How do you capture stunning landscape photography?
Taking amazing landscape photos can be a real struggle–but it doesn’t have to be. Because there are a few simple tips that will instantly improve your landscape photography and get you shooting like a master in no time.
And in this article, I’m going to share these tips with you.
Are you ready to discover 10 easy landscape photography tips that will take your photos to the next level?
Let’s get started.
1. Only Shoot During the Best Light for Amazing Easy Landscape Photography
Great landscape photos always, always, always start with great light.
There’s no way around it.
Which means that you have to get out there and shoot when the light is good, and you’ve got to put your camera away when the light is bad. (Though you can still spend the time location-scouting.)
In landscape photography, two types of light work really well:
- Golden-hour light, when the sun is just barely above the horizon, and
- blue-hour light, during the period after the sun has gone down
You should try to shoot during these times pretty consistently. In fact, pretty much every stunning landscape photo you see online was taken during these two periods!
This photo was taken during the golden hour:
Related Post: Natural Light Photography Tips
However, there’s another aspect of the weather you should always consider:
2. Look for Clouds to Add Interest to Your Sky
As seasoned landscape photographers will tell you:
A sky without clouds is hardly worth shooting.
You see, the best wide landscape shots incorporate clouds into the frame–because clouds add interest. They don’t just leave you with an empty sky.
Now, you don’t want the cloud cover to be overly heavy. You don’t want a true cloudy day.
But you do want at least a few clouds in the sky. And clouds are what help you get the ‘cotton-candy sunset’ that all landscape photographers dream about.
Note that you can often predict whether clouds will materialize in your sunset shots based on the conditions a few hours before the sun goes down. If there are some nice clouds in the sky, there’s a good chance they’ll stick around until sunset. But if the sky is completely clear, you’re probably looking at a failed photoshoot and should think about staying inside.
3. Use a Wide-Angle Lens for Sweeping Vistas
Every landscape photographer’s gear bag has a wide-angle lens.
Because wide-angle lenses are what give you that ultra-compelling landscape look–like you could step forward and straight into the scene.
In general, the wider the lens, the better. Unfortunately, high-quality, ultra-wide lenses tend to be more expensive, so you may want to start out with a less-wide, cheaper lens, before upgrading later.
You should also note the limitations of your camera. If you’re shooting with a crop sensor (APS-C) camera, your focal lengths are effectively magnified by about 1.5. This means that a 20mm lens becomes a 30mm lens on a crop-sensor body. So purchasing a wide lens is more important if you’re working with a crop-sensor camera.
And speaking of important gear:
4. Use a Tripod for Maximum Stability
If you want to capture wide, stunning landscapes, you’re going to want to use longer shutter speeds, in the area of 1/16 of a second and beyond.
Longer shutter speeds will allow you to use a narrower aperture (as explained below). It will also let you create a beautiful blur in moving water.
But if you want to use longer shutter speeds…
…you’re going to want to use a tripod. This will prevent camera shake, and will keep your photos nice and sharp.
Go ahead and pick your tripod carefully. You tend to get what you pay for, so don’t grab a cheap tripod, expecting it to get you rock-solid photos in all conditions. Tripods vary a lot in terms of stability, weight, and ease of setup, so choose wisely!
Related Post: Best Beginner Tripods [6 Top Picks for 2019]
5. Use a Narrow Aperture to Ensure Perfect Sharpness
The best landscapes tend to be completely sharp throughout the frame.
This means sharpness from the foreground all the way to the background.
And if you want to pull this off, you’re going to need to use a narrow aperture.
You see, the aperture is a hole in the lens–and depending on the size of the hole, more or less of the photo will be in focus.
If you use a narrow aperture, represented by high f-numbers (e.g., f/8, f/11, f/16), you’ll get a photo that’s sharp all the way through.
Whereas a wide aperture, represented by low f-numbers (e.g., f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6), will give you a photo with a smaller area of sharpness in the frame.
So stick to narrow apertures when shooting landscapes!
6. Include Foreground Interest for the Best Landscape Photography Shots
If you want a stunning landscape photo, then you should strive to draw your viewers into the frame.
And one of the best ways to do that…
…is to include foreground interest.
I’m talking about a clear element that fits into the foreground of your photo. This could be a rock, a patch of flowers, or some lines of sand. The important thing is that it’s simple and whole–you don’t want the foreground interest to feel like a mess.
Once you’ve chosen your foreground interest, you want to use it to anchor your composition. Place it boldly in the foreground of the photo, and let it engage the viewer. Let it draw them in like a magnet.
Now, one of the best types of foreground interest is leading lines, which are discussed in the next tip:
7. Use Leading Lines to Bring the Viewer Into the Frame
Leading lines are the best trick in a landscape photographer’s composition toolkit, hands down.
Because leading lines capture the viewer’s attention. They suck in the viewer. And they take them straight toward your main subject in the background.
Now, a leading line is basically any type of line–but it has to lead into the frame.
Rivers are an especially popular leading line. You put the river in the foreground, and let it wind its way into the background, straight toward the mountains in the background (your main subject).
