Guest blogger Marc Andre, looks at 7 things you can do to improve the results of your own landscape photography.
Landscapes are a favorite subject for many photographers, but like other types of nature photography it can be quite challenging. You don’t have control over elements like the weather, you can’t move things like mountains and trees to create the perfect composition, and you may need to travel a bit to reach your destination. But these challenges can make landscape photography all the more rewarding when things fall together.
1. Prioritize Planning
Being at the right place at the right time is a huge part of landscape photography. In order to do that you will need to find places that you want to photograph and determine when the lighting and weather is likely to be ideal.
There are a lot of online resources and apps that can help in this area. If you are looking to identify good places to photograph you can turn to countless photography forums and solicit advice from others. You can search sites like Flickr and 500px to find great locations. If you’re in the United States you can turn to the state guides at Loaded Landscapes that list all of the best places to photograph in each state.
Once you know where you want to go you can start to watch the weather forecasts or research the best time of year to go there. Apps like The Photographer’s Ephemeris make it easy to see the location of sunrise and sunset for any day so you can plan ahead.
If you start to put time and effort into planning your landscape photography outings you will certainly get more out of your time in the field.
2. Arrive Ahead of the Best Light
Landscape photography is all about lighting. Typically the best times to shoot are the hours around sunrise and sunset. Most of us don’t really enjoy getting up early in the morning, but if quality photos is your goal, being in location before sunrise is a great start.
Sunrise is my favorite time to photograph because even at popular locations you can often find solitude by getting out early. The light will often be beautiful before the sun reaches the horizon, so be sure to get out well ahead of sunrise.
Sunset is an equally effective time to photograph, and the hour or two before the sun sets will also bring beautiful light. Don’t pack up your gear as soon as the sun drops below the horizon. Often times, about 30-45 minutes after sunset will produce beautiful color.
3. Shoot According to the Weather
The ideal weather will depend on what it is that you want to photograph. For example, waterfalls are typically best photographed on cloudy, overcast days. However, if you want to capture the sunset from a majestic vista, an overcast day will not be ideal.
All types of weather are ideal for photographing different things, so be flexible and adapt what you are shooting depending on the current weather.
4. Slow Down
When you’re photographing nature it is easy to get in a rush, especially if you are attempting to photograph a large area in a limited amount of time. You’ll find that if you slow down and take your time the results will be better.
If you’re trying to move too quickly you’re likely to wind up taking quick snapshots rather than getting the best photos possible. I find that using a tripod helps to force me to slow down and really think about the composition.
5. Venture Out
If you’re at a popular location, like a national park, most people will photograph it from the same points of view. The easier it is to access, the more people will have photos that are very similar.
If you want unique photos get off the beaten path and explore. Hike a trail instead of simply photographing from an overlook along the road. Most visitors won’t go the extra mile to get a photo, so you’ve got a much better chance of capturing something unique.
Depending on the location, you may need to put in some effort to reach the best spots.
6. Re-Visit the Same Locations
One of the great things about landscape photography is that it allows you to get out and see a lot of new places. But don’t forget about the benefits of going back to the same places again.
Each time you re-visit a location you will know it a little better than you did before. You’ll know where to find the best views, how the sun rises or sets, what weather you should be looking for, and you’ll know how to get around faster and easier.
Visiting the same locations multiple times doesn’t mean that your photos will all look the same. Visit in different seasons, at different times of the day, and in different weather conditions. Your photos of the same location can look drastically different depending on these variables. And you’ll learn the best times and conditions to come back again.
7. Improve Your Post Processing
Post processing is a big part of landscape photography. Most of us who enjoy landscape photography would rather be out in nature than sitting in front of the computer, but if you want to get the best results, post processing is necessary.
If you’re just getting started, Adobe Lightroom can do 99% of what you will need, and the learning curve is much easier than Photoshop. Adobe has a nice collection of free tutorials that will teach you all the basics of Lightroom.
You can also take advantage of Lightroom presets that allow you to achieve specific effects very easily. The Complete Lightroom Preset Bundle is a perfect option, or you can find free presets at sites like Preset Love and Exposure Empire.
If you are interested in improving your own landscape photography try implementing these ideas and see what impact it has on your results.
About the Author:
Marc Andre is the editor of LoadedLandscapes.com, a blog that covers topics related to landscape and nature photography.