Tips for Beginners Landscape Photographers

Landscape photography is capturing an image that embodies the spirit of the outdoors. It carries a sense of being there to see something incredible. When viewers look at your work, their hearts should jump. You want them to feel the same emotions that you felt, standing in the middle of nature and bringing back something amazing. Have you ever been out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, without a single person around? It’s a crazy feeling. You can look around the world, and you feel like you’re a part of it — and that is landscape photography.

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Landscape photographers today mostly use wide-angle lenses. The wide-angle lens exaggerates the depth in a scene, and it changes the relative size and distance between the foreground and background. The resulting image is not how the eyes saw the scene. In a sense, it is not “real” anymore. A lot has changed since Ansel Adams created his art, and the definition of landscape photography has changed as well.

The modern definition of landscape photography is very broad. Land or sea, urban or nature, big or small by some measures, if you call it to landscape photography, it is. You might say that this definition is too open, and that’s fair, but it also has a certain truth to it. When you try to restrict the definition of landscape photography, you’re placing limits around something that should be creative and boundless. Some photographers, for example, refer to architectural photography as urban landscape photography. Other photographers consider wildlife photography to be about the larger environment, not about a single animal. As a whole, I don’t see a problem with either of these examples. Landscape photography has no hard-and-fast rules. It means something different to every photographer, which is a good thing — this is what drives us forward and helps our photos improve.

What Are the Best Landscape Photography Lens?

This is equally, if not more important, than having the right camera for landscape photography. Having the right lens on your camera makes a world of difference in the quality of the image your camera produces. Leave your kit lenses at home for your excursion because the lenses sold with camera bodies as part of a package tend to be sub-par. The type of lens you need depends on what type of shots you plan on getting. Some popular lenses among landscape photographers include:

  • 14mm
  • 16-35mm
  • 24-70mm
  • 70-200mm

It is important to note that not ALL these lenses are required or necessary for landscape photography. A landscape photographer can easily get all their shots with one or two of these lenses.

A super wide-angle 14mm prime lens is pretty affordable compared to zoom lenses, especially if you buy off-brand. It gets the maximum amount of landscape in your image. The 16-35mm lens gives a little more variety in focal length but is less affordable at a cost upwards of $1000. The 24-70mm is not the best lens at either side of their focal length range. However, it is the most versatile for walking around. Finally, the 70-200mm is superb if you’re a landscape photographer that likes to zoom in on their landscape from far distances. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.

What Are the Best Landscape Photography Settings?

Tips for Beginners Landscape Photographers

Landscape photography settings will vary depending on the time of day and the amount of time available, but here is a great place to start:

  • Aperture: f/11-f/16
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: varies
  • White balance: daylight, shade, or cloudy
  • Autofocus points: single

Your ISO should be at 100 if you’re shooting a scene when the sun is fully up in the sky. However, if you shoot at sunrise or sunset or in a forest with a thick canopy, you’ll want to raise your ISO. Once you have your ISO set, then you can start to play around with shutter speed to get the right exposure. It is generally recommended that you don’t reduce your shutter speed to 1/focal length when supporting your camera by hand. So if your lens is 200mm focal length, don’t use a shutter speed of less than 1/200. If you have a tripod, you can use a lower shutter speed without getting blurry photos from the hand’s slight movements.

15 Helpful Landscape Photography Tips for Beginners

Tip #1: Do Your Homework

There’s no doubt that we’ve all heard this one a few dozen times. However, it’s ever so true and a great place to start. Before heading out to shoot landscape photography, learn as much about the area as possible. This is true whether you are close to home, travelling far away, or anywhere in between. There are so many resources to use to find amazing landscape photos for just about anywhere on earth. Before leaving home, do a search on 500px, Flickr, or Google Images to find images for your area of interest. Simply typing in a place name will yield tons of photos that will show you what to look for and provide inspiration for your own shoot.

While in the field, there are smartphone apps that can help with this as well. As of this article’s writing, the all-new Really Good Photo Spots (GPS) app is just over two weeks away from its initial release. This will be an invaluable tool for iPhone users to find awesome shooting locations from wherever they are. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever. 

