If you love landscape photography, you probably know a lot about camera equipment, settings, and the most common composition rules and techniques. But landscape photography is not always about those things. I have six important tips that are often overlooked.
There are many articles about landscape photography available. Most of those talk about equipment and settings that can be used for this kind of photography. Even though most of us know these things by heart, it can be great to read something that confirms the knowledge you already have.
But there are a few things that are often forgotten when landscape photography is mentioned. Or better said, these are not forgotten but rather overlooked. With all the talk about shooting in raw or jpeg, the use of manual or aperture priority, and the use of exposure bracketing or not, there are a few things that we should do more often.
In this article I want to give six important tips about landscape photography, that may not improve your use of camera or settings, but will result in more satisfaction from your landscape photography in general.
1. Sit Down and Take a Moment for Yourself
We live in a fast world where a moment of quiet peace is hard to find. We don’t live in the moment and are often thinking about the things that still have to be done. I think landscape photography is a great way to escape that fast world. At least for me.
When you arrive at a great location, forget about the things that you need to do. Just sit down and enjoy the peace of that place. Take your time and look around. Don’t start photographing at once but place the camera on your tripod and look at the beauty of the landscape you’re going to photograph in a minute.
The benefit of this moment for yourself becomes clear when you start seeing the details of the landscape. If you don’t relax and take the time to look, you will miss it. Perhaps you will get inspired.
2. Go Out Scouting
Are you a photographer that loves to plan ahead? Or do you love to go out and get surprised by the things you encounter en route? If you are the second type of photographer, the previous tip of this article will be perfect for you.
If you are someone who wants to plan a certain photo, you will need to go out scouting. Learn about the area you want to photograph. Not by looking at a website or Google Maps. No, you need to go out there and see things for yourself.
It isn’t always necessary to travel far away. Often the most surprising landscapes can be found relatively close by. Go scouting by daylight, and find the best possible places and angles. Often an app like Photopills can help you to plan the best spot for a nice sunset or sunrise.
Take a simple photo with your smartphone. Enable GPS logging and make a note of what kind of situation will work best for that location. Compile a list of locations, together with coordinates and an example photo. If the right situation occurs, you know exactly where to go.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Daytime Photography
There is the golden hour and the blue hour. Sunrise, sunset, or twilight are amazing moments for shooting landscapes. We are so focused on these moments, that we forget about other great opportunities.
It is also possible to shoot amazing landscape photos during daylight. Perhaps not with a clear blue sky, but a nice cloudy sky can do wonders. Search for beautiful locations, just as explained in the second tip in this article.
Since most photographers only go out shooting during the golden and blue hours, you will create something unique. Use shadows in the harsh sunlight, and find the places where the sunlight is at its best. I know for a fact these landscapes photos can turn out amazing.
4. Be on Time
Don’t you like the daylight as mentioned in the third tip? In that case, a sunrise or sunset is the moment for you. But if you plan to shoot during these moments, make sure you’re on time. You want to be at the location when the light becomes amazing, not after that moment.
I always advise being at the location an hour early. For that, you need to know where you want to photograph. Take note of tip number two, and go out scouting for the best locations for that particular moment.
Being in time will allow you to capture the best light when it happens. High clouds will light up half an hour before sunrise or after sunrise. Low clouds before sunset or after sunrise. Are you on the hunt for a rainbow? Go to the location when it’s still raining. You want to be there when the sun breaks through the clouds.
5. Don’t Get Frustrated if It Isn’t What You Expected
If you’re in time at the location, as explained in the previous tip, don’t get frustrated when the moment isn’t what you’re hoping for. Even though many things can be predicted, the weather is still rather unpredictable. You never know if the sky will get a nice color, or not.
Photography isn’t an obligation. You don’t have to take pictures when you’re on location. If the weather isn’t great, or the light is what you’re hoping for, go back another time. Nobody is forcing you to take pictures. It’s okay to return home without an image on your memory card.
Still, if you want to shoot anyway, try things out. Experiment with settings, compositions, and find new ways of capturing the landscape you’re in. This might come in handy next time, when the light is amazing. Just remember the first tip, it’s important to enjoy your time at the location. Don’t get frustrated.
6. Chimping Is Okay, but Don’t Delete Images Too Soon
For those who don’t know, chimping is going through your images on the back of the camera. It’s something we all do, one way or another. That’s okay because when you’re excited about the moment and the images you took, you’re eager to see how you captured it.
But don’t be that photographer who’s deleting images at the location. There is absolutely no reason to do this. How can you determine if an image isn’t good on a small three-inch LCD screen? Or do you need the extra space on your memory card. Are you afraid to come home with an image that is not good enough?
When you’re on location, enjoy the time you’re there. Enjoy the images you took by looking at these on the small LCD screen, but don’t start selecting. There will be time enough once you get home. Just enjoy the scenery, the moment, the amazing light. Remember the first tip.
Do you have another tip for the landscape photographer that’s not on this list? Feel free to share it in the comments below. I would love to see any addition to my six important things about landscape photography that are often overlooked.
I didn't even notice there were watermarks; had to actually go up and check to make sure you weren't just taking the piss...
I don't know why you got thumbs down on your comment. I absolutely agree. A landscape photo should show just that....landscape. The only people to sign anything should be artists...painters. If you want your name/logo to be announced...put the damn thing on the back. For God's sake.
Are you saying that Photography is not an Art form?
No no no. Has nothing to do with that at all. Of course it's an art form. I have always associated signatures being placed on artwork ie...paintings. A signature on a photo only takes away from the beauty of the photo and becomes a distraction...to me at least.
