Ten Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography

This is a guest post by Photofocus writer Susan Kanfer.  Click to see more of her stories.

  1. Always think of the wind, even when it doesn’t seem like a windy day. Anything affected by even the slightest amount of wind will look blurry. Unless you purposely want a blurred image, you might need to increase your shutter speed. The mightier the wind, the faster the shutter speed. Experiment to see what speed works best.
  2. Consider the dynamic range of your image. If you expose for the sky, your shadows may be too dark. If you expose for the shadows, your sky might become overexposed. If your sky is too bright, compared to the rest of your image, use a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky, or take multiple shots with different exposures and blend the images together. If you decide to take multiple shots, expose for the sky in one shot and then expose for the middle tones and shadows in your other shots. Blend the images together using Lightroom, Photoshop, or a third party application such as Photomatix.
  3. A dramatic sky makes the photograph memorable. A white or cloudless sky is boring. If you have a “boring” sky, keep it out of the photograph, or wait another day for a better sky.  sunset-in-del-mar-1
  4. Don’t use a polarizing filter unless  you really need to and then use it the right way. Polarizers slow down your camera, eliminating 2 stops of light. Plus since the filter is an extra piece of glass over your lens, it may affect your image quality, depending on the quality of your filter. When to use a polarizing filter? To eliminate glare on water, wet rocks or shiny leaves and plants; to deepen the color blue in the sky; and to improve color saturation and vibrancy. It is not advisable to use the filter during low light and overcast days. Polarizers work best, at maximum effect, when your line of sight is perpendicular (90 degree angle) to the direction of the sun.
  5. Shoot waterfalls, closeups of flowers and plants, and colorful leaves on overcast days. The light is soft, with no harsh shadows. Colors are more vibrant. yosemite-fall-colors-1
  6. When you shoot wide-angle, have something interesting in your foreground. Watch your depth of field, so that the image is sharp from front to back. The rule of thumb is to focus 1/3 into your image for maximum depth of field using an aperture of F/11 or smaller.
  7. Clearly show your subject. There should be no doubt in the viewer’s mind as to what your subject is.
  8. Thoughtfully use the elements of nature surrounding your subject to carefully compose your photograph. Use these elements to focus the viewer’s attention. Mindfully declutter and simplify. For example, you are shooting a river and there are lots of rocks around that clutter and detract from the foreground. Find a spot in the river where the rocks form a leading line and nicely frame your subject.virgin-river-10
  9. Always check the edges of the frame of the image. Only include what you need to include and be certain there are no unwanted intrusions.
  10. It is all about the quality, direction and color of the light. An ordinary subject transforms to extraordinary with interesting light. The right light renders any subject “unique,” even if the subject is a photographic icon–like Grand Canyon.  grand-canyon-sunset

If you’re looking for a great gear guide for landscape photographers check this out.

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