- The Landscape Photography Book: The Step-by-Step Techniques You Need to Capture Breathtaking Landscape Photos Like the Pros
- National Geographic Greatest Landscapes: Stunning Photographs That Inspire and Astonish
- The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography
- The Exposure Triangle Explained in Plain English
- A Step-by-Step Guideline for Long Exposure Landscape Photography
Landscape photography is a rewarding genre of art, and it includes some of the most moving images produced that still have emotional appeal years after publication.
While much about our art and craft concerns technical issues, such as exposure or focus, the artistic factors are just as important to creating a beautiful and moving image. A key artistic factor is composition.
In the video above, you can get insights on five critical composition tips. Below, we’ve outlined a number of other tips to help you improve your landscape photography compositions.
What Is Composition?
Photo by Miguel Constantin Montes from Pexels
Photographers writing articles are always talking about composition and rules of composition. But, exactly what is meant by that?
Photographically, composition is positioning, arranging, putting together, designing, ordering, and/or creating structure with the subject elements in the frame of view of an image. Landscape photography composition tips will show you how.
As you have noticed about me, I consider photography to be a mix of Art, Science, and Craft. In Art, the artist can make creative choices concerning how they wish to make and display their artworks. Science gives the artist tools and methods in order to manipulate what is recorded and shown. Craft is the skill to put Art and Science together.
An excellent example of this amazing combination of disciplines can be found in History. Notice how I capitalize Art, Science, History, Craft? It gives those subjects weight and importance. The concept of Composition relies on several disciplines.
Recommended Landscape Photography Reading:
Renaissance Art and Science
Leonardo da Vinci / Public domain
This is an excellent example of a thing or a method tha can be used as a pattern or as guidance for what we wish to accomplish ourselves. Leonardo da Vinci is the foremost excellent example in my mind for how to compose a photograph.
Studying the work and art of Leonardo can provide insight into the mix of Art of Science that is photography. da Vinci illustrated one of the forerunners to modern photography, the Camera Obscura. To this day, the beautiful imagination of Leonardo da Vinci’s Art and Science continues to amaze us.
A beautiful concept da Vinci accomplished was the use of correct perspective in illustrations and paintings. Along with perspective, he and others of the Renaissance Era imbued naturalism into their work by noticing and developing ideas used as advanced landscape photography composition methods for use today.
In the Mona Lisa portrait, take a closer look at the landscape background da Vinci included. Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and S Curves are all in there, yet nothing overwhelms the viewer. Nice smile, too. Obviously his portrait subject was at ease.
A beneficial first step in mastering advanced landscape photographic composition is to study the art of the masters. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes still get chills when I examine the work of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and da Vinci.
What this does is it puts those rules of perspective, balance, and composition into a clear view so much better than reading alone can.
Photo by Lucas Allmann from Pexels
This next step in advanced landscape photography techniques is often mentioned when discussing exposure, but it applies for composition, too. What you do to previsualize is determine what you want the final image to be, then work back from there to the beginning.
If you want to focus on a central subject, determine how to make that subject stand out. If you desire a balanced layout, choose which rules to apply and manipulate your circumstances to make it happen.
A step in the process that sometimes helps is to visit a site non-photographically. Thinking like a camera sensor and lens, applying landscape photography principles you already know, take note of what is there and imagine how you might capture it.
Get some really useful landscape photography composition tips in the video above by Nigel Danson.
How to Compose A Photograph
Photo by MaLeK DriDi from Pexels
There can be multiple factors applied to composition, most of which you can control with applying landscape photography principles and other techniques and disciplines.
Two simple methods can be combined together and applied with other photographic techniques to improve your composition before you even bring the camera to your eye.
Choose the Right Lens
Photo by Tembela Bohle from Pexels
Since you have already used the advanced landscape photography composition tip of previsualization, you have a good idea of how the final image should appear.
Your lens choice will determine how much of the scene in front of your camera you wish to include and possibly other advanced landscape photography techniques you want to apply like deep depth of field or selective focus.
A wide lens will give you those expansive scenic vistas while a telephoto lens allows you to isolate individual subject elements.
Zoom With Your Feet
The cheapest of the landscape photography composition tips is to use yourself to change the intended image. If the view in front of you doesn’t match what you have previsualized, change the view in front of you by adjusting your position.
Sometimes that’s as simple as raising or lowering your own stance, thus changing camera height by a couple of feet or so. If you have to find a new spot to stand or set up your tripod, oftentimes you only need to walk a few feet.
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels
n some cases, you may have to choose a new location overall in order to get a better picture. For instance, if you are in a shopping center parking lot and are struck by the beauty of the mountains in the background, you may want to drive away from the concrete jungle a little bit to find a better view.
That could be only a five minute drive. One of the best advanced landscape photography composition tips I was shown some time ago is Google Earth. In addition to the satellite imagery, you can also see a street view along most roads on Google Maps. These sites can also be utilized in the previsualization step.
My Top 4 Rules Of Composition
Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels
Advanced landscape photography techniques cover several aspects of photography, from how to compose a photograph to what exposure settings to use, to how to post process for best results. It’s a lot to remember.
So, I tend to focus on the techniques, methods, and equipment that I rely on the most. I am always looking for new ideas, though. So should you. But there’s nothing wrong with standardizing on a few good habits. That’s part of how you set yourself apart when creating a brand identity anyways.
The four I tend to see a lot in my own images for work and fun are Rule of Thirds, S Curves, Leading Lines, and the Fibonacci Sequence. I think of these landscape photography principles as often as I do advanced landscape photography techniques such as the Sunny 16 Rule, the Exposure Triangle, and Expose To the Right for exposure settings.
