Landscape photography has become one of my favourite genres of photography. It’s hard to go wrong with the combination of experiencing nature and its beauty with the creativity of photography. Below I share my top landscape photography tips I have learned over the years which have improved my photography.
Come prepared for the weather and physical environment
Being prepared for the weather is one of the most important things that ensure I enjoy shooting in the outdoors.
For example, if you’re heading to the coast in the afternoon for sunset or before the sun rises, it will be likely to be windy or cold, so make sure you have enough layers to keep you warm.
This might seem like a basic tip, but dressing for the weather means you are not focused on being uncomfortable. Instead, you can focus on being creative and excited about the photography.
Maintaining a good level of physical fitness and wearing comfortable shoes is also really helpful. You’ll more than likely be walking on uneven surfaces or climbing over rocks and bush to get to your desired location for your shot. It’s easier to be in the creative mood and mindset when you’re comfortable out in the elements.
Photograph during the golden hours to capture great light
The time of day is critical for landscape photography. While it’s definitely possible to take great images in any light, photograph during the golden hours to maximise your chances of taking a great photo. Try waking up early before sunrise to catch the sun lighting up the landscape and the sky. If you live on the west coast, you can expect to see some great sunrises. Typically you would also see fewer people around so early in the morning. However, if early mornings aren’t your thing, get to the location before sunset and photograph the landscape during the beautiful golden light. Also, be sure to hang around after the sun dips down the horizon to experience blue hour and some vibrant colours in the sky.
As the great light that you see around sunrise and sunset time can be quick to disappear, it’s best to scout out the spot you want to photograph beforehand, during the day light. When you are scouting, try shooting different compositions and then decide on the final composition you would like to shoot when you come back during the golden hours.
If you want to go the extra mile in planning your landscape photography shoots, photo apps such as PhotoPills can also be useful to help you predict the position or angle of the sun, moon or milky way to further help you with your composition.
Focus on compositional elements for stronger images
Composition is critical to taking great photos. Here are some of my personal favourite compositional elements that I try to incorporate when shooting landscape photography.
1. Make sure the horizon of the image is straight. Many modern cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T10 have an inbuilt horizon line overlay on the LCD screen and on the electronic viewfinder displays.
2. Rule of thirds, where you aim to place your subject on one of the four intersecting points, is a classic composition guideline. Find an interesting foreground element or leading lines that invites your viewers into the image.
Experiment with different focal lengths
People often think of using wide angle lenses to photograph sprawling vistas or iconic landscapes. Instead, experiment using different focal lengths, from wide all the way through to telephoto. For convenience, I enjoy using my Fujifilm X-T10 with the versatile Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 kit zoom lens. Don’t let the word kit lens fool you though. This particular kit lens from Fujifilm produces very high quality photos and is my lens of choice for travel and landscape photography. It gives me the option of photographing at the wide end (18mm) when I encounter a sweeping landscape such as cascading waterfalls or an expansive mountain range, all the way through to the telephoto end (55mm) when I want to isolate the subject and focus on a small part of the landscape scene in front of me.
Creating sharp images
In landscape photography, creating in focus and sharp images with a sense of depth is important. There are a few things to consider to help you take sharper images. Use a small aperture to keep your foreground and background in focus. It’s generally recommended to use a mid-range aperture such as F8 to F11 and avoid extreme ends of the aperture range for your particular lens for the sharpest images. Using a very small aperture can result in diffraction and reduce the overall sharpness of your photo.
When the aperture is small, consider increasing your ISO or reducing your shutter speed to maintain a well exposure image. Be mindful that reducing your shutter speed may mean more camera shake if you are hand-holding your camera to take your photo.
This is where a tripod comes in handy. When shooting landscape photography it’s best to use a sturdy tripod and a shutter release remote control. This minimises camera shake and help you create sharper photos. Buying a high quality tripod that holds up against the elements is particularly important if you are shooting in windy or wet conditions or if you’re shooting landscapes at night.
Using filters is a great way to further improve your landscape photography photos. There are two types of filters I would suggest using, polarising filters and neutral density filters.
Polarising filters deepen the colours in the sky by bringing out the blues which contrast against the whites of the clouds. It also cuts out the glare and reflections in the image, which generally increases the vibrancy of some of the colours in the image. The polarising filter is particularly useful when you are photographing landscapes containing water (e.g. waterfall, seascapes), the sky, reflective surfaces or colourful subjects.
Neutral density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light that enters the camera. This is useful when you want to achieve a slower shutter speed to capture movement during bright times of the day, which can’t be achieved by adjusting your ISO and aperture. For example, when you want to capture movement in the waterfall or movement of clouds in the sky. There are different “strengths” or darkness levels of ND filters to choose from. Typically you would want to have a few different strengths on hand. This gives you the flexibility of picking the appropriate darkness level you need to get your desired shutter speed. As you are intentionally slowing down your shutter speed, be sure to use a tripod to ensure your photo remains sharp.
Know your gear
Last but certainly not least, be comfortable and familiar with your camera gear. These days you would be hard pressed to find a “bad” camera on the market. It’s all about finding a camera system you enjoy using and learning to use it so it becomes second nature when you pick it up to shoot.
Since trying a couple of different camera systems, the Fujifilm X Series has resonated with me the most. I enjoy the size and ergonomics of the camera. I shoot with the compact Fujifilm X-T10. Despite the small size, it packs a punch when paired with any of the Fujinon lenses. Other than the kit lens I mentioned above, I also enjoy using the XF35mmF1.4 and the XF23mmF2 lenses.
During golden hours of the day, around sunset and sunrise times, the light can change quite quickly and dramatically. Knowing the features of your camera, the location of the buttons and the settings will make photographing on location less stressful and more enjoyable. You’ll spend less time fumbling around with your camera and less likely to miss your shot.