Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year for taking stunning landscape photos. In many parts of the country the weather has finally cooled down and in others, the foliage is in full display. If you think your photos aren’t as good as they should be, here are seven landscape photography tips will help you take better better photos.
1. Time your shoot
With landscape photography the lighting is of utmost importance. That usually means shooting during the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. It is when the light is low in the sky and produces a soft, warm, directional light.
The photo below was taken in the golden hour after sunrise. You can clearly see the warm light casting soft shadows, resulting in a very pleasing image.
Timing your shoot for the best light can make the difference between a great photo and a poor one. Recently, while visiting Nantucket, I spotted this beautiful old cottage, with a weathered turquoise door. Unfortunately it was mid day and the lighting was not good. The sun was high overhead, positioned behind the house, facing directly into the camera. You can see the lens flair as I tried shooting into the sun.
Simply by timing my shoot and returning to the house at a different time of the day (the golden hour) I was able to get the shot I wanted.
2. Wait for the perfect conditions
Stunning landscape photography sometimes takes patience. Professional photographers will often set up for the shoot and wait for hours until everything is just right. Patience pays off, not only in lighting but also in composition.
In the photo below I waited and watched these clouds for over thirty minutes until that big, ball like cloud was the perfect shape and in the position I wanted.
3. Change your perspective
There is nothing more uninspiring or boring than a cliche photo. This Fall we drove down the picturesque Kancamagus highway in New Hampshire. Along the route there is this one particular lookout that attracts all the tourists. It is a scenic vista overlooking a beautiful mountain range. As we drove by there were between 20-25 photographers all lined up in a row shooting the exact same photo.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get the tourist shot of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or any other famous landmark when we travel. Once you have captured that shot, challenge yourself to think beyond the typical shots that everyone else is taking.
Try shooting from an unexpected angle or in black and white. How would it look if you took the photo in the rain, or during the golden hour? Is there something nearby that has a reflection of the Eiffel tower that might also make an interesting shot? How about photographing a close up detail or making an abstract photo? Look at where all the other photographers are standing and pointing their cameras and do something different.
How I photographed the Vessel in NYC
The photo below is the Vessel in NYC. I stood exactly where at least another dozen people we standing and took the exact same photo as them. The photo is fine but not very unique and there are probably ten thousand others exactly like it.
Below are a few images from my visit where I challenged myself to think outside the box
I used a filter and focused on creating an abstract image.
I shot in black and white and silhouetted the visitors against the cloudy sky.
I looked over the side and created several abstract images
I also noticed this interesting view of the building across from the Vessel. I didn’t see anyone else even looking in that direction. The green swimming pool in the middle of a skyscraper is visually very interesting to me and unique.
Bottom line; Think outside the box and challenge yourself to create a photo beyond the standard tourist photo.
4. Make sure your photo is in focus
Besides lighting and composition, you absolutely want a sharp landscape image. If you are working in the lower golden hour light, it is a very good practice to use a tripod. Nothing will kill a good landscape photo faster than a soft or fussy foreground or an out of focus background.
5. Pay attention to composition
A landscape photo is the perfect situation to use the compositional “rule of thirds”. The rule of thirds states, if you imagine the image divided up into a grid of two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, the human eye finds it most pleasing if the subject matter lands on one of the four interesting grid lines. In other words, don’t position your subject smack in the middle of your image.
6. Use people in your landscapes
People can be used to give a sense of scale in landscape photos. They add the human quality and can make the landscape look even more impressive.
Include people to add drama to your photos. Below is a photo of the Jewish Memorial in Berlin. It is a very sacred and somber place. The photo would not have had nearly the impact if the man who appears to be in deep contemplation was not in the image.
6. Don’t over edit
There is a fine line between boosting the saturation for a more true representation of the scene, and over saturating it so that it looks unnatural.
Oversaturating an image is a very common editing mistake. It’s tempting to push the saturation way up but in the end it ruins the photo because it no longer looks believable.
The image below is pretty true to how the scene actually looked.
Now compare the above image to the image below where the saturation was too heavy handed. It no longer looks natural and in my opinion ruins the image. There are so many over saturated images on social media so beware of making this common mistake.
7. Use an outside app
If you are shooting with a smartphone there are many excellent apps to take your images to a whole new level. The Camera Plus app allows you set your aperture and shutter speed the same as a DSLR Camera.
The image below was taken with an app called Slow Shutter. It does exactly what it says. It is a slow shutter so that anything with movement will be blurred.
Many photographers think that a stunning landscape photo must be taken with a DSLR camera. I totally disagree as all the photos above were taken with my iphone. In fact in many situations a smartphone camera is as good or better than a DSLR camera. You can read my reasoning for that HERE.
Incorporate these seven landscape photography tips on your next photo outing and see what a difference they can make.
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