How to Improve your Landscape Composition Techniques

Most of the time, it’s not enough to snap a photo of a great location and call it a day – we need to work on the scene compositionally to make that pictures more interesting. Mastering your landscape composition techniques will fundamentally improve your images.

In this article, I share useful tips and 7 landscape composition types that you can easily implement in your work.  

Table of contents

  • Scout Your Location
  • Study Landscape Composition Structures
  • Analyze Paintings
  • Keep it Simple
  • Think in Shapes
  • Ask Yourself
  • Eliminate Distractions
  • 7 Landscape Composition Types

Scout Your Location

It’s necessary to discover your scene. Try to explore your area as much as you can. Research online or try different composition angles on location. I wrote an article about location scouting, and I highly recommend you to read it.

Until you don’t know what conditions you can expect in the area, you can’t deliver great photos.

Study Landscape Composition Structures.

When I began learning about compositions, I immediately put more effort into analyzing pro photographer’s pictures. I wanted to find out what works best and why their images have a more meaningful impact.

I learned and gained more knowledge on this topic, and I started to implement these landscape composition techniques into my photography.

I started to draw lines to understand the supporting elements of good placement on my photographs visually compelling. I was continually analyzing why a particular picture had a winning factor over others. 

Later on, It was much easier to avoid bothering components on the field, and I started to create more substantial compositions. For example, taking a step forward would help eliminate that nonparticipating tree from the frame. Or get lower might help to find a leading line or exciting textures.

Analyze Paintings

Another approach is to study painters’ landscape images like Albert Bierstadt and William Turner

We can learn a lot from them. They already gathered tons of information about structures and light behaviors that work best in a landscape composition. Their pictures are beneficial for us landscape photographers to implement their valuable methods in our works; on top of that, their paintings are very inspiring. So I definitely suggest checking them out.

Keep it Simple

Instead of trying to squeeze everything in your photograph, always lean towards simplicity.

The structure of the image has a powerful impact on our minds. It should be simple and prevent confusion and deliver a cleaner result.

The most basic principle is simplicity and the placement of elements that lead the eye through the entire photograph.

You can work with various things from a leading line, pointy rock, or dramatic clouds.

Simple shapes can help us create much cleaner landscape compositions.

Let’s see how.

Think in Shapes

Think in geometric shapes. Instead of allowing the viewer brin to process every small detail on the field, try to look at scene elements as geometric shapes: triangles, s-curves, circles, lines.

Think in Shapes

I know it’s confusing, so let me explain with this picture. As you can see, all the foreground and middle-ground elements have a vital role in building up the landscape composition. They are forming triangle shapes, therefore helping the viewer move along the frame. Instead of just shooting the background mountain, I included these basic triangle shapes to support the structure.

Using this technique can simplify the scene and persuade us to focus on the primary objects.

Elliminate Distractions

When we look into the viewfinder, we need to look for elements that do not support the composition. It can be some messy grass or a leaning branch from the edge of the frame. 

Once you identified elements that don’t give any extra to the image, simply leave it out. Get closer or change your angle a bit. These little fine-tune tricks can make a significant impact on the result of your photograph.

Ask yourself

When you took shots, it’s time to analyze and ask yourself what you can do to make the composition better.

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?

Now we know the foundations of landscape composition, it’s time to see the 7 most expressive types.

7 Landscape Composition Types

landscape composition

Like in any other art form, compositions have basic rules. With common nature structures and some practice to align elements, you can learn how to deliver better results. 

Let’s dive in.

1. The Mirror

Probably the easiest to implement in your work. Find a surface that creates a reflection of your subject and place the horizon in the center.

In this case, I used a small lake to use as a reflection for this mountain in Slovakia. It was very windy this morning, so the surface of the lake was full of ripples. I was waiting for half an hour for the wind to stop and snapped this image.

It is very pleasing to the eye how it creates symmetry and unfolds itself as a whole. I always try this method when I am scouting around lakes.

You can also use this technique with a small puddle.

2. The S Curve

The S curve can significantly impact how it draws the viewer’s attention to the subject. It’s the perfect leading line, which helps to scan through the entire image — an elegant and convenient shape for our eyes.

Some of the most common usages is a river, road, coastline, or a sand dune. But really, only your imagination can set the limit. Try and experience with.

3. The Layer

Placing objects on top of each other creates a repetitive pattern that pleases the viewer’s eye and forces them to scan through the picture.

Usually, I create this structure with a telephoto lens. It compresses the foreground, middle, and background objects together. I shot this picture at 200mm to maximize the compression.  

4. The Frame

I am sure you saw plenty of examples for this one. The idea of placing an optical frame in the foreground could be very compelling. There are almost endless possibilities in this case.

You can use different things here like a window, a tree, or a cave. Be careful not to let the frame deflect the focus from the main subject.

Dolomites, Italy – Gabor Boszormenyi

5. The Pointer

This is where the shaping technique is really favorable. The key is to find a foreground object that is pointing to our hero. One of the most effective approaches is to lead the viewer’s eye.

In the following case, I used a rock formation to point to my subject to the mountain.

Have you realized how these simple elements can draw attention? Like that old trunk pointing to the waterfall. It’s effortless to implement and a pretty straightforward solution to attract attention.

6. The Diagonal

The diagonal line technique is an easy method to guide the observer eyes.

Forest streams and waterfalls are generally hard to photograph. With this composition technique, we can quickly make the viewer’s eye to scan across the picture.

Place the starting point in one of the top corners, then adjust your camera until the outgoing part is reaching the diagonal bottom corner.

7. The Foreground

Do get close if you find compelling foreground elements. It can support your composition structure and have a better impact.

You need a wide-angle lens to do so. In this case, Peter used the nikon 16-35 f4 lens.

Flowers can beautifully provide interesting foreground elements, although it can be anything that has a visually appealing look. I usually use rocks, flowers, or exciting textures.

It is even better if the shape or the color of the foreground element cooperates with the background.

In this case, I used seaweed and a small pond to create an interesting foreground.

Landscape composition: Conclusion

Go on the field and experience as much as you can. Nothing can beat the on-field work. Once you are done with the shooting, go back to your computer and analyze your work.

To sum it up:

  • Scout your location
  • Study compositions
  • Analyze paintings
  • Keep it simple
  • Think in shapes
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Use the 7 types of landscape composition

If you implement these techniques in your work, you will improve your composition skills.

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.

If you have anything to add to my thoughts, feel free to comment below.

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Gabor Boszormenyi is a landscape photographer and founder of Shutterture. His goal is to help photographers create better images.

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