Want to take your landscape photography to the next level? Here are some tips to help you create more polished and compelling images.
Anyone can capture landscape photos today. The advent of a highly capable smartphone camera makes digital photography much easier, and many snapshots are captured and posted onto Instagram while consumers take walks in nature. As an avid photographer, I enjoy the beauty of nature and capturing it digitally with my camera. Allow me to share some tricks I've learned when trying to show just how beautiful a landscape is.
Going out and capturing images of vast fields of grain is pretty easy to do if you live in my area. But the time of day you shoot can affect your final image positively--and also negatively. Let's focus on the positive. Try to shoot your landscape images near the hours of sunrise or sunset. During those times, Mother Nature works with you, shedding soft natural lighting onto your landscape. In addition to the soft lighting, hues of blue or gold are present. Ever heard of the "golden hour" of photography?
If you're really on top of your timing, you'll be able to take advantage of the golden lighting and get an added bonus of magenta, purple, or pink hues to cover your landscape. The mix of color you're given can affect the mood of your shot. Does the shot make you feel warm and fuzzy? Or does it make you feel cold and worried? Let the colors of the landscape answer that. In addition to the golden hours, I've found that shooting just before or after a rain storm offers some awesome lighting and clouds. The landscape gets a dramatic feel in that instance.
It's not to say that shooting landscape photography outside of the golden hour is a bad thing. One just has to understand how the harsh lighting of high noon can potentially affect the final image. Keep an eye on your camera's settings to make sure you're getting optimal results. The lighting in the image below is rather harsh, as it was a super bright summer day and in the middle of a reflective river. With some attention paid to my camera's settings, I was able to get a nice shot regardless.
Panoramic vs. cropping
A lot of the less-than-stellar landscape photos you'll find on Facebook or Instagram lack a thoughtful composition. You'll find some images that are wide, showing a random meadow, and the image lacks personality. Cropping can easily fix this. Don't be afraid to crop your image. If the sky doesn't add value to the shot, see how much you can crop out of it. A tighter view is usually more compelling.
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If you're really wanting to show more, create a panoramic view by stitching a couple of images together. Adobe Photoshop and other photo editors allow you to take a series of images and stitch them together making a larger image with a wide aspect ratio. Panoramic photos really enhance the wide point of view you're sharing with viewers. And if you don't want to stitch a few images, you can fake a panoramic photo by cropping with a horizontal bias. This creates the illusion of a wide view. Here's an image before processing and cropping:
By cropping, I could fake a wide view and make the photo more interesting. You can even see the golf ball lead off into the distance, which forces you to notice the beautiful mountain range on the horizon.
Capture leading lines
What's a leading line, you ask? Think of a leading line as a subtle pattern within your landscape that forces your viewers' eyes to follow it--such as a road in the foreground that trails off into the background. Or even a line of trees that traverses your image. A leading line can enhance your landscape scene if properly composed. Otherwise, the lines may be distracting. One of my favorite landscape photographers, Karen Hutton, uses leading lines quite regularly. She even uses the clouds to force your eyes to look off into the distance with this composition. Beautifully done.
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Embrace post processing
As beautiful as nature may be, sometimes it can come off as flat in color and contrast. Feel free to play around with your image inside of photo editor of your choice. I mentioned a few photo editing options previously. When I go through the basic elements of Adobe Lightroom, my go-to photo editor, I enjoy pushing the limits of the image's contrast, shadows, and saturation. Playing around with vibrance is also helpful as it further aides in shadow level adjustments. Converting a landscape image to black and white is also an option. Hopefully you've shot in camera RAW format, so pushing the editing boundaries will be more forgiving.
It's just art, so have fun
The best advice I can offer with landscape photography is to have fun. Yes, I root for you to capture great photos by setting up your composition, but not at the expense of enjoying the moment. Our planet is beautiful. Take a few minutes to savor it. Snap some shots while you're out there, but make it a fun task. I've spent extended amounts of time on photo walks. Not because it took a long time to find the best exposure settings, but because I would set my backpack down and take in the beauty around me.
Go grab your trusty camera and shoot some landscape photos. I'd love to see what you capture. Tag me on Instagram or Twitter with your favorite landscape photos. Be sure to let me know the location of the shot. I just may be interested is seeing the area myself for a photo walk.
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- Landscape Photography (TechRepublic Academy)
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- How to conduct a successful photo walk (TechRepublic)
Do you have a favorite tip or bit of advice that's helped improve your photographs? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.