If there is one thing that makes a landscape photo “come alive,” it is adding depth to it. Adding depth either invites the viewer into the photo or can make the photo feel like looking through a window.
Depth and three-dimensionality are essential (however, not necessary) components of landscape photography. In my latest video, I share seven simple tips and a bonus tip to create depth in your photos. These tips can stand on their own, but can also be mixed and matched to further the perception of depth of a landscape photograph. Some of the tips are also hard to separate, as one may be accentuated by or depend on the other.
Wide Angle Lens
The first and the probably also the most common tip is to use a wide angle lens. As a wide angle lens covers a bigger field of view than the human vision, it also accentuates the perspective distortion of the elements in your scene. Everything close to the camera will become very large, and everything farther away becomes smaller. This accentuation of perspective creates a sense of depth.
By introducing a kind of foreground, you can easily create depth, and almost anything works. Stones, small waterfalls, branches, patches of heather, patterns in some sand, etc. By having a foreground, it is easy for the viewer to distinguish between what is close to the camera and what is far away. Using foregrounds in your photos is not limited to wide angle lenses.
Leading elements can also help show depth in your photos. Roads, trails, streams, branches, etc. work great to lead the viewer’s eye into the photo. It is easy to see how the leading element is big when it is close to the camera and how it becomes smaller as it leads into the photo.
The above tips rely on the natural perspective of any scene with depth. However, the above tips are also examples of multiple elements. You can also use it with only one element. In this case with lavenders, it is easy to understand that the big lavenders in the photo are close to the camera and the small ones in the distance are far away. Although also accentuated by the wide angle perspective, the below example was actually photographed as 200mm.
You often want to have some separation between the layers of the landscape; however, sometimes, it does help to overlap them to emphasize the depth of the photo. In that way, you can show that something is closer to the camera than what is behind it. What you need to take into consideration is whether the viewer can distinguish the layers from each other. It is easy if the layers are all different kinds of trees with different colors, but if you are photographing a couple of silver birches, it may be hard to distinguish them as separate layers of the landscape.
Fog, mist, dust, and other atmospheric phenomena are great to accentuate the depth of a photograph given that you already have multiple elements in your scene. If you have a scene with a lot of atmosphere, we naturally perceive the foreground to be dark and contrasty, while the background becomes flatter and the light is scattered between all the particles. In the above example, fog helps to separate the two silver birches.
Depth of Field
The last tip is to photograph with a shallow depth of field. Three factors influence how much the background and/or foreground are out of focus: the distance between the subject in focus and the camera, your focal length, and the aperture. By using these techniques, you can throw the background, foreground, or both out of focus, which also emphasizes the depth of the photo, as shown in the heather photo above.
When you are aware of these tips and techniques, you can start to incorporate them into your photographs. How many of the techniques do you spot in the above photo? Let me hear in the comments below.
Be sure to check out the video above for the bonus tip and even more examples where I combine these different tips.