How to Capture the Perfect Landscape Photo
June 4, 2018
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner photographer or a seasoned expert; breathtakingly beautiful landscapes are a common point of interest between both skill levels. When it comes to capturing a landscape scene, any photographer must rely on more than just their skills because the unpredictable conditions we see every day in nature comes into play.
You’ll be playing with elements and aspects that you can’t manipulate or move as per your liking; you have to take the entire scene as it is. All you need to keep in mind are a few considerations, no matter what landscape you’re thinking of capturing through your camera’s lens.
Choosing the Composition
While in the great outdoors, it’s crucial that you don’t take pictures hurriedly. The thought may come to your mind if you have a bunch of other beautiful locations to visit on your list. However, the composition is an integral part of capturing a good landscape scene. You may need to try different angles, positions and even moving between a wide angle or telephoto lens to see how the scene can change with small amounts of variability.
I always make it a habit of getting the best shot where possible in the camera, on location and not relying on post-production effects to capture a better landscape scene. If your scene doesn’t appear as you want it to when you look at it through the viewfinder, then it’s likely that the photograph you are potentially trying to turn into a piece of wall art won’t look as stunning either.
You can implement various composition techniques, such as the Rule of Thirds, framing, or using negative space, when capturing your landscape but the important thing is to practice it. Try taking the same picture using various techniques to see which suits the landscape best.
Manipulating Natural Light – Choosing the Best Time to Shoot
Light is considered to be a significant aspect of fine art photography; the way that natural light can be perceived depends heavily upon the available light and time of day and season of your location. For most landscape scenes, photographers aim for sunlight either at sunrise or sunset, when the sky can be full of beautiful colours and soft light that lights up the scene.
You may have the best composition skills lined up to use, but you won’t be properly rewarded if the lighting doesn’t bring out the attractive features of a scene. To give you some insight, you need to take the photo just at the right moment when the maximum light and colour available will turn your image from just a typical postcard photograph into a piece of fine art.
Preferably, you’ll want to wait for sunrise for a softer effect. If your landscape isn’t exactly westwards of the rising sun and you still can’t get a decent picture, then wait till noon for the sunshine to kick in. This lighting will be coming downwards and will beautifully adorn the peaks of any main features that you want to capture. Whereas on surfaces that appear downwards, shadows of elegance will cast over them. If the light is softer as well, such as with cloud cover your scene will be more evenly lit and will more likely produce a better result.
Sometimes, it has more to do with the angle at which you’re capturing the picture. Expert photographers are less likely to make an error regarding the angle and it’s the beginners who are more prone to making such a mistake. In case you fall into the latter category, you’ll need to experiment with multiple angles if you intend to get the best one. Try climbing a high surface or moving towards the ground for a stable and mesmerizing scene.
It is also important to understand your camera, its settings, capabilities and limitations. Sometimes the automated settings will produce a great result in the newer cameras, but to really pull out the most in the scene you should be shooting in RAW, aperture priority or manual, and setting the lowest ISO you can without experiencing any camera shake. If you do need to use slower shutter speeds then you will need to have your camera firmly stable on a tripod.
Use of Filters to Create Drama
Once you’ve composed your desired image, it’s time to give it eye-catching upgrades using filters that create an essence of drama in the landscape scene. Try using natural density filters in landscape photography because they can help you leverage what readily available light you have, and enhance the appearance of your landscape’s features. These filters either screw onto the end of your lens, assuming you are using a DSLR or can be mounted via a special bracket.
Polarizing filters are also highly beneficial for fine art photography as well; you’ll find that they effectively take out distractions for hindrances from an image without compromising on the quality of a picture. For instance, a picture of a calm lake or ocean- any water body- during the daytime is going to give you reflections of the sun or surrounding scenery.
This can take the viewers attention away from the spectacular blue hue of the water or being able to see directly into the water at the interesting rocks and plants below the surface. In this case, you can use a polarizing filter to help reduce the appearance of unwanted reflections in your photography wall art. At the same time, these types of filters will maximize the vividness and visibility of colours like green and blue.
I have also used polarizing filters when taking photographs in rainforests, as they do bring out the vibrant colours like green while also reducing unwanted and distracting reflections from wet rocks and bark.
However, even filters have their limits and they can do very little if you’re the image is to brightly lit up by direct sun or if they are used improperly, such as the wrong way up or if the sun is in the wrong location compared to where you are shooting from and the angle you are facing. Trial and error can be a great way to see how small changes again can improve the scene, lighting and final photograph on your LCD monitor.
You can try using graduated neutral density filters to capture landscape scenes where you want equal exposure to both the sky and foreground. Such a filter will darken the tones of the sky and brighten the overpowering foreground which usually takes up most of the attention.
These are some important aspects to remember when you’re out and about, exploring for landscapes to capture, or have arrived at your dream destination to get that perfect shot. Just keep trying and experimenting, at the end of the day, every scene will be different with no conditions exactly repeated so you will always need to adapt to your conditions. But that is one of the great things about landscape photography, every moment is different and unique!