Everyone can be a landscape photographer these days. That doesn’t mean everyone can shoot great landscape images. There’s always room to improve your landscape photography, just like there’s always room to improve any of our skills. In this post I share 8 tips and tricks on how to improve your landscape photography.
8 tips on how to improve your landscape photography
I’ve gone through a massive improvement of my landscape photography skills myself, even if I’m far from having perfected my skills. If you’d like to see some examples of my images, I suggest you check out my portfolio of selected landscapes or go check out my Instagram. Now let’s jump into some of the tips I’ve learned to be helpful over the years.
Plan and research
I’ve learned that planning my shots and doing research before I go out and shoot helps me get the shots that I want more often than not. I start by seaching Flickr, Instagram and 500px for images from the area where I’m shooting. This is great for inspiration, and gives me an idea about how I can get an image that stands out. I also use the Photographers Ephemeris to find out when the light will be best for the specific shot I’m going for.
I always go scouting before shooting. Seeing a location on the screen is not enough to get the real feel for it, so I have to spend some time just walking around exploring and finding the best spots to set up. I like to do this in broad daylight so I don’t have to throw away golden hour scouting.
Sunrise, sunset and golden hour
In broad daylight the light is so harsh that it doesn’t give you the best images. Your images from this time of day tend to look washed out and flat, so try to avoid if possible.
The best times to shoot during the day is around sunrise or sunset. Sunrise happens fast, so you have to be out before the sun is actually rising. Get up when it’s dark, get in position and watch the sky get the golden glow. The light during sunrise is soft and diffuse, and you have to think about this when you do your camera settings for the shot. Think longer shutter speeds and a lower ISO instead of raising the ISO. Morning light is also cooler, so think about this when you set your white balance. If you shoot in raw (and you should), you will be able to adjust the white balance well in post, but it’s always nice to get it as right as possible in camera.
Sunset starts with golden hour. Golden hour starts about an hour or so before sunset, and gives you beautiful golden light. The softer light makes for more debt in your image, and debt is good. Make sure you keep on shooting through golden hour and quite a while after the sun has set. The light will be changing constantly, and this gives you the possibility to change things up with focal length and composition and get several images from one shoot.
Use a tripod
With landscapes the general rule is that you want to be able to keep your camera really steady to make the images as sharp as possible all the way from the foreground to the back of the image. So get yourself a decent and stable tripod, and use it whenever you shoot landscapes.
A tripod will allow you to be more creative with your photography as it opens up for shooting long exposures giving you the nice movement in the clouds or locking your composition and doing multiple exposures.
Keep your hands off the camera
To make sure your images is razor sharp, use a remote or a cable release. That way you avoid camera shake from you pressing down the shutter or removing your hand. If you don’t have a remote or a cable release, you can achieve the same effect from setting your camera on a two second timer.
Low ISO and narrow aperture
Here’s the thing about landscape shots; you don’t have to care about your shutter speed unless you are using it to be creative. What you need to think about as far as camera settings go is;
- Use the lowest ISO that your camera will allow. This to make sure you get as little noise as possible. I try to shoot all my landscapes at ISO 100.
- Use a narrow aperture (high f-number). Most of the time I use either f11, f16 or f22, depending on light and how I read the composition. Sometimes I will go as low as f8, but that is only whenever I don’t have any foreground interest or I want to blur the foreground out.
Let the camera decide what shutter speed it needs to expose the image correctly by setting your camera to aperture mode, and use the exposure compensation to get the exposure to your liking.
It’s totally possible to get great landscape shots without filters. But if you want to take it a step further and get the image as close to finished as possible in camera, try using filters to get the exposures exactly like you want them.
Polarisation filters help you manage reflections, increase colour saturation, darker your skies just make your landscape more vivid.
ND-filters (neutral density-filters) are great for helping you get longer exposures. You want longer exposures when you for instance are shooting water and want to either blur it out or capture the movement instead of freezing it.
Keep warm, energised and hydrated
Getting the image you want can be hard work. Make sure to remember to pack an extra jacket, mittens or a hat for those hours waiting for the light. If you get cold, it’s so easy to loose your patience and miss your shot. Also an energy bar and water is essential even for the shortest photography hikes.
Go out and shoot – a lot
There’s no way you’ll learn how to make great landscape images without photographing a lot. People might say that landscapes are the easiest form of photography, but I would like to object to that. It demands a lot of days out when the weather is total rubbish. Or the light is just not present, you can’t find your inspiration or a group of hikers are ruining your composition. But as you spend your fair share of hours out there with your camera you will have some moments leaving you feeling on top of the world. And you will have amazing images to show for it.
I hope you’ve found these 8 tips on how to improve your landscape photography helpful! If you have, I would be really happy if you left a comment down below or shared it with your friends! Also, make sure to subscribe to avoid missing out on future posts, and consider following me on Instagram and Twitter.