The 10 Commandments of Landscape Photography (and how to break them)

    | Landscape | Photography Tips | 28/03/2012 11:09am

    Commandment 10: Use a low ISO setting

    Landscape Photography Tips (and how to break them)

    Image copyright Adam Burton

    A low sensitivity setting is a passport to smooth, noise-free images with plenty of detail. Failing to observe this commandment can turn uniform areas such as a blue sky into a mottled mess, and leave deep shadows speckled with colour.

    Unless you’re trying to blur movement, there’s usually little to be gained from using a low sensitivity expansion setting, such as ISO50.

    Even at the low end, straying from the native sensitivity range usually results in some compromise in image quality – often reducing the dynamic range. For most DSLRs the lowest native sensitivity value is ISO100, but for some older models it’s ISO200.

    Using a low sensitivity setting along with a narrow aperture usually demands a slow shutter speed, and in most instances this means a tripod is required to get sharp images.

    Most images benefit from post-capture sharpening, but it’s particularly true of landscape shots because it enables the treatment to be applied selectively. Selective sharpening allows details to be made crisp without introducing artefacts in even-toned areas such as the sky.

    Software packages such as Nik’s Sharpener Pro enable different levels of sharpening to be applied to specific image areas, but it can be achieved with any software that enables images to be combined using layers.

    Selective sharpening involves creating a duplicate layer and applying sharpening just to the land on the top layer. The eraser tool, or a layer mask, can then be used to remove the sky of this layer to reveal the unsharpened sky of the background layer below.

    To learn more about using different ISO settings, check out our in-depth guide to What is ISO: when to increase sensitivity, types of noise and more.

    Landscape Photography Tips (and how to break them)

    Image copyright Alison Shaw

    Break The Rules: Everything to grain
    If you’re shooting a misty landscape or you’re shooting in stormy conditions there’s often little point in getting too wound up about using a low sensitivity setting. In fact, using a high ISO setting to introduce some noise can really bring out the atmosphere of the scene.

    If you decide to go down this route, you may need to push your camera to its maximum setting to get the levels of noise you want.

    As usual, the best results are achieved with raw images because they provide the most control over noise. You might want the light and shade speckling of luminance noise, but occasionally coloured noise is desired.

    Use your raw conversion software to reduce the level of chroma noise while keeping the luminance noise.

    Monochrome images can work especially well with a bit of ‘grain’, and they transform coloured noise into luminance noise.

    Commandment 1: Shoot during the golden hour
    Commandment 2: Use a wideangle lens
    Commandment 3: Use the Rule of Thirds
    Commandment 4: Find foreground interest
    Commandment 5: Use a steady tripod
    Commandment 6: Focus one third in
    Commandment 7: Balance the exposure
    Commandment 8: Boost greens and blues
    Commandment 9: Use a narrow aperture
    Commandment 10: Use a low ISO setting


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    Posted on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 11:09 am under Landscape, Photography Tips.

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