If you’ve heard a landscape picture described as ‘flat’, you may be wondering what that actually means. Well flat images are those that look rather lifeless and uninteresting, not because of the content, but because they lack contrast, depth, detail and colour. And this is often down to flat light.
Flat light is light that is diffused, such as on an overcast day, or is illuminating the scene from the same angle as the picture is being taken – when the sun is high behind the camera, for example – will produce landscapes that lack interest.
No one wants to take dull landscape pictures, so here’s how to ensure you achieve scenic success.
How to use flat light to your advantage
Avoid grey skies
For some subjects such as waterfalls, overcast light from a grey sky is exactly what you need, but for big landscape vistas it’s a curse. As a rule, if the sky looks insipid and lacks any interest then so will your landscape images, so shoot something else instead and return on another day.
Try side-lighting your landscapes
You need shadows to add character to your landscapes and to bring out shape and form. If the sun is behind you, shadows will be minimal and hidden. Instead, orientate the camera so the landscape is lit by sunlight coming in from either side of the frame.
Shoot when the sun is low
The periods early and late in the day are often referred to as the golden hours for landscape photography, and for good reason. Not only is the light much warmer at these times, but the sun is also at a low indirect angle, which creates long shadows and adds depth, vibrancy and interest.
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