Not sure why your photos of mountains don't look that great?
Well, it could be because of any number of simple mistakes that diminish your ability to get the best shots.
In fact, I'd say that the majority of landscape photography mistakes are just that - simple errors that have a big negative impact.
With that in mind, here's a few tips on how to photograph mountains the right way.
How to Photograph Mountains: Pay Attention to the Light
Perhaps the most common issue when photographing mountains is simply not paying attention to the light.
The whole point of photographing a mountain is to put its rugged beauty on display, and some types of lighting simply prevent you from doing that.
Frontlighting, or when the sun is behind you and shining directly on the mountains, eliminates any hope of seeing the textures and details of the mountains.
This is especially true when the photo is taken during the middle of the day when the quality of sunlight is its worst, as shown above.
Instead, seek out opportunities to photograph mountains using sidelighting.
With the sunlight entering the scene from the right or left, you not only have light that accentuates the textures of the mountains, but you also have the opportunity to incorporate long, sweeping shadows into the shot as well.
This interplay between shadow and light gives mountain photos much more drama, especially if you shoot in the early morning or late evening when sunlight takes on a much warmer and appealing quality.
So, wherever the sun is, turn 90-degrees and start shooting. You'll end up with far more dramatic photos!
Filters are a Must for Mountain Photography
Even when shooting in the best light of the day, you'll often find that your images of mountains still need a little help when it comes to controlling contrast.
That is, the landscape is usually darker than the sky above it, and your camera can struggle to come to terms with how to manage that. In some cases, the sky might be well-exposed but the landscape is too dark. In other cases, the landscape might be well-exposed but the sky is too bright.
You can overcome these obstacles by using a graduated neutral density filter like the one shown above.
These filters are dark on the top, which blocks some of the brightness of the sky, while having no impact on the landscape below.
The result is a more even exposure from top to bottom, as seen above.
And the best part? You take care of this problem in the field while you're staring at a gorgeous landscape instead of in post-processing while you're hunched over your computer in your basement. It's a win-win!
Editor's Tip: Add a polarizing filter to your camera bag, too. Polarizers help boost contrast in the sky, reduce glare off of water, and minimize atmospheric haze.
Mountain Photography Tip: Stop Shooting at f/22
A misconception among many photographers that enjoy landscapes is that they have to slam their aperture down to f/22 to get the best depth of field.
The problem with doing that is that no lens - not even expensive, professional ones - is its sharpest at its minimum or maximum aperture. That means that when you shoot at f/22, you're sacrificing sharpness in the shot.
Instead, you'll get better results by using a wider aperture.
So long as there isn't anything immediately in front of you in the scene, you can go virtually as wide as you want with the aperture and still have good depth of field.
The best results, though, come from shooting in your lens's sweet spot, or the aperture at which the lens is the sharpest.
The sweet spot is different for every lens, but a good rule of thumb is that it's in the f/8-f/11 range.
Learn how to find your lens's sweet spot and start taking sharper photos of mountains.
Tips for Photographing Mountains: Plan Ahead
I cannot emphasize enough how important planning is to the process of photographing mountains (or any subject, for that matter).
If you don't plan ahead, you will find yourself dealing with bad light, bad weather, getting lost, not having the right gear, and other factors that inhibit your ability to get high-quality photos.
That's why participating in a photo tour is such a great idea.
Think about it...
When you join a photography tour, all the planning is taken care of. You don't have to make hotel reservations or Google Maps your way from one spot to the next. You also don't have to scout locations or figure out the must-see locations that you need to photograph.
Instead, you can sit back, relax, and focus on honing your craft and learning from skilled photographers as they lead the tour.
For my money, there's no better way to learn how to photograph mountains than by a photography tour like ApertureXplorer's Southern France, Swiss Alps, and Dolomite Mountains Tour.
When it comes to iconic mountains, it doesn't get any better than the Alps.
Between the Matterhorn, the Dolomites, and all the valleys, lakes, forests, glaciers, and rivers in between, the Alps provide you with endless opportunities for photographing landscapes.
And to say that you'll travel in style is an understatement...
ApertureXplorers not only focuses your time on learning new skills and expanding your abilities as a photographer, but they also ensure that you enjoy hiking the countryside, enjoying excellent food, exploring the quaint villages and bustling cities in these regions, and meeting the wonderful locals.
On the Northern Italy leg of the journey, world-renown landscape photographer Nico Rinaldi will join the tour and take you to some of the best locations in the Alps for capturing breathtaking photos.
Perhaps even better, this photography tour isn't only about the mountains.
You'll spend time in Geneva, Milan, Pisa, and Monaco, as well as the breathtaking lavender fields in Southern France.
To top it all off, a photography tour like this one gives you a chance to learn how to be a better photographer and immediately put those skills to the test.
With personal photography lessons, time to learn how to process images, and opportunities to share and critique photos with the group, this is a true photography learning experience.
If you want to step up your mountain photography game, visit ApertureXplorers to sign up for their Alps photo tour. The trip is August 29-September 7, 2018, so time is of the essence!