Along with Portrait Photography, Landscape Photography is one of the most popular forms of photography. In this article I'll share five tips that will hopefully help you understand more about what it is that really makes a great landscape photo.
People often seem to think that you need to travel to exotic locales or National Parks for great landscape photos.
Another good thing about shooting close to home is that you can feel much freer to experiment and make mistakes.
You can get great images with any camera, and this is particularly true with landscape photography.
So you don't need an expensive DSLR with a fast lens that can give you a shallow depth of field and allow you to shoot at fast shutter speeds in low light. Understanding exposure is very important, not just for landscape photography, but for all types of photography.
Understand what effect the exposure settings have on the image, as they don't only affect the exposure. Learning how the exposure settings affect the image is not just learning how to control how bright or dark the image is. Carrying on with the subject of exposure, one of the big issues with landscape photography is dynamic range. A common theme of many landscape photographs is shooting towards the sun when the sun is low, near the horizon.
Your camera does not have the dynamic range to squeeze the range of tones from the bright sun to the dark shadows into a single image.
The answer to this problem is to expose for the sky and then bring up the exposure for the landscape, or expose for the landscape and then bring down the exposure for the sky. I don't want to go too much into these filters here, but they are available in a range of strengths and fittings. Another quite common method to deal with this issue is set your camera to auto-bracket exposure.
This gives one image underexposed where the sky appears exposed correctly, one 'normal' image where the sky is slightly overexposed and the landscape slightly underexposed, and one overexposed image where the landscape is exposed correctly. The three (or more) images can then be blended into a single image, taking parts of each image to give a single image where all of the image is exposed nicely.
Manually blending the images together using layer masks in software such as GIMP or Photoshop. Using your camera's own HDR option, which performs the whole process of bracketing the exposures and then blending them into a image as a single operation. A technique that has started to gain ground recently is that of shooting in RAW format, under-exposing then pulling up the shadows when processing.
Then when processing the image you apply a large boost to the shadows, to brighten the landscape.
If you try this technique with an older DSLR or a camera that has a small image sensor, such as most compacts, or a phone camera, you'll find it doesn't work so well. Composition is all about how you place the various elements that make up an image within the frame.
Landscape photography is a mixture of being in the right place at the right time, and using your knowledge to capture a well composed photo that really captures the feeling of the place. Learning the knowledge for great landscape photos is a matter of reading, and again, practice. Landscape photography is a favorite at Light Stalking and a subject that the wider photographic community loves.
Another reason to avoid a too small aperture in the twilight (golden) hour is to keep your shutter speed under control. Get Free Photo TrainingWith Photzy you get a complete library of guides (produced by Light Stalking's Experts) Including 100+ tutorials on, Landscape, Post-Processing, Portraits, Composition, and more! You’d be amazed how the simple act of including a foreground element within a landscape photo can totally transform a scene. With a wide-angle lens the foreground element will seem much larger than the background objects, maximizing the sense of depth. Finding the perfect foreground element to include within your scene may take only a few minutes or several hours. Since most people are fearful when bad weather strikes, and stay inside, this is an opportune moment for you to capture some great photographs. Documenting bad weather while it’s occurring (or even after it has passed) is fascinating for viewers to look at.
Just make sure to take the proper precautions and stay safe when photographing bad weather scenes.
Often, when you see an image of a great landscape photo, you think to yourself “Wow, the lighting and composition are so perfect! If you want to capture the best photo for a given scene it’s best to scout out the location ahead of time and take a few test shots throughout the day. Then, when you come back, you can arrive about 30 minutes ahead of time, set up your composition and be ready to capture a great shot when the lighting moves perfectly into place.
As a rule of thumb, it’s usually best to capture landscape photos during the golden (or magic) hours of the day. Many new photographers instinctively shoot landscape photos by setting their tripod on the ground at eye level and then framing up the shot. If you really want your photos to stand out from the work of other photographers, you should work hard at framing a common setting in a creative way. This common problem can be easily solved by bracketing your exposures and you should make it a common practice to do so on every landscape shoot. Bracketing your exposures simply means to capture the same composition with multiple exposure levels.
Capture one image using the settings your camera deems as being a proper overall exposure for the scene. Then, in a photo editing software,such as Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom or Apple Aperture, you can automatically combine these 3-5 photos together to create one photograph with a more appealing dynamic range.
All elements within the scene, from the dark shadows up to the bright highlights will be exposed correctly.
