How to Take Perfect Landscape Photo
Nature and landscapes are the favorite objects of shooting; they evoke memories of trips and feelings that overwhelmed us in a particular place on particular moments. However, it's rather tricky to capture and convey these with the help of photos. In this article, we provide some tips and rules that should be taken into consideration when shooting nature.
1. Maximize the depth of field (DOF)
Although sometimes photographers like to try more creative approaches and experiment with a small DOF, nevertheless, according to the classic method of landscape photography, the major part of the image should be in the focus. The easiest way to get deep focus (large DOF) is to use the minimum affordable aperture value, which could be set on your camera or lens. The less aperture is, the larger is DOF of the image. However, you should remember, that small aperture requires more time or high ISO. And sometimes even both at the same time.
2. Use a tripod
An essential tool that should have every landscape photographer is a tripod or monopod. You may require slow shutter speed to compensate the chosen small aperture, which means additional stabilization of a camera. Not every shutter speed will allow getting technically perfect photos when holding a camera in your hands. Moreover, a tripod will be useful, when for additional stabilization of a camera a photographer uses a remote shutter release.
3. Don't leave an image stabilization turned on
Some lenses, equipped with an image stabilization, detect when a camera is placed on a tripod and automatically turn this function off. However, we should avoid any risks, as quite often lenses don't have this characteristic. So, turn an image stabilization off when a camera is placed on a tripod. In another case a camera, trying to compensate the absence of vibration, will make it even worse – as a result, you will get a blurred image.
4. Use a mirror lock-up function
The work of a mirror that is placed in a camera and flips up and then returns to viewing position could also inflict on the sharpness of small objects when shooting with slow shutter speed, as this causes the vibration of a camera.
Set mirror lock-up on your camera to avoid such mishaps. When you want to take just a good ordinary photo it doesn't make much difference, however, if the sharpness of an image is critical, it's better to use mirror lock-up.
When this function is turned on, press once on a shutter release button to lock up a mirror. You will understand that the block system turned on, as a viewfinder will become black. In several seconds the camera will stop vibrating and then you can press a shutter button once more to take a shot.
Some cameras are equipped with a shutter delay function, which prevents a blurring effect. You can also use a live view mode, in which a mirror is already lifted off.
5. Try to find a focal point of your composition
Every photo should have a visual focal point of the composition. Landscape photos are not an exemption, after all when an image lacks a conceptual point it will look dull and empty and as a result, it won't be able to attract viewers' attention.
Everything can serve as a focal point – a building or any construction, unusual twisted tree, rubble or a peak of a mountain. Don't forget to pay attention not only to the focus but also to the arrangement of the main object. Although the standard rule of thirds is sometimes neglected, it hasn't been abolished yet.
6. THINK ABOUT THE FOREGROUND!
One of the elements that will help to take a good photo is an organized foreground. Place your focal point on the front of your shot and you will be able to depict and reflect the depth of the image.
7. REMEMBER TO INCLUDE THE SKY!
One more tip concerning a question that can arise while shooting a landscape and in particular the sky and its reflection in the water. The trick of landscape photography in the majority of cases lies in the fact that the sky or a foreground should be prevalent on a shot. Look at your images, if it's not like that, then they are very likely can be considered as boring or rather ordinary.
If during the photo session the sky happens to be bland and boring, don't let it prevail on your shots – move the horizon line to the upper third of the shot, and make sure that such manipulation won't spoil your photo even more. However, when the horizon is covered with the dramatic clouds or is colored with unusual colors, the sky can be used to your advantage. Place the horizon line lower and see how beneficial this departure from the rules could be.
Don't forget about filters. The usage of polarizing ones can add color and contrast. Also use Lightroom presets or Photoshop Actions. For example: BeArt Travel & Landscape Lightroom Presets, Adobe Photoshop Actions and Camera RAW Collection, were specially designed to improve workflow for processing and editing travel & landscape images. This collection includes exactly what is needed to work with travel photos.
8. Use lines!
The central question that is often asked by landscape photographers, sound like that: “whether the viewer will see the picture in its full scale, as I see it?”
The virgin beauty of nature could be conveyed in many ways. There is a trick that helps to include active lines to the composition of the image. Using them, the photographer could switch viewers’ attention from one point to another, thus creating a sort of confined space, “circularity”.
Lines could be used to create a sort of an algorithm and add scale and volume to the image. Lines can also be a point of interest and create patterns in a shot.
9. Capture movement!
When most people think about landscape photography in the majority of cases they, imagine a calm and passive picture. However, landscapes differ from one another, and you can convey movement (of the water, for example), what will fill the image with dynamics, add mood, which will be interesting to a lot of viewers, who will with pleasure admire not only relaxing landscapes, but also storms, hurricane and other powers of nature.
For example, try to capture the blow of the wind, movement of waves on the beach, water flowing over a waterfall, flying birds, and clouds in the sky.
To capture this movement, a photographer should use longer shutter speed (sometimes quite a few seconds). For sure, longer shutter speed will allow more light to reach the sensor of a camera, but you have several variants to fix it: change an aperture or shoot in the morning or the evening when the light is not so bright.
10. USE WEATHER AND TIME TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
The golden rule of landscape photography states: “The scene can change dramatically at any moment, depending on weather conditions”. A lot of newbies try to choose a sunny day to make photos and suppose that it's the best time to create masterpieces. An overcast day or even rain and thunder, provides you with enormous opportunities, apart from soaking a camera and feet, to take splendid photos, filled with drama and mood.
How to shoot environment in such weather? Look for storm, wind, fog, dramatic clouds, and the sun shining through the dark skies, rainbows, sunsets and sunrises and work with these changes and under these conditions, not waiting for the next day with a boring blue sky.
One more advice from a professional landscape photographer: “Never shoot during the daytime. There can't be more boring photos. Your golden time is a sunrise or twilight. This is the time when landscapes and everything around you look alive”.
11. HORIZON LINE
It's a timeworn tip, but a good one and can be used even nowadays. Before you finally press a shutter release button, consider a horizon line.
It shouldn’t divide the shot into two equal parts; it should not be distorted, or be absent from a landscape photo. Without the doubt, the rules exist to violate them, but as far as the horizon is concerned, the rule of thirds works as clear as never before.
12. Change your point of view!
Even if a magnificent landscape spreads before you and it seems that you should only raise a camera, and an astonishing image will appear by itself … stop. And think for a while. Take a look at the location through a viewfinder, turn to the left and the right, change an angle, change a horizon line or try to include additional elements into your composition. It's not difficult to photograph a landscape; it's difficult to find a right place. The most important aspect here is a harmony of lines, shapes, lights and shadows. Don't hurry up to press a shutter button. You can do it at any moment when shooting a landscape!
Some tips on camera settings, when shooting a landscape
- Almost always a landscape photo is taken with closed or small aperture: F9 – F16. It's easier to use an aperture priority mode (A, Av).
- ISO value should be reduced to a minimum: ISO 50, 100, 200.
- Color saturation – maximum.
- Manual focus will be the best. It's better to focus to infinity (on the most remote object).