Landscape Photography – 12 Tips To Capture Stunning Photos

Capturing the grandeur of a landscape is just so satisfying. Photographers are inspired by fantastic landscape images more than any other type. It’s perhaps one of the reasons why you got into landscape photography in the first place, choosing over other forms of the art.

The initial feeling with most people is that it should be pretty easy to do the photography of landscape. All you have to do is to find an awesome vista, point your camera, and shoot. You may get a decent snap with this approach but will not do real justice to the magnificent landscape in front of you.

While learning to create world-class landscape photography might take a lot of time and practice. The difference between the stunning and decent image is usually of a few versatile ideas, careful planning, and the right choice of equipment. Here are some of the landscape photography tips to guide you in the right direction and help you get the hang of the fundamentals to capture stunning photos. 

#1. Plan for your Exact Location

Location is critical when it comes to landscape photography. As such, you should always plan your shoot way in advance to avoid wasting time looking for a great spot. Of course, the first thing you want to do is choose what you want to photograph. Is it a beautiful lake from a scenic overlook? Or is it a historic watchtower perched on top of a cliff?

Once you have a good idea of where you want to photograph, it’s wise to look at the area’s relevant maps to ensure that what you’re looking to capture is accessible. You then need to go deeper and make sure that the view you want won't be obstructed by obstacles like a big hill, a forest, etc. For this, you can use the maps that show specific elevations. Besides all this, you want to also account for the direction of light and how this might affect your view.

#2. Wait for the Best Light

Any form of outdoor photography will rely heavily on available lighting. And when it comes to landscape photography, lighting is crucial. If you want to get the best landscape photograph, you should make sure you’re working with the best light possible. 

Many landscape photographers recommend shooting late afternoon and early morning. These are some of the best times to get a low golden soft sunlight that ideally produces long shadows. However, this doesn’t mean that you can't photograph any other time. 

You want to make sure that you understand and plan for the light you intend to use. For instance, if you’re going to capture a landscape photograph featuring a side of a cliff, it could be that it’s only lit by the sun during late mornings. The key here is to understand and organize your shoot session for the best time you can.

#3. Be Patient with your Shot

It’s incredible how many times the elements conspire to ruin a perfectly composed photo. Landscape photography will require a lot of patience, just in case the sky disperses long enough to let the sun breakthrough for you to take your shot. 

The key here is to give yourself enough time at the location to wait if you need to. Prior planning can also help immensely, so ensure that you check the weather forecasts before you leave to maximize your opportunity for the weather you want. 

Another trick is just to sit down and look around for 15 minutes or so once you get to your location. This would let you assess the scene and think about the best composition and will help lower your heart rate if you had a long hike/walk. It also enables you to get over the initial awe you feel when you have a fantastic landscape before you.

#4. Bring a Tripod

If you want to capture some of the best photographs, at the highest quality possible, then a tripod should be an essential piece of your kit. Since landscape photography often entails working in harsh conditions and/or weird positions, you want to invest in a quality tripod. 

A great tripod should be beefy enough for your most massive gear, yet portable enough such that it’s not a burden. When a tripod is too heavy or cumbersome, you may find yourself leaving it at home more than you should. 

Low light landscaping photography without a tripod, especially in early evenings or early mornings, would require you to increase the ISO to avoid camera shake, which means compromising the noise level in your images. 

Suppose you’re looking to capture a scene using long exposure or slow shutter speed, such as when capturing the movement of water or clouds. In that case, a tripod will be vital to ensure that you can hold the camera steady enough to avoid getting camera shake and therefore blurred images.

#5. Consider Using Graduated ND Filters

One of the most popular accessories among landscape photographers are graduated filters. Neutral density filters ideally darken the scene by reducing the amount of light reaching the camera. 

The difference in the light areas (such as the sky) and the dark areas (such as the foreground) is one of the most challenging elements of photographing landscapes. For instance, when shooting in late evenings, the sun drops lower on the horizon, which could mean the mountains obstruct it. Exposing for the sky could mean your foreground will be too dark, and exposing for the shadows or dark areas will blow out the sky.

ND filters are invaluable in such a situation, ideally helping you capture photos as correctly as possible. The graduated neutral density filter balances out the difference in brightness between the top and bottom parts of the photo. The filters come in a wide variety of combinations, though the primary selection would perhaps be a half ND filter of 1 or 2 stops.

#6. Use the Right Lens

While a wide-angle lens is not always the best lens for landscape photography, it usually is, for most situations. There are times you may want to focus on tiny details, such as the moon rising over a distant mountain peak. 

For such rare occasions, a telephoto or zoom lens will come in handy and force you to get creative regarding your compositions. Regardless, a wide-angle lens will most likely be your workhorse lens for shooting landscapes, so get the best one you can. And even when the subject is small, you might be best served by getting closer and use your wide-angle lens instead of zooming in with a longer lens.

