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15 Rural Landscape Photography Tips (+ Examples)

There’s something captivating about capturing the stillness and simplicity of rural landscapes. The moment you step away from the city’s hustle and bustle, you’re greeted by an entirely different world – one that offers unique opportunities to showcase untouched vistas, weathered structures, and a sense of peaceful isolation that’s hard to find elsewhere.

But while rural landscape photography can be heartbreakingly beautiful, it also requires a unique approach. You don’t want to shoot rural scenes the same way you’d shoot mountain vistas or sweeping deserts, and that’s where this article comes in handy. I’ve spent plenty of time capturing the beauty of rural subjects, and in this guide, I share:

  • The best lighting for rural landscape photos
  • Key tips to take your compositions to the next level
  • Ways to use weather for dramatic results
  • Much more!

Let’s dive right in, starting with…

What is rural landscape photography?

The term “rural landscape photography” often conjures images of idyllic farmlands, quaint cottages, and open fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. But it’s so much more than just a pretty backdrop. This style of photography serves as a narrative, telling stories of places and lifestyles often overlooked in our fast-paced modern world.

You might find inspiration in an abandoned farmhouse, a rusty tractor, or even a herd of sheep crossing a meadow. Unlike urban landscapes that often focus on the grandeur of architecture and the complexity of human-made structures, rural landscapes offer something more organic. Here, the beauty lies in simplicity. Even a single tree in an open field can become the focal point of your photograph.

Capturing the essence of rural life is key. Whether it’s the serenity of a quiet lake or the rugged charm of an old barn, these images invite the viewer to pause and ponder. It’s not just about making a visually appealing photograph but about creating an emotional connection with your audience.

Now that you understand what rural landscape photography actually is, here are some tips to help you capture your own rural landscapes:

1. Experiment with different rural subjects

rural landscape with water and pastures

Rural landscape photography offers you the chance to capture a whole range of interesting subjects, including:

  • Old barns
  • Towers
  • Churches
  • Machinery
  • Buildings in disrepair

You might also include modern rural elements, such as houses, working farms, and more.

When doing rural photography, don’t confine yourself to a single subject. Instead, experiment with all these different options. If you find an old barn, take the time to photograph it – and if you find a shiny new farmhouse, photograph that, too!

2. Shoot when the light is soft

rocks in the fog

You can photograph rural landscapes at any time of the day…

…but golden hour, blue hour, and nighttime offer some of the best times to get out with your camera. The light tends to be soft and flattering, perfect for rural subjects.

Golden hour provides a magical glow that can elevate your images, while blue hour adds a cool tone that works well with subjects such as old houses and derelict buildings.

If you prefer to photograph at night, you may need to be more creative, as the building lights will likely be switched off. I recommend taking a flashlight and painting light on your subject to make it more visible in the final photo.

3. Use a wide-angle lens

You’ve probably heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. But what if you could expand that narrative? An ultra-wide lens helps you do just that. It allows you to capture a sweeping vista, turning a rural setting into an epic stage for your photographs.

Imagine standing in a field of sunflowers. With a standard lens, you might capture a lovely patch of these sunny blooms. But an ultra-wide lens lets you take in the entire field, the horizon, and even the dramatic skies above. The result is a photograph that transports your viewers right into the landscape.

Now, working with an ultra-wide lens isn’t just point and shoot. There are some things you should consider to maximize its potential. For one, be mindful of distortions. Ultra-wide lenses can make straight lines appear curved at the edges of your photo. While this can add drama, overuse can lead to a fishbowl effect. So, try to keep your lens level to minimize this distortion.

Don’t forget to pick a focal point. Since you’ll be capturing so much of the scene, it’s easy for the viewer’s eyes to wander. A well-placed barn, tree, or even an animal can serve as a visual anchor.

4. Think about the sky (and the weather)

Want to capture creative rural landscape photos? Make sure you spend plenty of time thinking about the sky, which has the power to elevate – or ruin – your images.

Ask yourself: What type of atmosphere do I want to capture? For moody photos, you can head out during rain, snow, or fog. And for upbeat, colorful images, shoot in strong sunlight.

By the way, you’ll want to consider whether the sky should be included in your photo. On overcast days (where you don’t have much cloud moodiness, but you also don’t have any nice sky color), you may want to leave out the sky completely. But on stormy days, or during dramatic sunrises and sunsets, the sky will add an extra dimension to your photos.

elevated rural landscape with city in the distance

5. Use architecture to anchor the viewer

I find that architecture makes for a great focal point in rural landscape photography; it often contrasts beautifully with nature.

