You never know when you’ll stumble on to a must shoot scene, a key to being a successful photographer is preparation. Most of the time you have a really small window ranging from 15 minutes down to split seconds. A scene that takes your breath away in real time may be ‘meh’ on your computer when you go to plug in that memory card. Capturing the perfect moment takes practice, lots of it, but with a few landscape photography tips and tricks, you can capture those beautiful moments forever!
1. The Right Light (Golden Hour)
Photo by Robert Lukeman
There are basically two hours in the day mother nature gives us great lighting to take pictures, many of us call this ‘Golden Hour’, which is early in the morning and late in the afternoon or early evening. While there are ways to overcome poor light, the easiest option is to take advantage of the golden times. A bright sunny day will create lots of contrast in a landscape, with bright highlights and deep shadows. When the weather is cloudy, there may not be a perfect time to shoot since clouds filter out the sunlight for soft, even light.
Check out AOV's Photography Lighting Tips
2. Use a Tripod
Photo by Manfrottoimaginemore
Using a tripod in landscape photography is a big deal. Why, simple, you want sharp images. A good tripod, especially at faster shutter speeds will give you a sharper shot even with the steadiest of hands. Caveat* - many landscape images are created as a result of longer shutter speeds to blur clouds and water, a tripod isn’t an ideal for these scenarios. Make sure you invest in a tripod sturdy tripod that is lightweight.
3. Position the Horizon
Photo by Anders Jilden
Many beginners simply point the camera at the part of the scene that inspires them the most. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with photographing what inspires you, make your composition a little more deliberate. Instead of just shooting, think about where to place the horizon in the frame, instead of automatically putting it dead center. What’s the most interesting part of the scene? If it’s the landscape, try putting the horizon on the upper third. If it’s the sky, try placing the horizon on the lower third to capture more of the sky in the shot.
4. Add a Filter (pre) and Preset (post)
Don’t shoot naked—adding a filter to your camera makes a big difference, particularly in landscape photography. Filters are inexpensive accessories that make a huge difference in landscape photos. A polarizing filter will allow you to control just how blue the sky appears.
There is a two-step process for protecting your images. The first is preparing a shot before you shoot it with a filter, which can make a big difference, particularly for landscapes. Filters are inexpensive accessories that can make a huge impact. Neutral density filters will allow you to take long exposures without overexposing your image, important during the day. A graduated neutral density filter will prevent you from overexposing the sky, keeping all those fine details intact as opposed to turning a beautiful sky into a white blob. A polarizing filter gives you control of how blue you’d like the sky, sounds nice doesn’t it?
The second step is preparing your photos in post-processing with AOV Lightroom presets. This is a shameless plug letting you know that Art Of Visuals has a fantastic selection of lightroom presets for any style of photography.
For more information check out AOV Premium Lightroom Presets
For portrait photographers learn to edit faces in Lightroom like a Pro
5. Shoot RAW
There is a big difference between shooting in JPEG or RAW, it’s a simple change but can make a big difference. Shooting in JPEG really limits your ability to manipulate an image in post-processing, meaning you have to get the shot you want at the time you shoot it or you’re out of luck. On the other hand, shooting in Raw, you’ll have lots of flexibility in post where you can apply lightroom presets, or make brush adjustments over the photo. Keep in mind RAW files are larger because they give you more data to work with.
For a couple reasons to Shoot in JPEG check this out.
6. Try a long exposure
Diving into long exposure shots may be tricky at first, but like anything else in life, if you practice you’ll get better. Long shutter speed shots are a great way to capture many landscape scenes. With long exposures, water will give a smooth white fog-like appearance and clouds will seem to rush across the sky. A key aspect of long exposures creates a sense of motion, even in a still scene, a very effective tool for landscapes.
To shoot a long exposure, you’ll need a tripod. Use manual mode to choose a longer shutter speed. The right shutter speed depends on your subject. For daytime long exposures you’re going to need a neutral density filter. Make sure to set your shutter speed to capture the amount of motion you desire, then you’ll need to adjust your ISO and aperture around that. If you are unsure, start with a 30-second exposure.
Photo by Splitsecondsnapshot
7. Focus 1/3 up the Frame
Achieving sharp landscape shots requires using a narrow aperture and a tripod – but the focusing method is important here. If there isn’t one specific object for your shot but rather the entire scene, use manual focus and focus on a point that’s 1/3 of the way up the frame. Combining that with a narrow aperture will help keep your scene sharp. When you get some time to develop your skills, spend some time researching the concept of hyperfocal distance.
Photo by Robert Lukeman
8. Try a vertical orientation
Most landscapes are photographed with a horizontal orientation—makes sense, after all, it is called a landscape orientation for a reason. But vertical shots can work well too, especially in scenes where you're looking to highlight more of the foreground. Shooting quality vertical landscapes take a little bit of thought and consideration but again, practice is the best way to improve your skills.
Photo by Adan Guerrero
If you focus on these 8 tips you'll be creating beautiful landscape images in no time. So let's recap: wait for the right light and invest in a good tripod. There are a few filters you'll want to have in your photography backpack and shoot in RAW to be able to use AOV lightroom presets efficiently in post-editing. There's no need to automatically place the horizon in the center or automatically shoot with a horizontal orientation, think about why you are taking the photo in the first place, be intentional. Try focusing on a point a third of the way up the frame, and develop an eye for scenes that work well with long exposures.
Another good resource for beginners would be checking out our in-depth Basics of Photography post.