10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photography
Landscape photography is probably one of the number one reasons why people start to get into photography, it’s how I and a lot of my friends started anyway. Maybe you want to document your holiday and show your friends and family where you’ve been or maybe you want to capture the views so you can get some prints made to decorate your house.
The good thing about photography is there is no real right or wrong way. Saying that, here are some of the things I have learnt along the way that I would avoid now.
1. Avoid trends. Don’t be a sheep
Express your own opinions
When I was getting into landscape photography I did a lot of HDR as it was mentioned a lot online, you could play with the sliders and drag out all the details and shadows and make everything look more vibrant than real life.
I can’t look at any of those photos any more without cringing and I wish I just took a nice photo instead.
I’ve noticed a lot on Instagram recently where people have been doing woodland photography, rather than getting an in-focus photo of the bluebells or autumn colours they use a long exposure and seem to just let the camera drop during the exposure. It looks like when you have been doing long exposures and then you forgot to speed up the shutter speed and end up with a blurry photo that I wouldn’t look at.
If you like that look then good for you, go for it. I personally don’t understand why you’d go through all the effort of finding a nice location and then intentionally doing that. It’s none of my business what you do, but I’m just saying that future you might wish you got a nice photo whilst you’re in there… Sometimes simple works
( I still occasionally do HDR, just more subtly)
Related Blog : What’s Better? ND Graduated Filters or HDR
2. Make the horizons level
This seems like a small thing but it can make a big difference to the photographs. Sometimes this may not be as noticeable but if you’re photographing something like a seascape where there is a definitive line across the image it will soon become very distracting and will be the only thing you notice.
How can you fix this? Some cameras have a built-in spirit level or you can get a bubble level which fits onto the cameras hot shoe. You can also crop the image in post-production but it will change your composition and may remove parts of the image that you like
3. Use a tripod
Yes, they’re annoying to carry but the increase in image quality makes them worth it. Using a tripod allows you to;
Fine tune your composition
You’ve found the location that you like, and now you’re just waiting for the right light conditions. You can set up your composition and have it ready for when the light is there or wait for something to come into the composition e.g. The people in the photograph above
Improve image quality
You can use a lower ISO and choose the right aperture to allow the right depth of field and to avoid grain from high ISO
4. Photograph what you’re interested in
I’ve experimented with a lot of different techniques but I find it difficult to get excited if it’s something I’m not naturally drawn to. For me climbing up a mountain and looking down over the valleys is my thing, letting nature do the talking or if I’m out on a wander and stumble on something interesting
In my experience trying to force a composition tends to lead to pretty boring results. If you shoot what you’re naturally drawn to you will find compositions a lot more easily
5. Ignore the “rules”
The rule of thirds gets thrown around a lot online stating that you should get the interesting parts of the image in the 3rd lines. Maybe that works, maybe you want to stick it in the middle. It’s your photo, your call.
Most people outside of the photography forums don’t care about them.
6. Plan and Prepare for the day
Photographing landscapes often involves walking up mountains and being out in all weather conditions so you need to be prepared for the day. Things go wrong quickly so it’s better to have an answer ready and waiting in your bag.
How does that help with my photography?
Having the right equipment to stay warm and safe makes a huge difference to your moral and creativity. Being stood on top of a mountain as the weather is coming in as the sun is going down can be a daunting feeling when you’re actually stood there, so having everything covered will help to take your mind off all of the “what if? ‘s ” whilst you’re up there
Check the forecast before you go, take enough clothing layers so you can adapt to the conditions, take a map, compass, torch, crampons etc. anything else that you could possibly need whilst your up there.
We’re fortunate in England to have the Mountain Rescue for if things go completely wrong, they should be plan Z
(follow the link to donate to the mountain rescue)
7. Work with the weather
I know photographers that only photograph landscapes at sunrise at sunset during the golden hour. I’ve always found that a bit of a limiting way to think. Most people that go out walking in the mountains go during the day to make the most of the views, there’s no reason why can’t still get great photos in the middle of the day.
You won’t get the golden colours of sunrise or sunset but that isn’t what makes a good photo. You can get great results any time of the day if you are willing to put in the time and keep your eye open for things that may turn interesting. E.g. On a rainy day – if it feels like the sun is about to come out, get ready for a rainbow
8. Invest in ND Graduated Filters
If you’re taking photographs and you’re finding that the sky looks good but the ground is a silhouette you may want to invest in some ND Graduated filters to balance out the scenes.
I use LEE filters but there are a variety of different makes that have there own pros and cons, generally, the higher quality ones give less colour cast and less vignetting, that comes with a heftier price tag though. There is something for all price ranges though.
The good thing about using the filters is you can balance out the scene and accurately capture the scene in front of you.
Polarising filters are also great for landscape photography, they allow you to remove glare from water and they help to boost saturation in the image
9. Put more time into the camera/compositions
Sometimes it may not be possible/practical to add filters to get the correct exposure e.g. if it’s snowing or raining and the wind is filling the front of your lens with water everytime you stop, maybe bracketing is the practical solution.
If the conditions allow you to set up your camera, fine-tune your composition and then add your filters to get the correct exposure first time around you will be given more freedom once you do get to the editing stage.
I’m not really sure how much difference it makes to the viewer “how” you took the photograph but I’m always more proud of the photos that I spent the time on. I think the extra investment in time wins my brain over and I’m more connected to the image.
10. Ignore everyone
If you take everyone’s advice on what to do, you’ll end up with a watered down version of you want. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Obviously, constructive criticism is good, some people will just try and bring you down though. You will always find someone online that doesn’t like what you do, and it doesn’t matter. Don’t take what they say personally and stick with your gut instincts. Don’t waste your time on them
As James Victore says. “Complaining is not conversation”
There are lots of amazing communities online too, whether it’s on YouTube channels or Facebook, don’t settle for the jealous ones.