#7. Follow the Rule of Thirds

The “rule of thirds” is one of the best-known rules of composition. To adhere to it, you want to place the subject of your shot, say a prominent landmark or a tree, about a third of the way from the edge of the frame. 

Imagine a tic-tac-toe game over your image and then try placing the focal point on one of the lines, or in one of the four places where the lines intersect. Research has shown that viewers are usually drawn to look at these areas more than the shot center. 

If your landscape doesn’t have an obvious focal point, it’s recommended that you place the horizon along the lower or upper line – not the dead center of your frame. Many great landscape shots don’t really follow this rule, but as many pros say, you should know the rules first before breaking them.

#8. Maximize the Sharpness - use High F-stop

Capturing stunning landscapes requires that both the foreground and background of the photo are sharp and crisp. Still, a shallow depth of field could be powerful when used correctly, since it can isolate the subject and keep it sharp while the rest of the image stays blurred. 

If you want to keep much of the photo sharp, set the Aperture Priority (A or AV) mode, which should let you take control of the aperture. As a starting point, use f/8 and then work up to f/11 or higher until you get the desired effect. 

Generally speaking, the higher the f-stop number, the more the depth of field of the image, and the sharper it will be. Shooting above f/11 comes with the added benefit of highlighting the points of light in your scene, such as the sun or streetlights, which will take on the shape of an eye-catching starburst. 

However, you should know that with high-f-stops, less light will be entering the camera, meaning you need to compensate by using slow shutter speeds. To avoid camera shake, the handheld shutter speed should be a minimum of 1/125. For longer exposures, ensure you place the camera on a tripod, as discussed earlier.

#9. Make Long Exposures

For those who want to take their landscape photography to the next level, consider using long exposures. This works best in scenes involving moving clouds or water since it transforms the texture differently based on how long the shutter is kept open. The resulting glassy or misty effect tends to be more attractive then freezing the water using the normal shutter speed. 

Long exposure photography also works well with night cityscapes due to the streaks that appear from lights of passing cars. If you keep the shutter open for long enough, it also lets you erase people from your shots entirely, so long as they are moving. This makes it a perfect technique for shooting landmarks that are always overrun with tourists. 

If you’re shooting a long exposure shot on a bright day, there might be too much light to leave the shutter open for extended periods without overexposing the image. Neutral density filters can come in handy here to block some of the light out. 

#10. Utilize Unusual Weather or Conditions

A blah sky will inevitably make a blah photo. Although the golden hours around dusk or dawn could make even the dreariest of subjects beautiful when used correctly, it’s always wise to consider your options. 

Ominous storm clouds, freshly fallen snow, rainbows, and even fog are pure gold when it comes to landscape photography. However, you won't find them if you don’t try shooting in bad weather. So, when things start getting looking interesting outside, grab your gear and head out to look for that perfect shot. Take care to keep your camera dry at all costs. 

Fog is great in landscape photography due to the level of versatility it provides. Depending on the lighting of the scene, it can help you create dreamy sunbeams, help obscure distracting objects, and even add depth to your photo. 

Clouds also add drama and interest to an image. A couple of cumulus puffballs in fair-weather could be all you need to make a stunning photograph of an otherwise unexciting landscape.

#11. Post-Production

The final step of a great landscape photo is usually some post-processing. This is often a contentious issue because some photographers prefer to keep post-processing to a minimum, while others like to edit and boost the image. 

No matter your preference, it all comes to personal opinion. However, there are some things you should consider as a minimum. For instance, ensure your images are straight, have the right white balance, and are clear of dust spots. You also want to tweak the crop of the photo in case it needs it. 

Beyond this, making sure the photo has good contrast and saturation will help make your landscape image pop. In general, every shot should benefit from some level of post-production, some needing it more than others. 

#12. Be Creative with your Compositions

Once you make the obvious landscape shot as you wanted, slow down a bit and take some time to be creative with your compositions. Try placing the horizon at the bottom of your frame to create the effect of a vast sky or zoom in on an interesting rock formation. 

Alternatively, pull back to capture a colorful umbrella in your beach scene, or shoot straight to capture a canopy of leaves overhead. This is essentially the beauty of digital photography – there are no limits to what you can include in your shot. You can experiment endlessly and delete any of the bad photos later.

Final Thoughts

Landscape photography is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and rewarding forms of photography. While it’s certainly not easy, it’s something you can learn and improve quickly with the tips covered in this guide. So, be sure to follow them, and you should see an improvement in your landscape shots. 

We hope you enjoyed reading the post. Feel free to add your favorite tips and what you think about the ones above in the comment section below.

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