Landscape Photography Tips That Work
I’m often asked if I have any Landscape Photography tips; you know ones that really work and make a difference. Often people expect me to talk about the best cameras or lenses to use or in rare cases, even composition. When I share the best Landscape Photography tips I know, I’m often met with disbelief or/and they change the subject to talk about gear. It’s a shame really because there are a few tips that will work for most people and they are easy.
If you want to know what these are, read on.
Working in the Best Light
If you want to take great landscape photography, you need to shoot in the best light.
I’m sure you will have experienced it. You have been out taking photos, but they don’t really work. Then gradually the light improves and so strangely does your photography. Nothing else has changed. You’re still taking photos of the same landscape at the same location with the same equipment, but somehow the images are now amazing. All that’s happened is that the light has improved and now the landscape looks great.
I will now repeat this tip to make sure you take notice. If you want to take great landscape photography, you need to shoot in the best light.
But I can’t Control the Light
Ah, you’ve noticed; no, you can’t control the light. At least you can’t turn poor light into good light.
Despite this, many landscape photographers head out with the intention of photographing location x and largely ignore the light conditions. Then strangely they are surprised and disappointed when their photos aren’t very good. The common problem is poor light for the subject they were shooting.
Now here’s another great landscape photography tip; different subjects suit different types of light. Let me give you an example.
I’m sure you will have had the experience of being out taking photos on a bright summer’s day. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the weather is glorious. Frustrating isn’t it. Every shot you take of the beautiful landscape looks too harsh, too blue and too washed out. Typically, a passer-by will also comment on what a beautiful day it is to be taking photos. Yes, it is, but it usually doesn’t produce good photography. Then later in the day when the sun is low, the shadows soft and the light golden, the same landscape transforms into a beautiful vista.
Want another example? Think of a forest scene early in the morning with mist and soft light. Now think of the same scene when the sun is strong and harsh. Early in the morning, the shadows are soft and the colours strong. But once the strong sun penetrates through the leaves, the shadows become dense and black whilst areas of bright light exceed the cameras dynamic range and blow out.
Now think what would happen if there was a dull grey sky covering the cloud, creating flat lighting. If you tried to shoot a grand landscape vista it wouldn’t work well. But head into the forest and the flat grey light opens the shadows and hides the bright spots. You can now shoot great images in the forest. Add some wet weather to the mix and the colours in the forest just come alive.
There’s no Substitute for Experience
My next landscape photography tip is, learn to read the light. It's only by learning to recognise different types of light that you can match the subject to that light.
If you want to learn to read the light, you need to shoot a lot. It’s only when you shoot a lot that you will begin to recognise the qualities of the light. People, including photographers, aren’t great at describing lighting conditions. For example, one person may look at what some consider terrible conditions for photographing landscapes and see wonderful opportunities. But try to explain those qualities in words and I doubt you can. This is one reason why I can’t sit here and write you a checklist.
There really is no substitute for experience.
A Final Landscape Photography Tip
You now know that you need to recognise and work with the prevailing lighting conditions to shoot subjects that suit that light. But there is one final, important landscape photography tip to complete this set. You need to be in the right place at the right time.
When I first started in landscape photography, I remember having some photos published by one of the popular magazines of the day. When they phoned me to discuss my submission, they asked a lot about the background story. I explained that I had taken the photos whilst on a photography workshop and that it had been raining hard all day. Suddenly the workshop leader had us pack up and rush to a new location about a half hour drive away. Around 5 minutes after we arrived the rain stopped, the sky broke and we had the most amazing sunset. But what’s interesting is the comment from the person on the other end of the phone.
“That’s the beauty of being with a professional. They know how to be in the right place at the right time.”
I didn’t pay too much attention to this at the time. I believed being in the right place at the right time was all about luck. Now I know that’s not the case. You can learn how to be in the right place at the right time. One way of doing this is by learning how to read the weather conditions and understand how the light is going to change as a result.
So learn about weather and it’s effect on the light.
In summary, the best landscape photography tips I can give you are:
- Shoot subjects in the best light.
- Don’t try to make the light work for a subject, pick the subject to match the light.
- Learn to read the light.
- Understand how prevailing conditions will change the light and change your shooting to accommodate this.
If you do these things you will find your landscape photography quickly improves. If you're still looking for the secret to landscape photography, read this article. And don't forget all the landscape photography resources on Lenscraft.