10 quick landscape photography tips

5 accessories every landscape photographer must own

Improve your photos with our expert help. Here are 10 quick landscape photography tips to help you give your pictures a breath of fresh air. Whether you’re new to digital photography or just searching for new photo ideas, our quick and easy landscape photography tips and camera tips will help you take better pictures with the minimum of fuss.

10 quick landscape photography tips

1 The magic hour

Beautiful landscape photos are often defined by the quality of light they were taken in. As a consequence, photographers tend to shoot early in the morning or during late afternoons when the sun is lower, less contrasty and often displays a subtle colour palette of moody hues. For this reason, the hours after dawn and before dusk are known as the ‘magic hours’. If rising at dawn doesn’t sit well with your idea of a relaxing weekend, don’t panic – there are plenty of great landscape opportunities throughout the day.

 SEE MORE: Golden hour photography tips for taking pictures at sunrise or sunset

Landscape Photography Tips: Rule of Thirds

2 Composition

Composition is key to successful landscape photography, and if you don’t know where to start, use the ‘rule of thirds’ to get things going. Perhaps the king of all beginner landscape photography tips, it’s an easy principle to apply – simply divide your frame into imaginary thirds on both the horizontal and vertical axis. Now simply place areas of interest at the points at which the lines intersect or – in the case of a horizon – along one of the lines. However, don’t be afraid to throw away the rule book and totally disregard the conventions of composition. While you might have some awful failures, you might also create an original and striking masterpiece. Be bold and experiment.

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3 Get out there

There’s no substitute for putting in a bit of groundwork before embarking on a photographic adventure. Research and find the best photo locations, get a map, a compass and remember that you’ll probably have to get out of the car and walk to get the best shots.

4 Polarising filters

Most landscape photographers will have a circular polarising filter in their kit bag. There are many uses for filters like this, but for the landscape photographer the two key characteristics are their ability to cut out reflections and nasty glare from a scene and the increased colour intensity, saturation and contrast they create. You’ll really notice the effect in clear blue skies.

  SEE MORE: Dramatic landscape photography: the secret to adding impact with natural light

3 situations when you should take control of depth of field: Landscapes

5 Depth of field

Many landscape photographers desire an image that appears sharp throughout the scene, so that elements of foreground interest, such as a rock in a lake, look just as sharp as the distant horizon. This can be achieved relatively easily using the principles of depth of field, whereby the smaller an aperture you use, such as f/22, the greater the area both before and beyond the point of focus also appear to be sharp. This principle can be taken one step further with hyperfocal distance focusing. Generally, when you’re using small apertures you’ll need to compensate with slow shutter speeds, so it is essential to (know how to) use a tripod.

SEE MORE: A layman’s guide to depth of field – how to check and affect sharpness like a pro

5 accessories every landscape photographer must own: ND grad filters

6 ND grads

One of the great problems for landscape photographers is the difference in brightness between the sky and the land. While the human eye is capable of perceiving detail across this tonal range, a digital sensor isn’t capable of recording it. So ND Grad filters (neutral density graduated filters) were created and have been avidly used by landscape shooters ever since. Their gradual transition from clear to dark neutral density allows the photographer to balance the exposure between the sky and the land to make a more even exposure in which detail remains in both the highlight and shadow areas. An alternative to this is exposure blending, where different exposures are made of the scene and combined in software later.

SEE MORE: 9 mistakes every photographer makes using filters (and how to avoid them)

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7 Man and the landscape

Great landscape photography is not necessarily about hunting out the most picturesque scene, in the most wonderful light and at the most perfect time of day. Indeed, there are many aspects of the world’s landscape that are less glamorous, such as the effects of heavy farming, rapidly expanding suburbs and sprawling industrial wastelands, that can make a poignant subject for the concerned photographer. Take a look at the effects of man on the landscape near your home and use them as photographic subjects.

8 RAW

To maximise on quality and also to allow you to edit your original images non-destructively, always shoot raw files when taking landscapes. RAW processing software, such as Adobe Camera Raw, is now so sophisticated that unless you want to significantly manipulate your image you rarely need to switch to traditional image-editing software, such as Photoshop.

 SEE MORE: 6 camera settings landscape photographers always get wrong

Ocean Blur: how to take long exposure pictures of the sea using an ND filter

9 Slow exposures

Slow exposures are regularly used by landscape photographers, whether it’s to optimise depth of field with a small aperture or to create smooth and milky seascapes by taking long exposure pictures of the sea. Exposures can be seconds (rather than fractions of a second) long, so a sturdy tripod is a must. To further minimise camera movement during the exposure consider using a cable release or your camera’s self-timer, as well as locking the mirror up.

SEE MORE: How to expose for landscapes: every question answered

10 Inspirational photographers

There are many great landscape photographers to draw inspiration from, as a simple Google search will prove. However, it’s worth looking at the work of Ansel Adams, who is often considered the old master of landscape photography and one of the best photographers of all time. If you get the chance to see his work in a gallery, make sure you go! Closer to home, the work of Fay Godwin reveals aspects of man’s influence on the land in a unique way. And, of course, the work of favourites such as Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite and David Noton is sure to inspire…

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  • Patrick O’Connor

    Regarding Tip #7, while few people enjoy the landscapes you list, they are, by and large, either necessary for you and me to enjoy our current lifestyles or an unfortunate byproduct of civilization which no amount of concern by photographers, or anyone else for that matter, can avoid.

  • RICHARD WATERS

    Love landscape photography but need improvement in shooting in an urban environment. Can you help please ?

  • Broxi Thomas

    Great article and I have only a few out of thousands of landscape pix that I have taken (throughout my life) with my former P&S that turn out. Now, I am learning with a new Canon 70D — and yikes again, I only have a few landscape pix out of hundreds that seem to turn out. Sometimes I just want to stick with the autoshoot, due to so many (manual/scene) choices to make a great scenery look even better in a picture. Ahhh, but I persevere.

    I used to get up and hike/bike to the top of a mesa or mtn top to watch the sunrise and take pictures. It was the best part of the day for me. That was several years ago. Now, I live in an area where I can’t see the sunrise over the horizon, but the sunset. Where I am learning sunset and dusk picture taking of the North Star and Venus (when it’s there).

    I like the polarizing filters section, and I want to learn this technique; the picture used in this article reminds of Lars Lebar photography.

    Thank you for the great article for tips and advice and photographers to learn from. I love this eZine and the Digital Magazine hard copy too.