Everybody wants to shoot better landscapes. When I started landscape photography, I often went home with bad pictures, sometimes they were blurry, other times overexposed etc. In this article, I will show some useful tips to help you avoid these rookie mistakes.
You are on the field, fully prepared your composition and ready to shoot? This is what I check to get a proper a picture, before hitting the shutter button.
First, you need a sturdy tripod to avoid any kind of vibration. I personally use a ball head tripod, because it is quite easy to adjust it for any composition.
Sure, you don’t have to invest a lot of money in a fancy tripod, a regular one will do the job from your local photo store. If it is not sturdy enough, try to hang your bag below it, to reduce the shaking of the tripod.
Use live view
I know it drains your battery faster, but in return, there are plenty of useful information shown on your LCD screen: shutter speed, aperture, histogram and so on, while the viewfinder doesn’t provide this information so easily.
With your magnifying buttons, you can zoom into any area on your image to set the picture crispy sharp.
Make sure you switch from auto to manual focus on your lens. In this case, it is a lot easier to set the appropriate focus in the live view mode.
Focus depends on what you are shooting, but if you photographing a regular landscape like the image below, it’s usually enough to focus on the first ⅓ of your picture to get everything sharp.
If you have a very close foreground you need to do a different kind of process, which is called focus stacking. I wrote a separate article about it, to cover the topic in details. Check it out here.
To get everything in sharp focus you will need to select a narrow aperture which will allow you to shoot better landscapes. I tend to use one between f/8 and f/16. It all depends on what your subject is. If you use a wide angle lens to capture everything between the ground line and the sky, you probably set it between f/11 – f/16. With a telephoto lens, which is typically slower but offer fantastic sharpness, even so, you might consider selecting a lower aperture, for example, f/5.6 – f/11.
The histogram is a graphical explanation of your pixels exposed on your image. The left side represents dark areas and the right indicates brighter areas. You can easily try this and figure it out if you are changing your shutter speed, aperture or ISO. On Canon cameras, you can immediately see how these changes affect the histogram on the live view.
I slightly underexpose my images to keep my highlights’ details. It is simply easier to recover the shadows than recovering overexposed highlights.
I always use a remote to make sure I avoid any kind of movement. I usually do it with a 2-second self-timer in camera to shoot better landscapes. You could also use a remote release or your cell phone if your camera has wifi support.
I realized that telephoto lenses require 10 seconds delay to completely prevent all movements.
Make sure that you use the lowest ISO possible, some cameras even let you set it to 50.
I always use it on 100 to prevent noise which the sensor generates on higher ISO settings. Obviously, landscape photographers don’t shoot with high-speed shutters since the mountains aren’t going to go anywhere.
However, the higher ISOs do not change the sensor sensitivity, it only records smaller ranges of light on one pixel, which will lead to unpleasant details.
If you like grain and can deal with some noise in your image, you can use a higher ISO; it all depends on your preference. Today’s mid to pro cameras handle ISOs much better, though.
Try out these tips next time on the field and let me know if you got better results or if you still have questions! Hope this article helped to shoot better landscapes.