You don’t need expensive lenses to capture great images. In this tutorial we’ll show you how you can take stunning landscape photography with the simple 18-55mm kit lens that came with your DSLR.
When most of us bought our first DSLR we opted to pay a bit extra for the ‘standard zoom’ kit lens bundle. A kit lens is a great starter lens for beginners, as it’s light, inexpensive, and has a versatile zoom range of 18-55mm, which is great for portraits, landscapes and as a general ‘walkabout’ lens.
Although you’ll start to find yourself limited by your kit lens as your photography skills improve, it can still produce some cracking shots when used the right way, and that’s exactly what we’re going to demonstrate in this tutorial. In the first of what will be a new series we’ll show you how you can use your kit lens to get fantastic results in a range of photographic genres, starting with landscapes.
How to shoot stunning landscapes with your kit lens
01 Skies for landscapes
Check the weather forecast before you head out; blue skies aren’t necessarily the best skies for landscapes, and on the day of our shoot there were heavy storm clouds interspersed with bursts of bright sunshine, which added interest to the sky and atmosphere to the scene, and created contrast in our images. Mount your camera on a tripod.
02 Manual mode
Set your camera to Manual mode so that you have full control over the exposure. As there’s moving water in our scene we’re going to use relatively long exposures to blur it a little, so we’re setting our aperture to f/32 to give us slower shutter speeds. Keep the ISO at 100 for maximum image quality – this also helps to deliver slower shutter speeds.
03 Picture Style
Set the Picture Style to Landscape to saturate the greens. If you’re shooting JPEGs this style will be applied to the images; if you’re shooting Raw, keep in mind that the setting will only be applied to the Raw image if you open it in Canon Digital Photo Professional, and not in Photoshop CS/CC or Elements.
Switch to Live View mode to compose and focus the shot. Switch the lens to Manual, zoom in on the LCD screen and navigate to the main subject in your scene – in our case the church spire. Twist the focus ring until the subject is at optimum sharpness, then zoom back out.
05 High-contrast scenes
As we’re shooting in the middle of the day there’s strong contrast between the brightest and darkest parts of the scene, so we’re going to take three shots at varying shutter speeds to expose for the highlights, midtones and shadows. To ensure sharp shots when your camera’s on a tripod, use a remote shutter release so that you don’t touch the camera at the start of the exposure.
06 Bracketing exposures
Adjust the shutter speed so the exposure marker is in the middle of the exposure level indicator, and take your first shot. Now rotate the main dial clockwise until the marker moves to +1 stop, and take another shot to expose for the shadows. Finally, rotate the dial anti-clockwise until the marker is at -1 stop, and take a third shot to expose for the highlights.
Under the Quality setting on your DSLR you have the option to shoot Raw files, JPEGs or both. If you don’t want to spend time processing images, and want them ‘ready to go’ straight from the camera, it’s best to shoot JPEGs, as a Raw file out of the camera can appear a bit ‘flat’.
However, Raw files contain much more brightness and colour information than a JPEG, enabling you to pull out more shadow and highlight detail at the editing stage. If you have space on your memory card, shooting both Raws and JPEGs gives you the option to process the Raw file if shadows or highlights are clipped in the JPEG image.
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