create better landscape compositions

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How to Create Better Landscape Compositions Easily

Tips&tricks, Tutorials

As I mentioned in my previous article, the light has one of the most crucial effects on our image. While the light gives that color punch to the image, the build of our composition has the structural information for our brains. Due to this fact, we need to align physical elements perfectly to create better landscape compositions.

For us the purpose of taking landscape images is mostly to wow our viewers, right? The question is how can we achieve a better impression? Sometimes it’s not enough to snap a photo of an iconic location – we need to work on that scene compositionally to make it more appealing.

Pay attention to the structure

It is not always as easy as it seems, but with common nature structures and with some practice to align components, you can learn how to deliver better results. Compositions also have rules and settings what we can follow and apply.

When I began learning landscape photography, I immediately put more effort into analyzing pro photographers’ compositions, and in addition, to finding out what works the best and why their images have a more outstanding impact. As I learned and gained more knowledge on this topic, I started to implement my techniques for particular scenes.

On my photographs that I found visually compelling, I started to draw lines to understand what was a good placement of the supporting elements. Later on, It was much easier to avoid bothering components on the field and create stronger compositions. An example; a taking step forward would help to get rid of that nonparticipating tree from the frame. Or get lower might help to find a leading line.

Analyze Paintings

Another approach, what I use often, is to examine painters’ landscape images like Albert Bierstadt and William Turner. We can learn a lot from them, they already gathered tons of information about compositions and light behaviors. Their pictures are very helpful for us landscape photographers to implement their valuable findigs in our works.

Keep it Simple

Although the light is just as important as the composition itself, the structure of an image has a much stronger impact on our psyche. It should be simple and we need to prevent all the chaos from the frame, to deliver cleaner results. The most crucial principle here is simplicity and the placement of additional visual elements that complete the shot. It can be anything from a leading line, pointing rocks or dramatic clouds. Therefore we can create better landscape compositions easily.

Think in Shapes

Think of geometric shapes. Instead of allowing our brains to process every small detail on the field, which is quite challenging to ignore, try to look at scene elements as geometric shapes: triangles, circles, lines. Why? It’s because using this technique can simplify the scene and persuade us to focus on sophisticated objects.

Ask yourself

We always need to ask ourselves what would work best at a current scene. Do I need to use diagonal lines to lead the viewer’s eyes or use a surrounding tree to make a better impact? Where should I place elements to perfectly cooperate with my composition?

There are some great ways to acquire these techniques, and I tell you 7 simple composition settings which are really easy to implement.

The Mirror

I think this is the easiest composition to work with. As the name says it all, we need to place the horizon in the center for a perfect mirror effect of our subject.

Although it does not necessarily have to be in the middle, be careful not to cut anything important off from the frame.

It can be a tree, an animal or a mountain. It is very pleasing to the eye how the subject reflects on the lake surface and evolves itself in a whole. I always try this method when I am scouting around lakes.

create better landscape compositions

High Tatra, Slovakia – Gabor Boszormenyi

The Snake

Although it is a leading line, I call it a snake as the winding line goes through the picture and draws the viewer’s attention to our subject. It works best with a curving river, a road or a strangely shaped tree. The main reason to use this element is to force the viewer’s eye to move through the picture along the curve. Also, an S curve is a very elegant and convenient shape for our eyes.

Remember thinking in shapes? It is also a useful technique what we can apply in this case.

create better landscape compositions

Fanes Sennes Braies, Italy – Gabor Boszormenyi

The Layer

Placing objects over each other can create a great visual impact as elements overlapping one over the other through the frame.

Usually, I create this structure with a telephoto lens because it compresses the distance neatly, and furthermore, gives the scene a much narrower depth of field.

create better landscape compositions

Hochtor, Austria – Gabor Boszormenyi

The Frame

I am sure you saw plenty of examples for this one. The idea of placing a visual frame in the foreground could be very compelling. There are almost endless possibilities in this case. I have seen great pictures what were taken from a cave as its mouth forms a natural frame for the picture. Although we have to be careful, not let the frame deflect the focus from the main subject.

create better landscape compositions

Dolomites, Italy – Gabor Boszormenyi

The Pointer

This is where the shaping technique comes very useful. The key here is to find a foreground object that is pointing to our main subject. One of the most effective approaches is to lead our viewer’s eye. In the following case, I used a rock formation to point to my subject which is the mountain. Have you realized how these simple elements can draw the attention? Like that old trunk pointing to the waterfall.

create better landscape compositions

Passo di Giau, Italy – Gabor Boszormenyi

create better landscape compositions

Hidden Waterfall, Hungary – Gabor Boszormenyi

The Crossing

Forest streams and waterfalls are generally hard to photograph. With this composition technique, we can easily force the viewer’s eye to scan through the entire picture. The key is to place the subject in a diagonal way, just like the mountain or the waterfall on this picture. Diagonal lines could draw attention to the picture very easily.

create better landscape compositions

Ysperklamm, Austria – Peter Ujvari

create better landscape compositions

Großer Buchstein, Austria – Gabor Boszormenyi

The Close-up

Do get close if you find compelling foreground elements. It can support your composition structure and have a better impact on your viewers. It requires a wide angle lens to do so. Most of the time, flowers can provide these foreground elements perfectly, although it can be anything which has a visually appealing look. It is even better if the shape or the color of the foreground element cooperates with the background.

At the picture below I used seaweed and a small pool formation to create a nice depth of field.

create better landscape compositions

Greenbowl beach, Indonesia – Gabor Boszormenyi

Pay attention to what your eyes rest on, and work the scene to get the most out of it. It can be a mess sometimes, so only include visually compelling elements. With the tips mentioned above, as a result, you can create better landscape compositions. If you have anything to add to my thoughts, feel free to comment below.


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