Basics for beginners: how to take better landscape photos

Basics for beginners: how to take better landscape photos

Landscape photography is a captivating art form that allows us to capture the beauty of nature and create stunning images. Whether you’re a beginner or want to improve your skills, with a few simple tips and techniques you can capture breathtaking landscapes.

Plan your photo shoot

Take the time to plan your shoot before heading out to shoot landscapes. Research your desired location, taking into account the time of day, weather conditions, and direction of light. Use online resources or apps to check sunrise and sunset times, tides (if you’re shooting seascapes), and weather forecasts. This information will help you determine the best time to capture the desired mood and lighting for your landscape photos. Photopills is a popular app for just this.

photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

See online what other photographers have captured in the same location. This might give you inspiration to capture something similar, or maybe even looking for a slightly different perspective on the same location.

Use the right equipment

While you can take great landscape photos with any camera or mobile phone. Using a DSLR or mirrorless camera gives you more control over your settings. Invest in a wide-angle lens to capture expansive vistas, and be sure to bring a sturdy tripod for stability. In addition, consider using filters such as a polarizing filter to reduce reflections and enhance colors, a graduated neutral density filter to balance exposure in high-contrast scenes, or even long exposures for soft, dreamy effects or silky-smooth waterfalls.

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Find a focal point, captured at f/16

Find a central point

Every landscape shot needs a strong focal point to grab the viewer’s attention. Look for natural elements such as a lone tree, a prominent rock formation or a winding path that can serve as a focal point in your composition. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find the most attractive focal point that adds depth and visual interest to your images. Shoot from low or high, not just eye level. Landscapes don’t always have to be horizontal either.

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Composition and framing

Composition plays a vital role in landscape photography. Use the rule of thirds by mentally dividing your frame into nine equal parts and placing your main elements along the intersecting lines or at their points. Many cameras have a grid option, so check your manual and turn it on in your viewfinder. Pay attention to the foreground, center, and background to create a sense of depth in your images. Look for leading lines, such as roads or rivers, to guide the viewer’s eye through the photo and create a visual journey. Experiment with aperture and depth of field, you may want to focus on a single focus point or use a small aperture like f/11 or f/16 to get as much in focus as possible.

Harsh afternoon light can produce dramatic images
Harsh afternoon light can produce dramatic images

Experiment with light and weather

Lighting is key in landscape photography. While soft, warm light during golden hours (early morning and late afternoon) often works best, don’t be afraid to shoot in different lighting conditions. Stormy skies, fog, or dramatic cloud formations can add mood and atmosphere to your photos. Capture the changing light throughout the day to create varied and dynamic landscapes. While the afternoon is often not the best time to shoot, on a cloudy day it can make for dramatic, dynamic and contrasting images.

Black and white conversions can enhance dramatic images
Black and white conversions can enhance dramatic images

Editing and editing

Once you’ve taken your landscape photos, consider post-processing to increase their visual impact. Use editing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Capture One to adjust exposure, colors and contrast. However, remember to maintain a natural look and avoid over-processing. The aim is to show the beauty of the landscape, not to create unrealistic scenes.

Final thoughts

With these simple tips you can take beautiful landscape photos. Remember to plan your shot, use the right equipment, find a focal point, pay attention to composition, experiment with light and weather, and apply subtle post-processing techniques. Embrace your creativity, explore different locations and practice regularly to refine your skills and create memorable images of the natural world.

Remember, it’s often a good idea to revisit a location (if possible) and capture different angles, perspectives, and weather conditions. Want to know more about landscape photography? Check out these other great Photofocus articles on the subject:

  • Landscape Photography Inspiration: Photographing a Beach for a Month
  • Choose the best camera settings for landscape photography
  • The importance of the foreground in landscape photography