These 10 tips can help you improve your Landscape Photography:
Research and research again. Choose an area of interest either when in the locality or if you intend to make a special trip, do your research first. Find the location on google maps and google satellite, see how it looks, what’s nearby and so on. Search online for photos from other photographers who have been there, magazine articles, guide books, Photobooks or even tourist postcards.
2. Use a Tripod
For a landscape photographer, a tripod is a most important tool because, although the scene won’t move, you will need time to set up and prepare your shot. What a tripod will do is make your camera firm and steady making movement either zero or minimal. Therefore unintended blur will not be present in your photo, but although, as I have said the scene won’t move, elements within it can move. This could be water, leaves, grass or clouds etc. this is where intentional blur becomes a factor. Having a tripod will allow for motion to blur in a way that the photographer can use to enhance the final shot.
3. Find a good Composition
Composition basically mean how the elements mix in your frame and form into a perfect combination for your shot. When it comes to landscape photography, you should look for a great place to set up your camera. You can consider the angle, position, and elements in your proposed shot. Imagine this, you’re on a mountain you can see a forest, a lake other mountains and the sky. Create a composition by putting the lake and forest in the foreground, the other mountains in the middle ground, and the sky in the background. These are the basics of a good composition.
4. Always Use Manual Mode
If you using DSLR or any camera that capable of manual mode, then you should use manual mode because in it you can fully control your camera’s settings. If you use auto mode, the camera’s internal computer will make decisions for you and you may end up with over or under exposed parts in the final photograph. What usually happens is you can see a beautiful, colourful sky, but the foreground is completely black. The reason, when using auto focus, your camera will calculate the light from brightest part of the scene and then reduce the light received by the camera to make the sky correctly exposed but the land is under exposed. The best way to fix this is to use a neutral density graduated filter in manual mode and adjust the settings yourself. More below on graduated filters.
5. Know the Best Time
The time of day when you take a landscape photograph is also very important. It’s because the light will look different at different times of the day. When it comes to landscape photography usually the morning or evening at sunrise or sunset are the best for light. Take note that different places have different sunrise and sunset times. These can be found by referring to internet weather forecast sites. That way you will know the best time to arrive and be sure to allow an hour to set up. Don’t be in a hurry to leave too early at sunset either because in the half hour after the sun sets the colours can be amazing.
6. Use Camera Raw
Most DSLRs give the option of shooting in CAMERA RAW. So what is it and why should you use it? Camera Raw is an answer to the limitations of the JPG file format, the original file type developed specifically for digital photography by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. When shooting in JPG, a combination of you and your camera make decisions about the kind of image captured and stored as a digital file. When shooting in JPG, these decisions are processed and rendered, and then defined in the limited number of colours of a Red Green Blue (RGB) colour space. While it may seem like it means that it is a simpler way to capture an image file format, you would be wrong. RGB, the most common format for digital JPG photography, is more limited than the full spectrum of colours your eye can see. RAW files literally capture a larger range of colour, with minimal in-camera processing, allowing photographers to change the image as they see fit later, rather than as the camera sees fit. Therefore Camera RAW allows for more and better post processing of a Landscape Photo in an image editor such as Photoshop.
7. Use the Correct Lens
Landscapes are normally wide angle shots to capture as much of the scene as possible. There is nothing more satisfying for a landscape photographer than capturing an image that displays the grandeur and beauty of nature. That’s why behind every good landscape photographer is a good wide-angle lens. No other photographic tool is so important in capturing and conveying the grandeur of a scene. So why wide angle and what do the numbers in mm and the f numbers tell you about the lens and which one to choose. Generally speaking, wide-angle lenses are those that have a focal length of wider than around 35mm — though that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, as perspective has some bearing on what is wide enough for your subject. Shoot a forest from a few yards away, and you might want a 14mm lens to cover everything. Shoot that same forest from a few miles away, and a 50mm might do the trick. The f number refers to the aperture which is the hole in the shutter through which the light travels. The bigger the hole the more light can go through it. Now the confusion the smaller f number the larger the hole, therefore, f1.4 is larger than f8. So which to use? f1.4 allows more light in therefore speed increases but Depth of Field (DOF) reduces f8 is smaller, therefore, less light and slower speed but inversely DOF increases. So what does this all mean? DOF controls the sharpness over distance therefore short DOF gives a much tighter area of sharpness and again inversely long DOF and the sharpness can be over a longer distance. It all depends on what you the photographers want in your images. Short DOF and the foreground or background can be blurred while a long DOF and the image is sharper front to back. For landscape photography, it’s a matter of choice that you must make. This is a simplified explanation so check out a few how to websites or videos to get the full picture.
8. Adjust for the Correct Exposure and use a Graduated Filter
Correct Exposure is critical for all photography. In photography, exposure is the unit of measurement for the total amount of light permitted to reach the electronic sensor during the process of taking a photograph. The three main controls your digital camera uses to control exposure are the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. If you would like to learn more about your DSLR, click here. As explained above in Tip 4 in order to balance the exposure between lights and darks an ND graduated filter is the best choice. Briefly, a Neutral Density (ND) Graduated Filter is used to darken a background that’s significantly lighter than the foreground. Since so many scenes in nature contain a greater range of light than our cameras can record, graduated ND filters are a staple in the landscape photographer’s bag. They act like sunglasses and are darker at the top gradually becoming clear towards the bottom. Therefore the sky is darkened and the land is lightened you can then set the overall exposure correctly.
9. Use the Timer or a Remote Shutter Release to Minimise Camera Shake
No matter how steady you can hold a camera the simple act of pressing the shutter release can cause what is known as camera shake. The best way to avoid camera shake is to use a tripod and remotely activate the shutter by the timer or a shutter release, in this way you are not in contact with the camera and shake is eliminated.
10. Use a Good Photo Editor
Photo editing software comes in many prices and ease of usage. Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are almost the standards, they are not cheap but will suit most post processing situations. Free or very cheap editors are available but are usually difficult to use or lacking in the ability to achieve good results easily. Post processing is a very debatable subject which I can’t go into here but once you take your image it will invariably contain flaws, post processing can remove these flaws and while some people overuse software to correct their images it is always better to eliminate flaws at the time the shutter is released instead of later. Post processing can correct the inevitable “photo-bomb” like an unnoticed person in the distance crossing a perfectly natural landscape. It can also straighten a slanted horizon or correct badly exposed corners of the shot. In every occasion, time-consuming corrections are better avoided rather relying on post processing software. This is best cured by developing a good eye for detail, like seeing the electricity cable crossing the sky, the photo bomber approaching, a satellite dish showing behind a medieval building and moving the frame to avoid them. Learn photo editing with Photoshop.
Finally, I highly recommend using presets to very quickly enhance an otherwise bland Landscape. Presets are ready-made editing tools that can be used on any photograph, to learn more about presets click here.
©Copyright Christopher Cosgrove 2017