Landscape Photography Tips

4 April 2013 5:10:51 PM AEDT

Given that this month’s photography competition theme, we thought it might be a good idea to share some landscape photography tips. Landscape shots are some of the most common photographs; everyone who has taken a camera on holiday will have a landscape shot tucked away somewhere. They can be tricky to capture well, but a bit of time and effort can yield some seriously stunning results.

Tip 1: Take your time.

Try not to be in a hurry to get your shot; take time to judge your angles and exposure. Setting your camera up on a tripod helps you make sure that your horizon is level and lets you consider the scene from various points.  Keep mind that nature and light changes more than you think, so experiment with different angles and exposures and be prepared to take a lot of shots.

Tip2. Pick the best time of day.

Most people who have studied photography will have heard the name Ansel Adams more times than they have updated their Instagram account, so they might be a bit sick of this tip. However it is a good one to follow if you have the time to spend.  Ansel Adams (one of the world’s renowned photographic gods) would spend weeks at a time in the Yosemite Valley just to get that one shot at the best angle with the best light. Okay, so you might not want to spend weeks, but try and find out what you location looks like at different times of day. Is there a certain angle of the sun that works particularly well? Would a blue sky be best, or would steely-grey better suit the mood? Sunrise and sunset typically look amazing, but be prepared to take many photos as the lighting changes very quickly.

Tip 3. Pick your lenses.

If you have a couple of lenses to choose from think carefully about which one you use. In general you don’t want a telephoto-length lens - anything more than 50mm will generally not get enough in the shot. Wide-angle lenses are ideal for getting everything in the frame, but keep in mind that some focal lengths can get a bit of distortion at the edges of the shot. This can vary depending on focal length, lens and your composition.  I tend to use anything between 16mm and 35mm, depending on the situation. Get to know and look after your lenses and they will reward your effort with beautiful photographs.

On the note of looking after your lenses, for the love of your glass do not change your lenses over in inclement weather! If it is raining or windy make sure that you are in a well-sheltered area when swapping lenses- issues caused by dirt, sand and water getting into your electronics and gears are not covered by your warranty. If you are shooting in high humidity you may want to keep a silica gel packet in your camera bag to help draw away any moisture. If you are shooting in the snow you will want to re-introduce your camera gear back to warmth and comfort gradually. Before heading inside put them in a plastic bag and seal them tight, then put them in the coldest part of the room to warm up slowly. This helps to prevent condensation forming and causing moisture and mossy issues. Do not change your lenses over if you are shooting in in cold conditions.

Tip 4. Carefully compose.

Composition is the most important factor of your landscape photo. It can be the difference between an interesting, dynamic shot and a bland run-of-the-mill snap.

The Rule of Thirds is something we have covered in previous blogs, and is important to keep in mind when shooting. Divide your frame up into thirds horizontally and vertically, so you end up with 4 lines. Where these lines intersect is where the eye is generally drawn to first and is where your subject should be. With landscapes it is a tad more difficult as the entire scene is your subject but there is usually some kind of point of interest or perspective, such as a fence leading into the distance, a particularly foreboding mountain peak or a house on a hill. Having this point of interest positioned on or near these lines can make a much more interesting shot rather than having it bang in the middle. If you want your sky to be prominent, try placing the horizon on the bottom horizontal third line. If you would rather see more of the land, place the horizon on the top third line. Many digital cameras have display modes which show a grid on the viewfinder and/or LCD display to help with this process, but it’s good to get used to doing it on your own.

Tip 5. Don’t be afraid of post-production and playing with colour.

It isn’t cheating if you play around with your photos after shooting. There, I said it. Like darkrooms before it, Photoshop is just another tool in your photographic arsenal. Consider using it to crop your picture to a size other than 4:3, such as 4:4. Go with whatever suits your picture, not whatever suits your frame.

The other thing to consider is the colour scale. Is your shot deserving of luscious colour, or would black and white really help bring out the texture and details? Many photographers choose to work in Black and White because it emphasises shape, texture and lines, making for images that seem more tactile than if they were in colour. Colour in landscape can be used to display luscious abundance, but it can also be scaled back with some interesting effects; try playing with the saturation.  Take a good look at your picture and remember that some colours tend to blend together- what looks amazing to the human eye might not turn out so well in a photograph.

If you need some Photoshop tips we have covered a few techniques in previous blogs.


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