How to Plan the Perfect Landscape Photo

The post How to Plan the Perfect Landscape Photo appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

 

how-to-plan-the-perfect-landscape-photo

The best photography comes from having a plan. That’s especially the case when it comes to landscape photography. In this article, you’ll learn the practical steps you can take ahead of time so you can get the best possible results. Follow these steps to plan the perfect landscape photo, and you’ll get amazing results every time.

how-to-plan-the-perfect-landscape-photo

This photo needs the seasonal salt marsh plants to give it that extra punch.

Know where the perfect landscape photo is

The first step is finding a great location to photograph. If that’s in your local area, you’ll almost certainly know where the local money shots are. What if you’re traveling to somewhere new, though? Well, there are several things you can do before you visit, which will give you a head start. It is good planning to make a list of photos you wish to take ahead of time. To do that, look to do the following:

  • Choose a location – The first step is going to be choosing a location. Keep this to a defined area like one city, or a national park. If the country is small like perhaps Iceland, you can look to that as your location.
  • Famous landmarks – Now within that location, start looking for the standout places that people visit, not just for photography, but because they’re amazing. Make a list of these places, and choose which ones you would like to photograph.
  • Other photos – Now it’s time to search online for inspiration from other photographers. This may lead you to replicate one of these photos. If you’re concerned about this then avoid this step, and go to the location with a clear mind about how you will take your photo. Sites like 500px, Instagram and Flickr can be good resources for this step.
Image: If the location is far from where you live, ask people who have visited there before for thei...

If the location is far from where you live, ask people who have visited there before for their advice.

Visit the location ahead of time

Where possible the next step for you to plan the perfect landscape photo is to visit the location before you photograph it. There are three possible ways you can go about doing this. Each has its drawbacks, but if you can, then this step will help a lot.

  • Day trip – If your location is nearby, you could make a day trip without your camera. This is aimed at getting you that vital on-the-ground information.
  • Arrive early – A lot of landscape photos are sunsets. Arrive several hours before sunset to thoroughly explore the area for the best location to get a good composition. Taking a sunrise photo? Then arrive the evening before so you can see the location while it’s still light ahead of your photo the next day.
  • Online maps – Should the location be an airplane ride away, the only way of visiting the location early is online. While you won’t get all the information, using services like Google maps street view can allow you to explore a location remotely ahead of time.
Image: This photo is of the new skyscraper in Bangkok, the Mahanakhon.

This photo is of the new skyscraper in Bangkok, the Mahanakhon.

Sunrise or sunset?

A lot of landscape photos will be either sunrise or sunset locations. Make sure you know where these are ahead of time.

You’ll need to work out your route from where you’re staying to these locations. You also need to arrive around one hour before sunrise or sunset happens. With sunset or sunrise skies comes big differences in the dynamic range. Make sure you’re familiar with techniques like bracketing and digital blending before you go out to take these photos.

Finally, don’t always photograph towards the sun, turn around and look for the golden light and see if that makes a good photo as well.

Image: One of my friends is a Balloonist who has, on occasion, taken me for a balloon ride.

One of my friends is a Balloonist who has, on occasion, taken me for a balloon ride.

Contact a fixer to plan the perfect landscape photo

There are lots of situations in photography where you will need a fixer. A fixer is someone who helps you facilitate the photograph you want to take. This fixer could take several forms depending on the situation or location you want to photograph. These are a few examples of fixers that you could need to deal with.

  • Security guard – A lot of cityscape photos are taken from the rooftop of tall buildings. Contacting the security of that building to ask for permission ahead of time is a good idea.
  • Restaurant or bar manager – There are some restaurants that have amazing viewpoints. Some of these will allow you to photograph from their premises. Once again, you need to contact them ahead of time to arrange this.
  • Photographer – Contacting local photographers to ask them for information is a great idea. If you’re lucky enough to find someone who will show you the local places to photograph, be sure to return the favor when you have the chance.
  • Tourist company – In some cases, joining a tour can get you to a location you want to photograph but otherwise could not reach. For example, if you want to take an aerial photo of a location, one solution is booking a balloon or helicopter ride! Remember, not everywhere will allow you to fly a drone.
how-to-plan-the-perfect-landscape-photo

This photo required a longer focal length to compress the scene.

