Do you feel like your landscape photography has become a bit…blah? Maybe you’ve been taking the same type of photo over and over again or your landscape shots look like everyone else’s. Regardless, one of the easiest ways to get out of a creative rut is to try something completely new, and that’s where this article comes in handy.
Below, I share six ideas for creative landscape photography. Some of the ideas are easy and can be done with minimal equipment and experience, while other ideas are more advanced and may take some gear and practice – but all of them are lots of fun.
So for plenty of unique ways to jumpstart your landscape photography, read on!
1. Infrared photography
Infrared photography – as the name suggests – uses infrared light to capture images. You can’t see the infrared spectrum with your eyes, but your camera sensor or special infrared film can.
Infrared landscape photography can look wonderfully wild. In fact, the best infrared images often seem like they were taken on an alien planet:
Note the infrared look: White or pink foliage, strange-colored skies, and a sense of timelessness.
While the effect can be mimicked in post-processing, if you want to capture authentic infrared images in the field, you’ll need to acquire certain equipment. You can create infrared photos in one of two (relatively) easy ways:
- With an infrared filter
- With an infrared-converted camera
When you’re just starting out, I’d recommend grabbing an infrared filter, which won’t break the bank and won’t be too tricky to handle (though note that you’ll need to use ultra-long exposures to get good results).
Then, once you become more serious, you can think about getting an old camera body converted to infrared.
2. Aerial photography
What is one of the coolest angles in landscape photography? Up high, looking down. It’s a perspective that can lead to some great creative landscapes, but it’s one that most dedicated landscape photographers avoid due to practical difficulties.
Fortunately, the advances in drone technology now make it easier than ever to capture amazing photos from the sky, even though consumer-level drones don’t produce the highest-quality still images and do come with various limitations. And you can also capture aerial landscape images using other techniques:
- Commercial airplanes. The next time you’re traveling by plane, book the window seat and take photos from the sky. Do what you can to avoid reflections in the glass, and use a fast shutter speed to keep your photos sharp!
- Chartered helicopters. If you’re serious about capturing ultra-high-quality aerial landscape shots, a helicopter is a great choice. It’ll cost quite a bit, but you won’t need to rely on lower-quality drone cameras. Plus, the experience is definitely one to remember!
- Hot air balloons. A bit unorthodox, I know, but hot air balloon rides are very fun and the photos can be incredible.
3. Refraction photography
Refraction refers to light bending as it passes through an object; in fact, it’s how a lens projects an image onto a camera sensor. But did you know that you can create cool refraction photo effects by shooting through spherical glass?
First, you’ll need your refractive object. You can purchase a generic crystal ball, or you can grab a dedicated lens ball designed for photography. Once you find a cool landscape, you can position the ball in front of your lens, then focus the lens on the refracted scene inside the ball:
Note that the ball will capture a vast expanse – like an ultra-wide lens – so you’ll need to choose your composition carefully. Additionally, the image inside the ball will be flipped upside down, so you’ll either need to shoot with this in mind or flip the image in post-processing (which can create a very disorienting background!).
You’ll want to physically hold the ball in front of your lens or – more conveniently – place it on a solid object, like a bench or a table. You can also decide whether to keep the holder in the composition or whether to clone it out later on.
4. Shoot a 360-degree panorama
This creative landscape idea relies on a mix of post-processing and careful in-the-field technique to create a very cool tiny-planet effect. In some ways, it’s very similar to the refraction idea discussed above – you’re creating a globe! – but the result is very different.
To produce this type of photo, you’ll need to create a 360-degree panoramic landscape image. If you’re a purist, then you’ll want to capture a series of shots as you rotate your camera in a full circle. Of course, make sure you choose your landscape composition carefully! I’d recommend experimenting with all kinds of scenes: cityscapes, fields at sunset, mountains, and more.
Once you have your panorama, it’ll need to be reformatted into a square image and flipped upside down; the Polar Coordinates filter should then be applied in Photoshop. (To find this filter, select Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates.)
And within moments, you’ll get an image like this:
5. Long-exposure photography
Long-exposure landscape photography isn’t the most unique idea on the planet – it’s used by a lot of professional landscape shooters to capture breathtakingly ethereal photos – but if you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a treat.
In my experience, the different types of images that are possible using long-exposure techniques will lead to an explosion of creative photos. And to get started, all you need is a good tripod and a camera capable of taking long-exposure shots.
Simply find a moving subject, like waves on a beach, water running through a river, cars racing across a road, or clouds blowing across the sky. Then set up your camera on the tripod, create a careful composition, lengthen your shutter speed, and trigger the camera shutter. If all goes well, your moving elements will be rendered in a wonderfully artistic way:
Pro tip: Bring along a remote shutter release and use it to fire the shutter without actually touching your camera. It’ll prevent you from inducing blur by physically tapping the shutter button.
Because long-exposure photos require lengthy shutter speeds, you generally need to shoot in low-light situations; otherwise, your images will turn out wildly overexposed. You can create beautiful images early or late in the day (blue hour is great for this!), and you can also shoot at night, though you’ll often need to use exposures of 15 seconds or more, so if you do decide to work at night, you should invest in a very sturdy tripod.
Note: If you want to capture long-exposure landscape shots during the day, you can purchase a 10- or 15-stop neutral density filter, which will block out the light and allow you to extend your shutter speed – even when the sun is shining brightly.
Astrophotography is one of the most demanding forms of landscape photography, but when done well, it can net you some amazing images. The most popular types of astrophotography focus on capturing the Milky Way or showing the rotation of stars around the pole, though the two subjects require very different techniques:
- Photographing the Milky Way. Including the Milky Way in your composition can create a dramatic and creative landscape shot. If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend shooting at the constellation of Sagittarius between March and October in the Northern Hemisphere. Use a wide-angle lens with a wide aperture, and make sure your setup is mounted on a sturdy tripod; exposures are generally around 25 seconds, and you should dial in an ISO of 6400 or greater.
- Photographing star trails. The aim here is to point your camera at the North or South Pole and capture the Earth’s rotation during a long exposure. You might try creating an ultra-long three-hour exposure or shooting a series of shorter exposures. In my view, the best method is to take multiple 30-second exposures and then stack them together in post-processing.
As with long-exposure landscape photography, you’ll need a good tripod and (ideally) a wireless remote. I’d also encourage you to use a relatively new camera body with impressive high-ISO capabilities; since you’ll be shooting at ISO 6400, the higher you can push your camera without creating too much noise, the better.
Creative landscape photography ideas: final words
Well, there you have it:
Six creative ideas for landscape photography. Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired to head out with your camera, so pick an idea, do a bit of planning, and have fun photographing!
Now over to you:
Which creative landscape idea will you try? Do you have any other ideas that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Table of contents
- 5 Tips for Setting the Focus in Your Landscape Photography
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES