So, you have your landscape photography gear loaded, you’ve got your hiking boots on, and headed to the nature trails in search of those scenic landscape photography gems.
But before you go, here are ten landscape photography tips that will be vital while shooting in the field.
1 Maximise depth of field
Depth of field is achieved through the manipulation of the f-stop (aperture) setting. Adjusting the aperture will create sharpness from the foreground to the background of your photo. To maximise your depth of field, you must choose an aperture setting that will cover the full compositional frame. Unless you want the foreground or background to be out of focus, a setting such as f/8, f/10, or higher, could work to maximise depth of field.
A smaller aperture means less light reaching the sensor, so you will need to adjust your ISO and shutter speed according to the exposure triangle. There will be a good chance that you will need to use a slow shutter speed when using smaller f-stops to achieve your desired depth of field. The ISO can then be adjusted to the lowest number possible to fit the exposure triangle. This is where a tripod could come in useful.
2 Use a tripod
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, achieving a long depth of field will require a small aperture setting. In order to achieve your depth-of-field settings, a tripod will likely be needed to achieve steady, sharp landscape images. Tripods can be cumbersome when trying to reach difficult destinations, but do provide much needed support in achieving sharp images.
Tripods can also be useful when shooting shooting at shutter speeds of 1-second, 10-second or thirty seconds, when ambient light is low for example. Tripods will prevent what is known as camera shake at slow shutter speed settings, so get into the habit of taking your tripod with you.
3 Figure out the focal point
When composing your scene, one of the first things you need to identify is a focal point. The focal point is intended to be the initial point of contact for the person that views your image. Focal points are largely associated with the components of composition and apply to any type of photograph.
The focal point should grab the viewers attention. Any photograph without an obvious focal point will leave the viewer’s eye wandering. A focal point can be a number of different subjects such as a boulder, a house, a person, an animal, or a tree, for example.
You should also consider the rule of thirds when framing your focal point.
4 The foreground matters
Foregrounds help to grab the viewers attention and create a sense of dimension to your landscape photos. Here, we need to refer back to depth of field. The foreground, mid ground and background of your photo add up to create a sense of depth and dimension in the image.
The foreground leads the viewer’s eye into the composition, creating a natural path for the eye to follow.
5 Look at the sky
In landscape photography you must always consider the sky in your composition. The sky can make or break the overall appeal of the image. Often skies can be bland, washed out or simply distracting to the photo. A photographer must choose between the sky and the foreground, and which of thee two will dominate the photo (think two thirds of the rule of thirds).
Graduated and polarising filters can be a solution for bland skies. Skies can be adjusted in post processing of the photo too. In saying that, skies can sometimes be readily dramatic, with cloud and sun combining to be the dominant focus for the image.
6 Lines that lead the eyes
How are you leading the viewers eye in your images? Leading lines are an element of composition that help deliver impact in your photo, as shown in the example below.
Leading lines serve as a guide that leads the viewer’s eyes through the photo to the subject (focal point) of the photo. Leading lines can be created by colour, contrast, or light, not just a literal line. Leading lines must be dominant enough to be noticed, and can include S and Z lines.
7 Adapt to the weather
Naturally, weather is a major consideration in landscape photography. A photographer has no control over the weather (to the best of my knowledge). However, to some degree, weather can be predicted, and one only needs to wait for the right opportunity to capture that special landscape photo moment.
Both good and bad water conditions affect landscape photographers in the filed. Both conditions can provide interesting opportunities for unique landscape photos. Inclement weather such as storms, wind, mist, dramatic clouds, sunset, and sunrise can sometimes provide unexpected, yet awe-inspiring, landscape scenes, with mood.
8 Shoot in the golden hours
Photography is often described as painting with light. Hence, light is the not-so-secret ingredient makes the difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary photo. The correct use and understanding of light is the essential elixir for most landscape photos, the holy grail, so to speak.
Golden hour is about 2 hours after sunrise and about 2 hours before sunset. Golden hours’ light is soft and warm, and accentuates textures, patterns, and dimensions in the image.
9 Don’t forget the horizon
Another composition based consideration in landscape photography is the horizon. The horizon must be straight. The trick with the horizon is to line your camera up straight to the horizon at the time of shooting. This can be easily done when using a tripod that has level meters, either on the tripod, or on the camera screen (digital level). Horizon lines can also be manipulated at post-processing.
Another consideration is where you will place the horizon line within your composition. Here the rule of thirds is a good indicator of horizon placement.
10 Search out your point of view
Angles play an important role in landscape photography. Changing your point of view can alter the image in fundamental ways. Try a few different approaches when composing your shot. This may mean that you have to walk or drive further to find the point of view that captures the wow shot.
Getting into nature to engage in landscape photography is great fun. It is also relaxing and deeply fulfilling.
At the end of the day we want to return to the computer with the best photos possible. By taking the above tips into consideration on your next outdoors excursion, you should achieve better results.
As always, happy shooting.