photo by DieterMeyrl via iStock
One of my photography mentors was a pretty crazy old-school photographer who had been doing landscape photography since long before I was born.
I’m sure you know the type. He was fascinated with SLRs and had his own dark room in his home. He loved teaching photography almost as much as he loved doing photography, and he spent hours upon hours talking about how to create the perfect foreground in landscape photos.
He believed that regardless of your landscape photography gear, if you knew how to create a great foreground in landscape photos then you could be a phenomenal landscape photographer.
While some of his methods were a bit too crazy for me, I do believe his landscape photography tips helped me understand this photography niche much better, which has helped me in my career at numerous points.
As such, I’m going to pass some of this knowledge about creating a foreground in landscape photos onto you.
Check for Distractions
photo by stock_colors via iStock
The first thing you need to do when you’re building a foreground in landscape photos is to check for distractions.
This will firstly look like moving your feet. Move around the area you’re going to photograph to figure out what elements you definitely don’t want in your photo (like the campsite’s garbage bins) and which elements you definitely do want in your photo (like a road that could act as a leading line).
Then, once you’re ready to snap your first shot, you should frame your photo and run your eye around the edges of the frame, looking for anything distracting.
Basically, anything that doesn’t add to the composition should be considered a distraction and should be removed.
Shoot From a Low Perspective
photo by Jens Deppner via iStock
If you scroll through great landscape photography, there’s one thing you’ll automatically notice. Many of the shots include gorgeous plants in the foreground.
While some of these shots include plants in the foreground because they’re simply too large to remove, like pine trees, many of them include this element very intentionally. In order to do so, the photographer must shoot from a very low perspective.
Sometimes this perspective is just a few inches off of the ground.
Now, in order to capture this sort of foreground in landscape photos, you could spend all day on your hands and knees (though I don’t recommend it because you will be miserable a few hours in), or you could use a tiny tripod or tripod alternative.
When I’m focusing on the foreground in landscape photos, I’m typically using the OctoPad.
The OctoPad is a tripod alternative that I snagged for under $30. I love this option because it has an anti-skid base that works better than any tripod feet I’ve ever used at this price point.
It also comes with a clip grommet so you can easily sling it onto your photography bag if you’re going to be hiking all day to reach your destination.
Whereas a mini tripod could work in a lot of situations, I’ve yet to find a situation where my OctoPad didn’t work because of the amount of stability it provides to my photography.
Raise the Horizon in the Frame
Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash
This is probably my number one pet peeve when it comes to the foreground in landscape photos. Photographers, even the most skilled ones, tend to put the horizon in the center of the frame instead of along one of the “third lines.”
Your eye isn’t naturally drawn to the center of the photo first, so why would you want your horizon to be there?
When you raise the horizon, you give yourself a lot more room to play with the foreground in landscape photos. There’s a whole lot of beautiful land that the sun is setting over. Include it.
Put Leading Lines to Use
photo by Mumemories via iStock
One of the most cliche ways to use leading lines in the foreground in landscape photos is through the use of roads, as seen above, but I challenge you to explore leading lines more fully.
The most effective use of leading lines in landscape photography I’ve seen are lines of dead, black trees in a snowy field. The color contrasts that your eye is naturally drawn to is going to translate the exact same way in your landscape photos.
Try to find leading lines that haven’t been overdone. This could include a downed tree in a field, wild animal tracks, or a sharp shoreline.
Use a Small Aperture
photo by paulacobleigh via iStock
If you ever catch yourself googling, “how to take better landscape photos,” this is your number one place to start.
A small aperture will allow you to keep the foreground in landscape photos without blurring the background completely.
It obviously depends upon who you talk to, and what parts of your landscape you’re trying to put in focus, but you should shoot for an aperture somewhere in the f/8 to f/11 range to start.
One way to figure out what aperture to use is to use the hyperfocal distance technique.
This ensures that you get the most amount of your photo in focus.