Landscape Photography Advice and Tips in 4 Photos
One very powerful way to improve your landscape photography is by looking at your past photos and asking, “what can I learn from this”. In this article I want to show four photos from my landscape photography and share advice I’ve learned. Each photo has a main point, but you’ll also find a series of tips I’ve included throughout.
Landscape Photo #1
Location: Keswick, Lake District, October 2019.
Settings: ISO160, f/11.0, shutter speed 1/280”.
Usually when I shoot landscape photography it’s from a tripod, but this image was handheld. I needed to react quickly because of the changing light. There wasn’t any time to set up a tripod.
Landscape Photography Advice #1
The most important thing that I learned taking this photo is that sometimes you just need to get the shot. Don’t wait around when you see great light or the perfect conditions; take the shot.
The reason I’m sharing this image is not because of the fast-changing conditions but because I almost didn’t bother shooting it. I could see the potential in the scene and knew I didn’t have time to set up. But because there was too much contrast and dynamic range for the camera to handle, I didn’t think it was worth shooting. I thought that if I shoot this, I’ll never be able to process it.
Now look at the unprocessed RAW file. You can see how challenging the conditions were. What’s surprised me however is how much recovery is possible with a modern digital camera. Not many years ago, the shadows of an image like this would have lacked detail and be full of noise. If I hadn’t shot and processed this image, I would have continued to believe it was a problem.
Don’t think something’s impossible until you’ve tried it.
Landscape Photography Tip #1
If you look back to the unprocessed RAW file, there’s something else I want to highlight. Notice the starburst around the sun is missing. That’s because I copied it from another image.
The frame I’ve chosen and processed is the only one which caught the bird in flight. I shot eight frames in quick succession and some of the others show the starburst but not the bird. By combining the starburst into this image, I could create the shot that I wanted.
Remember, it’s very rare to capture the perfect image in a single frame. Sometimes, like this, you need to be a little creative.
Landscape Photography Tip #2
If you want to produce a starburst effect in the camera you need to use a small aperture. You then cover part of the sun with anything in the frame. In this image I put the sun behind the tree branches. My intention was to create the starburst but also to help control the contrast in the scene.
The reason the starburst didn’t appear in this image is that the branches of the tree were moving around. Too much of the sun became covered and it prevented the effect.
Landscape Photo #2
Location: Scottish Highlands, April 2019.
Settings: ISO160, f/9.0, shutter speed 0.6”.
This image is a series of three shots that I’ve stitched together to create a panorama. I shot them around 5:20 in the morning at a remote location in the Highlands of Scotland.
Landscape Photography Advice #2
When you look at an image like this, it’s easy to forget about the difficulty of getting into position. It takes a lot of planning to be sure you can capture an image like this. Don’t ignore this.
To reach this location was a 45-minute drive, largely on single track roads in the dark. It was then a 15-minute walk across boggy moorland, again in the dark using headtorches. You can’t expect to set out to a location you’ve never visited, in the dark, find parking, walk to a good vantage point and create a good composition. It doesn’t happen.
To capture this image, we visited the location the day before when it was light. We checked the route, found somewhere to park, followed the path and found the best spot for the composition. This also gave us the timings so we could return when the conditions looked right.
Plan your journey in advance and if possible, try to visit. There’s nothing like having first-hand knowledge of a location.
Landscape Photography Tip #3
When it comes to shooting landscape photography at sunrise, you’re likely to see the best light before the sun gets above the horizon. Often this starts around 20 minutes before sunrise, but it can vary depending on the time of year and where you are.
Plan to be in position around 45 minutes before the sunrise time. This should give you enough time to allow for delays and setting up your equipment.
Landscape Photography Tip #4
As mentioned above, this is three frames stitched together into a panorama. To improve the performance of the stitching software I set the camera to manual exposure after taking a meter reading across the scene. This creates a better blend when you stitch the images.
The other thing I’ve taken care to do is overlap each frame by around a third with the previous frame. This again helps the software align the images when stitching.
Landscape Photo #3
Location: Surprise View Car Park, The Peak District, January 2019.
Equipment: Fuji X-T2, Fuji 16-55 lens and tripod.
Settings: ISO200, f/11.0, shutter speed 0.25”.
What I want you to notice about this image is the detail in the snow. Notice how you can see the texture and shadows in the snow which gives it shape. Now compare this to the original RAW file.
Notice how there’s very little detail in the snow and the image is lighter. When I shot this image, I overexposed it because the snow was tricking the camera into under exposing. But this creates a problem you must address when editing the image.
Landscape Photography Advice #3
When you have a lot of white tones in an image you can lose the detail. Computer monitors and printers struggle to distinguish between the different white tones (or perhaps it’s our eyes). They are usually much better at differentiating the midtones in the image.
Because I overexposed this image capture to make the snow appear white, it’s compressed all the tones of the snow into a small tonal range. In hindsight I would probably have been better using the camera exposure and then correct it in editing. That would probably spread the snow into the midtones as well as the highlights, making it easier to see.
Landscape Photography Tip #5
Look out for unnatural tints when processing snow photos. This image originally had a pink tine to it, caused by the camera profile. You may be able to correct this using the Temperature and Tint sliders in your RAW converter but often you can’t completely clear it.
To neutralise a colour tint like this, try switching to other camera profiles if your RAW converter has this feature. Another option is to apply selective colour adjustments in a tool like Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo.
Landscape Photography Tip #6
Another problem you can see in the original RAW file for this image are the tree branches on the left edge of the frame. Small problems like this create distractions so it’s best to remove them.
It’s worth remembering to check around the edges of the frame to see if you have any distractions. Sometimes you can change the position of the camera to exclude them. Other times like this, you may need to fix the problem in editing.
Landscape Photo #4
Location: Burbage Edge, The Peak District, January 2020.
Settings: ISO160, f/13.0, shutter speed 1/9”.
What makes this image special is the light. Notice how it’s casting long shadows on the hills which makes the landscape appear three dimensional. It’s around 30 minutes before sunset in winter so the light is turning soft and golden, but there’s another factor to be aware of.
Landscape Photography Tip #7
Shortly before I took this shot it was raining. If you take landscape photos immediately following a heavy rain shower, you’ll find the light is wonderfully clear and bright. If you are lucky enough for this to combine with a sunset you could get magical light as I did here.
Landscape Photography Advice #4
Because of the heavy rain, many photographers would probably pack up and leave. We decided that it was best to wait. The weather forecast didn’t predict rain and we could see from the clouds that it was likely to break.
The point I want to stress is that if we didn’t understand the weather we would probably have left and missed the light. Learn to read the weather whilst out in the landscape.
Landscape Photography Advice and Tips Video
As well as sharing my landscape photography advice and tips in this article, I’ve recorded a supporting video.
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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.
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Whilst I’ve used this article to share my advice and tips about landscape photography, you mustn’t forget to review your own work. Find the images you like least and best and analyse them. What did you learn and what do you like/not like about them? This kind of analysis can really help you to improve.
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