Cover photo by: Gabor Nagy photography
When I started landscape photography, I often went home with bad pictures; sometimes they were blurry, other times they overexposed, or the composition was not strong enough.
Landscape photography can be overwhelming if you are just getting started. We all have been there.
In this article, I will share 12 landscape photography tips that you can quickly implement to improve your photographs.
1. Scout your Location
Location scouting is a vital step in landscape photography. This is the process where you explore an area before shooting. You can do this on a computer before visiting your location or field. So, I recommend doing both for superior knowledge of your spot.
You can get way ahead of other photographers if you know the area properly. Therefore your photography will improve, and you will create more expressive photographs.
2. Use a Tripod
Firstly, you need a sturdy tripod to avoid any kind of vibration that can cause blur in your photograph, unless it’s your intention. I use a ball head tripod because it is relatively easy to adjust it for any composition but any tripod is useful if you are just starting out.
A quick tip: Almost every tripod has a hook, so if it is not sturdy enough, try to hang your bag below it to reduce any shakes.
3. Learn Compositions Techniques
Like in any photography genre, the image structure plays a vital role in landscape photography. So it’s essential to be familiar with them. Once you are at the location and you found a great subject, ask yourself these questions:
Do I need to use symmetry or the rule of thirds? Should I use leading lines or an exciting foreground element? I have been there; it’s challenging to decide what technique to use.
There are multiple factors we need to keep in mind here; fortunately, there are some easy techniques that you can implement in your landscape photography. I wrote a detailed article about landscape composition types and tips to explain why it is important in landscape photography.
4. Use live view
Using the camera light view has lots of good benefits. Firstly, 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 quickly. Secondly, use your magnifying buttons to zoom in to any area on your photograph to set the picture crispy sharp or eliminate distractions.
5. Lenses for Landscape Photography
If you want to showcase the entire area, use a wide-angle lens that covers the whole scene. A really wide lens is also hand when you want to compose and work with close foreground elements. Typically a 14 mm or 16 mm lenses serves this purpose.
This is my favorite lens because I can zoom on a subject that is far away, and the lens even compresses the scene which gives a unique look to the scene. I shot one of my best pictures at 70mm in Gesause National Park.
The nifty fifty is a great cinema and portrait lens that we landscape photographers can also use in our work. It might sound strange, in fact, I shoot this picture at 50 mm.
There is another excellent way to use this lens called the fifty stitches invented by Flinn Beales. His idea is to map up a scene and capture multiply photos on a grid, just like a panoramic image. I am not going into details because he created a full video explaining his method perfectly.
6. What Aperture to use
To get everything in sharp focus, you will need to select a narrow aperture that will allow you to produce sharper images. Consequently, I tend to use the aperture between f/8 and f/16. It all depends on what your subject is but it’s a pretty good starting point. Above f/16 the image will get significantly softer.
If you use a wide-angle lens to capture everything between the ground and the sky, you probably set it between f/11 – f/16.
With a telephoto lens, which is typically slower but offers fantastic sharpness, even so, you might consider selecting a lower aperture, for example, f/5.6 – f/11.
Ensure that you use the lowest ISO possible for a clean image; some cameras even let you set it to 50. Why is it important? Simply because the lower the iso the less noise will appear in your photograph.
I always use it on 100 to prevent noise, which the sensor generates on higher ISO settings. Obviously, we don’t shoot with high shutter speeds in landscape photography since the mountains aren’t going anywhere.
However, the higher ISOs do not change the sensor sensitivity; it only records smaller ranges of light on one pixel, leading to unpleasant details.
Make sure to switch from auto to manual focus on your lens. Consequently, 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 photograph a regular landscape like the image above, it’s usually enough to focus on the first ⅓ of your picture. Therefore you get everything sharp from the foreground to the background.
If you have a very close foreground, you need to do a different kind of process, called focus stacking. I wrote a separate article about it, to cover the topic in detail. Check it out here. But basically, you have to take multiply images with the different focus points and then stitch them together in photoshop. The reason behind it is that the lens can not produce an all the way sharp image in a wide focal range.
The histogram is a graphical explanation of your pixels exposed to your photograph. The left side represents dark areas, and the right indicates brighter areas. For instance, you can easily try this and observe if you change your shutter speed, aperture, or ISO.
You can immediately see how the changes affect your image in the live view on your histogram.
Usually, I slightly underexpose my images to keep my highlights’ details. It is merely easier to recover the shadows than recovering overexposed highlights.
If you want to you can use a method called exposure blending. The idea behind this technique is to capture differently exposed images of the same screen changing only your shutter speed.
Sean Bagshaw explains the luminosity masking technique beautifully with the TK Action panel.
If you want to manually blend your exposures together then watch this video.
10. Remote & Timer release
I always use a timer to make sure I avoid movement. I usually do it with a 2-second self-timer in-camera to prevent blur in my images. You can also use a remote release or your cell phone if your camera has wifi support.
I noticed that telephoto lenses require 10 seconds delay to completely prevent all movements, so make sure you set it accordingly.
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.
11. Use a drone
Using a drone for landscape photography will give you a whole new perspective. For instance, you can capture crazy detailed photographs with a simple top-down shot.
Get creative and capture vertical or horizontal panoramas by mapping the landscape, just like I mentioned with the fifty stitches method.
I wrote a detailed guide about drone photography, so make sure you check it out.
New consumer drones are relatively affordable nowadays, and they can shoot pretty good pictures and most of them shoot 4k videos as well.
12. Avoid expectations in landscape photography
The primary purpose of landscape photography is to enjoy the outdoors and snap some great images. Although sometimes we start a trip with high expectations, we get home with bad images because we couldn’t achieve our expected idea.
My fellow photographer and friend Erin Babnik wrote an exciting article about looking beyond locations. She strikes an interesting topic and talks about the importance of exploring and lights instead of glued to iconic spots.
If you do extensive research on your location; there will be a much higher chance to avoid surprises. Although the weather is very unpredictable, especially in the mountains.
So the most important thing is to treat unexpected situations with patience. I also wrote an article on how to avoid these expectations. I am explaining how to overcome unforeseen problems and what to do instead.
Wrapping it Up
If you follow these steps your landscape photography could improve and you will be more satisfied with your photographs. Remember to be patient and shoot as much as you can.
Let’s sum it up the most important steps:
✅ Research the area and Scout your location
✅. Use a tripod to avoid shakes
✅. Learn composition techniques
✅ Use the live view
✅ Try different lenses
✅. Don’t forget to check the aperture, histogram, focus, and ISO
✅ Use a timer or remote release
✅. Learn drone photography
✅ Avoid expectations
I hope these steps help you, as always if you have any questions I am open to a discussion in the chat below.