photo by corradobarattaphotos via iStock
Landscape photography as an artform is a natural progression from hundreds of years of landscape art in painting. Many of the same artistic principles apply to both art forms. But there are some important differences that make landscape photography special.
Instead of a brush and canvas we use advanced technology to draw with light and present a vision from our creative mind to have others view as an image on a computer screen, mobile device, or perhaps even as a canvas print just like a painting.
There are some landscape photography techniques that will help us take better landscape images. Whether an absolute beginner, a seasoned pro, or somewhere in between, there are landscape photography techniques and tips we can learn and use. We have six tips here, two each for beginner, intermediate, or advanced photographers.
Beginner Landscape Photography Techniques
photo by wmaster890 via iStock
Everybody starts somewhere. Since you are looking at landscape photography techniques and tips, even if you haven’t been photographing long, you are already well beyond absolute beginner. Two great beginner landscape photography techniques to learn are composition and depth of field.
Beginner Technique: Composition
photo by corradobarattaphotos via iStock
Composition is how all of the elements of the scene fit together and relate to each other. Another way to look at it is how it all fits together. You’ll hear terms like strong composition or pleasing composition but you need to know what’s strong or pleasing about one composition over another.
A strong composition will emphasize one or more aspects of the scene, while a pleasing composition relies on balance. There is a lot of overlap, too, and that’s fine. A strong composition can also be balanced and vice versa.
To emphasize something in the image, we make it stand out from everything else. Placing a subject in the foreground is a good way to do this. You can emphasize a subject by including negative or blank space around it. In order to have negative space, you may be tempted to think the subject should always be dead center but off center placement also works, sometimes even better.
A simple method for achieving balance in a composition is to make use of the Rule of Thirds. This rule of composition has you split up your image area into sections by means of lines. Two vertical lines and two horizontal lines dividing the image frame equally. You can place scene elements along any of the lines or the points they intersect.
Beginner Technique: Depth of Field
photo by Medbrat23 via iStock
Depth of field refers to how much in the image is in or out of focus. As a landscape photographer, we might think that depth of field means having everything in focus, which it does. But it also refers to what is not in focus as well.
Deep depth of field is the technique we use to have most of what’s in the image in sharp (or relatively sharp) focus. For landscape photography, deep depth of field will render a scene that seems to be close to what it was like to be at the scene itself. It can look very dramatic, too, having foreground objects in focus along with the background and everything in between.
Shallow depth of field is also very useful for landscape photography, especially if we combine it with a composition that adds emphasis to the subject we’re isolating with this selective focus technique.
Depth of field is controlled by our lens choice, focusing distance, and lens aperture. The smaller the aperture, the more is in focus and the larger the aperture, the less is in focus. Since lens aperture is also part of the Exposure Triangle, then controlling depth of field for deep or shadow will also require some exposure settings adjustment.
Intermediate Landscape Photography Techniques
photo by Cheuk Hin Sherman Sham via iStock
The intermediate stage of learning landscape photography is some of the most fun there is in all of photography. It’s the time we have become familiar enough with photography to decide we want to keep improving. Many times, we find out that we want to start using more advanced techniques.
Intermediate Technique: Polarizing Filters
photo by Ron and Patty Thomas via iStock
The use of filters is a great way to improve our landscape photography. A circular polarizer is extremely beneficial for enhancing depth of color, removing or reducing reflections, and taming glare including atmospheric haze.
For landscape photography, circular polarizers can deepen a blue sky, enhance the depth of color of foliage, and make seas, lakes, or ponds crystal clear and see through. All of these effects can improve our landscape images.
There are some technical considerations to take into account when using circular polarizers such as exposure adjustments and knowing when and where a polarizer will enhance or improve landscape images and when it won’t matter or even detract from better imaging.
Intermediate Technique: Graduated Neutral Density Filters
photo by valio84sl via iStock
Learning deeper concepts of photography such as scene dynamic range and how to make the range fit into what the image can actually hold brings us to the point of wanting to do something in order to fix the issue. A graduated neutral density (GND) is one of the other best tools a landscape photographer can learn to use.
A GND filter will bring down the highlights of a scene to the point where we can expose them for capturing good detail along with having good detail in the shadows. Once we start experimenting with GND filters, we will start seeing how we can capture great images from virtually any landscape photography scene.
Advanced Landscape Photography Techniques
photo by wingmar via iStock
What makes a photographer an advanced photographer? Part of the answer is when we are comfortable enough with the photographic process to be able to control the outcome of our images by deciding what to do before we even click the shutter.
Another part of the answer is that an advanced photographer will also be able to know that they will always be able to learn new landscape photography techniques.
Advanced Technique: Shoot Raw and Post-Process
photo by Oleh_Slobodeniuk via iStock
All of the image formats have a place in digital photography, but our camera’s RAW file format is the file that holds all of the imaging information of the scene we’re shooting. Camera RAW is uncompressed and records information about color and luminance across several different paths. Using the highest mode available gives us the most options of what to do with the image before we finalize it.
As an advanced landscape photographer, we don’t think of post-processing as a way to “fix” an image that isn’t worthy of saving, but as another tool to create exactly the final image we’ve envisioned in our creative thoughts. So post-processing doesn’t fix an image, it enhances and finishes it.
Advanced landscape photography techniques in post-processing have been improved greatly by post-processing programs that use non-destructive editing. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and similar programs are very popular with wedding and product photographers, but they are also one of the best things for any advanced level landscape photographer to use.
Advanced Technique: Plan Out a Photo Trek
photo by panaramka via iStock
An extremely important concept in fine art landscape or nature photography is pre-visualizing what you as the artist are wanting to present as a final image before you start capturing image files in camera.
Before we start out the door to take landscape images, we can start researching what to photograph and where to go in order to get those photos. One of the best tools for advanced landscape photography techniques is our internet search engine. By searching the internet or social media sites, we can either eliminate places or views we don’t want or find inspiration and helpful information to capture the images we do want.
Besides seeing other pictures of the views we might encounter on our photo trek, we can also find important information to allow us to get the best images such as whether we need a permit, park pass, or an all terrain vehicle. Google really is your friend for this aspect of our advanced landscape photography techniques.
The More You Know, Share!
photo by JXD123 via iStock
As a longtime professional, fine art landscape photographer, I can tell you for a certainty that you will never graduate from the school of learning new and beneficial landscape photography techniques.
If you are a beginner landscape photographer, welcome to this fun and beautiful art form. You are building on hundreds of years of art techniques and vision. If you are intermediate or advanced level, keep on enjoying it. And also keep on encouraging beginners to join us and enjoy photography.