great and it means when the conditions are right, you’ll know exactly where you need to be.
Have an idea of what you want to achieve
Be honest, how many times have you turned up at a location at the worst time possible (in terms of light and conditions) and taken a photo even though it wasn’t what you had in mind? That’s not a bad thing because you will rarely get the exact conditions that you had imagined. The point here is that you had something in mind originally. So if you don’t get that shot straightaway, be prepared to wait or even come back another day so that you are able to capture a shot as closely to your vision as possible. Of course, sometimes you get lucky and you end up with a better photo, but if you don’t, never settle for something if you have a chance to do it better.
Get some quality filters
Filters are one of the most important accessories that you will need for great landscape photos. Almost every landscape shot that I take, would be with at least one filter. I use Lee square filters as they allow for greater flexibility of positioning than screw-in filters. The reason why filters are so important in landscape photography is that they will help you be able to manipulate the light within a scene to give you the shot that you want to take. There are lots of different filters out there but the most commonly used ones for landscape photography are graduated neutral density filters. These will help you ensure the bright areas in your photos (like the sky) and dark areas (like the foreground) are exposed evenly.
You can mimic this effect in post-production or even by stacking different exposures (HDR), but I personally find the end result lacks some of the contrast of a photo taken using filters. Plus it’s a good habit to get into to capture photos correctly when you are out in the field.
Simplify your composition
One of the big challenges in landscape photography is being able to keep your scene interesting but at the same time avoiding too many distracting elements. That’s one of the reasons why landscape photographers, for example, prefer the smooth water effect in coastal scenes. As it helps clear up the scene for a cleaner image. When you are not photographing near water you can still look for ways to get a clean composition. Use some of the commonly known composition techniques such as the rule of thirds or golden ratio to ensure you frame your point of interest carefully. Try to frame your shot so that you avoid distracting elements within your scene.
Shoot in RAW and edit
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why anyone would want to take photos in anything other than RAW file format (if their camera can do so). Sure if you are shooting in JPEG you can save a ton of memory card space not to mention quicker editing. But that comes at the price of the quality of the photo not being as good. So why would you want to compromise that amazing view for the sake of saving memory card space?
If you shoot in JPEGs, your camera will automatically add its own editing to the photo (which is irreversible). RAW files are the most flexible for editing and produce a sort of “digital negative”. You can then adjust everything from white balance to exposure, contrast, saturation and more. This is important because every photo will benefit from some level of editing even if it is some basic adjustments. So don’t be lazy about this part of the process.
Change your angle of view
One of the common pitfalls of landscape photography is that because you often have your camera mounted on a tripod, you end up with all of your photos from the same “eye view” level. Most of the time that is fine. But there might be occasions when just a different angle of view will give you a completely different photo. So don’t be afraid to get down low or even raise your camera higher by placing your tripod on a wall. Because you might just end up with a view that people often don’t see.
Landscape photography is an enjoyable branch of photography and one that most people will try out at some point in their life. Even if it just holiday photos, it is still worth remembering the points above to ensure that your photos stand out. With a bit of practice and a lot of patience and persistence, you will be sure to end up with landscape photos that you can be proud of.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.