As a landscape photographer, you’re always on the look out for new locations to shoot. With each new location, comes a new set of challenges to overcome. How am I going to compose this image? Where am I going to shoot from? It’s one thing knowing the basics of taking great landscape photos, and another executing them to perfection. The more you know, the higher your chances of snapping a few gems that you can use in your portfolio.
Fresh vineyard sunrise
Then there’s the walking! By learning exactly what to look out for, you can reduce your location searching time – and spend more time on the part that matters, the photos. Let’s take a look at some excellent landscape photography tips that will perfect your techniques when out in the field.
Concentrate on taking the photos, not searching endlessly for the ideal spot.
#1 Striking The Right Balance
Amateur landscape photographers fall into the ‘subject’ trap when out looking for a perspective to shoot. Landscape photography isn’t about finding a great subject at all! The best photographers in the world will let you in on a secret – it’s about color, texture and shapes. These are the features you should be looking for on your shoot. Sometimes you don’t need to include that tree in your image.
Instead of spending 3 hours trying to frame the perfect landscape image with the tree, just take it out altogether. We like to complicate things as photographers, and this doesn’t always lead to the best photos. Keep your ideas simple, and work on finding a balance in the landscape that brings form, color and texture into sharp perspective. These are the images that are going to make a lasting impression on the people who view them.
Consider shape, texture and color before you pursue the subject in your landscape photographs.
#2 Use The Right Filters
Landscape photography is all about capturing the right light. If you aren’t in complete control of your light sources, then your images will never be perfect. Use a polarizing filter, a neutral density filter and a graduated density filter to effectively control the light in your scene. Photographing a scene in the morning or evening is great for amateurs, but filters are what really make pro landscape images stand out.
Learn to use the right filters on your trips to control the flow of light to your camera.
#3 Distance Matters
Dutch spring landscape
Distance in your photos is one of the key features that makes a great landscape picture. If you’re not thinking about the foreground, the midground and the background – then you’re not properly composing your photos. A flat image of grass and sky is nice, but where’s the midground? How could you improve the image and make it pop? These are considerations you need to take into account on your next landscape shoot.
Remember that the foreground, midground and background are vital for a perfect landscape image.
#4 Changing Light
Instead of going to one location and shooting ten different well composed landscape scenes, why not shoot the same scene at specific times? If you don’t want to hang around all day, there are DSRL cameras that come with a built in GPS that will give you the latitude and longitude of your position. Return to that exact spot in the morning, the afternoon and the evening for some exceptional changed light images.
Concentrate on variation and quality, not quantity. This means if you find the perfect scene, think about shooting it in different light.
#5 The Slow Exposure
All pro landscape photographers use slow exposures to capture high detail in their shots. There is so much you can do with depth of field alone, that these are images you really want to consider taking. You’ll need a tripod and a remote for the longer photo exposures, but it makes all the difference.
Experiment with exposure times for perfect landscape images. Once you become more acquainted with the effects that you can create, you’ll be able to decide on the proper course of action for every scene you photograph.
#6 The Tripod Composition
A tripod as you already know, is an important tool for the landscape photographer. Aside from keeping the camera still while exposing your images, it also forces you to really consider each composition before you capture it on your camera.
Beyond exposing the image, it gives you the time you need to find that perfect spot, 3 inches from the original spot you chose. These slight changes can make a big difference when on location. Holding your camera prompts you to take the photos faster, which is not ideal for this branch of photography.
Get yourself a tripod, even if you don’t like the idea of lugging it around when searching for the right scene to shoot.
#7 Use Your Virtual Horizon
Most DSRL camera’s come equipped with a virtual horizon that appears in your viewfinder. Using this tool will help you find the most level ground, and will up the consistency of your images. If you don’t have a virtual horizon, then use a plain old spirit level bought from a hardware store. It will save you cropping time in post shoot editing programs.
Belvedere farmhouse near Pienza and San Quirico d´Orcia in Tuscany, Italy
Make use of your virtual horizon in every landscape photograph you set up.
If you use your filters, lenses and in-camera tools properly, there won’t be much need for editing programs after your trip. Many landscape photographers want to keep the authenticity of their landscapes intact, so instead of adorning their photos with effects in photo manipulation software, they do all of the effects while shooting. There are enough pro-level cameras out there to achieve similar or better effects than editing software, if you spend some time learning how to use them properly.
Don’t use editing software as an excuse to be sloppy with your landscape images. Instead find the perfect shot on site, so that you don’t need to edit the photos at all.
These 8 tips will help you perfect your landscape images over time. Pay attention to the key features that matter, and ignore the parts of photography that ‘save’ your images if they don’t work out. By constantly working on your landscape photography skills this way, you’ll become a pro in no time.