Landscape photography is amazing! We all want to go out and get those amazing shots like Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell, but more often than not when we photograph a beautiful scene it turns out less than stellar. All the time I get asked about how to get better landscape photos. Its a tough question because like most things in photography there are a lot of things that are just out of your hands but if you follow these steps you’ll be able to control for a lot of things that are up to you.
1. BE THERE! There is nothing worse than driving along the road at sunrise or sunset and all of the sudden seeing the best light in the world, its happened to me more than a couple of times. The number one tip to getting a great landscape image is to be ready to get a great landscape image. Get out and shoot!
2. Scout a location. I typically do this for the majority of my shoots. I plan an area, not the exact spot that I will set up my tripod so that. This way I will be sure explore different options and am able to get the shot I want.
3. Arrive early and stay late. Often times in landscape photography the best light is available for a few brief seconds, maybe a minute if we are lucky. Its always best to arrive at least 30 minutes before you want to be shooting to get it all set up. Its better to get there way to early than be 1 minute late. For sunrise I try to be at a location and ready to shoot 45 minutes before the sun comes up and for sunset 30 minutes before the sun goes down. Sometimes you can get the best light when there isn’t any direct light.
4. Use a tripod. Don’t sacrifice a deep depth of field or chance a high ISO and noise. Rather take a tripod, go low with your ISO, deep depth of field (at least f/11) and allow your shutter speed to be whatever it wants to be. That being said make sure it is a good tripod, the $20 Wal-Mart tripod isn’t going to cut it.
5. Set up your shot without a tripod. Along the same lines as above, I always set up my composition just with my camera in hand before setting up the tripod. This allows be to not get stuck with a sub-par composition because I was looking from the view that the tripod gave me.
6. Use a cable release and mirror lock up. NEVER TOUCH YOUR TRIGGER WHEN USING A LONG EXPOSURE! Even the smallest amount of movement can show in your photograph. A cable release will eliminate movement and if your camera allows for a mirror lock-up option it will reduce it even more. If you don’t have a cable release you can put your camera on the 2-second timer.
7. Pay attention to the whole scene. Composition is what will make or break your photograph. As the photographer it is up to you to decide what to include and exclude in your photograph. It is easy to get too focused on the main subject in the photo and to forget the rest when in most cases it is the little things that will turn your quick snapshot into a great photograph.
8. Include foreground elements. Also along the same composition lines as stated above, a strong foreground element will turn your 2 dimensional photograph printed on paper into a 3 dimensional scene in the mind of the viewer that will allow them to experience the scene through your photograph.
9. Be original. We’ve all done it…we see a photograph that we like, we know where it is, and we go out and get the exact same shot. But here’s the thing, in most of these situations there isn’t a whole lot different in these photos. Pick a new location, dare to go out on a limb and take a photo of a new subject, not just the same photo of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands that everyone else has (and yes, I am one of those copiers who has that shot). Or…take a photo of a well known location but in a new way. Break away from the pack!
10. Use filters. Polarizing filters and graduated neutral density filters can make a world of difference if used correctly. By simply using a filter you can change your photo from a normal photo to an AMAZING one.
© 2014, Tony. All rights reserved.