But a leading line can be all sorts of things. Fallen trees make great leading lines, as do ferns. You can also use lines in the sand, or the edges of snowdrifts.
Once you’ve found a nice leading line, it pays to get down low over that line with your camera. Set up your composition so the line leads straight toward your subject.
And then snap a gorgeous photo!
8. Use the Rule of Thirds to Position Your Main Subject
Composition is all about arranging the elements in your frame for a pleasing photo.
And the rule of thirds is one of the oldest rules of composition out there.
Here’s what it says:
The best compositions put the main subject a third of the way into the frame. In other words, if you want a stunning composition, you should place your main elements (the things that stand out in the photo) along these gridlines:
Now, the rule of thirds is meant for all genres of photography. But landscape photographers can use this rule to position your horizon line. Make sure it goes across one of the rule of thirds gridlines, rather than directly through the middle of the frame. That way, your photos will look far more balanced and beautiful overall.
You can also use the rule of thirds to position any prominent elements in the photo. If there’s a beautiful tree off in the distance, try placing it along a rule of thirds gridline.
For the photo below, I placed the dominant cattail a third of the way into the frame:
Your photos will turn out far more satisfying.
Related Post: The Golden Ratio in Photography
9. Use Bracketing or Graduated ND Filters to Create a Perfectly Exposed Landscape
If you’re planning on shooting a lot of landscape photos…
…then you’re often going to be photographing sunrises and sunsets.
But here’s the thing:
During a sunrise/sunset scene, the sky tends to be far brighter than the elements below it. Because cameras are more limited than the human eye, you’ll often find that the sky becomes overexposed and it loses all detail.
(Exposure refers to the brightness of a scene. If a scene is overexposed, it’s too bright, and loses details in the whites. If a scene is underexposed, it’s too dark and loses details in the shadows.)
So what do you do when you’re shooting sunrise and sunset scenes?
You use a graduated neutral density filter.
These filters are split so that the top half is darkened while the bottom half remains transparent. That way, you can use the filter to bring down the brightness in the sky–but you don’t have to worry about the bottom part of the frame.
In other words, you can capture a perfectly exposed photo!
The other method of dealing with sunrise/sunset scenes is to take multiple photos of the same composition, but with different exposures. In one photo, you expose so that the foreground is well-defined, and in another photo you expose so that the sky is well-defined. Then you merge the two together in post-processing, and–voila!–you’ve got yourself a nicely exposed image.
10. Use a Long Shutter Speed to Get Beautiful Motion Blur
Here’s your final landscape photography tip:
If you’re working with moving objects…
…why not try to create motion blur?
You can capture some incredible shots of flowing waterfalls, rivers, oceans, even grass blowing in the wind–if you use a long shutter speed.
You see, the shutter speed refers to the length of time the camera sensor is exposed to the world. The longer the shutter speed, the more of the world the sensor takes in. So if you use a lengthy shutter speed, then you’ll get some beautiful motion blur.
Now, short shutter speeds will freeze motion. While the specifics depend on how fast your subject is moving, you’ll freeze your subject from anywhere from 1/100s to 1/2000s and above. Whereas you’ll get motion blur if you shoot at around 1/20s and below.
If you’re working with long shutter speeds, you absolutely need a tripod, or else you’ll get blur throughout the entire photo (which is not the goal–you just want blur in the moving areas, and you want the rest to be pin-sharp).
I also recommend you do a lot of experimentation when it comes to using longer shutter speeds. Don’t take a single shot and move on. Instead, take a number of shots, using different shutter speeds. And then, when you get home, check them out. See what you like–and make sure to do that again, the next time you’re out shooting!
10 Easy Landscape Photography Tips: Conclusion
You should now know exactly how to capture stunning landscape photos.
Because you know how to find good light, create the best subjects, and choose the best settings.
Now you’re ready to get out and start shooting. So go have some landscape photography fun!
Capturing amazing landscape photography isn’t hard–it just takes a bit of know-how. You should carefully choose the best light (which is generally the golden-hour or the blue-hour, as discussed in this article). You should carefully compose the shot, so that you put the main elements of the photo carefully within the frame. And you should be aware of the different camera techniques you can use to create images with perfect detail, such as exposure bracketing.
I recommend using a narrow aperture (in the area of f/11 to f/22). The shutter speed is less important, but slow shutter speeds will require a tripod.
You don’t need a tripod for landscape photography. However, a tripod is extremely helpful, especially if you want a photo that’s completely sharp throughout the frame. A tripod will stabilize your camera and allow you to capture all sorts of beautiful shots.
You don’t need special gear to be an amazing landscape photographer. But I do recommend using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, if possible. This will ensure you get the highest-quality images. I also recommend a wide-angle lens, which will allow you to take sweeping scenic shots.
To capture sharp landscape photos, make sure you choose a shutter speed that’s fast enough for your camera setup. If you’re using a tripod, you can use any shutter speed you like. But if you’re shooting handheld, then you’ll want to use a shutter speed of at least 1/100s to capture a sharp shot.