Bring the right equipment

Make sure you have the right equipment with you to get the photo you want. The list below is a suggested packing list for landscape photographers. The location you’re photographing from will have a big bearing on which items from the list below you actually take.

  • Tripod – A tripod is essential for all landscape photographers, whatever the conditions. Getting sharp images is important, and you’ll get this when using a tripod.
  • Camera body – The newest camera body may not be as important for daytime landscapes, but if you’re photographing the Milkyway, having a new camera body is invaluable.
  • Lens – If you have researched your location properly, you’ll know whether the primary photo you intend to take requires a wide-angle or telephoto focal length. There is nothing worse than getting a location and realizing your lens doesn’t allow you to compose the photo the way you wish.
  • Remote trigger – A remote trigger or perhaps a cable release will mean you don’t need to touch the camera on the tripod. This will remove the chance of camera shake.
  • Filters – These are always worth packing as they take up minimal space. Neutral density filters are great for long exposure work, and graduated neutral density filters are also nice to have. A circular polarizing filter should be packed to give your photo more punch. Looking for a little creativity? How about packing an infra-red filter?
  • Other equipment – Looking to make a landscape that’s a little different? A lensball allows you to capture the scene in front of you in a unique way. It’s like having an external lens. How about light painting? You’ll need to bring things like a torch or an LED light stick for this.
Image: Filters are a vital piece of equipment for all landscape photographers.

Filters are a vital piece of equipment for all landscape photographers.

Know the local conditions ahead of time

Finally, make sure you’re checking the weather ahead of time. If your schedule is flexible enough, check the 5-day forecast and choose a day that works best for the sky. The long-range forecast can’t always be relied on though, so also be prepared to drop everything on the day if the right conditions develop for your photo.

Weather

Of course, this means using a reliable weather service or app on your phone. There are several of these out there. The recommended ones are windy.com and wunderground.com. These sites give good forecasts, though it’s worth checking them as you get nearer the intended day of your photo as they are updating their information. Then on the day itself, you can check their satellite images for up-to-the-minute information. These satellite images give information on current positions of clouds or any rain.

The sun

Another factor to consider is the sun, and that’s not whether it’s a sunny day or not. The sun’s position in the sky changes throughout the year. That means you can plan your trip to coincide with when the sun will be in the best position in the sky for your photo. To get this information use suncalc.org or the photopills app for your smartphone.

how-to-plan-the-perfect-landscape-photo

Seasonal changes to the landscape can make a dramatic difference as well. Plan for when there will be spring or fall foliage you can make use of. In the winter, the snow can also be pretty.

Tide times

Those of you doing any photography along the coast will need to know the tide times. The landscape scene along a coast can change dramatically depending on whether it’s high or low tide. Again, tide times change throughout the year, so you should be able to plan your trip so that the level of the tide is perfect for your photo.

It’s also important to know from a safety perspective. If you can only access your location at low tide, you need to know how long you can safely photograph from that low tide position.

How do you plan the perfect landscape photo?

Having read this article, you’ll have a better feel for how to plan your landscape photo.

Which of the above steps will you put into your planning phase? Are there things you do when you plan your landscape photos that were not included here?

We’d love you hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section of this article. Then, once you have taken your landscape photo, you can share it in the comments section.

So now it’s time to start planning, and taking better landscape photos!

 

 

The post How to Plan the Perfect Landscape Photo appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How to Find and Photograph Wild Landscapes for Epic Images

The post How to Find and Photograph Wild Landscapes for Epic Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

epic-wild-landscapes-photography

Wild Landscapes can be described as “unspoiled areas of land including hills, mountains, and rivers where wild animals, trees, and plants live or grow in natural surroundings and are not looked after by people.”

Venturing into the wild with your camera can be a great adventure that provides a unique opportunity and rewarding exploration to photograph untouched and pristine landscapes. Embarking on such a trip requires careful planning before you go.

How-to-Find-and-Photograph-Wild-Landscapes-and-Create-Epic-Images-01

Sinai Mountains, Egypt

The first thing you will need to do is choose a wild landscape location to visit. How to go about finding these places is simply a matter of looking for potential destinations. Certain areas around the world are famous for their wild landscapes and rugged beauty including the majestic mountains of Scotland, the highlands of Iceland, the Grand Canyon in the USA, the Canadian Rockies, the deserts of Namibia, Patagonia in South America and many more.

