Landscape photography can often be described as the most enchanting and captivating. Drawing people in to incredible sceneries and capturing a unique view of the beautiful world around us. whether its the sunset over the hill at the end of your street or a magnificent mountain range in some country somewhere on the other side of the world.
Landscape photography like most photography is an opportunity for you to show your own perspective on a scene, to find the beauty that you see and express it through your camera, so that you can share that moment with others.
When it comes to equipment, this can have a big impact on the quality of your images. Obviously we would all love to have all of the most expensive equipment on the market, however I am fully aware that this isn't always possible. If you can afford to I would definitely invest in a good tripod, a wide angle lens and some filters. A tripod can help you to avoid hand shake, keep things steady and enable you to experiment more with your shutter speeds. A wide angle lens is usually your best bet when it comes to landscapes so that you can get as much of the scene as possible into your image. I'll go on to talk about filters in more detail, but just know that they can extremely beneficial.
It all starts with your settings. The way that you decide to shoot is dependent of the type of photographer that you are. The more you use your camera, the more you will get used to the way in which it works and you will develop your own style of shooting.
However, for starters I would suggest shooting in manual mode. If you don't know anything about aperture, iso or shutter speed I would recommend learning their functions before you switch to manual. Manual gives you much more control and can help you to get your desired effect for your landscape in camera with less post production.
Shooting in Raw format is how most landscape photographers shoot due to having complete control over the image. When you shoot in JPG your camera automatically compresses the image and adds some minor adjustments to your sharpening and your colours. Raw files however are a hell of a lot larger than JPGs so be sure that your hard drives can handle the space.
Aperture can have a huge impact on your image and you desired result depending on what you're after. If you have something beautiful in your foreground that you want to be the main focus of your image then by all means make your aperture wide. However more often than not you will see a small aperture used in order to show as much detail as possible in your landscape. This would mean having your aperture set between f8-f16. If you go too much higher than f16 you could potentially lose quality in your image. Below you will see an example of a landscape image with a wide aperture and one with a narrow aperture to show the contrast.
ISO is all about sensitivity to light. The higher your ISO is set then the brighter your image. However, this can lead to a large amount of grain becoming visible in your image which can ruin the sharpness of your photo. When choosing your ISO setting, it is generally safer to go as low as you can without affecting the exposure. Keeping it between 100 - 600 is a safe bet.
Shutter Speed can be the most influential setting when it comes to shooting landscapes. It comes down to ultimately what you want your final image to look like. There are two options. Having a faster shutter speed can help to capture movement and freeze things, such as waves or clouds. Whereas a slower shutter speed can help to blur out movement to create a completely contrasting effect. When shooting at a slower shutter speed, it would be wise to consider using a tripod or finding somewhere to balance your camera so that you are not shooting hand held. Also in this scenario you may want to think about using a shutter release button just to guarantee that you're not getting any hand shake on your camera. These two different techniques can completely change the mood of your image and it should make you think about what you want to portray from the scene. Below you will see an example of a fast shutter speed landscape compared to a slow shutter speed landscape in which the water has become more blurred and smoother.
Getting a good composition on a landscape image can be done through a variety of different ways. Composition can completely make or break an image, and it is a crucial part to creating powerful photography that catches people's eyes. Here are a list of some key things to consider when composing your image.
- Golden Hour
Golden hour is that magical time an hour or so before sunset when the light is at its dreamiest and everything is engulfed in a warm soft glow. It can provide your landscape with some super interesting shadows.
- Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a general photography tool that can help you out no matter what you're photographing. Imagine dividing your image up into three sections, then position your subject in either the left or the right section. Moving the subject off centre makes your image look more interesting. You can utilise this technique in landscape photography by dividing your image into three in the landscape orientation. For example, you can show 2 thirds of sky and a third of land/sea, or the alternate depending on what you want the main focus of your image to be. Most cameras have a grid view that you can use to line up your images which can help you to imagine the divide.
- Leading Lines
Leading lines can be really useful to draw your audience in and direct people's attention to your subject. You can also use leading lines to create symmetry in your image which can add more of a 3D effect rather than your image looking flat.
- Telling a Story
Finding and expressing a narrative in your photos shows more artistic depth and meaning, and can make your images more interesting. Whether it's a story of history or a path leading somewhere or an unusually placed object. Making your audience think about your image and it's story can make a significant impact.
- Changing Your Viewpoint
Getting a different angle can make ALL the difference to your composition. Even just crouching down a little can completely change the whole perspective. Gaining height can also be effective in order to gain a viewpoint that is rarely seen by the naked eye. Using drones to gain an aerial shot is becoming increasingly more popular.
Personally if an image incorporates some sort of reflection then I'm instantly interested. It adds a whole other dimension to your photo. It makes you question what you're really looking at, and I believe that any image that makes you question anything is a powerful one.
Once you've mastered the basics, the use of filters can be really effective to take your work to that next level.
Polarized filters are a bit on the pricier side but can have a big impact on your images. They increase the contrast and darken the skies adding more intensity to your photos.
Neutral density filters reduce the amount of light going in to your camera. These are a great investment, especially if you plan on shooting long exposures at different times of day. Graduated ND (neutral density) filters are also good for darkening your skies whilst keeping the rest of your landscape at a normal exposure.
So there you have the basics, the need to knows. Obviously it helps if the landscapes around you are already beautiful but don't be afraid to experiment with what you have, you don't have to travel far and wide to get impressive landscapes.