“You have to learn to see,” said one of the famous authors. We can transfer this phrase to the world of landscape photography because if there is a photographic genre that requires complete attention and patience, this is it.
We say that since the space that the landscape photographer faces is wide and full of movement. Therefore, it is always a challenge for him to find a unique angle. And when you see it, you may not be able to capture it, thanks to the intrusion of non-controllable elements like wind and weather.
Consequently, and to avoid frustrations, the photographer should know what he wants to achieve with the photo and the technical adjustments to help him achieve a good shot at the speed of light.
All of the above sounds intimidating. But do not see it that way; they are just hazards of the trade that you will get used to in no time.
In this article, we will focus on helping you make your first landscape photography go perfectly. To achieve this, we will provide you with the necessary sources of inspiration and advice (on a technical and creative level) that you should always keep in mind when taking your photos.
What is landscape photography?
Landscape photography is a photographic genre that focuses on portraying natural (waterfalls, lakes, deserts) or artificial environments, such as buildings and roads.
The types of landscape photography
These are the most popular types of landscape photography:
- Natural landscape
- Urban landscape
- Night scenery
- Winter landscape
- Rural landscape
- Black and white landscape
- Tourist landscape
- Hazy landscape
- Aerial landscape
- Panoramic landscape
- Minimalist landscape
- Landscape in Long Exposure
Where to get inspiration to take great photos?
This section will talk about various photographers who have left their mark on the landscape photography universe. We believe that knowing these will help you train your eye and establish the foundations to build your style.
Please read carefully, because we are sure that you will learn a lot from them.
Great masters of landscape photography
- Ansel Adams: One of the most critical photographers when it comes to this genre. The photographic series that catapulted him to fame was made in the national parks of the United States. Work that, today, continues to inspire thousands of people.
- Michael Kenna: He stands out for his minimalist black and white photos. An example to follow when taking advantage of the elements present in the environment.
- Edward Weston: With this photographer, you will learn that the simple can also be very beautiful. This lens artist stood out for taking close-ups of natural elements, which gave such objects an unusual appearance.
- Robert Adams: This photographer will show you that the social and ecological can be present in landscape photography. Since 1960, this artist has been in charge of portraying how the landscape of the western United States has been changing thanks to industrial expansion.
- John Pfahl: Altered Landscape is his best-known photographic series. He stood out for altering various landscapes by adding meshes, lines, or points at the time of taking the shot.
- Jerry Uelsmann: This photographer makes photomontages in which the landscape plays a fundamental role. Surreal elements can be seen in his photographs that help him to show his peculiar vision of reality. With it, you will know that it is possible to print your style through editing.
- Galen Rowel: This photographer, also known for being the forerunner of mountaineering photography, managed to capture from places difficult to access for most. Adventure, without a doubt, is the DNA that makes up your photos.
- Justin Minns: This photographer from the UK specializes in proximity landscape photography. Your work is worth reviewing to learn new perspectives.
- Ted Gore: He has specialized in unconventionally portraying landscapes; currently, he is in California.
- Marco Grassi: Your photos stand out for presenting a touch of drama in remote and pristine territories. He has won several awards and works in various relevant media, such as National Geographic, BBC, and CNN.
- Andy Best: He is a photographer focused on representing landscapes, adventure, and astronomy.
- Gary McParland: Named Ireland’s Best Photographer in 2010 and won the Wanderlust Award for Travel Photographer of the Year in 2011.
- Paul Zizka: In addition to offering unusual angles of the mountain prints. This photographer also stands out for his night photography, which reflects almost magical and surreal settings.
What equipment and accessories do you need?
To take a quality landscape photographs, in addition to your camera, you will need other elements that will help you to capture your images with greater precision.
- A camera that allows you to make manual adjustments can be from a reflex camera to mobile with a good camera.
- Backup batteries if you need them, mainly if you will record video or take pictures of stars.
- Memory cards.
- ND filters and polarizers to achieve more striking effects, reduce reflections or achieve more spectacular skies.
- A good tripod, essential to keep the camera steady.
- Trigger cable with intervalometer function like these or the phone if your camera has a connection.
Tips for your landscape photography
Okay, now that you’ve been inspired and have the necessary gear, it’s time to practice.
These tips will help you define in advance what you want to reflect; the clearer you have this part, the result will be much better:
Define the photographic style you want to use
I recommend you try all of them to find out which one you feel most comfortable with:
- Romantic style: It is one of the most used styles. It stands out for leaving a high ISO, employing a shallow focus and including backlighting, as well as some blurring.
- Descriptive style: Distinguished by presenting extreme attention to composition and detail. This style seeks to show reality in the most exact way possible, without manipulation.
- Abstract style: It borders on minimalism, focusing on exalting the essence of a particular landscape. And this can be achieved by representing only a small part of the scene about to be photographed.
- Environmental style: Links a social struggle with the art of taking photos. This type of photography has two purposes: to show how the growth of industries is deteriorating the landscape and generate awareness of how terrible the loss of great beauty would be.
- Manipulative style: It is the least common of all and is characterized by incorporating external objects into the landscape, either in reality or through montage (digital or analog).
- Controlled Style: Artificial light is often used here, so most of these photos are usually taken at night.
Plan your route using apps
Planning is vital for any landscape photographer. Knowing the terrain, you intend to photograph is critical, since thanks to this, you will be able to take advantage of every moment since you will see the time when the light is most favorable and the best angle from which to take the photos.
We want all of this to be easier for you, so we recommend using the following apps:
- Google Maps: I use it to find remote places and how to get to them. You can’t even imagine the interesting places near you yet to be discovered.
- Photopills: being able to anticipate the light in the scene is a privilege that you can have using this application from your mobile.