Closer to home, you can find wild landscapes within national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and amongst local nature.

Two UK-based photographers worth following who like to photograph wild landscapes include, Thomas Heaton and Alex Nail. Both produce great visuals of wild landscapes, outdoor photography and nature, and are very inspiring.

Once you have found a suitable location, there are several things to consider before going out to photograph wild landscapes.

Go prepared

How-to-Find-and-Photograph-Wild-Landscapes-and-Create-Epic-Images-02

Brecon Beacons, England

When going on a shoot, make a packing list and be prepared from wearing the right gear to having plenty of food and drink supplies to keep your energy levels up.

Take the right clothing

The clothing you take will determine how comfortable you will be. For example, appropriate rain gear is essential if this is the forecast. In sunny weather, you may be uncomfortable in too much clothing, and in colder weather, you will be chilly if you don’t wear enough layers. So you will need to wear appropriate clothing.

Footwear

Choose the appropriate footwear for the terrain you will be walking on. A sturdy pair of waterproof walking boots with good grips on the souls are essential for long walks over rough grounds with rain forecast.

Supplies

Supplies of food and water are important to keep you fuelled and hydrated. Take more than you estimate for your journey in case of any difficulties, such as burning more calories than expected on a long hike to your destination.

Consider wild camping

How-to-Find-and-Photograph-Wild-Landscapes-and-Create-Epic-Images-03

Torres del Paine, Chile

Consider taking a lightweight tent and camping out overnight somewhere to photograph an epic scene of the wilderness. There are advantages to wild camping beside a great view. They include being able to capture the sunset and sunrise, and not having to walk to the destination twice.

The right camera gear

Travel light, especially if you are going to stay out overnight somewhere. Cut back on the camera equipment you take as much as you can. Make room to carry other essentials such as food and drink supplies. Only take the lenses you think you will need, such as a wide-angle lens.

Other equipment

Be sure to take a map with you as a precaution. Also, take a fully-charged phone with a GPS app or an ordinance survey map for directions.

Let people know where you are going

It may seem obvious, but it is essential to tell people where you are heading, and for how long, as a safety precaution. This helps in the unlikely event that you experience any unforeseen circumstances. This could include bad weather (for example, thick fog on a mountain top) or sustaining an injury where you are unable to return at the anticipated time.

You will feel more comfortable in the knowledge that someone knows where you are if you require assistance.

Time your visit

Wild Landscapes 04

The Rockies, Canada

When shooting a wild landscape, it is important to consider the weather conditions.

Time your visit to go and shoot when the weather is good or dramatic. It depends on the kind of image you want to achieve.

There is no such thing as ‘bad weather’ for photography, as in different conditions, you’ll gain different results. For example, a wild stormy sky is great for a powerful and energetic image. Calm and still conditions can give you a minimalist outcome. Each has its own appeal.

You can even shoot landscape images in the midday sun if you prefer to visit during the day.

Choose a viewpoint and composition

When it comes to photographing an epic wild landscape, you will want to choose a viewpoint and composition that captures the location well. Seek out strong compositions that show the majesty of the place, such as a striking mountain range or some intriguing details.

Tripod

It is worth setting your camera on a tripod, especially to help shoot in low light or blustery weather where the conditions can adversely affect the outcome of your images. This will assist in providing more stability and essentially sharper pictures.

Light

Wild Landscapes 05

Sossusvlei, Namibia

When photographing wild landscapes, consider the light to create great images. You can photograph spectacular scenes by using light creatively. Capture sidelight (when the sun lights the landscape from the side, often creating interesting shadows and textures), backlight (shooting in the direction of the sun where your subject can be silhouetted or have bright edges) or front light (where the sun is coming from behind you and straight onto your subject). You can also include the sun in your shot to make images with different tones and brightness.

Conclusion

Photographing wild landscapes can be a great adventure and an opportunity to explore pristine and untouched landscapes. You can find wild landscapes within national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and amongst local nature. Remember to consider clothing, footwear, food and water, camera equipment and a map and be sure to let people know where you are going. Choose an interesting viewpoint, use a tripod and be creative with light. Share your pictures of Wild Landscapes with us below.

