When you first start out learning photography, most of the time you really don’t know where you will end up.
For instance, when I started really learning photography, I was mostly taking pictures of my own kids. I thought I wanted to shoot family photography.
But after chasing my own kids around and taking on some family clients, I realized that isn’t what I want to do at all.
I didn’t like dealing with schedules or clothing or working on someone else’s schedule.
So I decided to take pictures of the world around me instead. I live in Colorado, so there are beautiful views to take pictures of all year long.
Landscape photography became my passion and it is still what I turn to to find peace and rejuvenation in my life.
Whether you enjoy taking photos on vacation for yourself or you have a travel blog, landscape photography is a fun skill to learn and share.
So today, I want to share some tips with you to take your landscape photos to the next level.
How do I define landscape photography?
Landscape photography includes photos of the outdoors. It can include wilderness views of nature and scenic vistas as well as urban landscapes such as buildings and bridges.
You can have people and wildlife in landscape photos, but they usually aren’t the primary focus. They are usually included to give the photo context and perspective.
10 Tips For Beautiful Landscape Photography
1. Keep your whole photo sharp.
When shooting landscapes, you most likely want the whole photo in focus, from the front to way in the back. If you are taking a photo of a mountain vista, it is most likely far away from where you are standing.
In order to make sure your photo is sharp, there are 2 things you need to do.
- use a tripod to decrease camera shake and lens movement.
- if you are using a DSLR (which I recommend), use a higher number f-stop like f18 or f22.
2. Get the big picture.
Landscapes are known for telling the big story. You want to show your viewer the grand picture.
So back up and take in the whole scene. Whether that is a mountain or city skyline, you want to get the whole thing in your photo.
3. Move the eye through the photo.
You want to keep your viewers interest throughout the photo. You do this by getting a shot of something interesting in the foreground (the area closest to the viewer) and having it guide your eye further into the photo.
You want your viewer to feel like they are standing in the picture and seeing the scene with you.
You can use composition rules to guide the eye through the photo from front to back. To get more information about photography composition rules, read this post —> 13 Composition Rules to Take Your Photography From Boring to Striking.
4. Capture the best light.
It seems like getting good light would be easy with outdoor photography.
But not all light is good light, and the best light usually comes in the golden hour. The golden hour is right after sunrise or right before sunset.
These two times give you amazing light and colors, no matter if you are in the city or way out in the wilderness. This may mean you need to get up and moving when it is dark or stay out until it is dark to get the best pictures.
Mid day is rarely the best for landscape photos, unless you can get some good clouds in your shot and go for a moody photo. A sunny day will usually bring harsh shadows and wash out the colors in your photo, so this isn’t the best time to take landscape photos.
5. Go back at different seasons.
I love living in Colorado, because we have 4 distinct seasons. What you see in June is going to be totally different than what you see at the same place in October, January or April.
Each season has its own beauty and majesty. So just because you have been to a place once doesn’t mean you should never go back. Keep trying different seasons to get the most out of the amazing view.
6. Get a different angle
The view from the top of the mountain is going to be very different than the view from the valley. So don’t just click a few pictures from one point of view and think you are done.
Try different angles, including from above and down on your belly. Each different angle will give you a different perspective of the same place.
You can even try an angle through tree branches or from in the flowers. You never know where you might find that one of a kind shot.
7. Take the path less traveled
Most “tourists”, when they travel to new and fun destinations, tend to take their pictures from the side of the road or on the main tour. If they are in a national park, the pull off the main road to the scenic overlook, get out of the car and snap a few pictures.
Because national parks have so many beautiful places in them, they may get some good pictures. But they are often not great pictures. They don’t make you stop in your tracks.
The best way to get an amazing photo is to find the lesser known places within the awe inspiring view. Take a 3 mile hike into the national park, away from the main roads and scenic overlooks.
This is where you will find the amazing shots because you are willing to go further than the average traveler. You will fill their imagination with thoughts of “how did they get that?” or “where is that trail?”
Taking the path less traveled opens up a new world of possibilities for your photos and your journey.
8. Clear the photo of distractions.
I have talked about this many times with photography, but I think it is important to add it here.
Distractions in photos can kill the vision you are trying to fulfill.
Distractions could signs of human life (trash can, trash, pit toilets, etc) that take away from the view. They could be a kid that runs in the picture or a helicopter in the sky. If it detracts from the scenery, you should take it out.
You can remove distractions in several ways.
- Walk past them so they aren’t in your shot.
- Pick them up and move them out of the shot (trash, for instance).
- Wait patiently until they move on.
- Take them out later in editing.
You photo should fulfill your vision, whether it is a city skyline or a mountain view. Make sure distractions don’t take away from the feeling you are trying to convey in your photo.
That being said, not all “non natural” items in your photos are distractions. Look at the forest picture above. At first, you might think the car and rv are distractions. I could have easily taken them out in Photoshop.
But I wanted them there to give perspective and scale to the mountain scene. Sometimes leaving people or objects in a photo let your viewer know the magnitude of the landscape and in this case they add to the overall feel of the picture.
9. Go with a plan in mind.
Do your research before you go to take a landscape photo.
What kinds of things should you research?
- What time of year am I going? What are the best things about that place that time of year?
- What is the best time of day to shoot?
- What are the popular places I should shoot while I’m there?
- How can I find ways to get off the beaten path?
- Are there any restrictions to getting the picture I want? (money, time, permits, etc.)
In order to make the most out of the time you have to visit the place, you need to do your research and make a plan ahead of time so that you can get everything done that you want to.
Look at the photo of the House on Fire ruins above. There is only one certain time of day (about an hour window) where these ruins light up and look like they are on fire. If I hadn’t done my research, the hike to the ruins would have been a wasted trip because the magnitude of the place would have been lost. It wouldn’t look like it was “on fire”.
10. Make sure your horizon is straight.
One of my big pet peeves with landscape photography is crooked horizons.
Your horizon line should be straight in all of your outdoor photos!
If you can’t seem to get it straight in camera, leave yourself a little room to straighten and crop it in post processing.
You can also use the rule of thirds setting or level in your camera to make sure your horizon is straight. There is no excuse not to get this right!
Landscape photography is a passion of mine. I hope that when my kids are out of the house (just a few more years) I can travel more and take more photos.
This type of photography has helped me appreciate nature and the world around me. I see beauty in the smallest of things and in the massive vistas of this great country.
I hope these tips will help you take in the beauty of the world around you (whether it be the city or the country) and translate that into beautiful photos to share with others.
What kinds of landscapes do you enjoy photographing the most? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!