Landscape Photography Mistake No. 9: Poor composition
When faced with a stunning vista it’s easy to get carried away and start firing off shots, but landscape images require careful consideration.
It’s important to look around the scene and find the ideal shooting angle that makes the best of the subjects available and include some foreground interest.
Although there are times when a centralised subject and symmetry win the day, many landscape images benefit from a composition that observes the rule of thirds.
This simple rule splits the scene into three equally sized columns and three equally sized rows, creating a grid of nine rectangles.
Locating key elements within the scene along these lines, or at their intersections can really improve composition.
Many cameras have a rule of thirds grid view option available on the LCD screen, and in some cases in the viewfinder, which can be a useful guide to composition.
It’s particularly important to decide where to position the horizon within the scene.
Locating it along the upper horizontal line of the rule of thirds grid instantly gives the land greater emphasis because it occupies two thirds of the image.
Alternatively, positioning it along the bottom line in the grid gives the sky greater emphasis, which may work well when photographing a sunset with a silhouetted foreground, for example.
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Composing pictures with foreground interest: simple ways to draw in the eye
Landscape Photography Mistake No. 10: Soft details
Although using a small aperture increases depth of field, the zone of acceptable sharpness within an image, it also increases the impact of diffraction, the bending of light as it passes over the aperture blades.
Bending the light means that it isn’t focused on the sensor and consequently the image is softened.
The smaller the aperture, the greater the proportion of bent light rays and the softer the image, so that even the point of focus is softer than it is at a larger aperture.
The worst effects of diffraction can be avoided by using an aperture setting that’s a stop or two larger than the minimum value available.
However, it’s worth experimenting with your lens to find out what its optimum aperture is.
This can be done by shooting a series of images of the same subject taking shots at every aperture setting.
Then, check the sharpness of the focus point in each image to can find the sharpest one which was taken at your lens’s optimum aperture.
Focus stacking allows you to use your lenses optimum aperture and still create an image that is sharp from front to back.
All you need to do this shoot a sequence of images at the optimum aperture, but with the focus set to a different distance in each.
Start with the focus on the near foreground and gradually adjust the focus for each shot until you take one with the focus on the horizon.
It’s essential that the camera doesn’t move while the sequence is shot, so use a solid tripod.
The last stage is to merge the images, fortunately this can then be done automatically using Photoshop’s Photo Merge tools or specialist software such as Combine ZP, which is available for free download.
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