- Composition - Fibonacci Sequence
- Exposure - Be Careful with Highlights
- Color - Use Exposure to Enhance Colors
- Focus - Deep or Shallow Depth of Field
- Filters - Polarizers and Neutral Density Are Essential
- Post-Processing - Keep It Natural
- Common Questions About Circular Polarizers
- Mountain Photography Tips
- How To Streamline Your Landscape Photography Workflow
- Best Aperture for Landscape Photography
- Get Better Landscape Photos with These Simple Tips
- How To Improve Landscape Photography
photo by Pilat666 via iStock
Everyone likes a great landscape image. Landscape photography is one of the core genres of photography, in art in general actually, and as artists of the photographic medium, we like presenting to others our good landscape images.
Landscape photography tips are all over the internet, we have several on our own web community, so I want to take a slightly different approach and look at the art of the image in addition to expert landscape photography tips and some photography gear ideas.
Discussing art is a huge part of the fun of photography for me. Some of the same principles that have been used in painting since the Renaissance apply fantastically to photography. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Composition - Fibonacci Sequence
photo by Mny-Jhee via iStock
Whenever someone talks about composition in a discussion of expert landscape photography tips, our minds tend to automatically go to the Rule of Thirds. Which is fine, that’s a good rule of composition, very useful to know and adapt to your own ideas.
The Fibonacci Sequence is one of the most important of the other rules of composition to learn for how to improve landscape photos. Also known as the Golden Spiral, the Fibonacci Sequence is a mathematical concept that describes a real world phenomenon.
illustation by primo-piano via iStock
There are other photography tips articles that explain it in technical terms, but to put it simply, it’s a relationship among objects that tends to spiral in or out and gives a pleasing perspective. On a small scale, we can easily see it in a sunflower, large scale man made examples can be found in classic architecture and bridges.
Large scale natural scenes with the Golden Spiral can be found in forests, mountain ranges, rolling fields, and so on. Once you know what the Fibonacci Sequence is, you will see it everywhere. All that’s needed to employ it in our landscape photography is good lens choice, proper camera position, and maybe some judicious scene cropping.
Exposure - Be Careful with Highlights
photo by Marje via iStock
Our cameras have amazing exposure meters, but total reliance on them can cause us to miss out on creating the best photograph for a particular scene. This is especially true when the scene we’re imaging has a large range of exposure values in it.
Exposure meters, even our super advanced modern matrix metering cameras, tend to see the world in what photography experts call 18 Percent Grey. Again, this is a fascinating concept on its own that has been covered by many articles, but it is important to the art of landscape photography because Middle Grey does not usually cover our creative vision.
Relying on our meter can result in good mid range exposure but the extremes of the scale, highlights and deep shadow, will likely be misrepresented. I like to skew my landscape photography exposure towards lots of shadow detail, but there is a danger to be aware of. Exposing primarily for shadow will cause the highlights to block up.
photo by ae-photos via iStock
In both digital photography and film, it is much easier to pull out shadow detail in processing but it is next to impossible to save overexposed highlight detail. To avoid bunching up the highlights, I will sometimes use a graduated neutral density (GND) filter to balance out scene exposure values. Spot metering and bracketing are also good tools and techniques to use for protecting the highlights of a scene from disappearing.
Color - Use Exposure To Enhance Colors
photo by Andrew_Mayovskyy via iStock
Color can be used as a creative tool in landscape photography by exposing it properly. Even in black and white imaging, color relationships can be a vital creative element.
Generally speaking, a color can be enhanced towards deepening by underexposing and towards lightening the hue by overexposing. It stays the same color, but the appearance can be changed either greatly or subtly.
Lightning a color by slight overexposure will change the mood of the image to an airy feel, perhaps whimsical or joyful. Deepening a color with slight underexposure can create a more serious, serious, or dramatic mood.
You can accomplish both effects in one exposure with creative use of filters such as polarizers (C-POL), neutral density (ND), or graduated neutral density (GND) filters or combinations of these filters.
photo by BruceBlock via iStock
For black and white imaging, exposing for deep reds and blues and using a polarizer filter can completely alter the look and feel of a scene. Sometimes, you can turn the sky into a virtually black background which can enhance the landscape into an amazing image.
Focus - Deep or Shallow Depth of Field
photo by Bret-Barton via iStock
Depth of field refers to how much of the scene is in focus from foreground to background. Since depth of field is controlled by lens aperture and focus distance together, this means that creative application of the Exposure Triangle can be an excellent tool and technique for adjusting depth of field.
A smaller f-stop or aperture will give deeper depth of focus than a wider aperture, all other things being equal. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, all other things are rarely equal in landscape photography. Lens choice and camera position in relation to the subject also control depth of field.
In order to give the scene a sense of immersive depth, we adjust aperture, lens focal length, and the focus point for maximum depth of field. To isolate an aspect of the landscape photography scene, we adjust those same factors to give a shallow or limited depth of field also known as selective focus.
photo by Iknowher via iStock
Sometimes, the absolute exposure value of a scene may not allow for the right aperture to give us selective focus, so I will use a ND filter to adjust the Exposure Triangle to a point where I can use the aperture I want for the desired effect.
Filters - Polarizers and Neutral Density Are Essential
In order to combat some of the issues we encounter in landscape photography, ND GND, and C-POL filters are essential tools in our photography gear bags. As mentioned in the previous landscape photography tips, certain filters are so useful for landscape photography that they are virtually indispensable.
I’ve been using a filter holder system for much of my own landscape photography, the M10 filter holder system from Haida. A filter holder system makes landscape photography with filters easier, quicker, and less expensive than using screw in filters for these high-quality, specific need filters.
Polarizers also help with color saturation since they remove reflections from many surfaces such as water but also including the reflections from the leaves of trees and other plants. They also enhance colors by eliminating the softening effects of atmospheric light scattering.
Post-Processing - Keep It Natural
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Most photographers serious about improving their landscape photography will shoot in their camera's RAW format and post process to get the best results from the exposure. This helps when exposing to keep highlight detail by allowing you to pull out more detail in the shadows.
HDR, or high dynamic range photography can be accomplished by taking a series of bracketed exposures and combining them into one image file, allowing you to balance out highlights, mid range, and deep shadow.
Post-processing can also let you enhance the colors in your image, adjusting their depth or even changing the hue of some colors, as shown in the video above by Simon Burn. You can combine multiple techniques to blend color enhancement, high dynamic range, and pulling out shadow detail for one image.
It often gives us excellent images if we try to keep the look and feel of the final image to match expectations of how the scene should look, in other words, keep it natural. While some extreme enhancements of color or exposure can result in great images, landscape photography really lends itself to a natural feel.
The End Result
photo by Alvaro Campos via iStock
The end result of all of these expert landscape photography tips should be an improvement to your own landscape photography images.
The art of photography is a source of great joy and beauty. Using tried and true techniques, high-quality photography gear, and your own creative thoughts will give you and others joy with outstanding landscape photos.