The post How to Find and Photograph Wild Landscapes for Epic Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

How to Take Epic Sunrise Photos with a Zoom Lens

The post How to Take Epic Sunrise Photos with a Zoom Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

epic-sunrise-photos-with-a-zoom-lens

Taking a beautiful sunrise picture might seem simple: just point your camera or mobile at the sun as it creeps over the horizon and you’re good to go. While this can certainly result in an interesting image, you can take sunrise pictures to a whole new level with a zoom lens and a bit of camera knowledge. If you have a lens with a longer focal length that goes to 200 or 300mm, you can get some epic sunrise pictures with a zoom that showcase the majesty of nature in the morning.

Sunrise-Photos-with-a-Zoom-Lens

200mm, f/11, 1/500 second, ISO 100

Seek the sun

Before you can take a good sunrise picture, you need to do a bit of planning, so you know when the sun is going to come up. It also helps to know where to look so you’re ready when the moment hits. A quick internet search with your location and the words “sunrise time” will help you know what time to take pictures. As far as where to look, that’s up to you.

Of course, the sun always rises in the east, but it’s necessary to know exactly where it will come up relative to your specific location and time of year. To get the best results, you want to snap your pictures right as the sun appears on the horizon. If buildings obstruct your view, you’re going to need to find a location that offers an unobstructed view in the right direction.

To show how precise this process is, look at the picture below. I shot it as the sun was coming up, but the result is boring, bland, and entirely unremarkable.

Image: 200mm, f/6.7, 1/500 second, ISO 800

200mm, f/6.7, 1/500 second, ISO 800

This was shot precisely one minute and 48 seconds before the picture at the top of this article. Why is it so boring? The answer is a simple truth of the business world: location, location, location. While I looked east for the sun, I didn’t realize it had already crested the horizon behind a grove of trees. I was able to take a vastly improved picture just by repositioning myself 100 meters from this point.

When you go out to take sunrise photos, make sure you can actually find the sun!

Expose for the sun

Nailing the exposure on a sunrise picture is quite tricky. Imagine taking a picture of a flashlight in a dimly-lit room. You’ll end up with one of two results: 

  • The room will be properly exposed while the flashlight is super bright.
  • The flashlight will be properly exposed while the rest of the room will be entirely dark.

 It’s nearly impossible to get a properly-exposed flashlight and a properly-exposed room.

Image: 200mm, f/8, 1/30 second, ISO 280. Aside from being hidden behind the trees, this is also a po...

200mm, f/8, 1/30 second, ISO 280. Aside from being hidden behind the trees, this is also a poor shot because the sky and sun are just too bright. The foreground is fine, but all the color detail in the sky is mostly gone.

That is precisely what it’s like to take a picture of the sunrise, especially with a telephoto lens. What you want is a picture where the bright parts (i.e. the sun and sky) aren’t too bright, and the dark parts (i.e. the foreground) aren’t too dark. Basically you want an HDR image, but rather than shooting on a tripod and combining multiple exposures in post-production, you can do it with a single image by shooting in RAW.

Since RAW files capture much more picture data than JPEG files, you can fix many issues in Lightroom, Photoshop, Luminar, and other editing applications. The trick is to make sure you don’t lose any data to clipping, which happens when bright things are so bright that it doesn’t record data. The same can happen with dark areas too, but it’s usually not as much of a problem.

Image: 200mm, f/8, 1/1000 second, ISO 280. Exposing for the sun gave me a lot more wiggle room to fi...

200mm, f/8, 1/1000 second, ISO 280. Exposing for the sun gave me a lot more wiggle room to fix the darker areas of the picture in Lightroom.

There are a couple of ways to expose for the sun so it’s not too bright. You can set your camera to Center-Weighted metering, which ensures the middle of your picture is not too bright or too dark. Another method (and the one which I prefer), is to have your camera evaluate the entire scene but use exposure compensation to under-expose by roughly two stops.

Regardless of how you meter the scene and set your exposure, the end result is the same. In your resulting image, you want the sun to be visible and not too bright. This means the foreground will be dark, but remember that you can recover everything you need when you process the RAW file.

