How to get started creating stunning landscape images
Landscape photography captures the atmosphere of the outdoors in a single image. Landscape photography is done for a variety of reasons, but whether it’s a personal passion or a commercial venture, it is often a labour of love for the photographer who enjoys connecting with the outside world.
There are also many different types of landscape photography, with photographers specialising in mountain landscapes, seascapes, forests, the aurora borealis, and even cityscapes and urban landscapes. Although there are so many possibilities when it comes to inspiration for the subject, there are some specific techniques that will vastly improve your landscape photography.
In this landscape photography guide we will cover:
- Shooting in RAW
- Landscape photography equipment
Lighting and exposure have a symbiotic relationship, so it’s important to have an understanding of the principles of exposure to use the available light to your advantage.
The three tenets of exposure are shutter speed, aperture and ISO.
- Shutter speed is the speed at which the shutter closes after clicking it. Faster speeds mean the photo is taken with less time allowed for light to enter the lens.
- Aperture is the f-number or f-stops on your camera which determines how much light enters the camera by adjusting the size of the shutter opening, and affects the depth of field. Most landscape photography examples generally use wider apertures.
- The ISO measures the camera’s light sensitivity and is adjusted by the photographer according to the light conditions. However, using a higher ISO can result in more noise or grain on your image, so this is something to keep in mind if you find yourself dialling up the ISO.
Once you understand the principles of exposure, it’s easier to understand the manipulation of light conditions. Using a DSLR makes it easy to adjust the exposure accordingly, but you still want to shoot using optimal natural lighting for the best photos. When photographing landscapes, a softer, more diffuse light is desirable as it improves colour and tonal accuracy on camera. Landscape photographers often head out at sunrise as the light has an aesthetically pleasing soft quality that is easy to manipulate, and this is recommended for those starting out with landscape photography.
As with all things photographic, the best way to learn is through trial and error, and this is especially true of exposure.
With landscape photography, creating an appealing composition can be a challenging feat for beginners. It’s important to create balance in your images. You can do this by creating symmetry or contrasting subjects within the frame so that the objects, colours, and tones in the image hold the same visual mass. This ensures that different areas of the photograph attract equal attention from the viewer. These are skills that you will develop over time, but one useful tip is using the rule of thirds to create balance. You can enable the gridlines in your camera settings to help you to achieve this.
Landscape photographers choose an area of focus in their photos — the foreground or the background — to create a distinctive look and feel to the photograph. They can also emphasize the use of negative space in their photos for a markedly more minimalistic feel.
Knowing how to use focus to your advantage in your photos is one of the most crucial landscape photography techniques. By widening your lens diaphragm to an aperture of, for example, f/2.8, you can create a shallow depth of field to focus on the foreground. It can be useful to choose your point of interest in the viewfinder so you can focus on it. Shooting in aperture priority mode lets you experiment with the f-stop settings for a sharper image when using a wider aperture.
Shoot in RAW
Because JPEG compresses the image file, you lose some of the image data, making post-production editing a pain. When shooting in RAW you have more image data to work with — this makes correcting the colour and white balance far easier during the editing process. Editing can be a great way to give some corrective touches to your photo, with many photographers opting for Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
Landscape photography equipment
Taking a great landscape photograph not only comes down to the skill of the photographer, but to the quality of the equipment, so it’s important to start out using the right gear.
When shooting landscapes use a professional DSLR camera, for improved image quality due to the superior sensors. DSLRs also have a great range of customisable settings for better photographs. Moreover, the wide dynamic range can cope with lighting and the extended ISO range allows you to capture excellent photos in darker conditions. We recommend a full-frame DSLR with a 35mm sensor, allowing for wider scope in your photo, which is desirable in landscape photography. Some great DSLR cameras for landscape photography are:
- Pentax K-1 Mark II
- Canon EOS 5DS R
- Nikon D850
When it comes to landscape photography, you ideally want a wider shot as this creates more depth and perspective in your image. A wide-angle lens will help you achieve this. Any lens that is 35mm or less is considered wide-angle. 24 mm or less is an ultra-wide angle, which will create an even wider perspective in your image. (Today, some smartphone cameras even have the option to shoot using an ultra-wide angle, but refer to our comments above about camera choice).
However, some landscape photographers avoid focal lengths less than 24mm as it can cause distortions, but this is a matter of preference, so again, it is time to experiment and see which look you prefer.
When shooting magnificent landscapes, especially as a beginner, it is advisable to take time to set up your shot to encapsulate the perfect composition in your image. A tripod is very useful for landscape photography, as it allows you to invest more time in getting the perfect shot, and improves stability. The improved stability is particularly helpful if you are shooting with a slower shutter speed, as it will reduce potential blur. When shooting in the wilderness, the terrain is unlikely to be suitable for your tripod so it is a good idea to invest in a tripod with spiked or rubber feet for enhanced grip.
Filters can be beneficial to landscape photography as they enhance image perception. The two filters of choice are the polarising filter and the neutral density filter. The polarising filter enhances colour in your image and suppresses glare from the sun. The neutral density filter is exceptional for shooting with wider apertures and slow shutter speeds as it filters light from the lens to improve the picture quality.
Remote shutter release
A wired or wireless remote shutter release can be useful when it comes to landscape photography as it saves you having to manually release the shutter with your finger, which can cause motion blur. A remote shutter control plus a tripod is the best combination to combat unintentional blur for your landscape images.
If you have professional landscape photography needs, or even just want to talk to someone further about the subject, then head over to the Splento website. If required, Splento can provide reliable, on-demand photographer at a fixed, affordable rate. Be sure to contact a member of the Splento team if you have any questions.