You could learn all of the tips and tricks in the world about how to take better landscape photos, but there’s no school or workshop that will teach you how to become a better landscape photographer than nature itself. Only hours of practice in the field with an open eye and desire for creativity will make you a better photographer. So, get out there and start applying these tips and techniques we’ve shared with you so you can learn how to utilize each to its full advantage. We are always looking for more interesting and insightful photography tips and techniques to share with our readers. Ramparts - Amethyst Lake, Tonquin Valley at sunrise - I used a neutral density grad filter and tripod.
Finding a nice landscape may mean travelling to a provincial or national park or it may mean simply driving out into the country. Waterton Lake - Panorama mid day - this photograph was stitched together from 4 images taken with a 10.5 mm Nikon fish-eye lens - I used a tripod and locked the exposures so they were even. Sunset over Canadian Rockies in winter near Cochrane, AB - I used a tripod and Blue-Gold Polarizer.
Tripod and different types of heads - a ball head or geared head is best for landscape photography. For most landscapes you will probably put the camera in landscape orientation and it will work fine. One can use many different framing formats for shooting a landscape such as a vertical, horizontal, panorama, square or even a circular or elliptical format. Some photographers just point and shoot without thinking where the most effective place is to put the horizon. In this prairie photograph I put the horizon very low in the picture and converted it to Black and white in order to focus attention on the sky and clouds.
In this sunset photo taken near Yellowknife, I placed the horizon near the center of the picture because of the colourful reflections of the sky and clouds in the water.
In this photo taken at Red Rock Coulee in southern Alberta, I put the horizon high in the picture to draw attention to the back light on some of the rocks and plants.


In this photo of Sarrail falls along Upper Lake in Kananaskis, I cropped the sky out of the picture. This diagram shows you that you can achieve greater depth of field by focusing on the hyper-focal point rather than infinity. Another method to increase depth of field and maintain optimum sharpness is to use focus stacking. In this photo I held a small card with a window that can help identify scenes with photographic potential. To focus stack your images in Photoshop, you take 2 photos open them in Photoshop, put one on top of the other so they appear in the layers palette one above the other. Above is the photo without a graduated neutral density filter - the camera exposes for the sun leaving the foreground dark.
Neutral Density Grad filters are useful when photographing into the sun at sunrise or sunset. The purpose of using these filters and Photoshop is so the image looks more natural and similar to what you saw with your eyes.
When using grad filters in the field you can purchase a lens adapter so they attach to the front lens, but I rarely use it, instead I put the camera on a tripod and hand hold the filter in front of the lens.
In this photograph of Cone Mountain in Kananaskis - I used the road to lead the eye into the picture and simulate depth. Road near Waterton National Park - I used the lines on the road to lead the viewer into the picture. Robert Berdan is a professional nature photographer living in Calgary, AB specializing in nature, wildlife and science photography.
Once the moment is passed it can't be faked and re-created unlike portrait photography so paying attention to the changing light and drama in the nature is very important.
Capturing images that do the great outdoors justice can be difficult, but so long as you're willing to put a little work in, it's certainly not too difficult. Combine this with the differences brought about by time of day, weather, and seasons, and you can get a large variety of great landscape photos from just a small area. Learn about the exposure triangle, and the way the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed settings play off one another. But rather it is learning about how the settings work together, and which settings to change to get the image brighter or darker without negatively affecting a different aspect of the image.
The dynamic range of an image refers to the range of brightness levels that the image contains. This results in a scene with a very high dynamic range - the sun is very bright, but the landscape in front you, particularly areas that are in shadow, will be comparatively very dark. And so you end up with an image where the landscape is exposed okay, but the sky is blown out white.
Set your camera to a medium exposure where the sky is a bit overexposed and the landscape a bit underexposed. You expose the image keeping detail in the sky, which will result in the landscape appearing very dark. The latest large image sensors in these cameras retain a lot of detail in the shadow areas of the image, and this detail can be pulled out by brightening the shadow tones.
As well as bringing out any details recorded in the shadows, you'll bring out a large amount of noise, so much so that any details are likely to be swamped by the noise.
It's about the shapes and lines that are created by items in the scene, and how well they work together. Leading lines refer to lines that lead back into the image, such as a road, path, or fence leading off into the distance.
Being at the right place at the right time is a matter of persistence - keep going out, keep practising, and you're much more likely to find yourself in a great location with great light.