Use a small aperture

If you have a high-end zoom lens like a 70-200 f/2.8 or a 300mm f/4, you might be tempted to shoot sunrise pictures with the largest possible aperture. Blurry foregrounds and backgrounds are great, right? So why wouldn’t you shoot wide open?

Contrary to what you might think, smaller apertures are better when taking sunrise photos. First, it helps make sure your entire picture is sharp. Bokeh is great on portraits but not so desirable on most landscapes. A blurry foreground (thanks to a wide aperture) can distract the viewer and leave the scene feeling kind of mushy as a result.

Image: 200mm, f/11, 1/250 second, ISO 100

200mm, f/11, 1/250 second, ISO 100

Another reason to use smaller apertures, like f/8 or f/11, is that it gives you more control over your exposure. Remember, the sun is really bright, so you don’t need to worry about not getting enough light in your picture! On the contrary, you actually want to limit the amount of light, especially since you want the foreground to be underexposed. A small aperture helps with this.

Use a fast shutter speed

The sun moves fast – really fast. Or, rather, the earth spins fast. That’s what is actually happening when you see the sun come up. And just like any time you want to capture motion, you need to use a shutter speed that’s up to the task. Slower values like 1/30th and 1/60th will not only make exposure tricky, but result in a blurry sun as it speeds upwards on the horizon.

Sunrise-Photos-with-a-Zoom-Lens

200mm, f/2.8, 1/4000th of a second, ISO 100. I broke my own rule about small apertures here, specifically because I wanted the vehicle in the foreground to be out of focus. The trade-off for such a wide aperture was a very fast shutter speed.

I recommend a minimum shutter speed of 1/250th, and even faster if possible. 1/500th is even better. If you are exposing for the sun, you might even use ultra-fast shutter speeds like 1/1000th or more. Of course, the foreground will be dim, but that’s fine since you can recover those shadows in post-production.

One nice thing about this is it means you don’t need to use a tripod. So that means one less thing for you to bring with you to your sunrise photo shoots. Handheld will work fine, even when zoomed all the way in. That’s because you should have a shutter speed that will compensate for any motion blur due to camera shake.

Be patient, but act fast

Once you have the technical aspects figured out, and you know where you want to position yourself to capture a sunrise, the final piece off the puzzle is patience. I recommend arriving early so you can make sure everything is situated properly. Bring some music or a podcast because you might be waiting a little while. However, it’s better to arrive early than scramble at the last minute.

Sunrise-Photos-with-a-Zoom-Lens

190mm, f/2.8, 1/180th of a second, ISO 250. The sun wasn’t up yet, but I really liked the rich purple and blue colors of the sky – an added bonus of arriving early and waiting. Note the large aperture. It was required to let plenty of light in since there just wasn’t much light available.

As soon as you start to see the sun peek over the horizon, you only have a few minutes to get your shots. Remember to use a small aperture, expose for the sun, and shoot in RAW, and you should be fine. Go ahead and snap a few pictures with your mobile phone too. You’ll be amazed at how much more dramatic and impactful your pictures are with a zoom lens!

Sunrise-Photos-with-a-Zoom-Lens

200mm, f/8, 1/1000th of a second, ISO 100. The sun isn’t in this picture but you can clearly see the morning light on the clouds. I liked the silhouette of the tower against the glowing morning sky too. You can’t get this shot with a mobile phone!

Do you have any other tips for sunrise photos with a zoom lens? Share with us in the comments. Also, I’d love to see your sunrise photos, and I’m sure the rest of the DPS community would also, so please share them in the comments too!

 

 

The post How to Take Epic Sunrise Photos with a Zoom Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

12 Tips to Help You Capture Stunning Landscape Photos

Whether you are an experienced photographer or just getting started, the amazing landscape photographs you see have all got a few things in common. The reality of landscape photography is that not only are you reliant on your own ability and skill of seeing and composing an image, but also on Mother Nature. But regardless of whatever weather you encounter, there are countless opportunities to be able to capture spectacular landscape photographs.

Here are 12 tips that you can follow if you want to capture stunning landscape photos.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-7

1. Location, Location, Location

Landscape photography is as much about planning, as it is about the actual process of photography. You should always have a clear idea of where you are planning to go, and at what time of the day you will be able to capture the best photograph. Learn how to read maps, and understand how you can utilize them to find the perfect location. By planning your exact location, you will be able to maximize your time there, and ensure that not only you get to your location safely and in plenty of time, but also find your way back, which is usually after sunset.