Tip #2: Go for the Gold

Not only is it important to know where to go for a landscape photo, but it is also important to know when to go. Perhaps even more important. The quality of light can make or break an image, so you’ll want to be there when the light is best. The harsh sun of mid-day is not it. When the sun is directly, or nearly overhead, transitions from bright to shadow areas are very hard. The direct sun makes a scene with very high contrast and little depth and texture.

The best light for landscape photography is typically in the mornings and evenings. Golden hour light, which is roughly the first hour of light after the sun rises and the last hour of light before the sun sets, is optimal. However, it is still possible to shoot later into the morning and start earlier in the evening and get good results. During these times, the low angle of the sun creates more diffuse light and increased depth and texture for a much more pleasing and interesting image.

Tip #3: Cut the Clutter

Probably more important than deciding what to include in an image is deciding what not to include. When in doubt, simple is usually better. A viewer looking at a landscape image should intuitively know what the main subject is in the image. Other elements included in the frame should be there to lead the viewer’s eye or complement the main subject by adding depth and dimension if there are things that do not add any interest to the image, consider changing the composition slightly to remove them or minimise them in the frame. This could be done by zooming in or shooting from a different angle. For example, if the mid-ground is uninteresting, try setting up the camera at a lower angle to accentuate more of the foreground and hide some of the mid-ground.

Before pressing the shutter button, don’t forget to do a quick check around the edges of the frame to see if there are any unwanted elements. A tree branch protruding in from the side or top could really distract from the main subject of the image.

Tip #4: Composition Is King

You may be shooting during the best light, but without a strong composition, the image just may not work. On the other hand, even if the composition is perfect, the image just won’t be nearly as strong if the light is not good. Good composition and good light work hand in hand to create amazing images.

Even if you are just getting started in photography, you’ve probably heard of at least some of the “rules of composition”. Things like the rule of thirds, rule of odds, and leading lines are all good things to know and to practice. Learn these rules, why they are important, and how they can be used to create more impactful images. Good composition (and good light) is one of the main ingredients that make a photograph and will set your images apart from the dreaded snapshot.

The fun thing about the “rules” of composition is that they can be broken. It is important, however, to understand that they are being broken and why the image still works. Sometimes it might be as simple as saying, “that’s the way I like it.” There are many articles and tutorials on the Improve Photography website that deal with composition. Jim Harmer’s Block Method Composition is an alternative to the traditional rules and provides a lot of interesting concepts for developing a strong composition.

Tip #5: Have a Strong Foreground Element

A strong foreground element can be very important in creating landscape images. Think of the foreground as the introduction or the first impression of your image. As they say, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. That’s what the foreground should do. A strong foreground element draws you in and then leads your eye deeper into the image to the main subject. It gives a sense of depth and makes a viewer feel as if they are standing right there where the shot was captured.

A strong foreground element could be anything from a small tree, a rock formation, a bush, or another plant. It is generally placed prominently in the lower third of the image and is close to the camera. Getting the camera low and as close as possible to the foreground can really help create a dynamic composition.

Tip #6: Get Everything in Focus

You will generally want to get everything in the scene in focus for a landscape image. Remember that you control the depth of field (how much is in focus) using your camera’s aperture setting. Setting the aperture to a larger number, such as f/13 or f/16, and then focusing roughly one-third of the way into the scene will usually do the trick. The camera you use most likely can display grid lines in the viewfinder and/or on the back LCD. Focusing on something near the bottom third grid line will likely get the entire scene in focus.

The exception to this is if your foreground element is extremely close to the camera. In that case, you may not be able to get the foreground object and everything else in focus in a single image. If you focus on the foreground and the background looks a little soft, you could try taking 2 or 3 separate images, each focused on a different portion of the scene, then stacking them in Photoshop. However, for starters, try adjusting the aperture and changing the focus point to get everything acceptably sharp in a single image. Focus stacking is a more advanced technique that you can learn as you go. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

Tip #7: Change Perspective

Tips for Beginners Landscape Photographers

Most beginning photographers hold the camera or set up the tripod at eye level to take the shot. That may work fine, depending on the subject, but many times a change in perspective will dramatically change the look and feel of a photo. Get down low to the ground and see how that changes the image. It could accentuate a foreground object or eliminate a boring middle ground. If you are using a tripod or monopod, try a shot from up high. Mount the camera to the tripod, start the 10-second timer, then hold it above your head. Of course, if you are using a drone, that would be an even simpler and more fun way to get that elevated shot, but that’s a subject for a different article. 

