Tips and techniques for landscape photography

First published on: Tuesday, 9 June 2009

This post is a compilation of tips and techniques for photographing great landscape images.

From a DPReview discussion dated Jun 08, 2009

Here’s a summary of the suggestions shared in that thread by 123Michael321.

Tip 1

When photographing landscapes, resist the temptation to zoom down as wide as your lens will go, for a shot that will “include everything.” By getting everything in the picture, each detail is so small as to be insignificant. Fact is, while such all encompassing photos have their place, much of the time you’re better off choosing one or two points of specific interest, and concentrating on them.

Tim has more to say on the use of ultra-wideangle lenses:

One tip based on experience — if you are using a wide-angle lens, remember that it will be ‘wide’ vertically as well as horizontally. While being very excited about getting so much of a broad landscape into the frame, it’s easy to forget the foreground, and many wide-angle shots suffer from a compositional vacuum in the lower and central part of the shot. Wide-angle lenses place emphasis on the foreground, which can be a bit counter-intuitive at first. Many people grab a wide-angle lens for landscape photography, but they are quite tricky to use effectively.

Tip 2

Landscapes needn’t be shot as horizontals. Try framing a few shots as verticals.

123Michael321 adds that he particularly likes shooting verticals if he’s going to be stitching together multiple shots into a panorama.

Tip 3

The tripod is your friend. Even if you could shoot handheld at high enough speed for razor sharp results, a tripod can still be a highly useful aid to careful composition, getting horizons level, keeping the camera aimed at precisely the same place while you vary shutter speed, aperture, etc. Also, it’s easier on the arms than holding a camera up to your eye for half an hour.

On the subject of using a tripod, Jerry adds:

When using a tripod, it often is helpful to set mirror lockup and use a remote shutter release. Ideally, include a point of interest in the foreground, something to catch the eye in the midground, and something leading toward the background. Such situations are difficult to find.

Tip 4

I don’t care if you don’t live in a pristine valley between majestic snow-capped mountains — No matter where you are, there are opportunities for landscape photography.

Tip 5

It’s not cheating to study what the masters have done, and adapt some of their techniques, preferences, tools, etc., to your own vision. Students of painting study how Rembrandt did things. Students of the piano study how Bach did things. Similarly, students of photography would be wise to study how the great photographers did things. But most don’t.

My personal favorite landscape photographer is Ansel Adams.

Tip 6

Midday light is often the worst light. Early morning and early evening light is often the best light.

Michael Portaro elaborates on this point:

Every setting has one particular time of day that it is best shot at. Usually that is early morning or early evening, but depending on the subject it can be pretty much any time — ie a spot deep in a valley that doesn’t get morning or evening golden light, might very well be best shot during mid day. And some settings pretty much need cloudy conditions for effective images.

Tip 7

Equipment matters. It can even matter a lot. But it seldom matters as much as all too many people seem to think it does. I’d like to own the finest cameras and tens of thousands of dollars of top quality lenses, but if all I’ve got is an $89 p&s, I know I can still get outstanding results. (Michael’s Corollary to Rule #7 — Owning a $6000 camera and a dozen expensive lenses doesn’t mean someone’s a great photographer, nor does the absence of impressive gear mean someone lacks talent as a photographer. Don’t go judging people by the contents of their camera bags.)

Craig Gillette lists two web articles for further reading:

  1. 4 Rules of Composition for Landscape Photography
  2. A Sense of Depth

RaffiNYC is thinking of picking up this book, The Digital SLR Expert Landscapes, which seems to have very positive reviews on Amazon.


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