As much as landscape photography is about big, wide vistas, one of the many landscape photography tips worth bearing in mind is to take a less is more approach. Using a minimalist photo composition can give your pictures enormous impact if you can remember that shooting a simple landscape is as much about what you leave out as what you include.
Selecting the right subject is vital, as you want to keep the number of elements in the landscape to a minimum. Look for the most dominant feature to use as the focal point, then compose the shot so that there is as little to distract attention away from this as possible.
You may well find it easier to do this with a longer focal length lens than is normally used for landscape pictures. Another key to simplifying your ‘less is more’ composition is to use long shutter speeds to blur the detail in clouds, water and foliage.
You are capturing these parts of the image as textures, rather than blank areas, as they will then contrast with your main subject.
To achieve the shutter speeds of around 30 seconds needed to do this, you can shoot at dawn or dusk when light levels are low, or during the day you can use a strong neutral density filter to create a similar effect.
Step by step how to achieve a ‘less is more’ look to your landscapes
01 Choose your subject
For this type of picture you need an uncluttered landscape with a single focal point, such as a tree or building. For the simplest composition this focal point can be on the horizon, or when shooting seascapes it can be in the foreground, surrounded by water.
02 Frame your subject
Once you have found a suitable subject, choose a viewpoint that will give as few distractions as possible, to make the subject stand out from the background. You will often find this easier to achieve by shooting from further away and using a longer focal length lens.
03 Composition options
Because of the simplicity of this style of image, you don’t have to use the ‘rules’ of composition. Try placing the subject in the middle, or right at the edge, of the frame. You should choose whichever composition gives you the simplest, least cluttered, final image.
04 Use long shutter speeds
Using shutter speeds long enough to blur the movement of clouds and water is another key to achieving the minimal look. You will need to use a shutter speed of 1 second or longer to blur-fast moving water, while clouds require a shutter speed of 10 seconds or more.
05 Reduce the light
If you are shooting in normal daylight, using a neutral density filter will allow you to use shutter speeds long enough to blur any movement. For very long shutter speeds you’ll need a strong ND filter such as the Light Craft Workshop 9-stop ND or Lee Big Stopper.
06 Set your exposure
Strong ND filters can make it impossible to get an accurate exposure, so without the filter in place, in Manual exposure mode set the aperture and shutter speed to give the correct exposure. Then increase the shutter speed by the same number of stops as the filter.
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