Well said, Nando. A nice reminder that it's not mainly about the gear.
One tip I'd add is "Milk the scene" i.e. for all it's worth. Looking at FS discussion posts, I get the impression that a lot of people go to their desired location, "get the shot" and leave. That's no doubt an exaggeration, but I find the longer I stay at a location, the more images I see to take, until fatigue sets in. Any preconceived shot I have had in mind may well be surpassed by a later one, once I'm immersed in the environment. And in the past, too often I came home with an image whose composition just wasn't right, because I didn't linger. So I spend a long time at the scene if I can, varying compositions, and so on.
I delete obviously grossly over-exposed or otherwise technically junk images at the time I chimp - provided there's a better version. And I set up my two memory cards with one as a redundant backup; with my Nikons the deleted ones actually remain on the backup card, so I can retrieve them later.
When I plan a shot as described, I plan on being at that spot for a long time. I'll arrive an hour or two early for set up and "taking it all in". Then, after what I envisioned has happened, I'll stay a little long for those "you never know" shots which can be far better than anything I could have foreseen.
The you never know moment is indeed a good one. That could be the seventh point. Thank you
Exactly right and that's why we should always 'plan' on those you never know moments. Stick around for a while and enjoy the scenery.
Nando, I disagree with point #4. Don't be on time; be way early. This will give you time to get into position, set up your gear, and be fully ready when the anticipated moment arrives. For example, if you're planning on getting a golden hour scene in the morning, be in position and set up before blue hour begins. You'll frequently get a very pleasant surprise, and be in place for the originally planned event's occurrence. If you don't see anything that blows up your kilt, turn around. Look up; look down. There are many more unanticipated goodies just waiting for you to show up
Way early is what I mean, but it got lost in translation. ;)
At least one hour prior to the moment you want to shoot is good. Two hours earlier is better.
Thank you for addressing this point.
I've always enjoyed landscapes, you can find different landscapes in one single photograph. In my early days the 28mm lens was great but when I looked closer at the images I created I found other just as interesting landscapes by cropping the original view in different ways. I used to mess about with two L shaped pieces of card and move them around the original image and saw many different views, I learnt to use selective landscaping, no, it's a term I made up, but there are scenes within scenes and with zoom lenses I appreciated the different landscapes I could capture. I loved going out with a 135mm lens just to capture the different landscapes that were there if you looked hard enough.
Every picture has a different composition, different elements you can use to create the image you are after, a landscape isn't about the widest view you can capture it's about the elements we miss by not looking at the whole picture.
Thank you for your thoughts on landscape photography. When I started photography, my first lens was a 135mm prime. A wonderful focal length that offers a lot of possibilities. But you have to get creative, sometimes.
As an older couple that do not travel a lot, my wife and I return to locations multiple times on the west side of Michigan. I think returning to the same locations again and again can help to extract the images that will most satisfy both yourself and your viewers. We find there are usually surprises involved in returning to a given site. As an example, we put together an exhibit of four season photographs of an environmental education center near us. It was very rewarding capturing images of the same shot captured in each of the four seasons. Incidentally, as someone who was raised in Holland, Michigan and whose ancestors are all Dutch, it was nice to read an article by someone steeped in the ancient tradition of Dutch light.
Good read. I got to use my upgraded camera (R5) after Covid lockdown. I previously shot with a Canon 5D mk 2 and mk4 with a shutter release. My goto tripod is a RRS and NiSi filter system - so you all know I've done this many times before.
The R5 as you know has an in body IS and this was the first time since Covid lockdown lifted did I get to take it out for landscape shots.
Two shoots (two consecutive days), perfect weather, really amazing vivid colors of the sunrise and waking up at 4 in the morning went in waste when I got back home to find the image blurry as I had forgotten to turn off the in-body IS making the image loose details.
On the back screen everything was perfect but when I got the image in Lightroom, my scream would've made my neighbors call the police :)
Even though I don't have the images to tell the tale, I can recollect that image of the sunrise as vividly today as the day I was taking the photo.
Enjoy the moment when you take the photo - you'll get busy with the gear, the settings, the people and everything else around you. But take a deep breath and savoir that wonderful moment for yourself (remember rule #1).
Don't understand the hate for "chimping" ... The screen is there for a reason.
Imagine getting home after a day of shooting, and finding out that there was something wrong with the images that you COULD have noticed and corrected on-location by spending 15 seconds to see if they looked OK or not...
Chimping is perfectly fine, but some photographers are only looking at their screen after shooting, as if that's the only thing that matters. They don't enjoy their stay and are fixed to the result, or so it seems.
Looking at the screen to check is normal. It would be foolish if you wouldn't. But don't make selections, delete images and that sort of thing
Don't forget to revisit the site from time-to-time. Ie....different seasons...different weather conditions...different times of day...etc.
I think I forget to do #1 too often. Thank you for the reminder.
I have one to add to the list: Look Deeper at the Details — landscapes are also about the intimate details, not just the sweeping views. As you spend time exploring different compositions and views, think about the details. Smaller areas that could be a landscape all by themself. Some of my favorite images have been closer in, or more abstract, or a special detail about that location that is unique.
Good article. Thanks! Post processing is about my least favorite activity so I always set my camera to take bracketed exposures with three shot bursts. That way one of images straight out of the camera often works with little or no post processing. If you do another article (which I hope you do!) you might want to explain how to set a camera up for bracketing exposures for those unfamiliar with it. Thanks again.