How do they do it? We’ve all seen jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring pro landscape photos that draw us in and won’t let us go. What is their secret? From the planning stage to the editing process, all is revealed with these easy tips and tricks to turn your ‘snapshot’ landscape into a work of art worth hanging on the wall!
Planning and Preparation:
Timing is Everything – As with all photography, your shot will drastically improve simultaneously with the quality of your light source. The best times of day are in the ‘golden hour’ moments, meaning sunrise and sunset times. This is when the sky has more vivid and dramatic colors, isn’t too bright, and casts a warm glow over the landscape. The higher the sun gets, the harsher the light becomes. This causes blown out highlights, and overly dark shadows.
This is my favorite website for checking sunrise/sunset times. (If you’re shooting a seascape, it’s a good idea to check the local tide charts to make sure you’re visiting at the right time of day.)
Whatever the Weather – The weather is also a big factor. Heavily overcast or rainy days strips the world you’re trying to capture of depth and color. Overly bright days can also prove difficult as mentioned above. If you have the luxury of planning when to visit your spot, sunny days with scattered showers are fantastic. The presence of the clouds in the sky can even out exposures and create visual interest. Lightly overcast days also provide good diffused light but keep the colors bright.
Dress for the Occasion – Now that you’ve checked the weather and time of day, dress for it. It can get pretty cold standing behind your camera waiting and waiting for the right shot to unfold infront of you.
Check the Map – Sometimes the perspective you shoot from might seem obvious. If that’s the case, do you really want the same shot as everyone else? Maps can show you roads and trails that can give you access to the scene that you may not have thought of. It’s also good to know which direction East and West are to set up for your sunrise and sunset shots.
Tools for the Job:
Tripod – For landscape photography, shooting with a tripod is an absolute must. You’ll see why in the ‘Capturing the Moment’ section. The sturdier the tripod the better, but remember, if you’re hiking or trekking a long way to your sweet spot, weight matters!
- Neutral Density Graduated Filter (ND Grad) – The human eye can look at a scene and balance the sky and foreground without any trouble but a camera cannot. In most situations, the sky will need a completely different exposure than the land in your scape. An ND Grad filter is clear on the bottom half and gradually gets darker towards the top. This helps to even out your image. You can also use it to add artistic gradients in the sky to spruce the image.
- Polarizing Filter – These help to saturate colors, bring exposures down, and cut reflections off of wet surfaces.
Remote Control – Because landscape photography tends to use slower shutter speeds, removing the unsteady human element of pressing the shutter can eliminate hand shake. It also comes in handy when you want to be in the shot!
Find out how to Capture the Moment and Edit in Post Production on Page 2!