6 Landscape Photography Essentials

By Geoff Harris

Landscapes are one of the most popular topics in photography and it's not hard to understand why – their timeless beauty really captures the imagination, and even better, they don't refuse to pose or require a model release form! With the weather getting better in many parts of the world, here's a quick recap of some of the essential skills you need to think about if you haven't taken a scenic image for a while...

48 house by lake

Timing is everything

The quality of light is crucial to great landscape photography, so you will get your best results by shooting at the golden hour – about an hour after sunrise or before sunset. The light will be much warmer, making the colours really sing. Also, the sun will produce more interesting shadows as it's lower in the sky, helping to bring out texture and shape.

109 gondolas in fog

Cloudy days can work too

That said, you shouldn't immediately dismiss cloudy days. These give a great opportunity to shoot water, particularly at slower shutter speeds to get that lovely milky or misty effect. You need slow shutter speeds for this, say to around 1 second, and it gets a lot harder if sunlight is flooding in through your lens.

113 prayer flags

Don't just go for obvious compositions

We've all seen hundreds of examples of landscape shots with a big rock in a foreground to draw in the eye, long exposure water and a moody sky; while these techniques are good in themselves, they have rather been done to death. Try to get beyond the obvious by trying a higher viewpoint, for instance, shooting at an angle, or even shooting upwards for abstracts.

108 blue boat

Work with reflections

Another good way to get eye-catching landscapes is to make the most of reflections. Reflections in water help add symmetry, and also make interesting images in their own right. It's worth investing in a polarising filter, though, to ensure as much detail comes through.

22 venice no filter     23 venice with filter

Invest in other filters

Variable ND filters, which fix to the front of your lens and can be adjusted, are great for long-exposure waterfalls and other cool effects, while ND filters are also great for this effect and for balancing the exposure of the foreground and sky.
Try hyperfocal focussing
If you are using a wide-angle lens, a great technique is to focus one third of the way into the scene, with a reasonably narrow aperture, e.g. f/16. Don't use very narrow apertures as a process called defraction can actually make the images softer

33 leaves in stream

Always take support

As you often shoot at narrow apertures and slow shutter speeds in landscape photography, a decent tripod, or at the very least a mini-tripod such as the Joby Gorillapod, is essential to avoid camera shake. Ideally you want your image to be pin-sharp from front to back, and this is hard if you are shooting handheld.

If you are interested in Landscape photography why not join Sue Bishop on her 4 week online photography course Fine Art Landscape Photography

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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