Landscape photography would have to be one of the hardest genres of photography there is. Unlike a controlled environment you’ll find in a studio for portrait photography, you never know what conditions you’re going to get with landscape photography until you start shooting. Always changing, sometimes mother nature will hand it to you on a platter with everything aligning just right; the light, the tide, the composition, the ambience. Other times mother nature can be cruel, and no matter what you do, nothing goes the way you want. This in part is why I love landscape photography.
If you’re interested in shooting outdoors, then you’ll want to read the following tips for photographing landscapes.
- Research your location
- Plan for desired lighting conditions
- Decide on a background
- Pick a foreground
- Use a tripod
- Shoot in raw
- Know your equipment
- Learn how to process your photo
Putting some time and effort into researching a location to shoot will often have a dramatic effect on how effective your photograph is. This isn’t to say that you won’t be able to get a good photograph if you are arriving at an unfamiliar place unprepared. However, knowing the geographical terrain of where you’ll be going, time of sunset and weather conditions will give you a big head start into snapping a winner.
Often jumping on to Google and checking out their maps and images are a huge help to scouting a location and getting you familiar for your up and coming shoot. Sometimes photographers use an app called TPG, which gives you sun/moon rise/set times, along with direction for even further in depth planning.
Different times of the day will give you different moods to a photograph. If you want a bright conditions really highlighting the natural colours of a scene, closer to mid day may be what you’re after. This helps often with obtaining that turquoise coloured water, and that white sand, with really lush foliage greens. However, if you want nice soothing warm colours, aim for the golden light that occurs just after sunrise, or just before sunset.
Make a decision as to what you want your photographs background to consist of, whether it be the nice warm clouds lighting up as the sun begins to set, or whether it be a distant mountain, or a waterfall. Try and decide on this before you search for other elements you want to include in your photograph. This isn’t a set rule, but something that will help most of the time.
Once you’ve decided on your background, search around the scene for things like pools of water, interesting patterns on the ground (or objects), elements trending in a line that leads the viewers eye, or even or moving water. There’s a million and one things that can make a good foreground. Be inventive and scout around the area for as long as possible to find the most interesting composition.
It’s landscape photography, so a tripod is going to be your best friend. Especially if you’re shooting in the golden hour or using filters to limit light, as your shutter speed is going to drop dramatically. Mount your camera on a tripod and get nice tack sharp images. This is even true for faster shutter speeds to help maintain a nice composition.
There’s no doubt about it, RAW files are much better than JPG files. It may not seem like it at first – but you’re going to post process your shots, right? Any serious camera will shoot in RAW, so ensure you’ve got this setting selected before you even leave the house. RAW files capture much more details than JPG files. More details in the highlights, and more details in the shadows. So, if you’re serious about your photography, shoot in RAW.
Know what your camera is capable of, and know what it can do. Often conditions will last only a few minutes, and you need to know exactly what you need to do in order to capture the scene. You’ll no doubt change your composition repeatedly during your shoot, and each of these changes will require an adjustment of the aperture, shutter speed and ISO accordingly. Not to mention any filters that may or may not be needed. So know what your camera can do, and know how to do it. This single action will bring you home much more keepers!
This is a definite. Especially if you’re shooting in RAW. You don’t need to become an expert, but in order to get the most out of your photographs, learn the basics of contrast, colour saturation, tuning of highlights and shadows, as well as de-noising and sharpening techniques. Spending just a few minutes on your RAW images will have huge effects on the final product. This is something a photographer can not do without.
Any basic post processing software will do for these basic edits, however if I was to recommend one, it’d be Adobe Lightroom. This is an all-in-one package that catalogues, tags and develops your photographs. All the edits are also non-destructive, which means it won’t touch your original file and it will allow you to undo anything you’ve done at any point in the future.
These eight points above are some of the most critical aspects one needs to undertake in order to be successful at landscape photography. With just a little bit of forethought prior to shooting time, combined with some clever scouting while on site, you can massively improve your photography in a very short time.
How about yourself, what was one thing you found most critical to help you out on your journey to becoming a better photographer?