Take your landscapes up a notch with creative flare

Peter Fenech
(Image credit: Peter Fenech)

Landscapes (opens in new tab) are one of the most popular genres in photography, so it goes without saying that there are lot of landscape photos shot every day. Therefore it can be really quite tricky to stay ahead of the competition. It's useful to introduce some simple and attractive extra elements, to make your images stand apart from the crowd. 

One such technique is to use aperture artistically and introduce some light flare into sparsely detailed scenes - such as in this coastal landscape. 

1- Choose the right optic


(Image credit: Future)

Your lens selection will depend on the intensity of the sunlight - if it is visible in the scene itself a wideangle lens will suffice, but if the sun is out of the frame a longer lens is needed. A wide aperture is also required.

2- Select your angle


(Image credit: Future)

Aim the camera so that the sun is positioned to one side of the frame, or just out of shot, illuminating the scene from an angle. Be sure that you consider safety and do not look directly at the sun through the viewfinder.

3- Set the aperture


(Image credit: Future)

Set an aperture of around f/5.6 to begin, incrementally opening up towards the maximum - ideally f/2.8 or wider - to find a balance of depth-of-field and flare. The wider lens opening gives the light a less defined shape, for the washed-out effect.

4- Find a base exposure


(Image credit: Future)

It is still important to avoid too many blown highlights or blacked shadows, although some clipping near the sun is acceptable. Change metering mode to Partial and measure from foreground highlights to create a bright image, while keeping the tonality mostly in range.

5- Arrange composition


(Image credit: Future)

It is critical to retain a strong subject so check that your choice of angle compliments the scene elements. The attraction of this effect us that the soft lighting contrasts with sharp coastal features, so look for framing which subtly balances these opposing textures. 

6- Adjust exposure


(Image credit: Future)

Use exposure compensation to brighten or darken the image to taste. A brighter exposure will often emphasise the washed-out style, but this can be at the expense of colour saturation. Use negative compensation to boost colour strength if necessary and to prevent widespread highlight clipping.

Final image: Desaturated backlight - Using the correct combination of aperture, exposure and angle, the low sun can be used to introduce colour and atmosphere even if it is not directly visible in the frame.  (Image credit: Peter Fenech)

Read more:

The 10 best camera sensors on the market (opens in new tab) (sorry, Canon users)

What you need to succeed in landscape photography (opens in new tab), by top pro Jeremy Walker

Fisheye fantastic! Use a fisheye lens for 'serious' landscape photography (opens in new tab)

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As the Editor for  Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) magazine, Peter is a specialist in camera tutorials and creative projects to help you get the most out of your camera, lens, tripod, filters, gimbal, lighting and other imaging equipment.

After cutting his teeth working in retail for camera specialists like Jessops, he has spent 11 years as a photography journalist and freelance writer – and he is a Getty Images-registered photographer, to boot.

No matter what you want to shoot, Peter can help you sharpen your skills and elevate your ability, whether it’s taking portraits, capturing landscapes, shooting architecture, creating macro and still life, photographing action… he can help you learn and improve.