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Landscape Photography Tips

10 tips for landscape photography

 

Here's a quick look at my top 10 landscape photography tips.

This is one of my favourite areas of photography, and I've had plenty of opportunity to learn about it living on a beautiful stretch of coastline in England.

Good landscape photography relies on getting to grips with a few technical basics and keeping some important visual principles in mind. So here we go - my 10 tips for landscape photography.


1. Have an opportunistic mindset

Whether you live in an urban or rural environment, landscape photos are all about the light.

landscape photography tips flower

On the one hand we have plenty of time to pick our location, sort out the right gear and leisurely play around with different ways of capturing a static subject. But equally, as the light changes, an otherwise innocuous scene can suddenly become the best photo opportunity you've had in ages!

So it's a bit of a myth that landscape photography - unlike street, documentary or wildlife - is a calm and slow business which allows all of the time in the world to set up the perfect shot.

I can think of many occasions when opportunism has been the name of the game - a dramatic summer storm forming overhead and soon to bring down a deluge; beautiful dawn mist in the autumn that vanishes in seconds; magical light just before sunrise that lasts less than a few minutes...

So think of the light as equivalent to the expression on a person's face. You have to capture it just at the moment that it spreads over the subject and brings everything to life.

 

2. Sunrise/sunset: 'the magic hours'

landscape photography tips dawn

Since light is so important for good landscape photography, this is one of my top landscape photography tips. Not always, but on the whole, it's at sunrise and sunset that the most interesting, beautiful and dramatic light can be found.

Places you may not even think of as potential landscape photography locations can become really striking at these times.

Be sure to get to your location some time before sunrise, because the gathering light takes all kinds of interesting forms in this period. Equally the calm light after sunset shouldn't be missed.

Personally, I just can't handle the thought of a summer time dawn start! I should try it, but hey. If you like your sleep too, capitalise on the later sunrises of the winter months. This is one of the big consolations of winter for me - all the good landscape photography opportunities. So get up for the dawn and take some great winter landscape photos!

 

3. The sky is crucial

landscape photography tips storm

Although the sky often features only in the top third section of landscape shots, another one of my big landscape photography tips is to treat it as a crucial part of any image.

The sky is not just where the light comes from to illuminate the landscape. A dramatic sky, full of shapes and shadows and chinks of light, is a landscape in itself. It can make or break a picture and determine the whole mood of a scene

Be opportunistic with good skies, as soon as it starts to look interesting grab your camera and make the most of it!

 

4. Use a narrow aperture

landscape photography tips aperture

There are no rules about this, of course. Sometimes a shallow depth of field, caused by a wide aperture, is just what you need in a landscape shot. But as a rule of thumb, a narrow aperture, which gives a large depth of field and keeps everything in focus, is preferable.

This way everything from your foreground to your background can remain sharp. Set the focus to a point in the middle distance, allowing the depth of field to extend equal amounts either side.

So, when using a narrow aperture (high f. stop, e.g. f.32), there's a chance the shutter speed will have to slow down to a point where camera shake becomes a problem.

Solution - use a tripod of course! Using a tripod is one of the most important landscape photography tips for this reason

 

5. Balance your composition

This is one of the most important landscape photography tips because composition is really what occupies your mind above all when setting up a shot. Again - no hard and fast rules, but some handy principles to think about.

The golden mean and the rule of thirds are excellent guides to you help visualise the proportions in your shots. Basically, they are a way to remind you that a picture can become lopsided if too much attention is focused on one area of the frame.

landscape photography tips composition

Don't just shoot a subject without a sense of the relationship between foreground, middle and background. Lots of foreground and a thin strip of sky will usually look unbalanced and awkward.

Equally, a big open landscape without much, or any, foreground to draw the eye in looks flat. Distribute the weight of objects in your pictures evenly (full tutorial on balance and weight).

 

6. Find a good foreground

landscape photography tips foreground

It's amazing how a striking landscape can appear devoid of character when photographed without a foreground. Good landscape photography almost always makes use of interesting foregrounds, so this is another of my top 10 tips for landscape photography.

