I figured that I haven't done a tutorial in a while, and while this post isn't strictly a tutorial, but more a list of rules for how to take stunning landscape photos, I still think it will be of use to you. These are the guidelines I go by.
You know these stunning landscape photos you see all over the internet? The ones that are perfectly framed, have great color and look like a painting? Well, there are a few tips and tricks how you can achieve this specific type of landscape shot.
click on the images for a bigger view
Take your Landscape Photos at the right time
The first thing that should be on your mind when taking landscape photos is time. This is sort of a known rule, but it's the most important one. Take your landscape photos 20 minutes before the sun sets or 20 minutes after the sun sets during sunset. It also works the other way around. Take your shots 20 minutes before the sun rises and 20 minutes after. I usually go with the sunset, since I rarely have time to get up so early, but here are two examplels of landscape shots, taken at sunset and sunrise.
Photo taken a couple of minutes before sunset
Landscape photo taken 10 minutes before sunrise
Framing your Landscape Photos
There is the rule of thirds, which you probably have heard of before. Divide the image into three parts and make it 1 part land and 2 parts sky, or 2 parts land and 1 part sky. But you can (and should) play with this rule. Also, when you think about landscape photos, you also think about landscape mode (shooting horizontally). That doesn't have to be the case. Shoot vertically sometimes. It can make your shot much more interesting. Take a look at the landscape photos below:
A Landscape taken Vertically
Playing with the Rule of Thirds, and giving more impact to the water.
Bring your Tripod with you
This is an essential tool that divides Pro Shots from others. When you shoot at these times of the day, sometimes, your shots can come out slightly blurry because the light will start to go. Bring your tripod with you and use a remote clicker to take the shot, or set your camera up that it takes the shot 5 or 10 seconds after you press the shutter button.
Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode
If you have a dslr camera, this is a must. Often times, people will tell you that you have to shoot in Manual mode (and you certainly can). But I have found that the easiest solution is to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. You will find it on your camera's dial. On a Canon camera it's called "Av", and on a Nikon camera it's called "A". This controles the depth of field for your landscape photo. You want the foreground and background (most of the times, unless you are playing with this) to be sharp. So dial your switch to Av or A and choose a high aperture number, starting from f22 for maximum sharpness.
Make Moody Weather your Friend
So it's overcast outside, or maybe the clouds are rolling in, and you think: Oh the sun will not come out today, I'm not going to shoot any landscapes. You could be wrong there. Make use of the moody weather and incorporate it into your shots. Also, fog can be your friend as well. All of them will create interesting landscape photos. Just make sure to protect your photo gear in bad weather!
Shoot Extremely Wide or Zoom into one Detail
I know that the title sounds contradictory, but let me explain. For stunning landscape photos, you have the choice from the two. Either go all out, all wide as much as you can and capture it all, or zoom into one detail that can suggest the rest of the scene and stay with it. Here are two examples:
A Zoom into the Mountain and Big Cloud hanging above it
A Wide shot of the Valley
Let your Landscape Photos have a Subject
Make your landscape about something. Most of the times, a landscape shot won't work because there is no clear focus to it. Make your shot about something and let the rest of the landscape work its way into the shot. Also make sure to get rid of unwanted objects and clutter in your image. Simplicity is the way to go. You will see what I mean in the example below:
The fortress in the bay is the clear subject of this photo, and leads the eye right to it.
I hope I have helped you out a bit if you were in need for some tips and tricks. If you have any further questions, let me know in the comments below.
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