- 10 tips to help with landscape photography
When I think about photography, I am reminded of where I started from and what it took for me to get to where I am today. The process of learning never really stops, and there is never a moment where I think ‘ok yes I think I’m there, ok I’ve definitely got it now, oh yes I’ve learnt enough!’. The learning curve can always feel a little steep, but after practice and experience things do get easier.
A creative passion in my opinion is all about continued learning with new experiences, new ideas and vision, and our ability to portray it in a way that connects with others.
With that creative side, comes the technical side. That part which is a little harder to learn. With photography, it’s all those things that make a photo really work.
I thought I would share some of the tips that helped me on my journey. Some have been pieces of advice handed down to me .. some are rules that I learnt from the beginning .. some are just from experience and practicing along the way .. but all are things that I still live by today whenever taking a photo.
Most of these tips are designed to help with composition, but they certainly aren’t set in stone, and are taken from my point of view. Use them, adapt them to your style, make them your own .. or don’t .. photography is about finding what works for you and your style, there are no boundaries.
We have all seen those amazing shots that have the perfect composition, the perfect angle .. the ones that make us want to go to that exact same place and have a go at it ourselves. I think it is also important to try to go to these places with the intention of composing something ‘new’ also. Depending on where you are going, try to do a bit of research on what the place looks like, what compositions are available. A lot of this can be done through google earth, searching images on line. All too often it can look different when you arrive, and conditions play a big part in that. But .. always better to be a bit prepared and know what possibilities there could be! If you don't get it the first time, come back and try again.
Most of the time landscape shots have a main focal point or subject that stands out in the image. It could be a mountain, boulder, person, tree .. It is important to have somewhere in your shot where the viewer can stop and look. When composing a shot, bear this in mind and start from that point. The rest of the image will come together after that point.
Detailed foreground in a landscape image can make all the difference. It gives the viewer a starting point, and draws them into the image. I try to search for foreground when shooting a landscape image wherever possible. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but if you can make it work in an image it's always a bonus.
Good foreground could be some nice boulders, flowers, grass, dead trees, logs, tussocks, anything that you think looks appropriate in the frame and has some nice detail.
With landscape photography it is very important to make sure you focus your lens and choose a depth of field that is going to ensure the whole shot is clear and in focus. Choosing a smaller aperture will give you a greater depth of field. You can do some research online to see what aperture your lens is at its sharpest point, but experimenting is always a good thing too!
This is the most common rule that I think you will find most photographers use at some point. Using the rule of thirds method can help in the creation of an awesome landscape image. Imagine the frame is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, creating four points where the lines meet. Aligning your focal point or main subject on these intersections creates a well balanced image.
This tip is probably known to most or all photographers, but I think it is one of the most important. I typically use the histogram graph to help with exposure and tonal information in a picture. It is the most honest tool you can use to try and get the best shot you want right from the beginning.
When you are out in the field, always try and take a test shot, and always check your histogram.
If it is spiking to the left, it means your shot is possibly under exposed. If it is spiking to the right, your shot may be over exposed.
An evenly distributed histogram with no spikes on either end is what you really want to see.
To me, golden and blue hours can be some of the best times to shoot a landscape. The light is always a lot softer and less harsh during golden hour, and this can create some stunning patterns on mountains, water, trees. During blue hour, lingering colour from a sunset or sunrise can create beautiful hues throughout an image and really bring out the scene.
Do some research as to which golden hour is the best for a certain spot eg. sunrise or sunset. The light will be different depending on where the sun is rising and setting.
Using a tripod and filters to capture movement:
When shooting landscapes, a lot of the time you will be shooting in golden hour and in those times just before and after, meaning a lot of low light and slower shutter speeds. If you are going to shoot a slower shutter image, a tripod is essential to avoid blurring your image with movement and/or camera shake.
The use of an ND filter to capture cloud and water movement can dramatically enhance a landscape shot, and if this is something you are considering using, a tripod is mandatory. Neutral Density (ND) filters are pieces of glass/resin that either screw or slide over your lens to reduce the amount of light coming in, allowing for a longer exposure time.
When we look at an image, be it a photo or an art piece, we are naturally drawn to lines. Having a leading line in your image is a great way of drawing the viewer in, especially when the subject is the end point of the leading line. Choosing a composition with a leading line in my opinion will always be a winner as it’s the start of the journey into your picture.
Just a bit of advice I once read: 'Not every scene makes a good photo'. I don't know why, but it's something that I ask myself every time I am taking photos. I read this right at the beginning of my photography journey, and it’s something I live by.
Rachel Stewart is a kiwi landscape and adventure photographer based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. Inspired by landscapes and a love of travel, she likes to explore the unknown, and seek out the beauty created by the natural world.
Her passion to be with nature along with a love of art, adventure and exploring is what characterizes her photography. Long exposure photography is a style she loves and adds that point of difference when it comes to creating stand out images. Rachel loves being outdoors. She loves to hike and be with the mountains, but you will also find her surfing at the beach and spending summer by the ocean. Being able to capture these experiences on a camera is an added bonus.
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