- A Beginner's Guide to Aperture and Depth of Field
- Doing Just This One Thing Will Improve Your Photography
- Best Camera Settings for Landscape Photography
- How to Get a Perfect Foreground in Landscape Photography
When you're scanning your Instagram feed, it only takes your brain a split second to determine if the photo you're looking at is any good.
No matter who took the photo, no matter how much experience or training they have, every "good" photo has a few things in common.
If you want your landscape photos counted among the good ones, this list is for you. It isn't an exhaustive list, but if you're looking for ways to immediately improve your landscape photography, this will get you started.
Don't Be Lazy
I spend a good amount of time in national parks, and I'm always astonished at how many people emerge from their vehicles, walk to the scenic overlook, snap a few photos, and get back in their cars to continue on.
If you think about it, the photos taken from those scenic overlooks are going to be virtually the same as every other photo that's ever been taken at that spot.
For that reason, you need to be a little more adventurous and find new points of view to photograph landscapes.
That doesn't mean you need to strap on a backpack and hike for 20 miles to a spot no one has ever seen before, but what it does mean is that you should spend 10 or 20 minutes exploring the area to find new and unique perspectives.
Editor's Tip: If you really want to get off the beaten path, you need a high-quality camera bag or backpack to get your gear there safely. You also want something that's comfortable for you to carry, provides easy access to your gear, and can accommodate all the gear you need for your outdoor adventure. Find bags that fit the bill here.
Pay Attention to the Depth of Field
In most cases, landscape photography requires a very large depth of field (the area of the image that's sharp) to be most effective.
As you can see in the image above, everything from front to back is in sharp focus, giving us a prime view of this landscape. Even if the depth of field is off just a bit, it could render foreground or background elements blurry, which can ruin the feel of the shot.
To maximize the depth of field, use an aperture somewhere in the middle, say, f/8 or f/11. Then, set your focal point about one-third of the way from the bottom of the frame. You can see what I mean in the video above by Professional Photography Tips
Doing so - and shooting with your camera on a tripod - will help you get the sharpest photos with the appropriate depth of field.
Check Your Histogram
If you immediately check your camera's LCD to see the photo you've just taken, you're doing it all wrong.
That's because the LCD doesn't really give you an accurate display of what the photo looks like, at least in terms of its exposure.
For that, you need to look at the camera's histogram, which is a graph that shows the distribution of tones in the image. On the left side, it shows shadows; on the right, it shows highlights.
Ideally, you want a bell-shaped curve in most situations, as that represents all tones from dark to bright, with most of the tonal values falling in the middle.
The great thing about a histogram is that it accurately tells you if your image is too dark or too bright, that way you can make adjustments to the exposure settings.
For example, if the histogram is skewed to the right, you know that the image is overexposed. If it's skewed to the left, it's underexposed.
That makes the histogram one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal because by using its information, you can correct your settings, use exposure compensation, and even recompose the shot to get a better-exposed photo right then and there.
Editor's Tip: While the histogram is one of the most powerful tools your camera has for creating better photos, one of the most powerful camera accessories is a tripod. Tripods stabilize your camera, allowing you to get sharper, more detailed photos. Using a tripod also opens up possibilities for taking long exposures. Get outfitted with a high-quality landscape tripod here.
Shoot in RAW
If you aren't shooting in RAW, you need to rectify that situation right now.
Shooting in JPEG was in vogue years ago because they're smaller files sizes, and therefore took up less room on memory cards.
But these days, memory cards have tons of room and lighting-fast read/write speeds, so there's really no reason to continue limiting yourself with JPEGs.
Unlike JPEGs, RAW files are not compressed, which means they retain all the data collected by your camera's sensor.
Having all that data is a boon for you because you have that much more information to work with when you process the photo. That gives you more opportunities to be creative with the images you've taken and create something truly unique, all without losing image quality.
It's Not Always About the Location
Sure, it's nice to photograph iconic landscapes like those you find in Iceland, Yellowstone, or the Horn of Africa.
But those locations aren't readily accessible to most people. That means you need to make do with the scenery you've got nearby.
If you use the techniques I've outlined above, you can do just that. After all, the success of a photo isn't just about the subject. It also has to do with not being lazy, maximizing the depth of field, using your camera's histogram to guide the exposure, and shooting in RAW.
If you can do those four things, you'll be much better prepared to take epic landscape photos!