5 Tips for Better Landscape Photos

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Landscape photography seems simple to most people – there’s a pretty scene, you walk in, take a couple shots and you’re done … and chances are that you end up with a version of the scene that everyone else has.  So how do you take your “snapshot” to the next level?  Other than the “straight horizon” suggestion that you may have heard before, here are five basic tips you can try out when next you are on the field to help you take better landscape photos:

WinterLighthouse

1. Survey Your Scene

Think about the scene differently. Is there another angle that you can shoot from? Can you get your camera higher or lower? Scouting your location to find different and more interesting vantage points is time well spent.  Also check for elements of interest in the location that can be used to give your photo a sense of scale or add texture. So take a moment, survey your scene, take a chance, shoot from a different perspective and see what you might have missed initially.

CastleHill

2. Look for the Light

Most surreal landscape photography moments happen in the golden hours (dawn and dusk). Sunrise is definitely worth getting out of your bed for in the wee hours of the morning, and sunset is a nice exercise in patience to catch that ideal, magical light. It certainly helps to do research before you head out to determine where the sun rises and sets, or even which season works well for the area you intend to shoot. If you’re still unsure about your directions, walk with a compass (a compass apps for your phone is an easy way to always have one with you).

DesertSun

SunsetBrickfield

There is no harm in light chasing during the day either – sometimes it’s the only time you have with a scene, and you have to make the most of it. You need to be aware that shooting in harsh sunlight produces very contrasty light, which means that you don’t capture much detail in the highlight and shadow areas. An overcast, or cloudy day, softens the light a bit. Outside of the golden hours, the key would be to find an angle where the light is flattering to your subject, or put the sun to your back and give it a go!

CaribbeanDay

HorseshoeBend

Note: I have found that midday sun works well for infrared landscape photography.

3. Lines and Repetition

Lines and repetition in a scene catch your viewer’s attention almost immediately, and serves to lead them into the photo. Lines also encourages their eyes to wander around the photo, especially if they start at a corner of the frame. Think about photos of roads and fences, and even the angle of the ocean when composing your shot. Repetitive items or patterns also have a way of holding your viewer’s fascination, and they are everywhere – any element that creates a nice line or geometric shape can give your images structure and form – look for them!

BeavertailLighthouse

PathwaytoGoodbye

4. Foreground Elements

Placing a foreground element in your shot gives the image extra depth and dimension. It can also be used to convey scale and distance, as well as balance out your photo. A dominant foreground object can draw your viewer in, and quite simply makes your photo a more interesting one.

SunsetWaterloo

SmokyCreek

5. Use a Tripod

There are different schools of thought on the necessity of always having a tripod, and yes there are many times you can get away without having one. However, outdoor photography comes with many elements of movement, from a gentle breeze to crashing waves, to the sun – something is always moving. Sharp images are ideally what you want, and using a tripod is one way to deal with such movements.

Tripods are also a must for when you lengthen your shutter speed. You may do this for several reasons; the most common are when using a smaller aperture (higher f-numbers equals smaller aperture opening, which equals less light hitting the sensor) or shooting long exposures (where moving elements are blurred intentionally, e.g., that silky water effect).

LighteningArches

SmokyFalls

Conclusion

Many of these may not be new to you, but the key is remembering a few when you are out there, and trying to make that scene before you, one that is your own. Maybe you’ll spend a little more time surveying the scene or perhaps looking for lines and repetition?

Feel free to share any of your landscape photos that you think successfully utilizes any one of these tips in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Nisha Ramroop is an I.T. chick and Project Manager with a passion for photography, currently living in the beautiful Trinidad & Tobago. She’s a published writer and photographer who spends most of her free time traveling and exploring. See more of her work at Nikophotography.

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  • Ravindra Gaikwad

    Is composition right in this picture?

  • Ravindra Gaikwad

    Is composition right for this picture?

  • Sarita Rampersad

    Great tips and beautiful photography!

