- Insights From Beyond the Lens: Inside the Art & Craft of Landscape Photography
- Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams
- The Art, Science and Craft of Great Landscape Photography
It's not an easy thing to admit that landscape photography has lost a lot of its importance in the industry of professional photography, but as much as I and many others dislike it, it's just a fact of life. But that's just one side of the coin. The other is a totally different story. Landscape photography is alive and well, only things are a little different now. It has become one of the favorite genres of amateur and enthusiast photographers and if you think I'm making this up, just head over to 500px or Flickr. You'll see what I'm talking about. Our planet, although we've been treating her abusively for decades, is still sharing her beauty generously and more photographers than ever are attempting to capture that beauty, some more successfully than others.
Any landscape photographer that respects nature and treats it kindly deserves respect in return and I like to believe that that is the mindset of most of them. That's why I've put together these 11 useful tips to help the newbie landscape shooters do a good job in preserving the amazing locations of our planet.
1. Use Dedicated Apps
One of the positive changes technology has brought to landscape photography is that you can plan a lot of what you're going to shoot ahead. Specifically, you can use apps like The Photographer's Ephemeris to anticipate the best time to shoot in the location of your interest. It shows you how the light will fall on the land in any place on earth.
2. Don't get hung up on gear
The days when large format cameras were being carried to mountain tops with considerable effort are long gone. I'm not feeling very confident about the future of the DSLR in this regard either. Cameras have gotten so good, that you can take really good landscape pictures with just about anything. Nowadays there are photographers that have successful careers shooting only with an iPhone. Sure, you're not going to get the same quality you get from a Sony A7II, but still that says a lot. Don't sweat over gear and don't wait until you save enough money to buy that dream camera to go shooting. Just go out and make do with whatever you have. While on topic, if there is something that you absolutely need, don’t be shy in looking at used gear. Honestly I have bought at least half my gear used, the savings have allowed me a larger budget to buy more gear. Check out used camera gear here.
3. Venture into bad weather
Of course it's not something comfortable to do and if you're not careful, it can turn into a really negative experience, but bad weather is like prime time for shooting landscapes. That's not to say that every time you go shooting in the rain or before a storm, you'll come home with stuff that could go in National Geographic, but more often than not you will be successful.
Again, planning is very important, even if you rely on uncontrollable factors such as weather. Get as many updates as you can on the weather conditions and try to anticipate that perfect time frame when the light is just right but it's still safe to be out.
Bad weather means dramatic lighting and that's something you don't want to miss. It does mean leaving comfort aside however, but most good things require some form of sacrifice. Just be careful enough to protect yourself and your gear as best you can.
4. Start loving early hours
I am by no means a morning person, but there are two things I actually enjoy waking up before sunrise for: fishing and shooting landscapes. Waking up in time to get to the location just as the light is starting to look perfect is one of those things you can't change. You're either willing to let go of an extra hour or two of sleep or not. Of course it's hard as hell to pull yourself together at 4 A.M, but by lunch time, you'll be back home downloading some awesome pictures from your memory card. Still think it's not worth it?
5. Don't try to be perfect
Landscape photography has its specific challenges, and part of them come from the fact that you have no control over your subject. All you can change is the time you get there and your camera settings. With that said, try to let go of the idea of getting flawless shots every time you go shooting. It's not going to happen and you know what? That's just fine. Landscape pictures don't have to be perfect. If they were, it wouldn't be natural and you would end up with something that looks like it was made on a computer. If you're into that kind of stuff, just perfect your retouching skills and it should be enough. If not, do the best you can to get the best possible results, but don't give yourself a hard time if every tree isn't lined up or balanced.
Just like a good fishing spot is something to go back to, a beautiful location should be visited more than once. Nature always has surprises up its sleeve and no day looks like the other. Seasons can also change the atmosphere dramatically and this is one of the reasons why you should explore the interesting locations near your home at different times of the year.
7. Be tasteful with color
Have you ever wondered why the landscape photos in National Geographic magazines from the 80s and 90s looked so good? Because the film they were shot on slightly enhanced the vibration and saturation and gave the viewer a better feel of the location. The lack of technical restrictions brought on by digital photography has had countless positive effects, but it has also lead the way for a lot of kitschy colors.
Beginners and people with less training in visual arts tend to exaggerate color saturation a lot. By doing so, they turn potentially good shots into useless over processed photos.
Be moderate in your use of color.
8. Try to capture mood
It's a lot more than just pointing a camera at some mountains or a beach. If it was that simple, everybody would be a good landscape photographer. But capturing the atmosphere of a place and transmitting it to whoever is viewing the photos is a challenge that has to be met by subtly combining a multitude of factors including composition, perspective, light and color.
It takes a bit of practice, but once you learn how to do it, you will enjoy all the positive feedback from viewers who can't get enough of looking at your photos.
9. Stay connected
Connect with other landscape photographers and share knowledge and locations. Photographers are often selfish and they believe that by giving away things like the location where they took a beautiful photo, they end up losing something. We live in a world where that couldn't be farther from the truth. Sharing is one if the best ways to learn and to stay connected.
Landscape photography can be divided into a lot of categories and since there are so many photographers shooting landscapes, it only makes sense to find your own style and niche. You can be an all round landscape shooter, but it will be harder to develop a distinctive style if you photograph everything from urban landscapes to jungles and beaches.
Try to find a type of landscape that you really enjoy shooting and become as good as you can at it.
11. Filter the advice
This is one of the hardest things to figure out how to do, especially if you're a rookie. The Internet is full of advice and everybody's got an opinion about something. You'll read about photographers who always place an element of interest in the landscape because otherwise it looks boring, or other people saying you should stick to the classic composition rules.
It will take some time before you figure out who you should listen to, but as a general recommendation, don't believe everything you read or hear.
Finally, it's all about going out and having a good time. You might not always come home with award winning images, but that will make it much more enjoyable when you do.
Learn more about landscape photography from these recommended books: