- How to Get a Perfect Foreground in Landscape Photography
- Here's the Key to Better Landscape Photos With One Simple Trick
If I were a betting man, I'd say that landscapes are the most popular subject for photographers.
I'm in that group - I seldom photograph anything but landscapes.
I love shooting landscapes, and if you're reading this article, it's safe to assume that you do as well.
I'm also assuming that if you're reading this article that you're looking for some surefire ways to improve your landscape photos.
You're in the right place!
In the video above, Kai W offers up 10 top landscape photography tips that have the ability to immediately impact your images.
Have a look at what he has to say, and for a more detailed discussion of my three favorite tips, read on below.
It's Not Just About the Main Subject
You need a strong, primary subject in your photos to have the maximum impact.
But it's not just about that strong subject.
Instead, think about your landscape photos as being your opportunity to take viewers on a journey.
To do that, your photos need to have foreground interest.
Without foreground interest, some landscape photos can look empty and bland.
But by adding textures, shapes, leading lines, and other elements into the foreground, you can overcome that problem.
Take the image above as a perfect example of this - though the sunset is the primary subject, the inclusion of the rocks in the foreground is what really sets this photo off.
Notice all the variations of dark colors the rocks provide, as well as interesting textures to capture the eye. They even form leading lines to direct our eyes to the sunset!
In short, foreground interest can be used not only to tell a more complete story about the landscape, but it can also help connect the foreground to the background of the shot.
You Need the Right Gear
A lot of photographers (myself included) talk about how the most important factor in getting a top-notch shot is you and not your gear.
However, though that might be the case, it still really helps a lot if you bring along some gear that will make better shots more likely.
This includes a solid tripod, preferably with features like a center column hook, integrated bubble level, and metal foot spikes that help you stabilize the tripod, even on rough terrain.
The Sirui W-1004 shown above and below fits the bill beautifully.
Not only does this tripod have the features I listed above, but it also has a waterproof design for those days when it's rainy or snowy out.
Additionally, this tripod has a built-in monopod so when you need to work fast and light, you've still got something to give your camera the stability it needs to get a crisp, sharp photo.
With automatic leg locks, variable leg lock positions, and split center column, tripods like this one give you everything you need to make better landscape photos more likely.
Another critical piece of kit you need to maximize your ability to get breathtaking landscape photos is a set of good filters.
Filters fell out of vogue a few years back with many photographers because they thought "why can't I use filters in Photoshop?"
Though you can mimic the effect that filters have on your images by using Photoshop, if you ask me, it's just not as good of quality as you can get when you use real filters in the field.
There are several must-have filters for landscape photographers.
First, you need a polarizing filter, which, among other things, reduces glare off non-metallic surfaces like water, as shown above.
Next, you need a graduated neutral density filter, which is dark on the top and light on the bottom. This helps reduce the brightness of the sky while leaving the darker landscape alone. The result is an image that has a much more even look to it and a controlled dynamic range.
Lastly, a neutral density filter is a must-have if you want to take on long exposure photography during the day.
These filters have a consistent level of light-blocking power, which enables you to extend your shutter speed to blur movement of features like rivers and clouds.
Don't Make the f/22 Mistake
Sure, f/22 is the aperture that gets you the largest depth of field, all else being equal.
But there's a problem with shooting at such a small aperture - diffraction.
No lens is its sharpest or cleanest at its smallest or largest aperture. So even though f/22 is often recommended for landscapes, it's actually doing your images a disservice because the diffraction that occurs softens your image.
As Kai points out in the video, f/16 is a better choice because it still gives you loads of depth of field, but without all the issues of diffraction that occur at f/22.
I'd even say to try f/11 or even f/8 for even sharper results.
Either way, experiment with the aperture, get the appropriate gear, find ways to incorporate foreground interest, and follow Kai's other valuable tips, and you'll have a much better chance of getting the type of landscape photos you want.