Nothing compares to the beauty Mother Nature offers, and no one understands this better than landscape photographers do.
They get to enjoy capturing deep blue oceans, expansive beaches, roaring rivers, captivating mountains, and forests when out in the majestic fields.
Shooting captivating landscape photos can be challenging even for the most experienced photographers. Luckily, there are still new techniques that you can learn to improve your portfolio.
Here are some expert landscape tips to help you improve your skills and avoid taking dull and bland images.
Make the most out of the Golden hours.
When it comes to taking the most impressive landscape photos, it is of utmost importance that you shoot during the golden hours. You will not capture any stunning landscape photos around 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM. During these hours, the light is usually harsh and almost vertical, and you can only achieve dull colors and have many problems with shadows.
Try shooting right after sunrise before the sunsets for the most breathtaking photos. During these magical golden hours, the light tends to be milder, more diffused, giving your softer, warmer, and smoother colors, and you can capture longer shadows that add a fresh twist to the depth of your photos.
If you prefer to add some organization when planning your shoots, you can use a mobile phone app like PhotoPills that come in handy in the prediction of the sun position, the Milky Way, or even the moon to enhance your composition.
However, this is not to say that you cannot take photos during other times of the day. When you are in such conditions when the light is very harsh, try finding effective ways to make the light softer such as waiting for clouds to cover the sun or shooting at closer depths.
Location is Key
Undeniably, the site you choose has the power to give you an average photo or the most captivating one.
You should always plan effectively to get a clear idea of all the places that you want to shoot your landscape photos.
A great way to start is by browsing the internet to discover beautiful locations around you as well as incredible viewpoints around you. Google street view can also come in resourcefully to give you a general feel of how your target location looks.
When scouting for the ideal location, try looking for those with waters bodies with which you can create a fantastic mirror effect, those with movements say a river, waterfall, or a windmill, or those with great textures like grass, stones or even snow.
Always remember to carry some water and food with you and wear clothing suitable for outdoor use. Try finding highly dynamic scenes to avoid annoying and dull photos.
Invest in a top-quality tripod stand
A high-quality tripod stand is an invaluable asset during landscape photography, especially when taking shots that have a slower shutter. When taking landscape photos early in the morning or evening when light conditions are quite low, there is a need to increase the ISO to prevent any chances of the underexposed image, which in turn translates to a lot of noise in your pictures.
When the shutter speed gets too low, you may have to use your tripod stand to reduce blurriness in photos that are usually a result of hands shaking when taking the shots. Ensure that your tripod stand has a robust construction, is lightweight for easier carrying, and can withstand various weather conditions.
Work the Polarizing and Neutral density filters.
Another great tip for creating the most stunning landscape photos is by using filters. For the best results, you can use polarizing filters as well as neutral density filters. These filters much help when it comes to the manipulation of light and bringing out the natural elements.
Polarizing filters will help you the most when you are shooting landscapes that incorporate the sky, waterfalls, seascapes, colorful objects, and another reflective surface.
For example, if you are shooting the ocean, a polarizing filter gets rid of reflections emanating from the sun at the same time enhancing the vibrancy of the colors integrated into the image (the green and blue hues).
When you are shooting the sky, the polarizing filter will intensify the blues and beautifully contrast it against the white clouds. However, it is good to note that polarizing filters may have little or no impact if you face the sun directly or if you position it behind you.
It is excellent to place yourself within 45 and 90 degrees to the sun for the best results.
Neutral density filters, on the other hand, prevent your camera from allowing in too much light. This enables you to enjoy slower shutter speeds to shoot movements effectively at various times of the day.
This is very useful, especially when you cannot get the slower shutter speeds through changing the ISO and aperture settings. For example, when shooting water movement, the neutral density filters enable you to select the appropriate darkness intensity and achieve your targeted shutter speeds.
Use Wide Angle/ Ultra wide-angle lenses.
Wide-angle lenses are perfect for showing a broader view as well as giving the impression of wide-open space compared to the standard lenses. They not only allow you to shoot a significant field depth but also allow you to employ faster shutter speed, consequently more light for amazing pictures. Ideally shoot at f/16 for a shaper background and foreground. Always remember to try shooting at different angles.
Maximize on composition
Getting the right composition is another critical element when it comes to successful landscape photography. Here are three fantastic ways that you can maximize on compositional elements to achieve stronger landscape photos.
- Use Leading lines
One of the biggest questions you should ask yourself when shooting landscape photos is how you are leading the eyes of the people viewing your pictures. Come up with interesting lines that lead your viewer’s right into an image and create an impression of movement.
