Photographing landscapes can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding things a photographer undertakes. While there are no solid “rules” to making a landscape photograph, there are some helpful guidelines and tips that you can use to enhance your experience and move those average photos from your computer into spectacular images on your walls.
Use a Tripod
In some situations (like hiking up the side of a mountain), carrying a tripod can be cumbersome. Try to find one that is lighter (carbon options are pricey, but perfect) that you can strap to your back.
The advantage to photographing landscapes with a tripod is that you can achieve a much larger depth of field without sacrificing sharpness. I usually shoot stopped down to f/22, which allows much less light onto my sensor. I offset it with a longer shutter speed - which is where my tripod comes in very handy. Sometimes I will use a cable release as well, so as to minimize the amount of shake associated with pressing the shutter button on the camera itself. If you don’t have a cable release, you can set your camera’s timer.
Consider the Foreground
Long, ambling landscapes can be made much more interesting with something in the foreground of the image. Even shorter photographs can be made far better with a foreground focal point.
Work With the Weather
Don’t fret when the sun isn’t shining! Most photographers like to keep themselves and their cameras warm and dry at all times, but sometimes it’s worth it to go out chasing some less than favorable weather. Don’t put yourself in harms way, but when the skies are angry, it can add a lot of drama to your images.
Keep ‘em straight. 99% of the time, this rule is hard fast. Use your grid in camera or fix it in post, but please - keep ‘em straight.
Golden Hour & Blue Hour
Golden hour is a period of time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and the daylight takes on a redder hue. Light is softer and shadows are less harsh. Landscape photographers will wait and wait for the perfect golden hour conditions to make their images.
Blue hour is a period of time before sunrise or after sunset when the sun is still below the horizon and the residual, very indirect light takes on a blue hue. Blue hour is amazing for photographing skies, as well as any buildings with their interior lights on.
I don’t use filters, but this guy does, and he wrote a nice little blurb about them at the end of this article!
Rule of Thirds
You don’t have to center everything. In fact, photographs are much more visually appealing when you don’t. Light School contributor Iain wrote a great Composition 101 tutorial that discusses this rule in depth.
One of the greatest ways to tell a story about your landscape images is to capture motion. This can be in the form of cars on a freeway, star trails, silky waterfalls or ocean waves (or anything else really). Longer shutter speeds are necessary for these shots, so this is where your tripod becomes absolutely necessary. If you’re shooting in bright daylight, this is also where those aforementioned filters come in handy as well.
On the flip side of capturing motion is stopping motion. You will need a super fast shutter speed for this, which will allow you to freeze raindrops, snowflakes, ocean waves and fast moving animals or insects.
Play around with your camera’s settings to see what story you can tell. There are no rules, and practice will make your work better and better. Just go shoot!
Photography by Bex
Find me here: [Tumblr | Facebook | Society 6 | 500px]