- How to Take a Photo From Blah to Beautiful in a Matter of Minutes
- Testing a New Affordable Lightroom Alternative
- Here’s the Key to Better Landscape Photos With One Simple Trick
- Best Camera Settings for Landscape Photography
- Luminar Review: What You Need to Know About Luminar 3
- Make Beautiful Edits to Your Images With This Basic Post-Processing Workflow
When it comes to landscape photography, good images are a dime a dozen.
Part of what makes so many landscape photos just “okay” rather than spectacular can be chalked up to the approach.
For example, many novice photographers simply frame their shots from their eye level which can be quite boring.
Additionally, so-so landscape photos often result from not having the right gear, not pursuing the best light, and not taking the appropriate measures to process the images.
This guide seeks to change all that…
If you’re ready to create photos with eye-popping drama, start implementing the steps below into your workflow.
How to Create Dramatic Landscape Photos: Timing is Everything
photo by takepicsforfun via iStock
You can have the most spectacular landscape in front of you, but if your timing is off and the light isn’t perfect, you can still end up with a poor-looking shot.
More specifically, Golden Hour, that hour or so just after sunrise and just before sunset offers the most dramatic and beautiful light of the day.
As you can see when comparing the image above with the image below, the first image shows the harshness of light during the middle of the day. On the one hand, elements facing the sun are extremely bright while elements in the shadows are extremely dark. Also notice how the sky - though spectacularly blue - lacks much in the way of interest.
photo by a_Taiga via iStock
A similar shot taken in the same location at sunrise, however, has far more drama.
In this case, note how the temperature of the light is much warmer while also being much softer.
Now, instead of harsh highlights and dark shadows, we have a more even exposure, and with the fog and the clouds, the drama is enhanced even further.
Quick Tip: Photographing early in the morning makes it more likely that there will be fog, especially if you’re photographing rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Incorporating weather elements like this can help you increase the drama in your photos.
Beginner Landscape Photography Tip: Use a Tripod and a Remote Shutter Release
photo by MarioGuti via iStock
One of the most common causes of poor landscape photos is camera shake - blurriness that occurs due to the natural movements of your hands, arms, and body as you take a photo while holding your camera.
Even the slightest movement can cause your photos to lack sharpness, which is why it’s so important to utilize a tripod and a remote shutter release when you take your landscape photos.
You don’t have to get too spendy here, either.
I use a ProMediaGear TR424L tripod, which, at $1,200 is not exactly inexpensive. But you can get the support your camera needs for a couple of hundred bucks or less. In fact, this well-reviewed rig from Manfrotto is just $60.
In addition to keeping your camera stable with a solid tripod, you need to be able to trigger the shutter remotely, that way you don’t have to physically touch your camera to take the shot.
photo by miroslav_1 via iStock
What’s more, if you use a tripod you can begin dabbling in long exposure photography and blurring the movement of elements like clouds or water to get drop-dead gorgeous results like the image above.
You can also use your camera remote to take selfies - no, not that kind of selfie.
photo by bluejayphoto via iStock
People and landscapes are a great combination because the addition of a person gives the shot context, interest, and helps others put themselves in that person’s place.
With a remote, you can place yourself in the shot, craft a create people-and-landscapes image, and have tons more drama in your photo all at the same time.
How to Improve Landscapes: Shoot Wide and Low
photo by stanley45 via iStock
Yet another way to create more dramatic landscape photos is to use a wide-angle lens and incorporate foreground interest into the shot.
As I mentioned in the introduction, too many newbie photographers stand up straight and take landscape photos from their eye level
By dropping the point of view downward, you immediately create an image that looks and feels completely different.
Additionally, a lower perspective combined with a wide-angle lens allows you to create a scene with much more depth and dimension.
The change in perspective doesn’t have to be enormous to get this effect, either.
photo by valio84sl via iStock
In the image above, the shot was taken just below eye level, but the result is that more of the foreground is in the shot.
Notice how the individual blades of grass and the texture of the moss on the rocks adds so much richness and detail to the photo.
This shot incorporates other drama-inducing elements too - a long exposure to blur the movement of the clouds and the warm, soft glow of Golden Hour.
Sometimes these tips are enough on their own to help you create a beautifully dramatic shot; other times, you need to layer them to get the ultimate effect.
Quick Tip: To connect the foreground, midground, and background of a landscape photo, try using leading lines. Fences, roadways, and paths are just three examples of leading lines you can incorporate in your landscape compositions.
Landscape Tip for Beginners: Don’t Neglect Processing
photo by Anchiy via iStock
To bring it all home and have a final image that is knock-your-socks-off good, you need to develop a post-processing workflow that allows you to highlight all the beautiful details in the shot.
The problem that beginners have with post-processing is twofold: the software can be difficult to use and it can be expensive.
In years past, you could opt for an expensive, pay-by-the-month option, but the cost of doing so adds up. What’s more, some popular processing programs are just plain difficult to learn how to use.
Luminar 3 is different, though.
For starters, it’s $69. That’s a one-time fee, so you get access to all the powerful tools Luminar has to offer for life.
And though it’s packed full of absolutely amazing features, it’s easy to use, even if you’ve never processed an image in your life.
For example, you can use any number of presets - or “Looks” as they’re called in Luminar - to get the ball rolling. There’s several groups of looks, including for landscapes, which you can use to add morning fog, autumn colors, and a warm sunset feel. There’s even one called “Dramatic Landscapes.”
As you can see above, the looks are displayed along the bottom of the editing window, each with a preview that allows you to see what the Look will do to your photo at quick-glance.
Luminar 3 also has a wide range of Filters that let you drill down and manage specific aspects of the image. That includes AI-powered filters like the AI Sky Enhancer that brings out the details and the structure of the sky in a matter of moments.
As you can see in the GIF below, manipulating just one slider gives you incredible control over how the sky looks:
You can also use Luminar’s Accent AI Filter to make about a dozen adjustments to the photo in mere seconds as well. And best of all, these filters are adjusted using just a single slider, so they’re super easy to manipulate, as you can see above.
But don’t take my word for it…
In the video above, Scott Williams provides an overview of his workflow for creating a dramatic landscape in Luminar.
As you’ll see in the video, Scott makes quick work of his original photo and turns it into something completely different using the tools I mention above (and a few others as well).
If you’re ready to step up your landscape photography game, post-processing is just as important as composition, timing, and gear.
Focus on these tips, pick up Luminar 3 and get cracking!