2. Be Patient

It’s amazing the number of times that the elements conspire to ruin a perfectly composed photograph. Landscape photography requires patience, just in case that white cloudy sky disperses just long enough to allow the sun to break through for you to take your shot. The key is to always allow yourself enough time at a location, so that you are able to wait if you need to. Forward planning can also help you hugely, so make sure to check weather forecasts before leaving, maximizing your opportunity for the weather you require.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-4

3. Don’t be Lazy

One of the reasons we are often stunned by impressive landscape photos is because it is a view taken in a way that we have never seen before. A photo taken from the top of a mountain which requires a huge amount of time and effort to get to, is a view that most people won’t get to see for themselves. So don’t rely on easily accessible viewpoints, that everyone else can just pull up to and see. Instead, look for those unique spots (providing they are safe to get to) that offer amazing scenes, even if they require determination to get there.

4. Use the Best Light

Light is one of the most important factors in any photograph, but even more so in landscape photography. It really doesn’t matter how great the location, is or how you compose your photo – if the light doesn’t do the scene justice, then the image will fail. The best light for landscape photography is early in the morning or late afternoon, with the midday sun offering the harshest light.

But, part of the challenge of landscape photography is about being able to adapt and cope with different lighting conditions, for example, great landscape photos can be captured even on stormy or cloudy days. The key is to use the best light as much as possible, and be able to influence the look and feel of your photos to it.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-3

5. Carry a Tripod

Simply put, if you want to capture the best photographs, at the best time of the day, at the highest quality possible, then a tripod is an essential piece of equipment. Photography in low light conditions (e.g. early morning or early evening) without a tripod would require an increase in ISO to be able to avoid camera shake, which in turn means more noise in your images. If you want to capture a scene using a slow shutter speed or long exposure (for example, to capture the movement of clouds or water) then without a tripod you simply won’t be able to hold the camera steady enough, to avoid blurred images from camera shake.

6. Maximize the Depth of Field

Choosing your depth of field is an important part of capturing stunning landscapes. Usually landscape photos require the vast majority of the photo to be sharp (the foreground and background) so you need a deeper depth of field than if you are taking a portrait of someone. But a shallower depth of field can also be a powerful creative tool if used correctly, as it can isolate the subject by keeping it sharp, while the rest of the image is blurred. As a starting point, if you are looking to keep the majority of the photo sharp, set your camera to Aperture Priority (A or Av) mode, so you can take control of the aperture. Start at around f/8 and work up (f/11 or higher) until you get the desired effect.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-4

7. Think About the Composition

As much as possible you should always aim to get your composition right when taking the photo, rather than relying on post-production. If the scene doesn’t look right when you look at it through your viewfinder, then it won’t look good in the final output. There are several techniques that you can use to help your composition (such as the rule of thirds), but ultimately you need to train yourself to be able to see a scene, and analyze it in your mind. With practice this will become second nature, but the important thing is to take your time.

8. Use Neutral Density and Polarizing Filters

Neutral Density filters and polarizers are an essential piece of kit for any landscape photographer. Often you will need to manipulate the available light, or even try to enhance the natural elements. For example if you are taking photos which include water, you may find you get unwanted reflections from the sun, which is where a polarizing filter can help by minimizing the reflections and also enhancing the colours (greens and blues). But remember, polarizing filters often have little or no effect on a scene if you’re directly facing the sun, or it’s behind you. For best results position yourself between 45° and 90° to the sun.

One of the other big challenges of landscape photography is getting a balanced exposure between the foreground, which is usually darker, and a bright sky. Graduated ND filters help to compensate for this by darkening the sky, while keeping the foreground brighter. This can be replicated in post-production, but it is always best to try and capture the photo as well as possible in-camera.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-2

9. Use the Histogram

Histograms are an essential tool in photography which you should aim to learn how to read, and utilize the findings to improve your photos. A histogram is a simple graph that shows the different tonal distribution in your image. The left side of the graph is for dark tones and the right side of the graph represents bright tones.

