5 Great Tips for Landscape Photography

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Just about everyone can enjoy an Instagram shot of some beautiful scenery. Not everyone can take a beautiful shot though! Here are 5 great tips for landscape photography.

 

1. Scout your location. There’s nothing more disappointing than coming to a photoshoot only to find that you have no idea where to go to get the best vantage point. You’ll end up spending all your time looking for that perfect spot instead of doing what you came there to do: take beautiful photos!

Go to the location before your shooting time to see what the area offers. Walk around all over the place to see what composition works best, and which places offer the best vantage point. Then, when the time comes to shoot, you’ll know exactly where to go, and all you’ll need to do is set up your equipment. For sunrise/sunset shoots, you can use an app like The Photographer’s Ephemeris (shown below) or PhotoPills to tell you in which direction the sun will rise and set every day.

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2. Have the right gear with you. You may be happy with taking just your camera with you on a landscape shoot, but depending on the type of pictures you’re after, additional gear and accessories may come in handy. Any one of the following may benefit you in your landscape photography.

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Reliable tripod, a cable release, and a filter to get the right shot.

Tripod. A tripod is a necessity for long exposure photography. If you’re want to take sunrise/sunset shots, have a sturdy tripod that will be capable of handling your full gear, even in windy conditions.

Cable release/remote shutter. To further eliminate any camera shake during your long exposures, use a remote control or cable release to release the shutter. They allow you to take pictures without having to touch your camera. If you don’t have a cable release or remote shutter, use your timer and set it to 2 or 5 sec. to eliminate any camera shake. If you have the Mirror Up feature on your camera, use that to reduce camera shake caused by the mirror inside your camera.

Filters. While it is possible to take photos without filter attachments, having this addition will greatly improve the look of your photos straight out of the camera. There are a myriad of filters available for your creative needs so it’s great to experiment with them. Neutral Density filters offer a great way to slow down your shutter speed during daylight hours. Gradient filters offer darker exposures on half of your photos, allowing the other half to have a regular exposure period. These are great for landscape photographers where the sky is often brighter than the foreground of photos.
DSC_3557_58_59_60_tonemappedNeutral Density filter reduced exposure by 6 stops, allowing me to slow the shutter down even though it was not too dark outside.

 

3. Where should I place my horizon? There are three places you can place your horizon, with each location evoking a different feel to your images.

Horizon in the top half of your photo. By placing the horizon in the top half of your photo, you’re putting more emphasis to the foreground of your image. The foreground will act as a guide that will lead the eye upward to the horizon. This gives a sense of closeness, almost as if you were standing right there.

DSC_8204-259Horizon in the top half gives a sense of closeness to the foreground elements in the picture.

Horizon in the middle. This works well to give a balanced image. It works great if you have a reflection in the bottom half of the photo, giving a sense of symmetry.

DSC_7438The serene reflection on the lake gives an ideal condition for putting the horizon right in the middle of the frame.

Horizon in the bottom half of photo. This should evoke more of a spacious feel to your image. With the majority of the frame filled with the sky and clouds, it will dominate your photo giving you a feel of great freedom.

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The horizon at the bottom gives a sense of openness to the image.

Figure out what emotion you want to evoke with your image and place your horizon accordingly.

 

4. Change focal length. To get a variety of shots from one location, try switching lenses from a wide to a telephoto, or vice versa. These two lenses alone will give you such a different feel to the image that it’s worth experimenting with. If you look at the images below, they were taken from the same spot, just with two different lenses. The wide angle really gives you the overall feel of the location while the telephoto lens really brings you in to see what’s ahead. Experiment with what you have, borrow another lens from a friend or store, and see how different your resulting images will look.
DSC_6920The wide angle view of the Toronto skyline shows the surrounding nature.

 

DSC_6918Taken from the same location, but with a telephoto lens, the feel of the photo is completely different as it crops out the surrounding nature, giving focus to the skyline.

 

5. Shoot in RAW. If you have the option, shoot your photos in RAW mode as this will give you the most flexibility in post-processing. While you should always strive to get the best results straight out of the camera (hence the use of filters), there’s no denying that a little bit of post-processing will help in most images. RAW files carry much more information than a jpeg (hence the larger file size), so if you accidentally over-expose your image a little bit, you may still be able to recover the highlights by editing the RAW file. RAW files also let you apply various settings to really get the details out from your images, like sharpness, colour changes, clarity, and white balance. If you know how to edit RAW files well, you’ll be able to come out with a superior image.

DSC_7099-2An over-exposed photo like this one may still be salvageable if you shoot in RAW format.

 

DSC_7099By reducing highlights, opening shadows, and adjusting curves, I was able to bring back more details in over-exposed areas. This would not have been possible if I just shot in jpg mode.

Shooting landscapes should not seem like a chore. Even though there are things that may improve your photography, the most important thing is for you to enjoy yourself while you are there. Remember to stop and soak in the moment since it will never happen the same way ever again.

 

This blog post was written by Taku Kumabe. He is a freelance photographer and print designer based in Toronto, Canada. You can find him on his instagram account, @smaku, where he focuses on his love for travel and landscape photography. You can find his personal blog at www.smaku.com.

 

 

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