Before you venture out there, why not take a quick look at our essential landscape photography tips. We have assembled a useful quick reference guide to landscape photography that can take your photographs to the next level. Go from ‘snap’ to ‘masterpiece’ as we show you some of the main tips and tricks to get you on your way to being the next Ansel Adams.
1 Research your location
Take time to research your possible shooting destination if you have not been there before. Just Googling the location you want to shoot will call up all sorts of information. Most of it may be useless to you but you can guarantee that there will be examples of other photographs taken there. The experiences of other photographers in this location will give you the heads-up as to whether it is an easy or difficult place to reach. There may be tips concerning local by-laws and the best nearby parking spots etc.
2 There’s an app for that
There are apps available that can tell you where the sun will be at any point on any given day. These apps can overlay information on a map of your given destination, showing where the sun will rise and fall and where it will track through the sky on whichever day you choose. This is great for working out what time is best for you to shoot in the location you are researching. Sunseeker for iOS and Sun Surveyor for Android are two great examples of these types of app.
3 A golden rule
It can’t be stressed enough, if you want the best from your shots, you need to switch to Raw shooting mode. Most modern cameras now allow you to capture your images in Raw format. Raw as the name suggests is the uncompressed and unprocessed image data straight from the camera’s sensor. The files are much bigger than their jpeg counterpart but they give much greater latitude when it comes to processing your final image.
4 Filter systems
Think about investing in some filters. A circular polariser is very useful. It can boost the contrast in blue skies and is very useful for reducing or even eliminating reflections in water; just be aware that polarisers work best when the sun is at 90° to you. If you are shooting a scene where there is a large difference in the tonal values between your land and a bright sky, an ND grad will help stop those skies from burning out.
5 Light fantastic
In photography you may hear reference to ‘the golden hour’. For gorgeous landscapes you cannot do better than to shoot at sunrise and for an hour or so after that; or at sunset and the hour or so before it sets. The light has a luminous warm glow, shadows are long and show off the contours of the land. The sky ignites in pink, orange and red hues and if you catch a sunrise or sunset with an interesting set of cloud formations, then all the better.
6 Stable conditions
A tripod is a must for landscape work. You may be working in low light conditions and handheld shots are not going to yield sharp images. You might also want longer exposure times to render water soft and misty or show clouds moving in the shot over a number of seconds for added drama. There are plenty of strong, lightweight tripods to choose from that won’t be a chore to carry with you on your shoot; couple a cable release with it and you are set.
7 Take control
If you are relatively new to DSLR photography, you may still be using your camera’s auto or semi-auto functions where it will decide on the best settings to use in either Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority. As long as it is in auto, it will keep making decisions for you and you will end up with shots that don’t match your expectations. In manual mode you can decide on how the scene is exposed. Make the creative decisions; don’t leave it to your camera.
8 Don’t fear the histogram
A histogram is a graphic representation of the tonal values in your shot and how they are distributed. If the graph is bunched at the far left, then your shot is very underexposed and you risk the loss of a lot of detail to shadow areas. If it is sliding off the right hand side, then it will be overexposed and detail will be lost in the highlight areas. A good exposure will have all the major tones in the middle of the histogram.
9 Maximum exposure
Consider using longer exposures in your landscape shots. Photographers often employ exposures that last seconds or even tens of seconds, to show clouds streaking across the sky rather than looking static and puffy. Scenes shot with a much longer exposure will turn the water to a misty, milky fog. It is safe to say that your tripod is the key to the success of these shots.