It’s no secret that nature is full of inspiration. Whether you’re passionate about hiking and the great outdoors or you simply seek out the joys of nature’s spectacular scenes, you’ll find that landscape photography is full of artistic opportunities. Let’s explore this evergreen theme.
How Do You Take Good Landscape Photos?
Have you ever found yourself staring out at an untouched landscape stretching towards the horizon and realizing there’s not another person in sight? Landscape photography is about using art to connect deeply with the natural world. Usually, this means photographing mountains, beaches, trees, or some other beautiful scenery. But in modern art, the definition of landscape photography could even include man-made skyscrapers or some other kind of urban landscape. Other photographers would consider wildlife photography of plants and animals to fall within this category, too.
Taking a beautiful landscape photo might seem as simple as snapping a shot of whatever majestic scene is in front of you. But to take a really exceptional photo, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it helps to master the fundamentals of photography. With a little practice and a few helpful tips, you will soon be able to take professional-looking landscape photos.
1) Create Depth
Depth of field is the amount of the photograph that is actually in focus; the amount of distance between the closest and farthest objects that appear in sharp focus in your picture. Depth helps create a sense of place, which makes it a useful skill for landscape photography, and it draws the viewer into your images. Plus, it’s a great way to take your compositions to the next level, fast.
On a DSLR camera, your depth of field is controlled by your camera’s aperture. A larger aperture lets in more light and softens the focal plane. A smaller aperture will give you a sharper image. But even on a smartphone, there are lots of easy ways to add depth to your photo.
- You can use leading lines to draw the eye from the bottom of the frame to the top.
- Use the artistic tool of perspective to create the illusion of depth, just like the ancient Greeks.
- Use aerial perspective, where fog or atmospheric conditions obscure some elements of your photo (like when fog makes trees in the background appear hazy).
- Use foreground elements to shoot through a natural frame, which helps put distance between the viewer and the subject.
Creating depth communicates the dimensionality of your world, transforms your photograph beyond a 2-D flat image, and provides a sense of realism to the viewer of the image.
2) Use the Right Equipment
Trying to level up your photography game? Before you head out on your next outdoor photography adventure, you might consider investing in a few tools to expand your artistic toolkit. If you’re serious about the form, you might already have some of these:
- A wide-angle lens, which will show a broader view of the scene or setting you’re trying to capture. Photographers typically use wide-angle lenses to capture large, panoramic shots. In a pinch, this lens could be useful in a tight indoor space where you otherwise couldn’t back up enough to get the whole picture in the frame. Of course, there will be times when you want to focus on a small detail, like the moon rising over a mountain range. But if you are taking a lot of landscape photos, you will keep coming back to the wide-angle.
- A tripod comes in handy when you’re trying to avoid camera shake and get a sharp, clear image. It’s essential if you’re hoping to capture as much detail over a good amount of space, and very helpful if you’re shooting at night. You’ll want a tripod that is sturdy, but portable.
- If you’re photographing water, leaves, or the sky, don’t leave home without a circular polarizer. This affordable filter controls for glaring light on reflective surfaces. It will make a huge difference, especially when you’re photographing the surface of a body of water, or leaves freshly coated with dew. The polarizer rests right on top of your lens or on your phone camera.
3) Find the Right Settings on Your Camera
The better you get to know your DSLR, the easier it will be to capture gorgeous landscape photos at any time of day. Dim light is often difficult for shooting in, but adjusting your camera settings properly can help you achieve beautiful sunset shots or night photography. Some things to keep in mind:
- ISO is the function that changes the brightness of your photo. You will want to keep this as low as possible. If you’re struggling to get a clear image, you can push it up but not above 125. This will result in longer exposure times, but you will be rewarded with higher quality and sharper photos.
- To achieve the maximum depth of field, choose a small aperture, like apertures of f/16 or f/22. Remember, the higher the f-stop, the greater detail can be seen in the foreground and background of the photo with a very deep depth of field. If you’re using a high f-stop and low ISO, you will need a slow shutter speed. This is where a tripod is really helpful to get a crystal clear image.