Rule of Thirds
Photo by Dominic M Contreras from Pexels
Everyone and their dog uses the Rule of Thirds as a composition technique. In any Google search, it will be the most returned result for landscape photography composition tips.
Rule of Thirds is simple to envision and simple to use. Divide your image into three equal horizontal areas. Do the same thing vertically. Your image area is now made up of 9 equal size areas. You also still see the three horizontal and three vertical areas. There are also 4 intersection points of those lines.
Subject elements can be placed in any of the areas or on any of the lines or points in order to maximize the natural balance we expect to see. In fact, you can use multiple spots for several subject elements all at once without the image feeling cramped.
Besides being a basic part of landscape photography principles, the Rule of Thirds is one of the most used photography composition tips for general photography as it can be employed for portraits, still life, real estate, wildlife, and product photography.
Photo by SenuScape from Pexels
Gentle or graceful curves are seen everywhere in nature. We tend to expect them in our view of the world and they are generally pleasant to view. Incorporating them into our landscape photography composition tips is as simple as picking up our camera.
This rule also works due to natural balance and our continuous search for a pleasant view of the world around us. In photographic compositions, the graceful S Curve can be found in both natural and man made subject elements.
It isn’t necessary for the S Curve to be complete or limited either. Any small segment of a curve works, as would multiple sweeping curves. Add this rule to the Rule of Thirds (as seen in image above) for an even more advanced landscape photography composition method. You’re well on the way to being a da Vinci artist yourself.
Photo by Pok Rie from Pexels
Seen often in works of the Old Masters are Leading Lines. The reference image for this landscape photography composition tip shows lines leading into the image, it’s also combined with Rule of Thirds and the line is an S curve.
Even though several techniques are combined, and a couple of exposure techniques thrown in too, the image feels natural and balanced. That’s what advanced landscape photography techniques allow you to accomplish as a combination Artist/Scientist/Craftsman.
photo by Dean_Fikarvia iStock
Here’s an important consideration, the leading line is meant to lead your view and attention somewhere. Using this method to lead our view out of the frame tends to create tension, a technique that is great for some subjects.
Leading to an element inside the image frame, especially if that element is on a Rule of Thirds line or point, eases tension and creates balance. Both methods are proper, you would decide which way to go in your previsualization step.
Photo by Shahid Tanweer from Pexels
Fibonacci Sequence, also called the Golden Ratio, Golden Spiral, Fibonacci Ratio, and Fibonacci Spiral. All those labels refer to the same mathematical formula that describes a beautiful natural arrangement.
If you’re a math geek, you already love this advanced landscape photography composition tool. Described in Math, the Golden Ratio is a line divided in two parts where the long part divided by the short part is also equal to the whole length divided by the long part.
The spiral aspect of this is a sequence of numbers in which the next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on.
Photo by Luan Oosthuizen from Pexels
What it does photographically is create a sense of pure balance and natural beauty. My favorite example of this is a sunflower. It exists everywhere in nature, also in quite a lot of large modern or classical architecture.
Learn about these and other guides for composing a photo in the video below by PHLEARN:
Once you start to recognize these patterns in nature or in your other photography jobs, you will never be able to ignore it. Good thing, too, because this advanced landscape photography composition tip can transform your outdoor photography. It even works for group portraits and product shots.
Photo by Fabian Reitmeier from Pexels
Yes, we’re discussing landscape photography composition tips, not exposure tips and tricks. But, as with almost everything photographic, methods and techniques overlap. As a skilled photographer, you can expose in such a way as to highlight, minimize, or remove certain subject elements.
So a scene in front of you that is somewhat busy to your naked eye, can be manipulated to control those distracting elements, forcing them into a different part of your overall composition. Running water can be blurred in a leading line. A busy forest can become a shapeless dark or light mass to balance out the main subject.
Get a quick tutorial on basic camera settings in the video above by Nigel Danson.
It’s Your Choice
Photo by FOX from Pexels
Knowing a bit about the photographic process can turn you into a good photographer. Being able to mix Art, Science, and Craft will allow you to create stunning imagery at will.
Learning and using advanced landscape photography composition tips may be what you are looking for. You are already passionate about photography. You’re probably pretty good, too. I see a lot of great images online.
Travel to Costa Rica with ColorTexturePhotoTours and learn new photography skills in one of the most breathtaking places in the world.
But, becoming a great photographer takes time, patience, and tons of practice. Finding the time to do so can be tough, though.
That's why I'm a huge proponent of participating in photography tours. These intensive, photography-focused trips give you tons of time behind the lens to practice your craft. And you can do so with an expert photographer at your side to provide guidance and feedback as needed.
You can be that when I take my next photography tour, it'll be with my buddy Scott Setterberg of ColorTexturePhotoTours. Scott has been a photographer for a long time (not to age him or anything!) and has a way of teaching that makes you feel comfortable and confident in your abilities.
You can join Scott on one of his all-inclusive tours and experience some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world - all the while learning and practicing new skills in a small group setting.
Being that his tours are all-inclusive, you don't have to worry about where to stay, what to eat, or transportation in-country. Instead, you can focus all your attention on the beauty in front of you, and how to capture it with your camera.
An all-inclusive photography tour to Oregon would be a nice way to spend a week this fall, don't you think?
Ultimately, it’s a personal journey, creating art, even if you’re selling it. I like how Ansel Adams, one of my favorite classic photographers, said, “There are no rules for good photographs, only good photographs.”
He also said, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” That, my friends, is composition!