Tip #8: Show Scale

When shooting a landscape, it is difficult for the viewer to know the scale of the subjects or the scene in general. Try placing something in the frame that will give some sense of the grandness of the landscape. It will have to be familiar and easy for the viewer’s eye to quickly determine the relative size compared to the surrounding area. Placing a person in the scene works well for this. I know, it sounds crazy, and I have a hard time doing this. When I’m out shooting landscapes, or just about anything, I generally work hard to keep people out of my frame. However, it could help add some perspective and even make a good stock image if you choose to give that a try. It only has to be one or two images from a shoot, so don’t worry too much about it. Looking for a Mornington Peninsula wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

Tip #9: Zoom In

Landscape photography typically is shot using a wide-angle lens to capture an epic scene. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “the picture doesn’t do it justice”. The main reason is that a landscape is so grand that it just can’t be captured in an image. We usually try anyway by shooting with an ultra-wide focal length. The problem with doing this is that things in the distance will appear tiny in the image. As an alternative, try zooming in and capture just a small segment of the landscape. These types of images may be referred to as intimate landscapes. A series of intimate landscape images may be very effective at telling the story.

Tip #10: Make Friends With Your Tripod

There are times that a tripod will be necessary for landscape photography. If you rarely (or never) use one, it’s time to get familiar with it. If you don’t have one, there are many great options available without breaking the bank. During the low light times of the early morning or late evening, a tripod is needed to allow the shutter speed to be dropped and keeping the ISO low. There are plenty of other times that tripod comes in handy, too. Plus, if you plan to shoot into the night, then a tripod is mandatory. So get to know your tripod. Make friends with it. If it is a pain to use, then perhaps you have the wrong one for you.

Tip #11: Show Motion in the Image

Here’s another reason for needing a tripod. If you are shooting a scene with something moving, such as a stream or a waterfall, it is fun to drop the shutter speed and show some of that movement in your image. The shutter speed may not have to be as slow as you think, either. For a fast-moving stream, 1/4th of a second may be slow enough. If you cannot get the shutter speed slow enough using the aperture and ISO settings, it will be necessary to attach a neutral density (ND) filter to the lens. An ND filter cuts the amount of light reaching the sensor to achieve a slower shutter speed. To learn more about ND filters and how to use them, check out this article.

Tip #12: Get Moving!

Here’s the scenario: You get to an awesome landscape photography location, find your composition, set up your tripod, and start shooting. Before you know it, the light is gone, and it’s time to pack up and head home. Upon popping the memory card from your camera into the computer, you discover that you have dozens of images that are all virtually the same. Why is that? Because you never moved to a different location. This has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to move around. This is one of the drawbacks of using a tripod. Once the tripod is set up, the tendency is to not want to move it again. Move it anyway. Discover other compositions, new angles, and different perspectives. Don’t let your tripod (or your feet) grow roots!

Tip #13: Turn Around

This goes along with the previous tip. As you are moving around a location, don’t forget to turn around to see what is behind you. There could be something pretty amazing happening back there, too. You’ll never know if you don’t give it a try.

Tip #14: Stay Out Late

Just because the sun has set and the light is fading doesn’t mean you have to pack up and head home. Wait for the stars to get visible. If you have some time, stick around until astronomical twilight ends, and true darkness begins. Depending on where you are, the Milky Way may be visible. If it’s not, you could always try shooting a sequence of images to create star trails. Not to mention, it’s just cool to be out enjoying the night landscape.

Tip #15: Never Stop Learning

Finally, the last tip! And it’s a very important one. Regardless of where you are in your photography, there is always more to learn. I never get tired of listening to photography podcasts on my long commute to work. The Improve Photography network now has five different podcasts available, so there is something for everyone. If you haven’t tried Improve Photography Plus, head over and give the free demo a try. There are tons of video tutorials covering all types of photography. If that’s not enough, there are plenty of free Youtube video tutorials from many well-known photographers that are fun to watch and have lots of useful information. The point is to keep learning new things. Challenge yourself with new techniques. It’s a great way to keep photography fresh and fun.

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