8 Insanely Easy Things You Can Do Today to Immediately Improve Your Landscape Photography
What if you could make just a single, easy change to the way you approach landscape photography, and see an immediate boost in the quality of the image?
Better still, what if there were eight changes you could make…
...each of which helps you capture the landscape with improved skill?
Better photos in very little time - sounds too good to be true, right?
Luckily for you, that’s precisely what I’ve put together in this post:
Eight super simple, yet highly effective tips that will help you elevate your landscape photos to new heights, right now, today!
Awesome Action #1: Plan Ahead to Save Time and Frustration
We’ve all been there.
You blindly run out of the house with your camera, tripod, and camera gear.
For a location, you might just have a destination in mind. Nothing planned. Just a rough dot on the map with no idea of how or what the light will look like, let alone if there is even a shot to be captured!
So, research ahead of time, and plan where and what you want to photograph. Take some time prior to shooting to scout the location and snap a few casual shots to get a sense of the lighting and possible vantage points. If you’re short on time, you can even sit at your computer and jump on Google Maps to do some recon. Type in the location that you want to photograph, move to satellite view, then street view.
Let me show you just how easy it is...
I captured the photo below a few weeks ago.
However, first I jumped on Google Maps to figure out parking ahead of time and scout key points of interest:
What could be easier than that? As the saying goes, “prior planning prevents poor performance.” If you want your landscape photos to have more impact, plan ahead!
Awesome Action #2: Understand Lighting Ahead of Time
There is nothing worse than getting to a location and having no idea where the lighting and shadows are going to fall.
You know what I’m talking about…that last minute scrambling and fumbling around, trying to find the best position from which to take a photo.
But taking the time to understand the lighting before you even set foot out of the house will be a huge leap forward for your photos!
Using the sun or moon as a good example, knowing where each will rise and fall will shave time off you getting in the BEST position each time you head out.
In this case, I would like to highly recommend one app, that in my opinion, should be on every landscape photographers phone:
“TPE” aka “The Photographer’s Ephemeris.”
You can pick it up on iTunes for $8.99 or on Google for $4.99. Trust me, this will be a great investment for you!
Take a look at the screenshot of the app below of the location of my image above. Notice how you can see how the app displays everything from exact time of sunrise, sunset, moonrise and much more.
Photography is all about lighting, so developing your understanding of lighting at your selected location will only help you create more impactful images.
Awesome Action #3: Watch a Popular Video or Two on Landscape Photography Tips
YouTube is free and there are a TON of videos to be watched.
Even better, for all us visual learners, it’s nice to see exactly how other people do it.
Do a simple search for “Landscape Photography,” and jump on in!
There’s something for everyone…
Black and white landscapes? Check. Post-processing tips for landscapes? Yep! Gear lists and recommended accessories for landscape photography? You bet!
On top of that, you can get different types of tutorials.
If you only have a minute or two, find a quick video that gets right to the point.
If you have more time on your hands, give one of the more in-depth videos a look.
But, here’s a quick note to help you streamline your viewing efforts and avoid the videos that likely won’t push that progress needle forward for you:
If you have 15 minutes to kill, can you guess which of these two videos would be the better clip to watch?
This one, which has a ton of views:
OR, this one, that has a ton of views AND a ton of likes?
Just be mindful of the experiences of those that have viewed the video before you (aka ratio between likes and thumbs down). The more views and likes it has, the more valuable that video is likely to be.
Awesome Action #4: Learn the Functions of Your Camera, NOW!
You get a new camera, take it right out of the box, and start shooting.
Or should I say you TRY to start shooting…
You know what I’m talking about: No matter how much you think you know about your new camera, there’s always something that throws you off.
It’s hard to keep yourself from just diving right in and taking photos.
For even the most seasoned pros, there’s a few functions or buttons that they don’t fully understand.
But spending some time getting to know your camera better will result in better photos!
After all, how can you expect to take well-exposed photos if you don’t know how to master the exposure settings?
What if you need to lock the mirror in place for a long exposure - can you do that?
Can you navigate your camera’s menus to find the feature you need?
Even better, can you reach for the right button or dial without taking your eye away from the viewfinder?
If you take just a couple of hours poring over your owner’s manual, you’ll be able to do all that and more!
And on top of that, you’ll be able to master ALL your camera’s functions, which gives you greater creative control over your images.
Now that’s how you can improve your photos!
Awesome Action #5: Find Out if Your Photos Have the Special Sauce
I’m willing to bet that most of us think the images we take aren’t half bad.
Confidence in your skills is a good thing!
But...getting feedback from a fresh set of eyes is always helpful.
After all, no two people see the same image exactly the same. So why not solicit some feedback to see if other people respond well to your images?
Offering up your creative vision to others can be a scary task, though.
An easy way to get feedback - and lots of it - is to post your images online.
Put them on Facebook. Send them out in a tweet. Heck, add them to our galleries here on PhotographyTalk!
The point is that the more feedback you get, the better you will understand how your work is received.
You will learn what people like and what they don’t like.
You’ll also learn what people notice about your shots and what they don’t.
You might be surprised!
Awesome Action #6: Select a Landscape Photography Topic to Learn - And Run With It
It’s easy to jump from one photography topic to the next.
After all, there’s a lot to learn!
While it’s important to be a well-rounded photographer…
...it’s also necessary to get the depth of knowledge needed to master photography skills.
In other words, take some time to really understand a specific photography topic.
It doesn’t even matter what topic you choose - lighting, composition, camera settings - you name it! Just decide what information, details, or skills you need, and dive into your learning.
If you mostly take photos at the beach, learn how to capture an effective photo of a waterfall. If you mostly photograph mountains, learn how to create an impactful image of the desert.
Not only does this strategy work for expanding your photographic horizons, but it also gives you a more developed set of skills to use no matter the type of photos you take.
What’s not to like about that?
Awesome Action #7: Tackle a New Photoshop Skill
Your creativity as a photographer isn’t just important when you have your camera in hand.
It’s also important as you process your images after the fact.
Lots of us use Photoshop. But many others use Lightroom, GIMP, or any other number of top-notch processing programs.
Whatever program you use, you can vastly improve your photos by learning a new skill.
Might I recommend one on different ways you can sharpen your landscape images.
Here’s one of my favorites from Kelvin Pimont of Kelvin Designs:
As I noted earlier, referencing high-quality YouTube videos like the one above gives you easy access to free photography tutorials that will take your photos to an entirely new level.
It’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down and watch the masters, and then putting your new skills to the test, like I’ve done below:
Once you’ve mastered your new skill, get back in there and learn another! There are virtually endless opportunities for learning regardless of the type of photos you most enjoy taking.
Awesome Action #8: Join a Photography Group
While photography is a joy when you’re on your own…
...tackling the landscape with a few like-minded photographers can be highly rewarding.
Just like with sharing your images online, joining a photography group is an excellent way to get feedback.
Better still, you can ask questions, answer questions, and learn tricks you’d never think of on your own.
Who knows, you might even become good friends!
And you know what good photography friends do...share gear!
Ok, maybe not, but at the very least you’ll have a sounding board for ideas and for getting feedback.
Plus, your new photography group might have the inside scoop on awesome locations to shoot or little-known vantage points to get an even better shot.
Try Meetup.com to find a photography group to join or find local photographers to rub elbows with on Facebook.
And there you have it! Eight super simple things you can do to improve your landscape photography right now. Try one or try them all - either way, I think you’ll find that your photos are the better for it!