For instance, if you find that the majority of the graph is shifted to one side, this is an indication that your photo is too light or dark (overexposed or underexposed). This isn’t always a bad thing, and some images work perfectly well either way. However, if you find that your graph extends beyond the left or right edge, this shows that you have parts of the photo with lost detail (pure black areas if the histogram extends beyond the left edge and pure white if it extends beyond the right edge). This is something you should avoid, so by seeing the evidence in the histogram, you are able to correct it by either recomposing the image or compensating for the exposure.

10. Never Settle for a Good Photo

This is true of any photograph that you are taking. It doesn’t matter if it is a landscape or a portrait, if you can do it better, then you should. But often because of the time and effort that landscape photography requires, people settle for a good photo, rather than waiting or coming back to take a better one. You should always aim to photograph anything at the best possible time, in the best possible way, even if that means waiting or coming back later.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-1

11. Shoot in RAW format

Simply put, if your camera is capable of capturing photos in RAW format, than I recommend that you always capture RAW files. They contain much more detail and information, and give far greater flexibility in post-production without losing quality. Remember, you can always save RAW files in whatever other format you require, but you will not be able to save JPEGs as RAW files, so ultimately you are limited to the quality at which the JPEG was shot.

12. Experiment

For all the techniques and rules that exist to help aid composition and the process of taking the photo, there is always room to experiment. Digital photography means that taking a photo isn’t wasting a negative (and costing money), so there is ample opportunity to break the rules and your own style sometimes. Even if the majority of the time it doesn’t work and the image doesn’t look great, every now and again you might uncover a gem.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-5

Landscape photography is one of the most common genres that amateur and professional photographers get into. With practice, hard work, and patience you can capture stunning landscape photos that will look great in your portfolio.

So come on, show us your great landscape shots and don’t forget to share your tips and experiences below.

The post 12 Tips to Help You Capture Stunning Landscape Photos by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Reasons To Should Shoot Your Landscape Images in RAW

Detail recovered from a RAW file, before and after

Detail recovered from a RAW file, before and after.

There is often a debate among photographers about shooting in RAW. Try it out – next time you are with a group of photographers, ask them who shoots in RAW. Better still, ask them why they don’t shoot in RAW. The conversation will become pretty interesting. When I first started photography, I was told that shooting in RAW was a waste of time and that I won’t need all that “information”. I was told it was better to shoot on JPEG as it saves space. Yes, RAW files are bigger, especially on a high-resolution camera, but is it true that we don’t need all that “information”? Over the past few years, I have done a fair amount of research into the RAW vs JPEG debate and I now shoot completely in RAW. Yes, my image files are MUCH bigger; yes, I need more space to store my images; yes, it does impact my image editing workflow. Is it worth it? A categorical yes. Here are five reasons why you should shoot your landscape images in RAW.

1. Details

RAW files are big because they don’t discard any image information that is captured in the scene. When you shoot on JPEG, the algorithm for JPEG determines which information is discarded and which is kept without changing the way the image looks. That is great for saving space on your memory card, but not so good if you intend to edit your images in Photoshop.

The reality is that your camera can capture a significant amount of data if you shoot in RAW, which in turn gives you much more flexibility in Photoshop later. On average, a normal JPEG file will be between four and six megs per image. The same image shot on the same camera in 14-bit lossless RAW format will be 25 – 30mb, five times bigger. The reason is that there is much more information in a RAW file. That information is critical in post-production. You can get so much detail out of a RAW image, such as pulling back blown-out highlights and bringing back detail in the shadows that would be impossible to recover in JPEG format. This doesn’t mean you should be sloppy and not pay attention to your exposure. What it does mean is that in tricky lighting conditions, you will be able to get a shot that’s usable.

Recovered details in a street scene, overall much more detail can be seen.

Recovered details in a street scene, overall much more detail can be seen.

2. Color

We all shoot on color nowadays. If you don’t, you should, even if you are going to convert to black and white – but that’s for another post. Shooting in RAW means that you are saving as much color information as possible from the scene. This is really important in landscape photography, portrait photography, food photography and even street photography. The color in your scene can make the difference between a good image and a great image. By shooting in RAW, you will have all the color information possible. The important part of that is the subtle color. For example, the gradation in the sky will look better than it would on JPEG, even if you think that JPEG will be fine from a color perspective.  If you are shooting a landscape scene, you want to get as much color information as you can. RAW would be the format to do this. In Photoshop, the vibrance function will saturate the colors in your scene which are undersaturated and this can give your RAW file that subtle boost to make the image pop.

