Sunday, 26 August 2012

Landscape Photography - Guide to Take Better Landscape Photographs

A great photograph is constituted of many elements that work in unison. Here in this article, let us discuss the main elements that constitute a great landscape photo and how to apply them in practice.

Photo By Raymond Larose

The Right Equipment for Landscape Photography

A Full Frame DSLR Camera

To be successful in Landscape photography one must possess the right equipment for the job. A full frame DSLR with good weather sealing, high quality lens, a sturdy tripod and cable release, a set of filters etc all are must haves for a photographer who wish to specialize in landscape photography.

A full frame DSLR camera not only allows wider views but usually also has an ability to capture higher dynamic range than their crop frame counterparts. A landscape photographer might have to work in rough weather, often in very high temperatures, also temperatures below freezing, in high altitude situations, deal with moisture, water, dust, sand etc. so having the right equipment that would work properly in all weather conditions is a must and weather proofing in your equipment comes in handy when it comes to shielding it from the natural elements.

Photo By Bram & Vera

High Quality Lens

Landscape photographers often employ ultra wide angle lens to capture as much of the scene as possible into the frame. Choose high quality glass which has good end to end sharpness and very little distortion. Remember lens is the most important element that determines picture quality, the amount of detail, sharpness, color and contrast in your shot are all affected by the quality of lens used, so it pays to invest in high quality glass, it will pay you back over a period of time in terms of quality images it helped capture.

Photo By Chris Gin

A Sturdy Tripod and Cable Release

Landscape photography is one genre of photography where having a tripod could make a world of difference. It helps to keep your camera stable, helps you free your mind while exploring different angles, helps you better compose your shots and makes using low ISO and long exposures possible.

When choosing a tripod, choose one that is both light weight and very stable, often the answer is to choose a carbon fiber tripod. Also use a high quality precision tripod head that would help you easily set up your shots. Having a cable release or remote trigger will help you further reduce shake and capture sharper pictures. Some advanced cable release systems have multiple functions like an intervelometer built into them if you intend to do time lapse photography. However if you do not have a cable / remote release you could use the self timer on your camera to produce similar results.

Photo By Raymond Larose

A Set of Filters

You could easily improve your landscape photography skills by a couple of levels by master the use of the filters like

  1. Circular Polarizing (CPL) Filter (to help reduce reflections and achieve better color saturation)
  2. Neutral Density (ND) Filter ( to reduce the amount of light entering the camera to help facilitate slower shutter speeds)
  3. Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filter (to control the amount of contrast in a scene to fit within the dynamic range of your camera)
  4. Ultra Violet (UV) Filter (to reduce the effect of ultra violet contamination especially when shooting in high altitudes)

Tips to Improve Landscape Photography Skills

Explore your Location

One you have identified a nice location to shoot your landscape, take a minute to observe closely the scene and its surroundings. Look for other vantage points, a different angle from which to capture the scene in a different way. Walk around, try to imagine the scene in vertical composition, think of elements that are potential distractions and needs to be eliminated from the composition. See if zooming in on a part of the scene will work. If you have a point and shoot with you, you could actually leave all your gear safely at one place, walk around and take snaps form different points, compare them in the LCD, and then finalize from where and at what angle you will be shooting your subject from. Then you could come back, carry all your gear and set up your shot.

Photo By Danorbit

Light in Landscapes

Landscape photography is one field in which the photographer actually has very little or no control on the lighting of the scene. The best he could do is to be ready to shoot at the right time of the day and year. Landscapes change a lot with the change of time both during the course of a day and from season to season. Most landscapes look better when photographed during the golden hours. The time preceding sunrise and the time after sunset till the sky turns black. The golden light which also strikes the landscape at an angle during that time gives a golden glow to the subjects and also produces long, deep shadows. Not to mention the effect on the sky during that time.

Photo By Martin Heigan


Carefully compose your shots; poor composition could completely ruin an otherwise perfect shot. Only include elements that add to the overall composition, see if a portion of the scene would make for a shot in itself, be aware of the rules of composition like the rule of thirds which could be used as a guideline while composing.

Photo By I Am Not I

Identify the important Focal Points

While composing your shots, identify the important focal points in your scene. Your compositional choices actually revolve around these points of interests. And it is where your viewer’s eyes will be resting while going through your picture. So compose your shots carefully placing your focal points in the most important areas and also try including a little bit of foreground which could add a sense of scale to the image.

Photo By Bram & Vera

Capture the Atmosphere

An effective landscape photographer is one who successfully captures the atmosphere or feel of the place in his pictures. When looking at the picture the viewer should get a feel of actually being there. The picture should appeal to the senses of the viewer. If there is mist, wind, drizzle, storm, heat, coldness etc in the scene try to convey the intensity of it through your shots. Shooting in black and white is an effective method to convey the atmosphere. Although many people are not using this format commonly, black and white is a powerful medium to produce some of the most dramatic landscape images.

Photo By Remy Saglier

Framing the Sky

Sky is one other important element in a landscape picture; a dramatic sky could make an ordinary scene look very dramatic. For landscape photography sky during storms, mist, thunderous clouds and dark skies can be much more appealing than a sunny day. The rule of thumb for the placement of sky in landscape photography is to place it either in the upper third or bottom third of the frame. That is if you have a dull sky place in the upper third (including only very little sky) and if you have a dramatic sky with vibrant colours, then place it in the bottom third (including more sky) of your frame. A Circular Polarizing (CPL) Filter could be used to bring out details in the sky and to get more saturated colours.

Photo By Raymond Larose

Conveying Movement in Landscapes

Although at the first look most landscapes look perfectly still, if you look closely you will find a lot of movement, trees and branches swaying with the wind, running water, waves, the movement of clouds, etc. instead of freezing the motion try to use a slower shutter speed and capture the movement. It could add drama and mood to your shots. This is one occasion where you might need a Neutral Density (ND) Filter.

Photo By Adam Foster

Depth of field

Having all the elements in your frame in focus is an essential requirement for landscape photography. Use a narrow aperture setting and focus on the Hyper Focal distance to achieve good results.

Photo By Zach stern

Controlling Exposure

A common problem faced by landscape photographers is the difference in contrast present in the scene. Often the dynamic range of the scene is well beyond the capabilities of the digital camera. Use your camera’s histogram to check you exposure and use a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter to reduce the contrast in your scene to get it within the range of your digital camera.

Photo By Linkahwai

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