How to Shoot Better Landscape Photography

How to Shoot Better Landscape Photography

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

A good rule of thumb when photographing any landscape scene is to think of an adjective or adjectives that will describe the scene and what you were feeling during the entire photographic process.

You should include in the pictures any details that help the audience identify with the adjective that you thought off.

If the details do this properly then you have achieved the purpose of capturing a worthwhile scene.

If including wildlife in your landscape photos be aware that many animals have developed coloration that helps them blend in with their surroundings.

Aim for a perspective or angle that silhouettes them against another feature which in turn makes their coloration stand out in some way.

There is no better advice than to start your adventure early in the day and finish late.

Starting early gives you a better chance of capturing good images not only because of the light present during this time of day is mostly the best light of the day, but also because the weather is usually cooler.

You can avoid competition with other fellow shutter bugs and most live subjects will be more at ease during this time of day. Not to mention is the possibility of capturing the night's dew upon the grass or leaves.

Avoid shooting during the peak of the day when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky. It is hotter, harsh shadows will show and most wildlife is at rest and any dew will probably have evaporated by then.

Photographing landscapes can be a challenging endeavor for even the most professional of photographers.

But if done right, the views and scenery can be nothing short of breathtaking.

There are many pros who spend copious amounts of time researching a chosen spot and many more hours just waiting for the special moment when the light is just perfect and can reward them with exceptional views.

It takes patience, dedication and lots of creativity for making a simple view of a wide open space come to life in your pictures.

Here are some basic tips in how to get the most from your landscape photographic adventures.

The best pictures usually come when you have an overcast sky because the clouds and the moisture in the atmosphere diffuse the light making the scenery appear more natural without harsh shadows that can produce "ugly" spots.

Strong light creates strong shadows and most photographers will wait hours for just the right combination of light.

Researching weather patterns can greatly aid you when scouting a location to photograph.

Learn to take advantage of these overcast lighting conditions for that perfect shot.

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CC BY 2.0 DE | Source

Learn to incorporate textures in your landscape shots.

Early or late sunlight is perfect for this. Nothing says more about the subject than the information derived from a richly textured scene.

Using texture also communicates to the viewer your impressions about what you are photographing as well as the makeup of the location.

Some close ups are best for this but this does not mean that you have to sacrifice the long or wide angle shot.

Late or early sunshine work best so pay attention to the time of day when composing the perfect photograph.

Place a portion of the scene close to the lens and use a small aperture to incorporate a long depth of field view with a rich textured subject area in the forefront

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CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

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When photographic landscapes that may feature some wildlife, compose the shot to avoid including any man made or un-natural looking features like fences, light poles cars and so on.

This is a great tip relied upon by many photographers who make a living from their nature shots and it works great with landscapes devoid of any wildlife subject too.

Man made structures tend to compete for the attention of the viewer and will distract the eye from the main point of focus.

Many editors will demand that submissions of landscapes and wildlife be captured totally in the wild without the hindrances that man made structures can offer.

This is why you must reveal to an editor if your images of an African lion, penguin or red fox were taken in the wild or in a zoo for example.

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Using a tripod is mostly a requirement, especially if shooting during poor light conditions but there are many other ways of bracing yourself like a bean bag, the ground, a tree or even your vehicle window.

Take advantage of anything that can help you brace yourself without the need for an often expensive, heavy and bulky tripod.

With that said, a tripod is a good investment and should be considered among your priorities in photographic gear. Better to have one and not need it than to need it and not have it.

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CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

If your scene presents you with pure whites (like snow) or pure blacks (like a mountain gorilla) you must be careful to adjust your settings accordingly.

Most camera sensors will read these two extremes as if being mid tone grays and this will reflect in the final images when they account for the other element in the scene. This usually results in an underexposed main subject; a gray snow patch or a gray gorilla

Try over exposing by one or two stops. A good never fail trick is to focus closely in the subject itself, set the meter for that setting, then compose the shot with the rest of the details in the scene present.

If you cannot focus on the subject or isolate it with your lens, then it is good to always carry a gray card. It's nothing more than a gray colored piece of cardboard which has been adjusted for your camera's settings and is basically "telling" the camera what gray should look like.

Remember to manually set the settings in your camera when applying this trick. With these two extremes the auto mode will most likely fail and give you gray looking scenery and subjects.

If you come upon some interesting wildlife subjects in your landscapes searches, try to use a shallow depth of field setting (a large f stop/aperture)

Large apertures tend to make details behind the main subject appear as out of focus highlights thus lessening the chances of causing a distraction for the viewers.

Never submit yourself to one angle or perspective only. Try different angles and different perspectives for each subject.

You may be surprised by the different compositions that can be achieved this way.

For landscapes especially, avoid metering for the sky since it is brighter than any subject and will tend to fool your camera sensors into rendering the rest of the elements in the scenery underexposed.

If your scenery contains muted colors a good idea is to capture these images during the sunset hours. While the Sun is setting its light will bathe most subjects with a "golden" like glow making these scenes that much more interesting.

For landscape photography a wide angle, a telephoto or zoom plus a prime 50mm lens are essentials. You never know when you will come upon a subject that dictates a lens that you didn't bring along.

For most details found in landscape photography try to frame a group of the same subject type together in a close up. This creates intrigue and makes the image than much pleasant to look at.

This of course if all subjects look alike and there is no single particularly extraordinary one that stands out.

This is not the same for wildlife, here isolating one main subject works better and speaking of isolating in a close up mode, make sure that the eyes of your subject are 100% sharp.

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© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez

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2 comments

AMFredenburg profile image

AMFredenburg 2 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

This article takes advice beyond the basics and offers a thoughtful approach to landscape photography; shared and pinned. Thanks, Luiz!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

AMFredenburg: Thank you so much!

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