Traditional structures can work great, especially barns with rugged, weathered facades. They’ll create a rustic look and feel, which can really capture the viewer’s imagination. For instance, take a look at this image of an old barn:

barn with mountains and trees

Other architecture that makes for interesting rural landscape images includes abandoned houses, old farms, and buildings that have been left behind by people moving to cities. You can capture their aging, rundown characteristics within the surrounding countryside.

6. Try a telephoto perspective

If you’ve read tip #3, you’re probably thinking that a wide-angle lens is your go-to for rural landscapes. And you’re not wrong; it’s a great tool for capturing the vastness of the countryside. But let’s add another layer to your photography toolkit—a telephoto lens. Specifically, a 70-200mm lens can open doors to a world of intimate, detailed rural landscapes.

What makes a telephoto lens special? It’s all about perspective. While a wide-angle lens captures a sweeping vista, a telephoto lens allows you to zoom in on the details. Imagine capturing the texture of an old barn’s wood or the intricate patterns of a spider’s web between fence posts. The compression effect of a telephoto lens can make distant objects appear closer together, allowing you to layer different elements in a single frame.

Quality is crucial when you’re zooming in. You don’t want your pictures to look like they were taken with a potato. So, use stabilization techniques like tripods or in-camera stabilization to keep your shots sharp. Even a slight movement can introduce blur into your image, especially at higher focal lengths.

In essence, a telephoto lens lets you tell a different kind of story. Instead of showcasing the vast openness of a rural scene, you’re inviting your audience to lean in, to look closer. Sometimes the most compelling stories are not those that shout but those that whisper.

7. Don’t be afraid to include people

People often make great subjects in the countryside! After all, they are an integral part of the rural landscape.

One great thing about rural settings is that there is always human activity. At farms, people can be seen tending to their land and farm animals. And people may be out riding horses, exercising, or operating machinery, all of which can make for beautiful images.

shepherd with sheep

8. Incorporate animals into your shots

When you go out into the countryside, you will always come across animals. These might be wild animals, which are often well hidden and harder to photograph. Or they might be captive animals, such as horses, cows, and sheep.

Take advantage of these photo opportunities. Experiment with different forms of lighting to create unique farm-animal images. And don’t be afraid to shoot when the weather gets foggy; it’ll offer plenty of stunning atmosphere to play with:

horses in a misty field

9. Capture some rural landscapes at night

There’s something magical about rural landscapes under the moon and stars. Nighttime offers a unique atmosphere that’s just begging to be captured through your lens. It’s not only a visually compelling setting but also a challenging one. The dim light can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on how well you know your equipment and settings.

First up, you need to think about exposure. We’re talking longer exposure times here, folks. That means your camera will need to stay still for longer periods. A sturdy tripod is not optional; it’s a must-have. You might also consider using a remote shutter release to minimize any chances of camera shake. Long exposures will allow you to capture the subtle light of stars or even the ethereal glow of moonlit landscapes.

But settings are just part of the equation. Nighttime also comes with its share of potential risks, especially in rural areas. You’re far from the city, and help isn’t just around the corner. Planning is crucial. Make sure you know your location well, tell someone where you’re going, and always bring a reliable source of light. Safety should always be your number one priority.

Gear-wise, apart from your trusted tripod, think about lens choices. Wide apertures (think f/1.8 or f/2.8) can let in more light, making them ideal for nighttime shooting. These apertures allow you to keep your ISO lower, reducing image noise. But remember, the best gear won’t replace good technique and planning. So before you set out, take some time to scout your location during the day to identify the best spots for nighttime shots.

10. Carefully position your subject for better compositions

As with all landscape photography, composition is an essential part of the best rural photos – so it’s important you get it right.

Start by asking yourself: What is my main subject? What is it that interests me most about this scene? Then determine where you want to place that main subject in the frame.

You might put it right in the center of the shot, or you might put it off to one side. It often pays to remember the rule of thirds, which suggests you position your main subject about a third of the way into the frame (either vertically or horizontally).

Also consider whether you want to capture the entire countryside or if only part of it appeals to you. Wide-angle lenses are great for landscape shots, but don’t be afraid to go tight for a more intimate perspective, one that highlights details within the scene.

misty monastery

11. Try minimalist composition techniques

Have you ever looked at a photo and felt instantly calmed by its simplicity? That’s the power of minimalist composition. Rural landscapes offer plenty of opportunities for this technique. Think wide-open fields, a lone tree, or a solitary barn in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes, less really is more.

