The nice thing about landscape photography is that you can take great photos with any gear, whether it’s your smartphone or a professional-grade DSLR.
Of course, the key to taking stunning landscape photos isn’t really the gear, but what you do with the gear.
With that in mind, here’s a few basic beginner landscape photography tips that will help you improve the quality of your photos right now, today.
Find a Way to Show Scale
Sometimes, it’s hard to convey to the viewer the size and scale of the landscape you’re photographing.
Without that understanding, viewers might not understand how grand and beautiful the landscape actually is.
To help give your landscape photos a better sense of scale, incorporate a familiar element like a bicycle, a dog or a person.
If you place an element like this in the foreground of the shot, viewers will not only get a better idea of the scale of the scene, but they’ll also have a strong focal point that draws them into the shot (more on that next…)
There Needs to Be a Strong Focal Point
As gorgeous as a landscape might be, it might suffer from having too many things to delight the eye.
I know this sounds a little strange – having too much beauty in the shot – but if there’s not one strong, central focal point, the viewer’s eyes might be confused as to where they’re supposed to look first.
A strong focal point fixes this problem.
On the one hand, a strong focal point might be something in the landscape – a sun-kissed mountain peak, an interesting old tree (as shown above), or a meandering stream that takes the eye from foreground to background.
But as noted above, adding an element into the foreground (like a person) helps ground the image, give it some scale, and bring attention to the foreground.
By directing the attention of viewers to the foreground of your landscape photos, you bring them to the “introduction” of the shot.
From there, they can move their eyes deeper, first to the midground and then to the background, for a complete viewing experience.
If you shoot with a DSLR or mirrorless camera system, you need filters.
Well, the short answer is that filters are an invaluable tool for improving the quality of your landscape photos.
The long answer is that there are various types of filters, each with its unique set of benefits for landscape photographers.
For example, a polarizing filter helps cut down on glare off of non-metallic surfaces, like water. Polarizers also reduce atmospheric haze and increase the contrast between the blue sky and white clouds.
In other words, a polarizer, like the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Circular Polarizer shown above, is a swiss-army knife type of filter that can improve your photos in multiple ways.
Another must-have filter is a graduated neutral density filter.
Graduated ND filters help you overcome one of the most common problems in landscape photography – dynamic range.
That is, the sky is often quite bright and the landscape itself can be quite dark. The majority of cameras cannot overcome those differences on their own, so they need a little help.
A graduated ND filter does just that by darkening the sky and leaving the landscape alone, the result of which is a well-exposed image from top to bottom.
A third filter that’s beneficial for landscape photographers to have is a neutral density filter.
Neutral density filters, like the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra shown above, have a consistent level of light-filtering power throughout.
That means that with less light entering your camera’s lens, you can use longer shutter speeds during the daytime to blur the movement of things like clouds and water for an ethereal effect, as seen below.
Without an ND filter, those longer shutter speeds would result in an overexposed mess.
So, as you can see, filters provide you with many benefits so that you can create more impactful and creative images.
Just be sure you buy the best filters, because the quality of the filter will determine the quality of the photo.
For my money, Formatt-Hitech is the way to go because of their commitment to the quality of materials they use and the process of manufacturing top-notch products.
Look Behind You
I was in Grand Teton National Park a few years ago, photographing the Tetons set against quite an incredible sunset.
The mountains were perfectly silhouetted in front of the bright sky, and the sky’s colors were being reflected on the surface of the Snake River.
Then I turned around…
Unbeknownst to me, as the sun dipped behind the mountains, they lit up a thunderstorm that had formed over the Wind River Mountains behind me.
The colors were absolutely incredible, particularly as they highlighted the long rain bands dipping down from the clouds.
The point is that the biggest show might not always be in front of you. Move around. Look for new perspectives from which to shoot. Take your time in composing your photos.
If you can do these things, the quality of your landscape images will only increase!