  • Niko Phôto

    Hi Ravindra, thanks for sharing your photo. Might I suggest you try a small edit – crop the bottom quarter of the photo, so that the road starts at the bottom left corner of the frame. This crop will also move the horizon line to the bottom third of the frame ( which subscribes to the “rule of thirds”)
    Try it and see which is your preference 🙂

  • Niko Phôto

    Thank you Sarita 🙂

  • Muhammad Saifullah

    Great Post,,, 🙂

  • Niko Phôto

    Thank you kindly Muhammad 🙂

  • John McCubbin

    Some great photography and great advice as well, Nisha – thanks for sharing!

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    … or the opposite – trim off about half the sky. That brings the horizon up to the top third of the image; and it enhances the effect of the golden grasses. (You can get an idea of the effect of these two suggestions by scrolling this page up or down slightly.)
    Ask yourself: what do I want to say with this picture – is it primarily a glorious day at the beach? – or is the interest in the colours of the the beach, grasses and buildings?
    There is no one right answer, but often it is said that a horizon across the middle of a picture creates a dichotomy or confusion for the viewer.

  • Niko Phôto

    Thanks John 🙂

  • Niko Phôto

    Very good points Bob, thanks for weighing in 🙂

  • Raden Adams

    Great article, Nisha. I think that finding that just right perfect lighting is the key to a great photo. It’s just magic when you do capture a well composed shot in the early or late hours and soft natural light. Everything just pops and it requires much less editing and correcting. I do agree with your other points too. My shots improved when I started using a tripod for all landscape, architectural and all of those type shots. I like your foreground element tip and I have never tried to include that technique so I will learn. But, like you, I am a light chaser. Especially with a telephoto lens shooting birds that are constantly on the move in the shadow of the trees and then hopping one branch over into the harsh direct sunlight. Shooting birds in the shade with a telephoto requires more light and the higher you push the ISO, then you start having noise problems. But, a heavily shaded stream, like you have captured, is just about the same except you can use a much better lens which makes things so much easier. Well done once again. Thank you. Take care.

  • Kellie Wiede
  • Kellie Wiede
  • Niko Phôto

    I like this very much. I would have put the moon more to the right, but only if you had more negative space to the left. May also work well as a square crop.

  • Niko Phôto

    Always nice to see you stop by Raden. I look forward to seeing you try that shot with the foreground element. I love shooting birds in the morning light most, I feel like it is more flattering in my limited bird experience.

  • Niko Phôto

    Replied on my other article Kellie…thanks for sharing your work 🙂

  • Kellie Wiede
  • Kellie Wiede

    One more for you to tell me your thoughts one the first one I took about a year ago and this one I took last month.

    Thank you

  • Niko Phôto

    Wow very nice. I like this one. The crop and the proximity works very well. I don’t know if it’s the upload but the photo is a bit blurry. Try focusing on the moon and its detail will add quite a kick to this. I love that you tried the shot years apart ?

  • Kellie Wiede

    This one had no crop in it, I believe it is the upload on this picture that makes it blurry cause looking at it directly it has no blur to it. Thank you very much for your insight. Waiting for the April 11th moon to try again.

  • Raden Adams

    Keep up the great work and tutorials for us who still need a lot of education. Have you ever thought about publishing a book or maybe you already have but I think you have the knowledge to write a quite interesting and very educational book. Your photos are terrific and explaining how you shot them, from start to finish, is very helpful and easy to follow, learn and understand, etc… Take care.

  • Niko Phôto

    Hope you got that beautiful pink moon last night Kellie 🙂

  • Kellie Wiede

    Clouds unfortunately didn’t allow for any pictures.

  • Raden Adams

    But, in my opinion, you are absolutely correct.

  • Yohanes Pintoko AS
  • Yohanes Pintoko AS

    Here’s the second one, but I think if I reduce the Focal Length and rotate little to the right can be a good composition. Sorry. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a1f9ce375347ac5b336afc816645b94569d5995a384a12d87d15bde658fc1df6.jpg

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