The camera is your paint brush; your voice, your pen. Use it to express yourself and your work will become unlike any other.
If you are feeling too comfortable with your craft, now is the time to shake things up and experiment with new methods. This will keep your artistic processes fresh, making it possible to create your own reality with the camera.
10 Landscape Photography Tips
1) Slow Down the Shutter with Black Glass
You can shoot very long exposures on a bright sunny day using one simple trick: add a round, neutral density filter to your bag. Often dubbed “black glass”, these dark filters are screwed onto the front of your lens. They prevent a great deal of light from entering, with strengths from 3 to 10 stops. This opens up a whole new world of creative possibility.
For example, if the proper exposure gave you 1/125, f22, ISO 100, the water’s motion would largely be frozen. By adding a nine stop ND filter, you can keep the aperture and ISO the same, but drop the shutter speed all the way down to four seconds. This will create that dreamy effect previously limited to low light situations.
2) Set the Shutter to Bulb Mode
You’re likely to have scrolled right past the BULB mode, perhaps even finding it accidentally, while adjusting shutter speeds. It’s tempting to just avoid it altogether, but the question still lingers: “what does it do?”
This amazing feature makes it possible to use shutter speeds of several minutes in duration. With it, you can achieve otherworldly results. Simply use a cable release and a tripod to avoid jostling the camera and make sure you have a fully charged battery.
3) Use Colour Wisely
Colour can drastically change the way we interpret a scene.
Most people don’t notice as the light temperature gradually shifts throughout the day, yet the observant photographer can manipulate these subtle differences in colour to create meaningful photos.
It’s not always necessary to fill the entire frame with colour to use it effectively; sometimes, all it takes is a tiny dab. This is a powerful technique for bringing attention to just one part of the frame.
4) Shoot Through a Flower Petal
Go beyond the routine snapshot by adding a layer of visual interest to your landscape captures.
By shooting through a flower petal or leaf, you can create a soft wash of colour, while keeping the main subject in sharp focus. The technique is simple but yields a sophisticated look, reminiscent of an impressionist painting.
For this particular method, you may prefer the freedom of shooting without a tripod. By working handheld, it’s easier to position the camera directly in to the patch of flowers.
5) Eliminate Clutter with a Telephoto Lens
It’s rare to come across a landscape that doesn’t require decluttering. Common contestants include power wires, fences, trailhead signs, unsightly dirt patches and dumpsters. You can try to compose by moving your feet at first, but what about those situations when you can’t move any further?
Where a wide angle lens falls short, a telephoto lens in the 70-300mm range will be very useful. With it, you can pick the precise area where all of the essential elements come together and work to eliminate everything else.
This is one of the most essential landscape photography tips.
6) Don’t Fear High ISOs
You may be surprised to learn that a high ISO can be helpful for landscape photography. This is particularly true when shooting without a tripod or including a person in the frame. In these instances, the shutter speed can be no slower than about 1/125 to prevent camera shake and/or subject motion.
To achieve great depth of field and keep everything sharp, from near to far, your desired aperture would be f11 or f16.
With these two decisions made, you may take your photo only to find that it’s too dark – this is where the ISO comes into play. Simply double the ISO number and watch as the photo becomes brighter.
7) Enable Highlight Alert
By default, many camera models have highlight alert turned off; you’ll need to enable it in the menu.
Commonly referred to as “the blinkies”, this feature alerts you to the precise location of overexposure. With this knowledge, you can make a quick adjustment to the exposure, or even alter your composition, to eliminate the unwanted area.
By following this advice, you’ll end up with more consistent exposures with no washed out areas. You’ll also be rewarded with less time in the digital darkroom trying to fix problems that could have been prevented in the field.
8) Try the Two Second Timer
This rarely used setting can open up a whole new world of creative possibility for you. It’s typically found in the “drive” menu along with single shot, multi shot, etc.
If you find yourself somewhere that doesn’t allow tripods, it’s still possible to take sharp photos even with long exposure times. Select the two second timer and rest the camera on a chair or the ground. You can use the folded camera strap to angle the camera upwards if necessary.
When you press the shutter, the camera will move initially. Don’t worry, you have two seconds for it to settle down before actually firing. This is also helpful for tripods that are not as stable as they should be. If you don’t have a cable release, the timer is a terrific wireless alternative.
9) Go Easy on the Polarizer
Perhaps the most important tool for afternoon photography is the circular polarizer.
Some may disagree here, but it does not need to be a multi-coated, super high-end filter. A basic model from Hoya or Tiffen will be just as effective.
With this, you can take a pale blue sky and make it pop, especially true when the sky is dappled with clouds. Be warned, however, that the technique is so powerful that it’s easy to go overboard.
As a tip, I’d recommend finding the maximum strength of the filter, then cut the intensity slightly. This will provide you with more natural results.
10) Composition is a Process of Subtraction
Painters work by continually applying brush strokes until their piece is complete. This additive process is actually quite different from how photographers compose images.
Through the lens, we’re tasked to remove any unnecessary elements in order to best express our vision, a method of subtraction that may seem counterintuitive at first.
As Paulo Coelho said, “Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.”