Landscape photography tips and techniques

A landscape is a section or portion of scenery as seen from a single viewpoint. Scenery is the subject of a landscape image. Typically, people and animals are not shown in a landscape, unless they are relatively small in the image and have been included in the composition to show scale. Some photographers argue that the sea coast, the city and man-made structures in general should not be included in a landscape, and images that do contain them are more accurately called seascapes or cityscapes. From a purist perspective, they are probably correct, since a landscape is a picture of the land and its aggregate natural features. However, if natural scenery dominates an image, it can probably be accurately termed a landscape, even though there may be a farmhouse in the distance, a city skyline on the horizon or a road or path in the foreground.


The term “Urban Landscape” describes photographs of the city taken in the manner of a landscape, using buildings and other man-made features as graphical elements of composition that are treated in the same way the photographer would treat mountains and trees.


The term “Urban Landscape” describes photographs of the city taken in the manner of a landscape, using buildings and other man-made features as graphical elements of composition that are treated in the same way the photographer would treat mountains and trees.

STYLES OF LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY


Three styles of landscape photography are recognized – representational, impressionistic and abstract.


Representational
Also known as the straight or straight descriptive style, the representational style results in pictures that show scenery at its most natural and realistic, with no visual manipulation or artifice. It is a straightforward style – what you see is what you get. Successful images in the representational style are not simple snapshots. Although the photographer adds no props or other components to a scene and does not try to “bend” reality, great attention is paid to composition and detail. Light, timing and the weather are critical elements.

Impressionistic
The impressionistic landscape photographer employs photographic techniques that result in images that have vague or elusive qualities. They are less tangible and more unreal, while still retaining their values that make them landscape pictures. The viewer is given the impression of a landscape rather than the clear reality of one.


Abstract
This style – Abstract – could also probably be referred to as the graphic style, since the components of scenery are treated by the photographer as graphic elements, arranged for their compositional values. Natural elements may be rendered as unrecognizable or almost so. Shape and form take priority. Elements may be juxtapositioned for comparison or contrast, isolated by extreme close-up, reduced to silhouettes by severe underexposure, and so on. Design is more important than recognizable representation.


QUICK TIPS for effective landscape photography


These quick tips are not essential to every landscape picture you take, but applying them judiciously will improve your picture-taking.


  • One or more foreground objects will give the impression of three-dimensionality, and can help to frame the scene. Depth is achieved by combining foreground, middle ground and background objects.
  • Compose the image so that it contains a center of interest – an object that draws the viewer’s eye into the picture.
  • Placing the center of interest off-center, in accordance with the Rule of Thirds, will create a harmonious composition.
  • Placing the horizon a third of the way down from the top or bottom of the frame is usually much better than having it in the middle of the scene.
  • Scale can often be important to the understanding of a landscape, and can be achieved by including an object of a known size in the scene.
  • The quality of the light is perhaps the most influential attribute of a successful landscape. Waiting for interesting lighting that is moody, dramatic or diffused usually pays off in a memorable photograph. Top landscape photographers will often return again and again to a location until lighting conditions are just right.
  • Ensure that your camera’s flash is turned off when shooting landscapes, unless you require it to brighten a foreground object. Flash in a dusty, misty or foggy scene may cause flare by reflecting off the droplets of moisture or dust particles.
  • Use a tripod to ensure sharpness, especially in low-light conditions. In very low light, be sure to select a fast film speed or a high ISO sensitivity setting in your digital camera that will permit proper exposure and good depth of field.
  • Watch for unsightly or unnatural elements such as overhead wires, hydrants, poles and garbage cans, especially in the foreground. If you cannot easily move them, reposition yourself to a camera angle that eliminates them from the frame.
  • Don’t let the weather stop you from capturing an attractive landscape. Rain can add a degree of softness and peacefulness to a scene. On an overcast day, be sure your scene has an area of color in it to counteract the overall dull lighting.
  • Keep the rules of composition in mind when framing a scene. Lines, in particular, can be a strong factor in making an interesting landscape. An awareness and the judicious placement of planes in the scene can also be factors in improving your composition.
  • Landscape photography is often more horizontal than it is vertical, presenting the opportunity to shoot a panorama. If you are faced with a wide vista and your camera has a panorama mode, this is the time to select it. Cropping afterwards can achieve a similar purpose.
  • When the wind is blowing or water is moving – waves, waterfalls, a tumbling brook – capturing that movement by using a slow shutter speed to create blur can add great interest to a landscape. When selecting a slow shutter speed, be sure you retain proper exposure by also appropriately adjusting your camera’s aperture. Many cameras will do this automatically for you in Shutter Priority mode.

Your pointers, hints & tips


This section of PhotographyTips.com contains information intended to improve your landscape imagery. (Click on the links below.) We hope you find it beneficial. Landscape photography is a vast topic, and no one source could ever contain all there is to know about it. It is therefore likely that you will have a landscape photography tip of your own that we omitted or just don’t know about.
We invite you to send it in to share with our viewers, along with a picture that illustrates the information. If we use it on the site, we’ll be sure to credit you with the tip and the photography.

We invite you to send it in to share with our viewers, along with a picture that illustrates the information. If we use it on the site, we’ll be sure to credit you with the tip and the photography.

Noelle Haftarczyk, for example, sent us this lovely image photographed from her home in St. Helena, California. It was taken with a Kodak DC3200 camera (a 1.0 megapixel digital camera) at 5:00 in the morning when Noelle just happened to wake up and look out her picture window. She says she was “taken aback” by the scene and its uncharacteristic low-lying fog. She immediately grabbed her camera and captured the image before the rising sun could bring about change. Timing and opportunity play a big part in landscape photography, and Noelle’s picture is a prime example of shooting when the right opportunity presents itself. Thanks, Noelle, and congratulations on a fine picture.

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