Landscape photography is one of the most popular photography styles.
There’s something about getting outdoors in nature to capture stunning sceneries. I love it. It makes me feel free and that I’m leaving a beautiful adventure.
One of the questions I get asked the most is how do I take better landscape photos? I spent years as a photographer shooting beautiful landscapes around the world. Today I put together these 15 effective tips to help people like you wanting to improve their landscape photography skills.
Tips for Landscape Photography
Scout the Location
If you’ve been following me, you know that this is one of my favorite tips.
A lot of people don’t agree since photography is art and art has to be spontaneous.
But in landscape photography, knowing your location is an advantage. If you’re shooting at sunrise or sunset you won’t have a lot of time before the best light is gone.
Scouting your location in advance helps you knowing where to position yourself, what are the best vantage points and will allow you getting the best results. Especially if you are a new starter.
Use objects in the scene to create a three-dimensional feel in your image.
In fact, this is one of the main challenges of a photographer.
Producing a three-dimensional effect on a two-dimensional medium.
Composing your shot with several layers is always a nice touch.
The beauty of a vista is often given by its depth and scale other than the stunning colors.
To make your photograph stand out, add interesting objects in your foreground, middle ground and on the background.
Try to keep everything in your image sharp, more to this in the settings below.
Landscape Photography Tips: Use a Long Exposure
At the early hours of the day or at sunset, when the light is low, you can set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and choose a small aperture.
Choose a value from f/11 to f/16. Smaller aperture values, from f/16 to f/22 or more depending on the lens for landscape you are using can cause diffraction effects and your image will look less sharp. So be careful.
You’ll need a tripod for this type of technique.
You can read more on my recent article How to Take Long Exposure Photos
Clouds are Good for Your Composition
A cloudy sky is the landscape photographer’s dream.
Clouds (especially low clouds) create a dramatic effect in the sky.
Adding the cloud element will make your pictures look much more interesting.
Clouds also form a nice effect if they are moving fast enough and you use the long exposure technique to create streaks in the sky.
During the golden hour, the red light reflecting on those clouds can produce breathtaking effects. You’ll need a bit of luck for this, or you can use a weather app to plan your shooting.
Landscape Photography Tips: Symmetry
Imagine a lake or a stretch of water. You can use it as a mirror to make objects in your photo to reflect and create beautiful symmetry.
Your line of symmetry will be parallel to the horizon line.
Symmetry in photography helps to create harmony and balance.
There are a lot of opportunities to capture symmetry all around you.
In landscape photography, you can add a lot of power by having a person stand on the line of symmetry. This will also create a sense of scale.
In my recent article Portrait vs Landscape, you can also learn the difference between these two camera orientations when it comes to compose your shot.
Landscape Photography Tips: Rule of Thirds
This basic technique is also one of the most important.
The rule of thirds consists of mentally dividing your image into a grid nine spaces of equal size.
With two horizontal lines and two vertical lines as shown in the image below, you’ll have to place your main subject or point of interest at one of the intersections of lines.
Most cameras (probably all of them today) let you turn the grid on.
By using this compositional technique in landscape photography, you can create tension or balance and tell a story.
Learn more about the rule of thirds reading our article: Understanding the Rule of Thirds in Photography
Follow the Lines
Leading lines are an essential compositional tool for your landscape photos.
Leading lines in landscape photography are diagonal, vertical or horizontal lines that drive the viewer’s attention from a point in the image to another.
It’s common to find a main subject at the converging point of two lines. This forms a vanishing point that induces great depth.
Learn more about the rule of leading lines reading our article: How to Use Leading Lines in Photography
Landscape Photography Tips: Introduce People into Your Landscape Shots
A common trend in recent years is to introduce the human element into landscape photos.
Purists will hate me for this, but adding people helps you in many ways.
First of all, it makes it easier to tell a story, creating a sense of adventure and making your photograph more engaging.
Also as I mentioned before a person in your composition can create a magnificent sense fo scale.
Camera Settings for Landscape Photography
Landscape photography requires different settings depending on the lighting conditions.
I won’t mention settings for night sky photography here, maybe in a future article.
