Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Classic Landscape Photography Composition Technique

Here’s one of the most important composition tip used by professional landscape photographers to create engaging images.  This technique could also work well for other genres of photography including architecture, interior and people photography. 

landscape photography composition
Photo by: Tim Donnelly

The trick to make your images dynamic is to add an interesting foreground element in your landscape photos. The right combination of a strong foreground element and an interesting or beautiful background could create very dramatic images. In nature a beautiful background is easy to find but a strong foreground to go with the scene is a bit hard; and that’s the reason why professional landscape photographers spend hours in the field looking for interesting subjects that could work as a foreground element in their shots.

photo composition examples
Photo by: Alexander Shchukin

So remember a strong foreground element is critical and finding one should be your first priority once you have come across a beautiful scene that you wish to photograph. In fact the first question you should ask yourselves when you see a beautiful scene in front of your should be “Where’s the foreground?” Once you have found a workable foreground subject mount an ultra wide angle lens on your camera and get very close to your foreground element for a very dramatic photograph.

The Classic Landscape Photography Composition Technique Step by Step

landscape photography composition technique
landscape photography composition technique

1. Mount an ultra wide angle lens on your camera.
2. Use a sturdy tripod.
3. Use low ISO value like ISO 100 for maximum details and less noise.
4. Shoot in RAW file format for maximum flexibility while post processing.
5. Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode.
6. Use a narrow aperture like f/16 or f/22 for large depth of field.
7. Set your lens to its hyperfocal distance.

Now comes the most important part

light composition photography
Photo by: Dany Tolenga

Compose your frame such that there is an interesting element in the foreground which should be placed a foot or two in front (nearer to the camera) of the hyperfocal distance.

For example

Imagine you are shooting with a 16mm lens set to f/16 on a full frame camera. With a full frame camera and a 16mm lens the hyperfocal distance is 0.5meters. So practically everything from 0.25meters to infinity will be in focus.

landscape composition rules
Photo by: Brent Pearson

We are placing a foreground element one foot closer to the camera than the hyperfocal distance and it is well within the depth of field coverage. As a result we will have a picture where everything from the foreground element to infinity is in focus.

landscape photography composition rules
Photo by: Wynand

The real secret behind this technique lies in the properties of wide angle lenses. The unique perspective (exaggerates the foreground elements) thus obtained is the reason why such shots are able to dramatically transform ordinary scenes. If one is knowledgeable about this effect and knows how to use it to create interest in his/her shots then this technique could be applied with much success in so many different photographic scenarios. Once you master the technique you will surely see a marked improvement in your compositions.

Bonus Tip

We have already stated that finding interesting foreground elements could be a hard job. With a little imagination you could easily place some props in the scene which could work equally well. Here’s one example.

elements of photography composition
Photo by: heather buckley

Have fun. Consider the images given as examples in this article. Try to imagine how the pictures would have looked had there been no foreground element and you will realize its real impact. If you have any image shot using this technique feel free to share it us in comments below.

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