Landscape Photography Tips for capturing stunning photos
Whether your are an experienced photographer who earns your living by selling photos or just a beginner who takes some shots randomly, you will struggle how to take static landscape photographs, making the stillness look dynamic. That may be the reason why I love taking landscape photo. I enjoy finding a vantage point and waiting for golden hours so that I can take a perfect photo. It is also a great outdoors for most of the photography lovers. Many people however see landscape photography too easy. They end up taking blank landscape photo. The followings are 11 photography tips for capturing landscapes by your camera.
To shoot a nice landscape photo, the first thing you have to do is to make a good planning. Landscape shooting is highly depended on outdoor condition. Please kindly look at the weather prediction, the direction of sunlight, the exact time of sunrise or sunset as well as the path to shooting location. A well preparation can make the flow of shooting process more fluent.
2. Manual Mode
To be a skillful landscape photographer, you have to fully master the manual mode of your camera. There is no surprise. It is nearly impossible to take stunning photos with auto mode. In manual mode, you have to control three important things of photography – aperture, ISO and shutter speed. They are significant factors influencing the exposure, that is the amount of light entering the sensor of your camera.
The aperture is the iris of your camera. It affects how many images are in focus. It is shown as f-stop in your camera screen. High f number represents less light reaching the camera sensor but the background will be sharper. On the other hand, small f number will result in higher light exposure and blurred background
ISO refers to how sensitive your camera to light. High ISO number means your camera is sensitive to light. In other word, less light is required to get a nice exposure. This is suitable for shooting in lower light condition. However, high ISO number will result in more noise on your landscape photographs.
On the other hand, low ISO number makes your camera less sensitive to light. More light is required for exposure but less noise will be the result. It is an appropriate setting (ISO 100-200) for shooting outside on bright day.
Shutter speed controls how much light will reach the camera sensor according to the amount of time camera’s shutter is open. In other word, high shutter speed allows less light, making an object sharper; low shutter speed allow more light, making the object vulnerable to blur.
The manual mode requires you to manipulate all three factors in response to different environment. You need to learn how aperture, ISO and shutter speed affect the light exposure which results in desired effect.
3. Use a wide angle lens
In landscape shooting, wide angle lenses are able to show a broader view and consequently create an impression of wide open space. Therefore you must have one before leaving your home. They help you to choose the appropriate focal length and shooting technique. They give you a greater depth of field so that you are allowed to use a faster shutter speed for more light.
Creating a sense of depth means you have to include as many elements as possible in a photo. You need to make sure that the scene is in focus as much as possible. To do so, you have to select a small aperture setting (i.e. from f/16-f/22) which means your shots can get a greater depth of fields. It will also make images in the foreground and background sharp by reducing the brightness. But a small aperture setting also means there will be less light exposed to the image sensor. To compensate the inadequate of light, the ISO of your camera should be increased or the shutter speed has to be lengthened. You can use AV (aperture priority) mode so the shutter speed can automatically follow the change of aperture.
To avoid shaking and facilitate landscape shooting, you are strongly recommended to use a tripod for stabilizing the camera.
5. Golden Hour
Golden hour, or magic hour, is a very short period of time after sunrise or before sunset. In golden hour, the light is softer than that in other periods of the day. The light is less intensive and the colors are also more oscillatory. As the sun is at lower angle, the shadow is less dark and the contrast is therefore optimized. The Golden hour creates a dramatic environment for landscape shooting. You should make the best use of this moment. As the sun moves faster than you expect, you should shoot the photo without wasting any time.
There is no well defined duration for golden hour. It varies from season and latitude we live with. To find out when the sun will rise or will set, you can use The Golden Hour Calculator. Enter the latitude and longitude you live with.
Filters are one of the essential accessories for landscape photography. Filters consist of optical filters inserted into the optical path. They are able to alter the photos taken. There are two types of filter – Polarizing Filter and Neutral Density Filter – that you should have to shoot the best images.
Polarizing filters are filters used for darkening skies, manipulating reflections and suppressing glare. It can filter out polarized light reflected from non metallic surface such as lake and sea, or polarized light coming from the sky. It can create a landscape photograph with a greater contrast. For instance, it can increase the contrast of sky with the cloud by filtering out the polarized light. It can also improve the clarity of photo.
Neutral density filters prevent too much sunlight from entering the lenses. They help modify wavelength and color intensity. It allows you to select a best choice of aperture, exposure time and sensor sensitivity. It is especially useful when you need to shoot a photo at a slow shutter speed which will unfortunately result in overexposure in bright day. A neutral density filter can create a shallow depth of field or motion blur effect.
Other than these two filters, you can also use other filters that best suit your need.
7. Long Exposure
If you want to capture the lively motion of an object such as waterfall and beach shore, you have to utilize long exposures. It is a technique using a long shutter speed to capture fixed components of photos but at the same time clouding the moving components.
To do so, you first need to have a DSLR camera. To make a long exposure setting, you have to slow down the shutter speed ideally to between 5 and 30 seconds and stabilize your DSLR camera on a tripod or a flat surface.
Long exposure is also a great setting for night-time shooting. It allows the absorption of more light. Bright objects star will leave visible trails while dark object will disappear. If you want to take a landscape shooting at night, long exposure is surely the technique you must learn.
8. Visual Balance
Visual balance is one of the most essential parts of landscape photography. As a landscape photographer, you have to design the arrangement of image in the frame. There are many tricks that can help you to do the visual balance. The rule of thirds is one of them. You can imagine that the image frame is divided into nine grids with four focal points at the centre. You can see the image will be different when you position them at different focal points and lines.
You can also consider the position of an object – whether it is posted in the centre of image or as a leading line of the frame to draw the attention of audience.
Reflection is another technique you can apply on your landscape photography. You can find a scene with a large body of water, probably a lake, which is the best tool for reflection. The reflected image is a great decoration for your landscape shooting.
To create the best effect, you should:
- Choose the golden hours that are the last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise.
- Set a slow shutter speed
- Set ISO 125.
- Fix your camera on the tripod
10. Explore new locations and angles
It is a very good idea to search for new shooting location so that you can find the best viewpoint. You can also shoot at different angles at the same location. Please do invest more time with your shots, explore the landscape you want to shoot and perform shooting experiment. If you think a low angle can help you shoot a photo with nice composition, then do it.
11. Shoot in Raw
Even if you have shot an amazing landscape photograph, you might still need to conduct post processing. Even a professional photographer will do so. But not all formats of photo are compatible to post processing. Most of us will automatically choose JPEG as the file formats. JPEG will compress the detail of image, resulting in low quality. Experienced photographers always use RAW files, which contain all the information and data you need for post processing. All DSLR, large format camera, iPhone and Andriod provide this format.
Landscape photography is a very interesting activity that many photographers – whether they are professional or beginner – go crazy for. If you are an outdoor lover, you will find taking photo around best fit your personality.
The most important thing for landscape shooting is patience. You might need to choose a good exposure setting of your camera properly, experiment to shoot at different location from different points of view, sit for a few hours, and be patient to wait for the perfect moment to take a stunning shot.
It sounds difficult. But I can tell that after you have practiced more, you will find landscape shooting gets easier. You would know how much exposure you need and what the best composition is. Be creative and enjoy every moment you press the shutter button.