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5 Tips for Better Landscape Photography

Have you ever found yourself somewhere in nature, whether its on a beach or on top of a mountain with a breathtaking view, and wanted to share that experience with others? Your first instinct, of course, is to snap a photo. Pictures are worth a thousand words, right? But then you look down to see what you’ve captured and you decide that the picture is only worth about three and a half words! We’ve all been there, we’ve all said the phrase “man, the picture just doesn’t do it justice.” Well here are five tips you can use to help capture those breathtaking landscapes just a little bit better.

  1. Use a Small Aperture. Because a wide aperture results in a wider depth of field, which means more is in focus, this is the first tip most people will tell you when you ask how to take better landscape photos. However, while this is good advice for most occasions, you shouldn’t just set your aperture to as small as it goes and take a photo expecting it to be amazing. Knowing your hyperfocal distance is key. Say huh? Hyperfocal distance is just a fancy term for the point closest to you after which everything is acceptably sharp. Sometimes the smallest aperture, say f/22, doesn’t get as sharp an image as an aperture at say f/11 would. This is due to diffraction that occurs as the aperture gets smaller. There have been many long posts written about these terms (like this one from Digital Photography School) but in short, knowing your hyperfocal distance in conjunction with using a small aperture can really set your landscape photography apart.

  2. Leading Lines. Although using a small aperture is one step to better landscapes, small apertures will not help with the composition of a shot. The arrangement or placement of elements in a photograph make up the composition of a shot and for landscape photography the use of leading lines is effective in drawing the viewer into the scene. Leading lines can be coastlines, mountains, railings, really any naturally occurring line that directs the eye to the subject of the photograph.

  3. Find a Focal Point. Shooting from the hip not aiming at anything in particular doesn’t really work at a firing range, nor is it the best practice for landscape photography. While the landscape itself may be breathtaking in person, finding a subject or something to direct the viewer’s eye to can help create a more striking image. There is no limit to what the focal point of a landscape can be: a mountain peak, the reflection in a lake, a palm tree. Even a subject placed into the landscape like a person, a mountain goat, or even a vehicle can help show the scale of the sweeping vista behind them and help the viewer know where they’re supposed to look instead of getting lost in the image (and not in a good way).

  4. Think Foreground. Placing things between the lens and the subject has always been one technique for creating interesting imagery and landscapes are no exception. Don’t be afraid to bring your eyes down from the mountain peak to the rocks at your feet. There might be an interesting path or texture right in front of you that can introduce a new dramatic element into the frame improving the overall feel of the image.

  5. Chase the Light. This last tip is no camera trick or composition tip, but a physical tip. If you want the most dramatic light in a landscape, you may have to be willing to get up early or get back late. The lighting the first hour during sunrise and the last hour before the sun goes down is commonly referred to as “golden hour” by photographers and is preferred for a number of reasons. To name a few, the light during golden hour is typically much softer than the harsh light in the middle of the day, allowing to properly expose the entire landscape; the low level of the sun allows the opportunity for sun flares which can add drama to a photograph, but can also detract from the image if used incorrectly; and finally, golden hour light directional meaning it creates dramatic shadows which can add dimension to the photograph. Outside of golden hour, chasing light can also mean going back to the same location time and time again. Don’t be afraid to return to a place you’ve already photographed because the light from the sun differs season to season and you might find that the same landscape you photographed in early spring looks much different than the one you photograph mid-winter at the same time of day. 

These are just a few tips of many you can find on landscape photography, but these five tips will help get you on track to improving your landscape photography. Picking and choosing when to use these tips will be a factor in how your photograph turns out. Not every landscape will lend itself to all of these tips at once but even just considering these tips when you’re out shooting will help you think more critically about the images you create.

5 Tips for Better Landscape Photography | Belong Designs