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

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

Commandment 4: Find foreground interest

Landscape Photography Tips (and how to break them)

Image copyright Julian Calverley

When we’re out in the countryside or at the coast we look at the view in a very different way to the way we look at a photograph. Our eyes scan around and we home in on small details or the horizon, ignoring things in our peripheral vision – often not seeing what’s immediately in front of us.

However, when we look at a photograph of the scene, the foreground becomes much more important to us, and if it’s a wide, empty area of grass or beach it can create a barrier, stopping us from seeing the spectacular hills and so on in the distance.

One of the cardinal sins of landscape photography is including too much dull, featureless foreground in the image.

However, it’s possible to transform a boring and uninteresting image into one that grabs the viewer’s attention by including something in the foreground.

Foreground interest can improve landscape images in a number of ways – it’s more than just filling an empty space. It helps to give the scene a sense of scale, and it makes the progression from the near to the middle and far elements clearer, creating a journey for the viewer’s eye.

The average landscape is full of potential objects for inclusion in the foreground. Gates, signposts, flowers, shrubs and rocks can all be pressed into service – all you need to do is walk around until you find something suitable.

If there’s nothing in situ, you can always try moving something such as a branch or a few autumnal leaves into the right place.

As well as adding foreground interest, things like streams, footpaths, fences and walls that extend into the landscape can help draw the viewer into the scene. They create what’s often referred to as a leading line.

In addition to physical leading lines, landscape images can benefit from implied leading lines – the direction of the gaze of people in the scene, for example, will guide the viewer’s eyes in a particular direction.

People walking along a footpath will also emphasise the route into the image.

Landscape Photography Tips (and how to break them)

Image copyright Paul Grogan

Break The Rules: Use space
Sometimes it’s the uniformity or emptiness of a scene that gives it impact, and rather than looking around for something to clutter up the image it may be better to put the space to positive use. The key is to identify what’s important about the scene and work out how to make the best use of it.

In the example on the right, the bottom two thirds of the frame are almost empty, but this is positive rather than negative space, as it leads the eye in, and directs the viewer’s attention towards the mountain on the horizon.

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


Banish blurry photos: how to keep foreground interest pin-sharp
How to take sharp landscape photos
Banish Bad Pictures: 9 quick fixes for common camera complaints
Pro Secrets: how to use a telephoto lens for awesome landscapes

  • jmeyer

    Thanks for the kind words, durand! Glad to have you here!