If you're like me, landscape photography is where it's at.
There's nothing wrong with macro or portraits or street photography - it's just that landscapes get to me in a way that other photos don't.
The trick, of course, is perfecting the way you approach landscape photography such that the images you create have the most impact.
There are plenty of landscape photography tips you can implement to get better photos, that's for sure.
In fact, there's so many landscape photography tricks that it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to begin.
That's where this guide comes in...
I've put together a handful of tips that will help you take your landscape photos to the next level. This isn't a comprehensive list, but the tips and tricks I outline here will get you well on your way to better landscape photography.
Work on the Settings
If you think you have to shoot in manual mode to get great landscape shots, you're wrong.
Make it a little easier on yourself and shoot in aperture priority mode (A or AV on your camera's dial).
That will allow you to control the aperture, and by virtue of that, control the depth of field, too.
The camera will take care of the shutter speed so that you get a well-exposed image, so you have less to worry about in terms of settings and more brain power to work on composition and framing.
Select a relatively small aperture, like f/11 or f/16, and minimize the ISO (which, depending on your camera, might be ISO 50, ISO 100, or ISO 200).
Set the metering to evaluative, multi-zone or matrix mode, that way the camera reads the light from throughout the scene. For example, in the shot above, evaluative metering would take light readings from the foreground, midground, and background, the left and right sides of the shot, and the dark and light areas of the image to get a good exposure.
Then, if need be, use exposure compensation to lighten or darken the image as you see fit.
It'll take a little practice to nail down these settings, but once you do, better landscape photos await!
Beware: Watch for the shutter speed dropping too low. Since you use a small aperture for landscapes, that forces a longer shutter speed. If you find that the shutter speed is below about 1/125 seconds, use a tripod to avoid camera shake.
Get It Sharp
Speaking of camera shake, you want to ensure that your images are clear and sharp.
Using a tripod and a camera remote gives your camera a stable base such that it can get sharp photos.
But that's not all you can do to maximize sharpness in your landscape images.
An easy trick to use to get a sharp image is to focus about one-third of the way into the frame.
This allows you to take advantage of the qualities of depth of field, which extends about one-third in front of the focal point and two-thirds behind the focal point.
For example, in the image above, you would focus near the tip of the closest sand dune.
Once you have the focal point identified one-third into the shot, use live view to zoom in to inspect for sharpness.
If the image isn't sharp, switch your lens to manual focus and rotate the focus ring until the focal point is nice and sharp.
Beware: If the foreground is sharp but the background isn't, adjust the focus to a point further back in the scene. If the background is sharp and the foreground isn't, move the focal point forward.
Also note that the aperture you use will determine sharpness.
If you shoot at your lens's smallest aperture (i.e. f/22), you'll get a large depth of field, but because lenses don't produce the sharpest results at their minimum apertures, you'll negate the impact of that large depth of field.
Instead, use f/11 or f/16 (or an even larger aperture, if possible) to get sharper results while still having a good depth of field.
There's another way to get sharper photos, too...
It's called hyperfocal distance, and it refers to the setting on your lens that gives you the most depth of field.
Learn more about this concept in the video above from Mark Wallace and Adorama TV.
Use a Polarizing Filter
When it comes to improving your landscape photography, one of the best favors you can do for yourself is to use a polarizing filter.
Not only do polarizers minimize glare off of non-metallic surfaces like water, but they also increase the saturation of the sky that deepens blues and makes white clouds pop.
What's more, colors in the landscape itself will be more saturated, which is beneficial since many landscapes are photographed during the day, and the intense sunlight tends to wash colors out.
Polarizers are simple to use, too.
Just attach one to your lens and rotate the polarizer to get the desired effect.
Learn more about the value of polarizing filters for landscape photography in this comprehensive guide.
Look for Ways to Amp Up the Drama
If you ask me, the defining characteristic of a great landscape photo is drama.
Drama can be achieved in all sorts of ways, too.
Interesting lighting as seen above can turn a drab landscape into a breathtaking view of nature.
The perspective from which you shoot - up high or down low, for example - can give the shot a more dramatic vibe as well.
You can also incorporate the presence of a person - as seen above - to create an interesting dynamic between man and nature.
The point is that rather than just standing still and taking a photo, seek out ways to create an image that's different from all the others.
The differences don't have to be groundbreaking to have an impact, either!
Timing is Everything
One of the best tricks to use to get better landscape photos is to time your pictures according to the best light.
The best light is during golden hour - the hour near sunrise and sunset - when the sun is low on the horizon and casts gorgeous, soft, warm light across the landscape.
Likewise, at golden hour, the low position of the sun casts delightfully long shadows across the landscape, which gives your images better depth and dimension.
You also won't have to worry as much about washed out colors, given that the sunlight isn't as intense as it is during the daytime.
Another option is to shoot during blue hour.
Blue hour occurs after sunset when dusk falls on the landscape, and the light from the sunset has changed from golden and warm to cool and blue, as seen above.
Shooting at twilight offers you ample opportunities to create images that have a softness and coolness about them that's impossible to get at any other time of day.
Besides, if you're out shooting during golden hour, why not stick around for a little longer to get some blue hour images that have a completely different look?
Naturally, waiting around for blue hour requires some patience, but the results can be quite fetching.
Have a look at an example workflow for shooting landscapes during blue hour in the video above by Gary Gough.
Wrapping It Up
Getting improved landscape photos isn't as difficult as it might seem.
Armed with a few essential tips, you can create images that are clearer, sharper, have more drama, and make use of things like interesting light or shooting positions.
The key is to practice the techniques outlined above, research additional techniques you can use, and implement what you learn by frequently shooting landscapes.
After all, the more you learn and practice, the better your images will become!
Get a few more landscape photography tips and tricks in the video above by GadgetsNGear.