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Not sure how to take your landscape photos to the next level?
Well, all you need are a few fail-proof tips to help you find and execute the best shots!
In this article, I've got a few tips for landscape photography camera settings, gear, composition.
Let's get started!
How to Take Landscape Photos: Break Convention
Right out of the gate, I want to recommend that you break with what's traditionally done.
For example, most landscapes that involve water are long exposures, that way the water is beautifully blurred for a dreamy look.
But there's also beauty in going the opposite direction and using a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement of water, as seen above.
To easily freeze movement, use Shutter Priority Mode and set your shutter speed to around 1/250 seconds to start. That should be plenty fast to freeze the water's movement unless it's a raging river.
Experiment with the shutter speed you use until you get the beautiful, frozen movement you seek.
Add People to Your Landscape Photos
The great thing about adding people to a landscape shot is that it makes the photo instantly more relatable.
That is, a photo of gorgeous mountains is great and all, but a photo of a person amidst those mountains makes it easier for the viewer to imagine themselves actually being there in that spot viewing the scene with their own eyes.
What's more, adding something of a familiar size gives viewers a better idea of the grandeur of the scene.
In other words, seeing a tiny person in a landscape photo helps us to understand just how big and magnificent the landscape actually is.
Helping people to understand the scene and envision themselves in it will only enable you to create more impactful photos!
Using filters is kind of an old-school thing, it seems, but believe me when I say that if you're looking for a fail-proof way to improve your landscapes, using lens filters like the graduated ND shown above is definitely one of them.
Filters can do everything from reduce glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces to reduce the dynamic range of a scene so you can get a well-exposed image throughout to help you manage the challenging lighting conditions as sunrise and sunset, and even help you create gorgeous long exposure images during the daytime.
So with one set of filters, you have multiple ways of creating breathtaking photos!
That's especially true if you opt for high-end filters like those from Formatt-Hitech, like the Neutral Density 3.0 Filter shown above.
I've been shooting with Formatt-Hitech filters for a couple of years now, and I can tell you first-hand that these things are locked and loaded with features that make them a wise investment.
Not only does Formatt-Hitech coat their filters with their bespoke Firecrest multicoating to reduce aberrations and improve color contrast and fidelity, but their Firecrest Ultra line of filters goes a step further with bonding to protect the coating in the center of the filter.
That means that these filters have enhanced durability over time and can stand up well to the bumps and bruises that come with shooting landscapes.
Firecrest Ultra filters are also created with a lap and polish technique, which results in excellent neutrality, clarity, and sharpness.
What's not to like about that?!
Use a Tripod for Sharper Landscapes
There are many advantages for shooting landscape photos with a tripod-mounted camera, but chief among them is that you'll get sharper photos.
Even if you have the steady hands of a surgeon, you still can't match the stability that a tripod (or a monopod) gives your camera while the shutter is open.
But more than that, having your camera mounted to a tripod gives you the ability to concentrate on things like framing and composition.
That is, it takes a few seconds to setup a tripod for the shot, and that few seconds gives you a chance to examine the scene a little more closely and hone in on what you want to do with the shot.
Contrast that with the rapid "spray and pray" method that photographers sometimes use when handholding the camera, and you can imagine that the one in which you take a little more time to perfect the shot ends up being the better one more often than not.
The key to getting the most out of a tripod for landscape photography is to invest in something that's functional and durable.
Tripods can be expensive, that's for sure. But it's better to spend the money on something that actually has features that can help you - like quick-lock legs, a bubble level, and integrated center column hook - and that will stand the test of time, rather than buying a string of poorly built, cheap tripods.
For my money, Sirui tripods are the way to go if you're a landscape photographer.
I have their W-2004 tripod, and it's a total beast in every sense of the word!
Not only is it waterproof, but it has twist lock legs that make it easy (and fast) to get setup.
What's more, this rig has retractable spikes in its feet which gives it even more stability, especially on uneven or slippery terrain.
I also appreciate the fact that one of the legs converts to a monopod, that way on those occasions when I don't need my full setup, I still have something to support my camera to get super sharp photos.
It packs up small too, thanks to its legs that invert 180-degrees, so it's easy to pack and carry. What's not to like about that?
Look for Contrast
What sets gorgeous landscape photos apart from so-so landscape photos is often the quality of the light in the shot.
That means that you need to seek out opportunities for highlighting dramatic light so that your photos stand out from the crowd.
Shooting at golden hour certainly helps because the warm rays of the sun cast long shadows across the landscape as the sun dips toward the horizon.
With the contrast that ensues - areas of bright light and deep shadow - the scene becomes far more dramatic and interesting.
In these instances, try zeroing in on a smaller vignette in the larger landscape so that you can make that contrast the star of the shot.
Going in for a close-up landscape photo will challenge your compositional skills as well, given that most landscapes are shot as wide-angles.
As you can see above, though, doing so can get you breathtaking results!
Bring a Headlamp
Dramatic landscapes often have a range of values from bright to dark, and sometimes you need a headlamp to help you get that increased dynamic range.
I love a good nighttime shot of the sky with an illuminated background like the one above, and when I go out in search of shots like that, my Petzl NAO+ is with me.
This headlamp is one of my favorite things in my camera bag because it does its job so well.
It puts out 750 lumens, so even in the darkest of rural areas at night, I feel like I can see for miles.
But guess what? If I'm out until dawn and don't need as much light from the headlamp, it'll automatically adjust itself to reduce the brightness. Not bad, right?!
I use the NAO+ for directing me as I hike, seeing the back of my camera to make critical adjustments, and for light painting, too.
It's not just a headlamp - it's a creative tool that allows me to take better photos!
Tips for Taking Landscape Photos: Alter Your Perspective
A cardinal sin that many beginner photographers commit is to photograph the landscape from their eye level in most of their shots.
This isn't to say that your eye level isn't a great perspective from time to time, but by altering the perspective, you're more likely to create a photograph that is more unique and interesting to the viewer.
That being the case, kneel down and shoot from a lower-than-usual point of view or climb a hill to get a higher vantage point and shoot down toward the subject.
If you have a drone, use it to take unique top-down shots of the landscape from above (provided that you've followed drone safety rules, of course!).
The point is that as far as landscape tips go, they're all about maximizing what's good about the scene and minimizing errors or features that make your photos boring.
By using these fail-proof landscape photography tips, you'll find that better photos are much easier to get!