10 Tips For Better Landscape Photographs
Here are my tips for better landscape photographs
1. Choosing the best time to photograph
Light is one of the main factors that affects the overall look of your image, this is why most landscape photos you see are of either Sunrise or Sunset.
The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are known as the golden hour, this is when the sky will be at its most vibrant and the light tends to be softer as the sun isn’t as high in the sky so there aren’t any harsh shadows.
If you’re going out for sunrise or sunset make sure to check a map and work out where the sun will be. It rises in the East and sets in the West or you could use an app like this
Saying that, most of my favourite images aren’t at these times. Sometimes interesting things happen during the day such as changes in the weather or something unexpected which makes for a better photograph
2. Level Horizon
This is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like it if the horizon isn’t straight, I find it draws your eye away from what could be a great image.
If you struggle to get it straight and don’t have a level built in to your camera get a hot shoe bubble spirit level
3. A solid tripod
Go to your local camera shop and test out a few of their tripods. If you can shake the tripod around with your little finger it’s probably not going to be that sturdy…
If possible get a tripod with a hook built into it so you can hang your camera bag on it when you need extra weight. I use the Manfrotto 055-XPROB with a pan and tilt head I use a carabiner to attach my bag as it doesn’t have a hook.
4. The 7 p’s; Proper preparation and planning prevents piss poor performance.
Make sure you have everything ready before you head out. Having the perfect scene with no way of recording it can be pretty frustrating.
Without batteries you can’t take the photo. I have 2 batteries in my camera plus 3-4 spares. Cold air will drain your battery life quicker so keep them in a inside pocket so that they stay warm on the cold winter (or British summer) days.
Memory cards – I use both CF and SD cards, each one is formatted the night before I head out so I don’t have to worry about running out of storage. If your camera allows you to write the data to both cards simultaneously creating a backup file straight away
Take a map. The app on your phone doesn’t help when your phone has run out of battery.
Take water – You quickly get dehydrated up on the fells, without drinking water you’ll end up with a headache and you won’t be able to concentrate.
Cameras are honest light recording machines so they see differently to the human eye. You will need to learn to understand what the camera sees and work out how to work around them.
ND Graduated filters – If the scene is split into 2 different areas e.g. bright sky with dark trees below, you have to pick what you would rather have as the correct exposure. ND Grad filters can help bridge the gap and create a scene that looks more like what the human eye sees. I use a LEE filter system (Not sponsored)
ND Filters – cut out the amount of light reaching the sensor. These are often used on water to smooth out waves.
Polarising filters reduce glare and reflections plus help add saturation. This is one of the filters you can’t replicate in post production
6. Shoot in manual
Or at least Aperture priority mode. Leaving the camera to work out how you want to record a scene will probably leave you disappointed.
ISO – Keep as low as possible to reduce noise, using a tripod will help.
Aperture – Controls the depth of field, F8-F11 should in most cases keep everything in focus
Shutter speed- Depends on the scene. I tend to choose the above and then pick the shutter speed that creates the correct exposure.
7. Shoot RAW
This gives you more creative control in post-production than if you shoot JPG. You will be able to recover more details from the shadows and bring back the highlights in the sky plus much more.
8. On time’s late, get there early
If the sun is supposed to rise at 7 and you get there at 6:55 you’re probably going to miss getting the shot you want. Get there early, set up your kit and get a few ideas for where you think may be good places to get a photo as the light changes.
9. Choosing the right lens
9 times out of 10 my go to landscape lens is the Canon 24-70 2.8ii since moving to full frame. When I was shooting with a crop body I used the Tokina 12-24mm F4.0 so it’s clear to see I prefer wide angles.
Wide angle – You can get a large area into a scene which is good for showing the scale in a image e.g. A mountain range
Telephoto lens – They are good for highlighting a specific part of a scene that you like rather than focusing on the big picture.
10. Shutter release / mirror lock
To make sure your image is sharp there are 2 more steps you can take;
1. Use a shutter release or use the 2 second delay, this eliminates all of the camera shake from your hand pressing the shutter
2. Go into the menu of your camera and lock the mirror. This eliminates the camera’s mirror causing any vibrations when taking the photos, this is useful for long exposures.
Bonus. 11 – There are no rules
You can ignore everything I said and go and do what ever you want, in fact I would completely recommend taking what I/other people say with a pinch of salt.
You may find people online will call you out for not using the “Rule of third” and other little things, but who cares? It’s your photo not there’s and you will end up with a watered down version of what you want if you take on everyones advice, listen to the constructive bits and then go and photograph what you like. Make mistakes and develop your own style.
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