Getting into the great outdoors to shoot and coming home to some wonderful shots can certainly lead to a huge amount of artistic satisfaction. Shoot in the Golden Hour or the Blue Hour – The quality of light in your outdoor shots is perhaps the largest single influencer of how your photographs will turn out.
Get Yourself an ND Grad Filter – These are the secret of many landscape photographers. This makes your post production a lot easier as it allows you to bring down the exposure of the sky (rather than bring up the exposure of the ground).
Shoot With a Narrow Aperture – Usually you are going to want as deep a depth of field as possible so as to get everything in focus.
Get a Great Foreground – A massive part of most good landscape photographs is the element of foreground interest. If the shutter remains open for too long (inevitable with a very small aperture) the change of blown highlights will increase if any artificial light is present (obviously not always the case in true landscapes but you get the drift here). By adding a foreground element to your photo, the image can instantly portray a deeper sense of perspective and depth.
Before setting up your shot, scour a site until you find the best element to include, whether it’s a clump of flowers, group of rocks, a reflecting pond, or fallen tree branch. What they don’ t know is that they’re missing some amazing opportunities for great landscape photography! As a photographer try not to let bad weather frighten you, but instead intrigue you to capture some awesome shots! We love to see these types of shots because most of us don’t get to experience it first hand.
It’s nearly impossible for a photographer to appear at a site at a random time on a random day and expect a great result.
That way can see how the natural lighting affects the scene and know what time of day you should come back. Yes, this can result in a good photograph, but a lot of other great opportunities are being missed! Often, the darker areas of the scene look too muddy while the highlights are just right, or vice versus, the highlights are blown out while the darker areas are rendered beautifully. Then, use the exposure compensation button (if shooting in an automatic mode) or aperture, shutter speed or ISO setting (if shooting in manual mode) to force a one stop overexposure. Once you have found something you would like to capture you just need to wait until the light looks great.
Do I need to reduce the contrast range with a Graduated Neutral Density filter or use HDR imaging? You may already know of some good locations if so then it is a matter of returning when the light or weather is interesting.
I suggest you keep one in the car when you travel and pull it out when you have something special to capture. However, sometimes you may photograph a waterfall or other scene that might work better in a vertical format.
I also used a neutral density grad filter to balance the exposure of the foreground with that of the sky and setting sun. For serious photographers a tripod is a must so that you can compose carefully and not have to worry about how low the light is since you can use any shutter speed, and you can use any f-stop. Many new lenses don't show this scale, but you can estimate the hyper-focal point by focusing at the lower third of the picture frame. The problem was that the card was only a few inches from the camera and I wanted both the card and the distant mountain to be in focus. The neutral density grad filters are available from Cokin (cheapest), Singh Ray and Lee and are made of acrylic. I first move it up and down so I know where the grad line is - then hold it steady and take the shot - another reason for owning a tripod.
For this photo I took 9 exposures and blended them together to form a high dynamic range HDR image. Note how the zig zag of the river leads your eye into the picture and toward the mountains.
To get the best results try some of the techniques I describe here and you will see your images improve. Robert offers photo guiding and private instruction in all aspects of nature photography and Adobe Photoshop training.
If you've never shot HDR before (for example), it wouldn't make sense to try it when traveling somewhere new, and possibly ending up with a messed up photo of a location you can't go back to.


You can gradually hone your technique, learning how to use it effectively in a variety of lighting conditions. But the results won't be massively better than a compact camera, or even a phone camera with an app that offers manual exposure control. Or where the sky is exposed okay, but the landscape is almost black, with very little detail visible.
This does increase noise levels in the image but these sensors have very low levels of noise, and so noise is not usually a problem.
The product will still cost you the same as if you went direct, and the commission helps pay for running this site. The soft afternoon or morning light that happens around sunrise or sunset is simply the best time to be out shooting landscapes. It’s an easy and remarkably common mistake in landscape photography, but making sure your horizon is straight is imperative. With a bright sky and a darker ground, it is often very difficult to get your exposure correct.
The reason that is generally better is that increasing the exposure of shadows in post production can often lead to unwanted noise in your photo. Usually you want a minimum of noise in your shot, so shooting at an ISO between 50 and 400 will ensure that happens for most digital cameras.
A narrow aperture is a must for this so usually f16 through to f22 will be the order of the day for a landscape photographer. Some interesting bushes, rocks or objects can often lead the eye into the beautiful scene so remember to try to position yourself accordingly. Combining this with a foreground element will really open up the perceived space within the scene. Usually the light is most interesting around sunrise and sunset, or early and late in the day because of the low angle of the sun produces side lighting which emphasizes texture.
