Top Tips for shooting landscapes (Part 1)

I am back with another article. This time we will discuss the top tips for shooting landscapes. I for myself haven't always been a landscape photographer. For me it all started with storm-photography (technically also a form of landscape photography), but over the years I have more and more found landscape photography one of the most rewarding types of photography and if you look at my website or my Instagram it will heavily feature landscapes.  On this occasion, if you haven't read the tutorial about how to capture lightning yet, make sure to follow this LINK. 

What is landscape photography and what is it about? 

Nowadays landscape photography is often confused with adventure photography. In my opinion these are fundamentally different, even though adventure photography heavily features landscapes. Adventure photography is basically showcasing the great time you had including things like the hike you did or the boat you paddled in. One thing all adventure photographs have in common is that it will feature people or anthropogenically created features such as campfires in the image, often making the person the point of interest and only putting the landscape as a second. Here comes the difference. Landscape photography is about telling stories with the landscape itself. It is about creating interest using topographic features such as rivers, mountains, trees etc. and telling a story with it. That is where the first challenge comes in. Finding a composition and giving the photograph a meaning. Learning this will help you to stand out from the million of snapshots being uploaded to Instagram featuring different landscapes.

This article is not about finding the right composition though, it is about the top tips for shooting landscapes. A tutorial purely discussing "How to find your composition" will be released next month.

 A road swirling towards on of many fjords in Iceland.

A road swirling towards on of many fjords in Iceland.

 

Tip 1: Use filters

Filters can make a huge difference in advanced landscape photography. The filters I personally use the most are Polarising and Neutral Density Filters. Polarising filters essentially do 3 different things. 

1. They help you to cut out flare. This is especially of use when shooting seascapes or waterfalls. It can also remove the annoying glare from plants or leaves. 

2. It can help you get more saturation in your photographs. This is particular useful if your are shooting in a very bright environment, where saturation is literally washed out. The polariser can help you to get a little more contrast back into the image.

3. The Polariser can help you with the sky in your landscape photography. Polarisers darken the blue sky and brighten up clouds. For most photographers this is the reason why they are using this type of filter, as it can create dramatic skies. 

 Shot taken without a Polarising Filter. 

Shot taken without a Polarising Filter. 

 Shot with same settings, but with polarising filter on. 

Shot with same settings, but with polarising filter on. 

 

Neutral Density filters on the other hand have a different task. Essentially they are "sunglasses" for you camera. If you put these on, everything gets darker and your shutter speed can be set much longer (Of course this depends of the ND filters itself, there is soft ones and really strong ones to suit your need). Neutral Density filters can help you create dramatic landscapes even on a rainy day or help you to shoot cool long-exposures by the beach even in bright sunlight.

 Shot on a rainy and boring day. With ND1000 attached to lens. 8 minutes exposure for clouds to move    

Shot on a rainy and boring day. With ND1000 attached to lens. 8 minutes exposure for clouds to move 

 

 Photo taken during midday and bright sunlight. 4 minute exposure with ND1000

Photo taken during midday and bright sunlight. 4 minute exposure with ND1000

Tip 2: Shoot in RAW

Shooting Raw will give you much more opportunities in post-processing. When you shoot JPEG you will most likely not be able to recover shadows or highlights as you would have been able to if you shot RAW. 

 Straight out of Camera shot. RAW!!!

Straight out of Camera shot. RAW!!!

 30 second quick edit in Lightroom. RAW Power. With Jpeg you wouldn't have been able to recover the shadows this good.

30 second quick edit in Lightroom. RAW Power. With Jpeg you wouldn't have been able to recover the shadows this good.

 

Tip 3: Use the Histogram

The histogram is an exceptionally important piece of equipment. Baldly said, the Histogram is a plain graph, which shows your tonal distributions from dark to bright. Especially when shooting a sunset or in bright sunlight, your photo might look really good on the LCD screen, but it is actually over or underexposed. 

Down below you can see what an overexposed and an underexposed shot could look like on the histogram. Basically if you find most of your graph shifted towards the right side, it can be a indication that your photo is overexposed. This also applies the other way around, if the majority of the graph is towards the left, your image could be underexposed.  In some images tonal distributions like these might be working just fine, but for example if your a shooting a sunset and you want to capture that nice colour in the sky and you can see that parts of your sky are very bright to compensate for the lack of lighting in the foreground, check your histogram. If you can see your graph peaking at the right side, the sky will most likely be too bright to recover the highlights in post-processing later on. That's when you should really think about adjusting the exposure, even if your foreground will get darker in the process of doing so. 

 When your Histogram looks like this, your shot is more than likely underexposed 

When your Histogram looks like this, your shot is more than likely underexposed 

 If it looks like this, it is probably overexposed.  If most of your graph is centred, your image is perfectly exposed. 

If it looks like this, it is probably overexposed.

If most of your graph is centred, your image is perfectly exposed. 

Tip 4: Think about Foreground

A  good foreground can make your image much more interesting and appealing. Foregrounds can tell a story and complete your composition. As already stated above, a good composition is really important. I see so many photographers who have the newest camera, the best lens and the most expensive filters, but they just haven't put any thought into their image and what story they would like to tell. Foregrounds can also create scale an/or a sense of depth in your image.

blend lonstrup beach 1.jpg
waterfall orton.jpg

 

Tipp 5: Carry a tripod  

Carrying a tripod can make a huge difference between just taking a snapshot or taking a visual appealing and interesting photograph. Tripods enable you to shoot long-exposures at night or at daytime, so that you can capture the movement of water or clouds. If you're on a tripod during sunset you don't have to bump up the ISO all the way to get sharp photos, you can just set up on your tripod and avoid all that ugly noise. If you want to take an image of the highest possible quality, then a tripod is absolutely essential. 

IMG_8996.jpg

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Got ideas for Part 2? Leave me a comment down below!