Since the best time of the day to shoot landscapes is the golden hour, here are the best settings:
- ISO. Use base ISO (64, 100 or 200). Read more about ISO here.
- Shoot in Aperture Priority mode (A or Av). You set the aperture, your camera sets the shutter speed.
- Aperture. You need a small aperture. Experiment with values ranging from f/8 to f/16.
- Use a wide-angle lens 14mm or ultra-wide 24mm
These simple settings will take you far if you’re a new starter.
Experiment with them and use a tripod if you’re not shooting in full daylight.
If your camera and lens have good image stabilization you can try to avoid a tripod.
For a long exposure, a tripod is a must.
Let’s talk about gear.
The Right Gear for Landscape Photography
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|Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera with AF-P 18-55mm and 70-300mm Zoom Lenses Bundle with 64GB Card and...||Check Price|
|Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera Bundle with Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is II Lens + 2pc SanDisk...||Check Price|
Other than the kit lenses included in the cameras above, you can take a look at these unbelievably inexpensive lenses.
|Canon Portrait and Travel Two Lens Kit with 50mm f/1.8 and 10-18mm Lenses||Check Price|
|Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens||Check Price|
Best Entry Level Tripods for Landscape Photography
You can find our complete list of lightweight tripods here.
But here are a couple we like.
|GEEKOTO 58” DSLR Tripod, Compact Aluminum Alloy Lightweight Camera Tripod with 360 Degree Panorama...||Check Price|
Take Landscape Photos During the Golden Hour
The magic vibe found during the golden hour is unparalleled.
Depending on the weather condition, the warm red light might spread in the sky and in the clouds producing a stunning fiery effect.
In general though, even on those days when the sky doesn’t get as red, the light will nonetheless be softer, and the shadow longer.
This makes your photograph more appealing. Color contrasts are also immensely better during the golden hour. Try to shoot at noon and you’ll see how flat is the final image.
Learn how to Read a Histogram
Your camera provides a useful tool called the histogram.
The histogram in photography and in your camera is a representation of the distribution of dark and bright areas in your image.
This underrated tool helps you get the right exposure in the field by showing the amount of each tone in your image, ranging from pure white to pure black.
Learning how to use the histogram made me save countless hours of photo editing since it avoided me underexposing or overexposing my photograph.
We have a detailed article on how to read your histogram here.
Shoot in RAW Format
Most people don’t understand the importance of this.
The RAW format gives you greater control when post-processing your images.
It sounds like a very technical and intimidating thing but it’s essential if you want to improve as a landscape photographer.
The RAW format is simply an uncompressed version of your file.
What does it mean?
It means that it contains all the light and color information that is instead compressed (hence lost) in the JPEG format.
Comparing a JPEG file and a RAW file of the same picture straight out of the camera is meaningless.
The RAW file will most probably look flatter. This is because the RAW file needs to be edited in Lightroom since they didn’t go through the processing that JPEGs got in-camera.
Edit Your Landscape Photos in Lightroom
Post-processing your images is fundamental to become a great photographer.
If you think that photo editing is a bit like cheating, then why don’t you shoot your photo in auto mode?
I can tell you why, because you need artistic control.
I’m not talking about removing or adding objects in the image.
What I mean is doing color correction and not creating unnatural effects.
Have you ever noticed how when viewing your images in your computer they don’t look quite as good as the beautiful scenery you were shooting?
First of all, that’s because it’s not always easy to get it right in camera.
But also, cameras are not quite able to produce the scene as YOU saw it.
And that’s what you should aim for, to improve the general look of the image by balancing the contrast, colors, exposure white balance and all those basic adjustments that don’t make the image look unnatural.
If you don’t edit your landscape photos, your camera will do it for you.
Learn more about editing in Lightroom here.
Mastering landscape photography is not as simple as following a few tips.
It takes time, experiments and love for outdoors and adventure.
According to Wikipedia “Landscape photography shows spaces within the world“
I hope that this article gives you the tools you need to start improving your craft and create awe-inspiring landscape photos.
As always let me know what you think in the comments below.
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.