Begin by identifying your subject. Whether it’s a solitary figure or a striking piece of architecture, make it the star of the show. Remember, in minimalist photography, your subject doesn’t have to fill the frame; it needs to own it. Use techniques like the rule of thirds to place your subject in a way that draws the eye but also leaves plenty of “negative space” around it. This emptiness isn’t wasted; it actually emphasizes the subject.

Another tool in your minimalist toolbox is leading lines. Roads, fences, or rows of crops can lead the viewer’s eye straight to your main subject. When used effectively, these elements don’t distract; they enhance. For instance, a winding road leading to a solitary house can make for a compelling composition. It not only directs attention but also invites the viewer to ponder what lies beyond the frame.

Let’s not forget about color—or the lack of it. Minimalist compositions often benefit from a limited color palette. Too many colors can distract, pulling attention away from your main subject. If the landscape doesn’t provide a natural limitation of colors, consider converting your image to black and white. It’s a classic choice that adds a layer of depth to even the most straightforward subject matter.

12. Use the right settings for sharp photos

For rural landscape photography, the best camera settings vary depending on the shots you’re after as well as the weather.

Generally speaking, a mid-range aperture of f/8 will give you an adequate depth of field to keep everything in focus, and this often works well. But if you want to throw parts of the frame out of focus, go with a wider aperture – f/4 is a good starting point, with f/2.8 decreasing the in-focus area even further.

You will want to keep the ISO fairly low, so go for an ISO of anything between 100 and 400. Any higher, and you’ll be risking unwanted noise – but if you’re shooting in low light, an ISO of 800 and beyond may still be necessary.

As for shutter speeds: If your scene includes moving subjects (such as a swaying horse), you’ll need at least 1/100s and probably more. For scenes without significant movement, I’d still recommend keeping your shutter speed above 1/60s or so (though you also have the option of using a tripod).

Of course, shutter speed often does involve experimentation. So don’t be afraid to test out different speeds and see what works best.

13. Head out when the weather is bad

misty rolling hills and trees

It’s true:

Bright, sunny days – especially around sunrise or sunset – offer great conditions for rural landscape photos.

But shooting in bad weather can bring another level of drama to the scene. For instance, fog can add tons of atmosphere, rain can look gloriously dreary, and snow can take your photos to new heights.

So don’t confine yourself to good weather. Instead, be prepared to shoot whenever the rural landscape looks dramatic (which is often on the most unpleasant days!).

14. Use a drone to capture aerial images

Drones are game-changers. They take you to perspectives you couldn’t otherwise reach, transforming how you view rural landscapes. Hovering over farmland, floating over rustic buildings, or capturing sweeping aerial vistas, drones add a wow factor to your portfolio.

Before you launch, let’s talk legality and safety. Flying a drone comes with its own set of rules. Always check local regulations and be respectful of private property. Make sure to fly only in designated areas and keep a safe distance from people and animals.

Getting that killer shot involves more than just altitude. Varying your drone’s height can dramatically affect the composition. A lower altitude might give you detailed images of crop patterns, while a higher vantage point can capture the grandeur of a sprawling rural setting. Experiment with heights to get a mix of shots.

Here’s the kicker: You don’t need a high-end drone to start. There are plenty of beginner-friendly options that offer good image quality and ease of use. So don’t worry about gear—focus on capturing that perfect shot from the sky.

15. Take a walk in the landscape

Here’s your final rural landscape photography tip:

Take a walk. Head out with your camera. Have fun.

After all, the countryside is a beautiful place, and you never know what you may find. You might come across wildlife, blooming flowers, hay bales, and more – all great subjects for photography!

bluebells in a forest

Rural landscape photography tips: final words

We’ve explored a lot of ground, from lens choices to compositional techniques, night shooting, and even aerial photography. Rural landscape photography is rich in possibilities, each offering a unique viewpoint of the world we often take for granted.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go out and experiment. Maybe you’ll find that ultra-wide lenses resonate with your artistic vision. Or perhaps the intimacy of a telephoto lens will draw you in. Don’t limit yourself. Experimenting is the cornerstone of artistic growth.

So head out to the countryside and have fun!

Now over to you:

Do you have any favorite rural landscape subjects? Do you have any tips for composition, lighting, or subject choice that we missed? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning photographer and writer, specialising in travel, landscape and location photography and is known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. Jeremy has won awards including the National Geographic Traveller Grand Prize and the Association of Photographers Discovery Award, besides being commended in Outdoor Photographer of the Year. He has also been a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the year and British Photography Awards several times. He has been commissioned by commercial and editorial clients worldwide including National Geographic Traveller, Country Life, Discover Britain, USA National Parks and Visit Britain and has travelled extensively to over 65 countries.

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