- Photographer’S Ephemeries: an alternative to the previous one to know the sunrise and sunset or locate the milky way in night photography.
- Starmap Pro: an essential application in astronomical photography
Do you want to photograph during the day or at night?
The choice of one schedule or another is important since it will define two things:
- The type of equipment you should bring, both photography and clothing, clothing is sometimes as important or more than accessories.
- The analysis of the light is essential so that your photograph turns out well.
Thus, if you opt for the day, we advise you to avoid midday and go to the place you want to photograph during the early hours of the morning or sunset. Because during these hours, the temperature and the light’s angle tend to influence the surroundings attractively, during midday on sunny days, the light is too strong and the shadows too harsh.
On the other hand, if you want to explore the night, you should not forget the following: an artificial light, it is best to use a front to have your hands free when handling the camera or looking for an accessory. I have been using this front for a couple of years and zero problems; it is also waterproof.
This option is not usual for beginners, but don’t worry about it; practice will improve this technique.
Pay attention to composition
This is one of the essential points, as this will make your photo attract attention and show a unique point of view of the landscape you are portraying.
To achieve this, you should only:
- Establish the main objective. What element will be the protagonist of the photograph?
- After identifying that central element, base your entire composition around it.
- To guide the viewer’s gaze to the focus of the image, apply the rule of thirds. This rule consists of placing such an element of interest in one of the 4 points of intersection created by dividing the image into three thirds, both horizontally and vertically.
Use tools that make it easy for you to capture and edit the image with ease
In landscape photography, nothing is stable so that the perfect shot can pop in and out instantly.
Therefore, it is good that you have specific tools that facilitate your capture and editing process; in addition to the applications that I have listed a little above, keep these aspects in mind:
- Semi-automatic shooting: This will help you to have your camera ready and not miss anything. This is because this mode will allow you to control two of the elements that influence the final result of the image: the diaphragm aperture and the shutter speed. Thanks to that, the camera will only have to calculate the remaining elements so that you have adequate exposure.
- Angular lenses: With this type of lens, you can capture a wide-angle of view. If you use a small diaphragm aperture, your images will come out perfect in terms of sharpness and depth of field; take a look at the angle lens guide on the blog.
- RAW format: If you decide to shoot in this format, you will have more freedom when editing, as a RAW file contains more information and will retain more details after editing.
Set the appropriate hyperfocal distance
This type of distance refers to the minimum space of focus reached to achieve a greater depth of field, making your image have a point of view that will extend from half to infinity. The hyperfocal distance will allow you to achieve a wholly focused and sharp photo.
Use the necessary filters for landscape photography
Filters are crystals that fit the camera lens to achieve a specific effect. They are usually instrumental in landscape photography, as they can considerably improve the image. Here are the filters that landscape photographers tend to use the most:
- Polarizing filters: With these filters, you can reduce reflections, eliminate some glare, increase saturation and even intensify the sky’s blue. For all this, this filter is usually the favorite of many photographers.
- Neutral density filters: Thanks to these filters, you will be able to work with slower shutter speeds, a fact that will make it easier for you to take long exposure shots and achieve a silk effect in water or clouds.
- Neutral density gradient filters: With these, you can reduce the upper light amount, but not the lower one. Which will allow you to capture images with very marked light contrasts.
Assess the horizon carefully
One of the great mistakes in landscape photography is not knowing how to discern when the horizon deserves or is not in the composition center. To help you overcome this difficulty, I will give you specific tips to learn to frame the horizon in the place that corresponds to it.
These are the points you should consider:
- If the horizon does not have any element that makes it attractive or you do not want it to be the protagonist, place it in the upper third of your frame; in this way, you will take away space in the composition.
- But if the horizon is worth it, either because of the clouds or evening lights, you can make it the center of your photograph by putting it lower.
Take advantage of the foreground
If you want to convey a feeling of three-dimensionality and depth in your images, opting for a close-up is the best.
To carry out this technique, you have two options:
- Grab an angle lens and crouch down as close to the element that will be your photo’s foreground. This will make the object stand out in an almost exaggerated way but inviting the viewer to observe the image’s background.
- You can also use a lens with a longer focal length; with this, you will obtain an image that will invite you to look into the background, only that the foreground will appear out of focus.
Now be patient and edit
These are some of the best programs that you can use to edit your photos :
- Adobe Camera RAW
- DxO Photo Lab
- Affinity Photo
Formats and techniques you should try
Even if you are starting in the world of landscape photography, don’t overlook the possibility of experimenting with various formats and techniques. If you begin to master some of those variants, you will soon stop being a beginner.
It is one of the most used formats in this type of photography. This is so because sometimes a wide-angle is not enough to capture the vastness of a landscape.
Note that panoramic photography is a series of shots stitched together to show a wider angle of view. And to achieve this, you will need to carry out a specific procedure that will allow you to assemble the image during editing.
These are some of the steps that you will have to carry out:
- Use a tripod.
- Do not change the exposure level or aperture when you are taking the photos. Remember that the idea is to keep the same parameters in each shot; you can only vary the shutter speed.
- Maintain the same color temperature and do not leave the camera on automatic white balances.
When you go to rotate the tripod between each shot, make sure that it is always stable.
Try to make each photo contain 25% of the previous image; this is necessary so that you can edit with greater precision.
This technique is based on taking a series of captures with the same frame and different exposures to put them together in editing to achieve an image that stands out for having a high level of exposure.
Practice makes a master
Now that you know everything you need to take a landscape photograph, you have to go out and practice until you drop.
The first photos will not be perfect, but as time passes, you will portray the environment with greater precision, be it urban or natural.