4) Shoot During the Golden Hour
There are two magical times of day that are considered some of the best times to shoot outside. The hour just after sunrise and before sunset are known as “the golden hour,” when the sun is just above the horizon, and the sky is full of warm, glowing natural light. During the golden hour, light is softer, and takes on a beautiful red quality that enriches colors. Because of the angle of the sun in the sky, light is also directional, which helps create romantic sunbursts and dramatic silhouettes.
Want to take a coveted golden hour shot, but missed the actual time of day? You no longer need to plan your life around the sun’s schedule, because photo & video editing app, Picsart, features a “golden hour” filter that can enhance your photos with an instant glow.
5) Compose an Artistic Landscape Photo
Shooting landscapes is a great way to improve your overall composition. Since you don’t have to worry about your subject moving around, you can instead focus your creativity on capturing the most aesthetically pleasing image. There are several easy ways to improve your overall composition in landscape photography:
- The rule of thirds is how people typically learn about composition. Most DSLR cameras and smartphone cameras have built-in settings to show these grids in the viewfinder. Instead of framing your landscape in the center of the image, you can try dividing the image into thirds horizontally and vertically and framing it along the focal points where those lines intersect.
- Reflect the natural beauty of the world around you, and use reflections to create an interesting composition. Any mirror-like surface — whether it is the crystalline surface of a lake or the window of a passing car — can lend itself to landscape photography. Reflective shots are also a great example of how fun it can be to break the rule of thirds. Instead of relying on the rule of thirds, use the horizontal line where your subject meets the reflection as the center of your image.
- Color is a great way to add an abstract emotion to your image. As light temperature changes throughout the day, so does the way that we perceive them. Color theory is great to introduce into the photographer’s toolkit to help construct more dynamic and cohesive shots. It’s a great way to use the natural palette of the landscape in your favor, and notice whether your shot is built around cool tones, warm tones, complementary colors, or a full spectrum of chromatography.
6) Capture Movement
Landscape shots don’t need to be static. Nature is alive and constantly moving. Think crashing waves, blustery winds, or the gentle, sleepy drifting of clouds. Slowing your shutter speed can help capture the natural movement of the landscape. Just remember, you’ll need to use a smaller aperture to isolate the details of the movement, and to limit the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a shot that’s overexposed.
7) Find Personal Expression
Lastly, landscape photography doesn’t mean you can’t include people. When you’re photographing a wide-open scene, capturing one human subject can make your landscape more interesting. Here are some tips:
- Don’t be afraid to cause a scene. If the person is your friend or a model, you can move them around and position them however you like. Of course, you never know when you’re going to spy a stranger in just the right place.
- Typically in landscape photography, the focal point of the image is a tree or another interesting natural formation. Using a person as your subject, on the other hand, will add a new sense of realism to the shot, and will definitely be a nice balance to a lot of white space. Unlike a natural object, using a human model also adds a nice sense of scale, and makes it clear to the viewer just how awesome and impressive the landscape really is.
- Finally, you don’t even need to necessarily shoot a whole person from far away. You can create an interesting landscape composition with just a silhouette or an outstretched hand.
How to Edit a Landscape Photo
Now that we’ve mastered the art of landscape photography, and taken some majestic photographs in nature, it’s time to edit your landscape photo. Let’s put these tips together with this quick and easy tutorial using the all-in-one photo editing app, Picsart.
- Open the Picsart editor.
- Choose a landscape photo from your gallery. If you don’t see one that you’re crazy about, feel free to choose a photograph from the vast library of free-to-edit content. Simply Search ‘Landscape’ to get started.
- Crop your image to your desired size. Although your photo might look fine as it is, you might be surprised as to what eliminating 10-20 percent of your photo can do to boost the image’s overall aesthetic. The right crop is the difference between a good composition and a great one.
- Now it’s time to add some effects! There’s a lot of options. The Colorize and Hue tools are fun ones for creating a new color palette, and adding some drama to the palette.
- Choose stickers from Picsart’s content library to customize your composition, and take your landscape to a new dimension. Then, lower the opacity, and raise the brightness.
- Now, it’s time to add a little personal expression. Search the stickers to find someone who looks like they belong in your landscape. Adjust the opacity slightly.
- Search the object library for more images to add to your composition. Lower the hue to about 130, so that your objects blend into the scene.
- Tag your image, so that others can find it, and make sure to tag any other creators whose images might have inspired your work. If you are proud of your creation, turn on Replay and share it with the world.
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