One of my favorite things to do in photography is to get outside and shoot landscapes. Landscape photography allows you enjoy the beauty that the earth has to offer, and of course capture. As with all aspects of photography, there are things that you can practice to improve you images. Early on, I asked for some tips from my friend and mentor, Abu. Most of these tips came from that particular lesson, along with things I’ve picked up on my own. I now want to share them with you.
Tell A Story
Be patient. Look at the scene before even taking out your camera or looking through the viewfinder. Think about what you see that makes you want to photograph it. Then think about what you want people to see when they look at the picture. What story do you want to tell?
Using the small aperture on the 2-dimensional sensor makes everything look flat, and flat images are boring. That’s where composition comes into play. Give the images perspective by moving around the scene and shooting from different angles/locations. Be sure to include foreground, background and utilize the rules of thirds.
Where’s The Horizon?
When it comes to the horizon, decide on what you want you want to be the focal point of the image. Even if it’s level, a horizon in the center of the image looks flat. So… If you want the sky to be the focus, position the horizon near the bottom of the frame. If you want the foreground to be the focus, make sure the horizon in near the top of the frame. There are instances where having the horizon in the center is okay. An example of that would be a mountain range reflection on the water.
Use A Tripod
Any camera movement, even slight, can result if blurry, unsharp images. So your goal is to eliminate as much camera shake as possible. This is where the tripod becomes necessary, as it provides a stable surface for the camera. Also, disable image stabilization on the lens (I still forget to do this sometime). The image stabilizers in the lenses result in slight movement. And remember – you want to eliminate as much movement as you can. #tripodsmatter
Keep your camera level vertically or horizontally, as well as the tilt (front/back). This is easier with a tripod. Otherwise, you get slanted horizons, landscapes, buildings, and converging lines. Most tripods/ball heads have built-in bubble levels, and some cameras also have electronic levels available on the LCD display. If this is not the case, you can also purchase levels that slide into the hot shoe.
Depth Of Field
Forget about wide apertures. With landscape photography you usually want to include as much detail as possible. With a shallow depth of field, you’ll lose that. Use f11 or higher. With the smaller apertures, less light will enter the camera – resulting in slower shutter speeds. So the tripod becomes necessary.
Eliminate The Noise
Use the lowest ISO setting possible. This is yet another reason to use a tripod. Using the low ISO setting, along with the small aperture results in slower shutter speeds. Although modern digital cameras are capable of shooting low noise at higher ISOs, you can be sure your images are low noise by using a low ISO. You can identify digital noise; the image will look grainy.
Use a remote shutter or a timed shutter release (built-in to the camera). With the remote shutter release, you won’t have to touch the camera (cutting out even the minimal shake caused by pressing the shutter button) But, it’s one more piece of equipment you have to carry. In case you forget it, or you don’t need any additional items to carry – the timed shutter release works just fine. Since I forget my remote shutter release most of the time (or if I’m short on time), my go-to is the 2sec timer on my camera.
Landscape photography doesn’t have to consist of static images. Depending on the scene, you can use shutter speed to add motion. In addition, some landscapes are frequently photographed. As not to take the same picture as hundreds, if not thousands of other people – get creative. Use different angles, , vantage points, or camera heights. My personal rule is, if I see a lot of people shooting from one spot (if it’s possible) I go to another spot.
Be Patient, Have Fun
Patience is important in landscape photography. It becomes even more important when shooting wildlife. Nature is completely unaware of your intentions. Sometimes, the lighting is bad, or you wake up early to shoot a sunrise (and it’s a cloudy morning). Waiting for the right light or the sun is an exercise in patience. So, while you’re waiting be sure and take in the moment, enjoy the environment. Don’t just rush to get any shot… take the time and get the shot you want. Have fun!