Beginner photography basics: How to take better landscape photos

Landscape photography is a captivating art form that allows us to capture the beauty of nature and create stunning images. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to enhance your skills, a few simple tips and techniques can help you capture breathtaking landscapes.

Plan your shoot

Before heading out to photograph landscapes, take some time to plan your shoot. Research your desired location and consider the time of day, weather conditions, and the direction of light. Use online resources or apps to check sunrise and sunset times, tides (if shooting seascapes), and weather forecasts. This information will help you determine the best time to capture the desired mood and lighting for your landscape photographs. Photopills is a popular App for just this.

Check online what other photographers have captured in this same location. This can give you inspiration to capture something similar, or perhaps even look for a slightly different perspective on the same location.

Use the right equipment

While you can take great landscape photos with any camera, or mobile phone. Using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera will give you more control over your settings. Invest in a wide-angle lens to capture expansive vistas and make sure to carry a sturdy tripod for stability. Additionally, consider using filters such as a polarizing filter to reduce reflections and enhance colors, or a graduated neutral density filter to balance exposure in high-contrast scenes or even long exposures for soft dreamy effects or silky waterfalls.

Find a focal point

Every landscape photo needs a strong focal point to draw the viewer’s attention. Look for natural elements like a lone tree, a prominent rock formation, or a winding path that can serve as a point of interest in your composition. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find the most compelling focal point that adds depth and visual interest to your images. Shoot from down low or from up high, not just at eye height. Landscapes do not always have to be horizontal either.

Composition and framing

Composition plays a crucial role in landscape photography. Utilize the rule of thirds by mentally dividing your frame into nine equal parts and place your main elements along the intersecting lines or at their points. Many cameras have a grid option, so check your manual and turn it on in your viewfinder. Pay attention to the foreground, middle ground, and background to create a sense of depth in your images. Look for leading lines, such as roads or rivers, to guide the viewer’s eye through the photograph and create a visual journey. Experiment with aperture and depth of field, you may want to focus on a single focus point or use a small aperture like f/11 or f/16 to get as much in focus as possible.

Experiment with light and weather

Lighting is key in landscape photography. While soft, warm light during golden hours (early morning and late afternoon) often works best, don’t be afraid to shoot in different lighting conditions. Stormy skies, fog, or dramatic cloud formations can add mood and atmosphere to your images. Capture the changing light throughout the day to create diverse and dynamic landscapes. While midday is often not the best time to be out photographing, it can make for dramatic, dynamic and contrasting images on a cloudy day.

Post-processing and editing

Once you’ve captured your landscape photographs, consider post-processing to enhance their visual impact. Use editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Capture One to adjust exposure, colors, and contrast. However, remember to maintain a natural look and avoid over-editing. The goal is to showcase the beauty of the landscape, not create unrealistic scenes.

Final thoughts

With these simple tips, you can start capturing stunning landscape photographs. Remember to plan your shoot, use the right equipment, find a focal point, pay attention to composition, experiment with light and weather, and apply post-processing techniques subtly. Embrace your creativity, explore different locations, and practice regularly to refine your skills and create memorable images of the natural world.

Remember, it is often a great idea to revisit a location (if possible) and capture different angles, perspectives and weather conditions. Want to learn more about landscape photography? Check out these other great Photofocus articles on the topic:

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Cliff Morton


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