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Landscape photography is one of the most popular genres of photography and for good reason. A great landscape photo has the power to wow the viewer and captures the beauty of the incredible planet that we live on. But landscape photography is also difficult to master as not only are you often at the mercy of the elements, but you are also fighting against the limitations of digital cameras versus the human eye.
As advanced as digital cameras are, they are still no match for your eyes and that sometimes means you feel let down when you look at photos you’ve taken. A big part of this could be as simple as framing your shot correctly. So here are 5 framing tricks to help you capture better landscape photos.
Think about that feeling you get when you first see an amazing landscape in front of you. It’s often the sense of feeling really small compared to those towering mountains or that deep valley. But capturing that feeling in a photo isn’t as straightforward as just taking a shot of the scene. To be able to convey that sense of scale you need to help the viewer by showing them a comparison with something they can relate to.
For example, photograph a large boulder and it will be difficult for someone looking at the photo to know how big it is in reality. But put a person next to the boulder and suddenly there is an instant sense of scale. This is a great way to really make your landscape photos jump off the page and captivate the viewer.
A good landscape photo should lead the viewer’s eyes around the image. Sometimes to achieve this you need to add a point of interest to your image. This is especially true if you are photographing a scene where there is a vast empty area where nothing is happening.
Without a clear point of interest, the viewer’s eyes will get lost in the photo and it won’t work. For example, the photograph below would be pretty uninteresting without the people in it. But by including people not only does it add that point of interest but it also tells a much more intriguing story.
A point of interest could be anything. It can be a rock, person, animal, a tree, or a building. So next time you are evaluating a scene, think if it will benefit from having a point of interest. If so, try to frame your photo using the rule of thirds to capture this in the composition.
In landscape photography, it’s really easy to try and capture everything in front of you. After all, that amazing vista is what usually wows people. But sometimes a wide-angle shot of a scene just doesn’t work because there is too much for the viewer to process. On those occasions, you need to zoom into your scene and try to capture a small section rather than the whole thing.
Think about the small section in the same way as if it was a wide-angle shot and frame up your image with the same thought process. The key is to not be afraid to forego the “big wide-angle shot” for the smaller zoomed in section. Remember that you can always try a few different crops and then decide on the best one later in post-production.
But don’t make the mistake of just capturing wide-angle shots and relying on cropping in post-production as the more you crop an image, the more pixelated it will become if you want to print it at really large sizes. Try to actually capture some photos zoomed it with your camera instead.
One of the best ways to ensure that your landscape photos look dramatic and stunning is by focusing as much of the photo on the part that is going to give you impact. That means really considering where to put the horizon line. If you have a dramatic sky with lots of clouds, beautiful dramatic sunsets or even moody stormy weather, then place your horizon line in the lower third of the image, so you are showing more of the sky.
If on the other hand, your foreground is interesting with a good point of interest, then place your horizon in the top third of the image. Thus maximizing the area showing the foreground in the image. Just try to avoid placing your horizon line in the middle of the image where possible as it can make your photo seem uninteresting.
So always remember, sky or land? Whichever it most important to your image, show more of that part of the scene.
Most people see landscapes from one particular view only – eye level view. The great thing about photography is that it allows you to capture a photo at a completely different point of view to what most people see. You don’t need to dangle yourself off a cliff to capture unique views, sometimes just being slightly lower or more elevated can have incredibly dramatic results.
For example, set your camera really low (almost on the ground) and you will capture a unique angle from a worm’s eye viewpoint. Put your camera on a tall tripod and lift it up so that it’s higher than normal eye level and again you’ll capture a unique shot.
There’s also the option of using drones these days which can give you even more stunning photos of landscapes. But make sure you always check local laws regarding drone usage. As with any type of photography, the key is to experiment.
Capturing the perfect landscape takes time, effort and usually some luck a well.
You need so many factors to be working together to capture stunning photos and even then you still need to think about how to frame all of those elements into a photograph that will do the scene justice. But once you have a great location, an interesting subject, and the perfect light, follow these framing tricks and you may well capture some stunning landscape photos.