3 things to look out for in your foregrounds are lead-in lines, texture and colour.

Lead-in lines are a really important compositional device, helping to bring the whole picture together and adding lots of depth.

An interesting texture is also something for the viewer's eye to latch on to as it begins moving through the photo. If you're struggling to spot anything - get low! Most surfaces can become quite interesting when shot from close up and low down.

Strong colours are also an excellent means of livening up foregrounds. Flowers, stones, lush green fields - they can all work, but be sure not to completely hog attention away from the landscape behind!

 

7. Shoot in Raw

landscape photography tips raw file format

This is definitely one of the most important landscape photography tips!

Using a Raw file format enables you to quickly and easily produce differently exposed versions of the same shot in Photoshop... So!?

Well, you can blend them together to create an image with the optimal exposure for all areas! A very cool trick!

No more burnt out skies and well exposed foregrounds! No more black landscapes with good skies! Raw is about no compromise - no frustrating balancing act between different parts of the image.

So if you don't shoot in Raw file format yet - it's time to start!

 

8. Use both portrait and landscape formats

Just because you would typically use a vertical, portrait format for pictures of people, doesn't mean it isn't also a great option for landscape photos.

landscape photography tips portrait

If you have found a great foreground for a picture and would like to make the most of it, a portrait format often allows you to emphasise it more.

Also, when using a shallow depth of field to draw attention to a foreground subject, a portrait format can make it easier to fill the frame with this main point of interest. 

Perhaps you've found some great lead-in lines? A portrait format can echo these very effectively. Coastal landscapes featuring a long strip of shoreline often look good in a vertical frame.

 

9. A few tweaks in Photoshop

Whilst it's always worth trying to capture your images perfectly in the camera, Photoshop can be used for some great finishing touches.

When shooting in a Raw file format, there's a lot that can be done to fine tune your images by adjusting exposure, white balance, contrast and so on. Once in the main Editor workspace though, a number of little adjustments will also benefit most landscape photos.

landscape photography tips photoshop

1. Use a Levels adjustment layer to up the contrast. You can use one of the lasso tools to create an isolated selection to apply this change too. Often JPEG images will require some darkening of the midtones and shadows in the sky. Using the same Levels layer you can carefully adjust the amounts of blue, green and red in the picture.

2. With a Hue/Saturation layer, it's sometimes worthwhile improving colours by increasing or decreasing saturation. Increase saturation sparingly to avoid an artificial effect. Again, a lasso tool will enable you to make local adjustments.

3. Sharpen your picture. Just about every landscape photo benefits from some sharpening. Use the 'Unsharp Mask' feature, and work roughly to these quantities: Amount: 225% Radius: 0.5 Threshold: 0. One of my top top landscape photography tips would be to avoid over sharpening which always looks awful.

 

10. Find some inspiring landscape photography books

There's nothing like browsing through brilliant photos to remind you of why you bother, and what it is you're aiming for! It's exciting to see just how magnificent photographs can be, and what the potential of your camera is.

Soaking up the work of someone like Ansel Adams or Charlie Waite can't fail to help you appreciate a little better what goes towards great images. Every time I pick up my favourite landscape photography books my mind is filled with exciting new ideas and possibilities.

It could be for a new use of texture, contrast, or colour; for shooting an unusual subject that I hadn't considered before; or for employing cool compositional techniques that work really well. The best landscape photography tips are those contained in the best landscape photos.

There are also some brilliant websites about, which feature the work of talented landscape photographers. These are well worth exploring. I really like the work of Tony Howell and Charlie Waite. Digital Photography Magazines are also a great place to pick up handy landscape photography tips - here are 4 reviews of my favourites.

The Photography Crash Course: 17 Short Lessons To Camera Mastery

Where Next?

Online Digital Photography Courses

Finding the Best Digital Photo Printers

How to Use Photoshop

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