Photo by Omer Salom on Unsplash
Learning landscape photography is a lifelong process, one that never ends and always surprises with new nuggets of information that can help you enhance the quality of your photos.
Though there are many established landscape photography rules that have a demonstrated ability to help you improve your photos, there are many long-held landscape photography myths that might not offer you much in the way of assistance.
The problem is, some landscape photography misconceptions are so widely held and so blindly followed, that sometimes you might not be able to decipher landscape photography myth from reality.
Below, I outline just a few common landscape photography myths of which you should be aware.
Landscape Photography Myth #1: Mirrorless Cameras are Too Delicate for Landscape Photography
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When mirrorless cameras became a thing, I probably would have agreed that they had no place in landscape photography. Things have changed, though, and changed a lot.
As you might already know, I used a Nikon D850 as my primary landscape camera for a couple of years, and it proved its ruggedness and dependability over and over and over again.
At the time, I couldn’t imagine a better landscape photography camera than the D850. Then the Nikon Z7 came along.
As I wrote in my Nikon Z7 review, the Z7’s ergonomics harken back to the D850. In many ways, it feels like a DSLR in your hand (except much lighter!).
But more than that, the rugged build quality of the D850 is present in the Z7 as well.
I took the Z7 on my recent trip to a wintery Norway, and it worked like a champ. I had no qualms about the freezing temperatures and the snow. The Z7 never flinched, and I used it to take some pretty decent shots, if I do say so myself.
In a phrase, the Nikon Z7 is a hard-core landscape photography workhorse. It has top-quality weather-sealing, a nice chunky grip that’s easy to hold even when your hands are freezing, and a lightweight design that doesn’t bog you down as you scour the landscape for your next shot.
So, no, mirrorless cameras are not too delicate for landscape work. That’s a myth that needs to be debunked!
Landscape Photography Myth #2: Always Use the Rule of Thirds
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Don’t get me wrong - the rule of thirds is an essential part of landscape photography composition. But it isn’t an end-all, be-all answer for every single situation you encounter.
Sure, most of the time, moving your subject away from the center of the shot will get you a more pleasing image. There are occasions, though, when breaking the rule of thirds and placing the subject smack in the middle of the frame is the better way to go.
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The greatest advantage of placing the subject in the middle is that you create a photo with symmetry. That’s a good thing sometimes because our eyes love symmetrical things.
Studies have shown that people with symmetrical faces are judged as more attractive because the balance of that symmetry creates such nice harmony and proportion.
Well, the same can hold true for your landscape photos. Just be aware that a nearly symmetrical composition is not the same thing as a symmetrical one. Strive to get it as perfect as possible for the most impact.
Quick Tip: As shown above, using water in the foreground of your landscape photos can help you improve the symmetry of the scene. Additionally, water can help brighten the foreground because of the light it reflects from the sky. This is beneficial if you don’t have a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky. Instead, the sky works for you to lighten the foreground for a more balanced exposure.
Landscape Photography Myth #3: You Have to Shoot in Manual Mode
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Though it’s important for you to learn how to shoot in manual mode, it’s a myth that you have to exclusively shoot in manual mode for every landscape photo you take.
In fact, I’d argue that for most situations, the best landscape photography settings would include shooting in aperture priority mode, not manual mode.
When moments are fleeting and you need to get the shot, the time you save with using aperture priority mode could mean the difference between successfully getting the image or not.
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Obviously, there will be occasions when you want to blur the movement of water or the clouds, so shutter priority mode would be a better choice.
But, again, it’s a time-saver that might allow you to get the shot you want rather than missing it because you’re taking too long dialing in everything in manual mode.
Some photographers will say that aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode are nothing more than cheat codes. But that’s simply a myth that you should ignore!
Landscape Photography Myth #4: Always Use a Tripod
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A final landscape photography myth I’d like to debunk is the notion that you have to use a tripod.
I’ll be the first to admit that using a tripod is a great idea in most situations. It is an essential piece of your landscape photography kit. But there are times when I prefer to run and gun and shoot handheld.
A decade ago, this would’ve been an issue because image stabilization systems weren’t what they are today.
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But heck, the Nikon Z7 has 5-axis image stabilization that allows me to slow my shutter down and shoot handheld when I need to without the worry of blurry photos.
Shooting handheld frees you up to find interesting points of view, perspectives, and compositions. You simply have more freedom to explore than you do if you’re constantly setting up and taking down your tripod.
photo by ecep-bg via iStock
So, instead of depending on this landscape photography myth, tackle your next landscape photography outing by shooting handheld. You might find that the freedom of doing so helps you get much more interesting shots!
Quick Tip: Start your landscape photo shoot handheld, and then when you find a composition that’s pleasing, put your camera on a tripod. Doing so combines the best of both worlds - the ease of exploring without a tripod and the tack-sharp results of having your camera supported. Just remember to turn off image stabilization when you mount your camera to your tripod. If you don’t, the combination of the two could actually cause image degradation.