For example, when you are taking a landscape shot, think of ideas through which you can guide the viewer’s eyes right into the main subject using things like rows of trees, water ripples, a beautiful shoreline, clouds, trails or cliff lines.
- Compose in thirds
When using the rule of the thirds to come up with striking landscapes, you simply imagine four lines dividing your frame. Although some images will appear great at the focal point right in the center of the square, placing the subject away from the center at one of the intersecting points of the imaginary frames creates a more impressively composed photograph.
For instance, whenever you are taking a beautiful photo of the horizon set the horizon frame in such a way that it does not cut right into the center of the frame. Instead, adjust the framing such that the horizon comes into the top third section or the bottom third section for a more dramatic effect.
- Adjust the point of view
Your photos are probably dull since you keep shooting from the same point of view, therefore always getting the same results. If this is your situation, spend a little extra time to identify the different fascinating aspects that you can use to add a dramatic twist to your landscape photos. Perhaps find an elevated position to shoot from, kneel, or even lie flat on the ground.
Always think of the weather.
One of the best ways of improving your photography is ensuring you always shoot when the weather is right. Nevertheless, most landscape photographers tend to think that the perfect weather for shooting landscapes is when it is sunny, and the sky is bright blue.
On contrast, threatening rain and dark clouds may offer you the perfect mood to shoot the perfect image. Always be on the lookout for exciting weather elements like mist, rainbow, dark clouds, dramatic clouds, winds, and storms that will set exciting variations for the ideal photos.
People always imagine serene, calm, and passive environments when they imagine landscape photos. This, however, does not have to be the case. Conveying motion within landscapes is an excellent way of adding a fresh twist of drama and mood to make it more breathtaking. Try this by capturing moving birds in the air, the wind blowing in between trees, moving clouds, and even moving water.
To capture movement efficiently, you will have to use longer shutter speeds, which, of course, translates to a little extra hitting the sensor. You will have to use a smaller aperture, shoot during the golden hours, or even apply filters.
For instance, when shooting flowing water, you may work with a shutter speed that is between 1/30th second and a full second. If you were shooting fast-moving water, then the 1/30th second setting would be ideal. Full second shutter speeds work better with water that is moving much slower. Always use a tripod stand when shooting movement to achieve more stability in the photos.
Shoot using the raw format
If you are not shooting your landscape photos in raw format, you are surely missing more authentic and colorful images. You may find it a little bit challenging at the beginning, but it gets better with lots of practice. Raw files consistently capture more intricate details as well as information and offer you lots of flexibility during postproduction. As well, you do not end up losing the overall quality of your photos.
Focus in depth of the field
Choosing the correct field depth is another excellent way of achieving striking landscape photos. This means that you include many elements of the scene as possible into the focus (you do not want to focus too much on items in the foreground and end up with blurry background reducing the overall focus).
To obtain subtle clarity and sharpness of the background and foreground, ideally set the aperture at f/8 and work your way to about f/11 to achieve the desired effect. Remember that moving too far up the spectrum may result in a significant reduction in the clarity and sharpness.
Try getting a focal point.
Focal points help your landscape photos not to appear empty and leave viewers’ eyes with no spot to land. Consider including flowers, horses, a striking tree, a person, a starfish, shell a rock formation as a focal point to create a new impression on your landscape portraits.
Remember to not only focus on what the focal point is but also try finding the best position to place it for appealing aesthetics. Useful strategies, including the rule of thirds, as discussed earlier in this article, can be helpful in such situations.
A captivating foreground may be all you need to take your landscape photography to an entirely new level. It offers the ideal starting point for your viewers and leads them right into the main image. Whenever you can, spend some time researching different foregrounds.
A right foreground can be anything a beautiful bunch of flowers, tussocks, some dead trees, grass, decorative boulders, or even some leaves. Be creative in finding the perfect foreground that will fit perfectly into your frame.
The popularity of landscapes among photographers keeps increasing, and it is quite easy to see the reasons why. Through lots of patience and commitment, you will be able to capture landscape photos with the wow factor and grab the attention of your viewers. Sometimes you may have to wait for the right lighting conditions for extended periods in case current circumstances do not favor you.
Always try to experiment with various strategies, even when most of the time, to do not get the best results. Who knows one day you might just uncover the gem you have always wanted.
Sometime even simple things like adding a person into the frame may give you a dramatic effect in landscape photography. Before you hit the location, always confirm that all your gear is in excellent condition to avoid last minutes disappointments of broken parts. Good Luck