When I find myself (after that motivational speech) getting out there with all of my kit sorted and cleaned, I want to be able to get the best shot(s) I can, with the time I have. Something more than a snapshot, or quick composition. I strive to take images that I would be proud to hang on my wall. So, here are the 9 things I've learned in my quest for those wall-worthy photos.
Before any shoot, including Landscapes, I research everything. From the location (I may have done a recce and will already have a composition in mind), to timings, weather and sea levels. Everything is noted and I always make sure it is all set to go before I leave the house.
2. LIGHT IS THE KEY
As with any style of Photography, light is always going to be your first thought (or at least it should be). As to expose a composition, we have to get the light right. Right? The essence of Photography is painting with light.
Landscape photography is exactly the same.
But, unlike other styles of photography, you can't simply modify the main key light (The Sun). if you are doing a portrait shoot, for example, you can sit your subject under a tree or use a diffuser to muffle the harsh sunlight. And the reason why we do this, is to get rid of harsh shadows, created by straight-down unflattering light.
The Answer = GOLDEN HOUR SHOOTING!
That hour before and after sunset or sunrise. The sun is low and diffused naturally by the low angle, cutting across the atmosphere. Images have a golden look to them for that reason.
Or you could shoot during the day, if the sky is cloudy and the sunlight defused by that instead. If I absolutely have to though, I generally shoot with an ND filter and go for a long exposure.
Watch this video for my in-depth explanation of this;
3. USE THE FOREGROUND
Often (and I am just to blame for this too), we find a composition - a great vista of a Landscape. And think that it will be great to get a picture of it. But we forget that with a wide angle lens on the camera, those view become a lot further away than anticipated, or the distortion detracts from the image.
One thing we can do is add something (or find an area) to place in the foreground of the image, to give it some interest. Having something with leading lines into that vista, would make it a more interesting shot.
4. ADD PEOPLE
Just as above, adding a subject or person, can make a huge difference to the feel of an image. I don't do this often enough.
Firstly, it gives your composition a sense of scale. Especially with an epic landscape shot. It will give the viewer understanding of just how majestic the scene was.
It will also give your viewer a sense that they were there. Having that connection to an image is what draws people into it's story. Without the person, it won't be so immersive.
5. NOTICE THE DETAILS
This is also another area that I haven't explored in much depth. landscapes can be overwhelming and sometimes overpowering. Get back to the small details and treat a Macro or Micro shot as a landscape. Something missed by a lot of landscape photographers (including myself - but something I will remedy). There are a lot of smaller detail shots to be had, that nobody else has ever got.
6. COMPOSITION, COMPOSITION, COMPOSITION!!!
In a portrait what draws you in is often the expression. Human beings are attuned to faces, and will automatically look at them first.
So in a landscape, especially one without any people in it, you’re going to have to find other ways to draw in your viewer. And that comes down to composition. You’ll need a very strong one to really get someone’s attention and keep it!
I already mentioned the value of putting things in the foreground – a technique called layering. Other compositional techniques that are useful with landscapes are using leading lines to draw the eye, finding elements to create balance, incorporating negative space and using frames to highlight your subject.
There’s a style of landscape photography that’s pretty standard: beautiful mountain, beautiful light, beautiful foreground…you get the idea. You’ve seen it everywhere, and after a while it gets a little hard to tell one stunning shot from the next.
That’s why it can be worthwhile to take all those landscape rules and turn them on their head in pursuit of something different. Yep, feel free to ignore everything I just told you, as long as you intentionally ignore it! There are great shots to be found at midday, with nothing in the foreground, and no people in sight!
8. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
One super effective way to get an eye-catching landscape shot is to change up your perspective. Most people will take a shot standing in the same place, with the camera at eye level. And that results in your photos looking just like everyone else’s.
So change it up. Lie down flat on the ground. Climb up a hill (or a mountain!). Or, if you can swing it, get a Drone!
Changing your perspective lets you see the same scene from a different viewpoint, and that’s something that gets attention!
9. TAKE YOUR TIME
Simple as that. The best landscape shooters often spend a full weekend hiking out to a remote location they spent months searching for, just to get one great shot at dawn. Then they bring that file home, and often put a lot of work into post-processing to make it absolutely perfect. They invest a ton of time and effort into one image, and that’s how they make them great.
I hope you enjoyed these quick tips I’ve learned along the way. The landscape shots that I’ve created aren’t winning any awards, but they are beautiful mementos of some of the great adventures I’ve been on – and that’s exactly what I want. You can take better photos of your travels with just a bit of extra effort, and then have a lifetime to enjoy the results of your work.