I used a grad filter and Photoshop to lighten the foreground - this is close to what I saw with my eyes.
If the sky is spectacular or there are storm clouds, put the horizon low, if the sky is white or lacks detail you may want to minimize the sky or eliminate it all together.
By moving the focus point to the hyper-focal point - you can achieve a greater depth of field in front. There are also aps that you can download, but in the field I don't find them useful - follow my guideline and you will be close to the hyper-focal point.
This is one reason why a tripod becomes necessary in low light as the f-stop becomes smaller the shutter speed may drops below 1\30 of a second which you can't hand hold (image from Wikipedia). I first tried using grad filters, but the bow river was too reflective and I couldn't balance the foreground with the sky. A neutral density grad filter and tripod are the most essential tools for better landscapes. Find the courses that are right for you.Digital photography, film photography, even tips for shooting with your iPhone or point-and-click camera—browse our collection from photographers from all around the world to take your photography to the next level. For scenes in lower light levels a tripod and slow shutter speed can be used, as the scene won't move so you don't need to worry about getting a blurry image. Light, exposure, and composition are much more important to a good landscape photograph than the camera you use. Understand why you want to keep the ISO setting low, or when you might want to use a higher setting. This particularly applies when using a wide-angle lens, where it is quite easy to include a large area of foreground within the image. To be honest, there are a handful of things that you can start doing that will have a dramatic impact on your landscape photography.
It’s not always possible to get out at these times, but you will almost never be disappointed if you can.
First you have to find a spectacular landscape and then you have to be there when the light is great. It will make you compose more carefully, you can check the edges of the frame, make sure the horizon is level - all of these things will promote better composition.
A tripod is necessary for this type of photo since the exposure was longer than 1\8 of sec so the water blurs. With new cameras you want to select the lower 1\3 focus point on the screen it will be close to the hyper-focal distance. You can approximate the hyper-focal point by simply focusing on the lower third of your picture frame as shown in the photos of the winter scene and Peyto lake above. So I focused one photo on the card, another on the distant mountains and then focus-stacked them in Photoshop. Flatten the layers and save (see my Photoshop II book for detailed description of this technique). You can then expose for the landscape, and get an image with both the landscape and sky exposed nicely. Having found a nice landscape, there are lots of things you can do to improve you landscape photography and I will discuss some of them here.
The result is an incredible depth of field including both the foreground objects and distant ones will be in focus. Weather and the light is something you can't control but if you go out at early or go out late in the day you can increase you chances of running into some good light. F16) for greater depth of field, or photograph a series of different exposures and then combine them into an High Dynamic Range (HDR) image later. The point I am trying to make is that sometimes a vertical format may be more effective, so think about it when you take your photos - or at least take both a horizontal and vertical oriented photos.
Take one photo and focus on the foreground or subject that is close to the camera, then take a second photo focused on infinity. There are a variety of coloured grad filters sometimes called sunset filters, but I don't recommend them. If landscape photography was easy everyone would have great photos - so take the challenge and see what you can come up with. Some of the compositional elements include leading lines, shapes, curves, rule of thirds, etc. If your camera use square format - then there you don't need to think about this until you enter the editing stage.
You then open both photos in Photoshop, put one image in a layer on top of the other so they are aligned.
These rules can be broken if you think that you can get a better picture by breaking those rules of composition. You can take good photos in the middle of the day, but you need something really interesting. I am not saying you always need one - but there are circumstances when they can be very helpful. With the sun overhead I found that it's great for panoramic photography - the light tends to be even in all directions making it easier to stitch the images. If you want to blur a stream or waterfall you will need an exposure of 1\8 of a second or longer and this requires a tripod.
In most instances I also manipulate the image by dodging and burning and some advanced Photoshop users apply luminosity masks to balance the exposure of the photos (explained in Photoshop II e-book). Horizon PlacementNever place the horizon in the center of the image, try to move it above or below the  center of the picture depending on the composition, if there is not much drama in the sky try to include only ? or below of the sky and include interesting elements in the ground.
Always use Remote Shutter ReleaseUse an intervalometer or a remote to trigger the shutter, inbuilt camera timer can also be used but little frustrating. One last suggestion - vary the height with which you set the tripod to get different perspectives.
Do not use the third party HDR plug-ins for creating the HDR images by inputting the different exposed images. Use of lens manual exposure is recommended using the live view so that you can see what is in focus.



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