- Tilted Horizon
- Focus Issues
- Camera Shake
- Wasting Money On Gear
- Going Home Too Soon
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Ask yourself a question: “How can I avoid beginner landscape photography mistakes?” If your answer was along the lines of “What are they?” then keep reading. If we don’t know what the mistakes are and what causes them, we may not be able to avoid making them.
Here is a short list of beginner landscape photography mistakes to be on the lookout for and some simple landscape photography tips for how to avoid them:
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Here’s a funny thing about photography, it often doesn’t show quite what your eyes see. Not because there’s something wrong with the process of photography or our cameras but because of how human sight works.
Our eyes and brain work together to provide us with a view of our surroundings. The eye is an auto focus, high resolution, auto exposure camera with a wide field of view and able to capture a high dynamic range. The brain’s sight center interprets everything in the scene and intelligently presents us with a corrected view.
Your camera can’t compete with the real time corrections and interpretations your brain automatically does, which results in some pictures not looking like we expected them to appear. The horizon line is often a big reason why.
Our brain knows the horizon is indeed the horizon and keeps reminding us of that even when we tilt our heads. If the camera is tilted, though, the image we see will not autocorrect in our head. The horizon tilt will negatively affect our image.
There are two very simple landscape photography techniques we can use as fixes. First, if your camera has this feature, turn on grid lines. On several cameras I have used, the grid lines will show up in the eye level viewfinder (optical or EVF) and the rear viewscreen. We can even make use of this tool when hand holding our camera.
The second tip involves some basic landscape photography gear, a tripod and a hot shoe mounted bubble level. There are several different types of tripods that can be used for landscape photography, a small bubble level can be combined with any of them.
As a general landscape photography guide point, use a tripod when you can. There are multiple beginner landscape photography mistakes that can be alleviated with good tripod technique.
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Another brain versus picture discussion can happen here, so let’s just say we did it and move on to the landscape photography tips that can eliminate the issues.
The primary tip is to take creative control of the focus with either deep depth of field or selective focus techniques. A small aperture will provide more depth of focus while a large aperture has less depth.
In real life, we shift focus from near to far so effortlessly it seems as though everything is in focus. Alternatively, we can also single out a single item in the scene to concentrate on. The two landscape photography techniques above are how we can do these things in our images.
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One of the most common beginner landscape photography mistakes is a blurry picture. Besides bad focus, blurry images are often caused by slow shutter speeds allowing camera movement to affect the photo.
The fix for this problem is a mix of landscape photography gear and techniques. A tripod and remote release are the gear fix, learning solid hand holding technique for shooting without a tripod is also a good idea.
If you want to add filters to your landscape photography gear to take advantage of certain special techniques, you should plan on picking up a nice tripod if you haven’t already found one.
Wasting Money On Gear
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As photographers, we do tend to talk a lot about the gear. Both beginner and advanced photographers do this, so don’t worry too much about it. However, it’s not cliche to repeat the adage that gear doesn’t make a photograph, a photographer does.
That being said, some particular types of landscape photography gear can help us out. We already talked about tripods, now let’s look at filters.
Some of the most useful filters for landscape photography are neutral density (ND) and circular polarizer (C-POL) filters. These filters solve problems that some photographers just starting out aren’t even aware of. Once you decide on these filters, though, you want to ensure that they are good enough to net degrade the image quality your fine camera and lenses provide.
But, that costs money. A really good C-POL filter can cost nearly what that kit lens that came with the camera. Beyond the kit lens, you will find that you want more reach, so you get a telephoto. You want a wider view or closer focusing or shooting in lower light, so you look at a wide angle, a macro lens, or a fast single focal length prime.
In many cases, you will end up with a variety of filter sizes. Instead of buying a C-POL or ND for each lens, consider the RevoRing from H&Y filters. It is an ingenious system that allows you to use one size filter on multiple size lenses, thus saving you money and avoiding the mistake of wasting money on too much gear. As an added plus, the RevoRing also acts like a quick release system for filters.
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Sometimes we have a gorgeous scene in our viewfinder but when we get home and look at our pics on our computer or as physical prints, we notice that there is an ugly cell phone tower intruding into the image. Or whatever else isn’t what you intended to capture.
The fix for beginner landscape photography mistakes like this one won’t cost you any money at all or require any specialty landscape photography techniques. Simply move around.
It really boils down to paying attention to what’s in our viewfinder and changing position or composition. Zoom in or out, move the camera a little over to the right or left, or change your position (zoom with your feet) to correct the mistake before it is captured to your memory card.
To be honest, this is where applying some of the earlier landscape photography tips will assist a lot. I find that setting up with a tripod makes my creative vision and methods more thoughtful and deliberate. I still end up trashing many unusable image files, though, so don’t worry if you still find some beginner landscape photography mistakes in your picture folder, we all do.
Going Home Too Soon
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Light is a wonderful thing. In addition to changing intensities, it also changes in color and quality throughout the day. Three of my favorite times to capture landscape images are during Golden Hour, Blue Hour, and inclement weather. We have some fun tutorials on all three at PhotographyTalk.
It will require some advanced planning, practicing techniques, and a little bit of extra gear to take advantage of these light qualities, but it’s within reach of anyone using a modern digital camera. Once you see what you can capture in rainy weather or near sunset or sunrise, you will realize that it is a beginner landscape photography mistake to go home too soon.
The More You Know…
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By the way, welcome to the wonderful world of serious photography! Another mistake I want to really stress is not to stress too much about common beginner landscape photography mistakes. I’ve been doing this and teaching it for decades and I still make them, too.
Have fun, exercise your creative vision, learn from your mistakes and successes. In other words, enjoy being a landscape photographer!