Much more colour can be rendered from a RAW file

Much more color can be rendered from a RAW file.

3. Exposure

The exposure in your scene should always be as good as you can get it in camera. In the past, most photographers would underexpose a little to make sure they didn’t blow out the highlights. In recent years, most photographers shooting in RAW have been exposing to the right (ETTR). The new generation of cameras have a really good dynamic range and are able to render details in the shadows and the highlights in one shot. This was not possible a few years ago. ETTR means that when you look at your photograph’s histogram, try and push it over to the right a little – in other words, overexpose it a little. The reason is because RAW can handle highlights in a scene really well and if your shadows are a little brighter there won’t be as much noise in the shadows. This is really a good technique to use in landscape photography and architectural photography. Your images will be cleaner and have very little noise in them. Once you adjust the image in Photoshop, you will have a well-exposed image across the dynamic range.

Blown out highlights in this scene were brought down, but the overall exposure was brightened.

Blown out highlights in this scene were brought down, but the overall exposure was brightened.

4. Flexibility

The best part about RAW files are that they give you flexibility. If you shoot landscape images or street photography, you have a lot of information to work with and you can use that information to create the best possible image. Also, Photoshop is always improving their tools and functions. I have gone back and reworked older images: the RAW file had all the information and the new functions brought out the best of that scene. This has happened quite a few times, so don’t delete “throwaway” images so quickly. For this reason, I am also not a fan of chimping too much. Wait until you download the images to see what is worth keeping. Use RAW to give you as much flexibility as you can, even on older images.

Original RAW file, the image was really dark from the use of an ND filter

Original RAW file, the image was really dark from the use of an ND filter.

 

The result of the above image after being edited in Adobe RAW converter

The result of the above image after being edited in Adobe RAW converter.

5. Quality

Editing your RAW image is a two-step process. The first step is converting it in a RAW converter. (Lightroom converts RAW images, as does Photoshop and many other image editing products.) Once you have made the corrections and subtle adjustments in the RAW converter, then you can open the converted image in Lightroom or Photoshop. You will then be editing on the best quality image possible. Image quality is almost the “holy grail” of photography. If you ask any photographer what the most important thing is for any image, it will most likely boil down to image quality. To be clear, when I say image quality I include sharpness, noise, dynamic range, color, tone, chromatic aberration and so on. Anything that adds to the overall look and feel of the image. Your image quality will be fantastic if you work carefully in your RAW converter and edit well in Photoshop. You can get good image quality in JPEG too, but you will be able to squeeze that much more out of the image if you shot in RAW.

 

Look at the quality and detail of the scene after being edited in Adobe Camera Raw converter

Look at the quality and detail of the scene after being edited in Adobe Camera Raw converter.

RAW is a great format to use if you plan on editing your images. If you shoot landscapes, fashion, food, architecture and even weddings you should be considering shooting in RAW. One caveat on using RAW for weddings – you don’t have to shoot the whole wedding in RAW, but shoot the important images or images where the light is tricky in RAW. That way you can be confident you have the shot and information you will need for editing later.

RAW requires a different workflow for your image processing. If you don’t want to spend too much time editing, then maybe RAW will not work for you. The reality is RAW files are bigger, but that’s because they capture so much more information. If you are skeptical, give it a try. Shoot some scenes in RAW and try the Adobe RAW converter. Lightroom also works with RAW files. You might find that you have more details and information in your image than you thought.

The post 5 Reasons To Should Shoot Your Landscape Images in RAW by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots [Before You Head Out]

One of the simplest ways to capture great photographs is to prepare yourself for success before you head out the door. I’ve used this process of preparing for shoots for the last few years and it’s worked great for me – I’d love to hear what else people are doing to prepare for their own shoots in the comments below.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots: The Day Before

Virtually Scout the Location

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

Usually the night before a shoot I will open up Google Earth, Maps and/or various other apps to scout the location for things like parking spots, water features, sun angles and whatever else might be of interest to me for that particular shoot.

It can be helpful to look through Flickr or another location based photography service to get an idea of what other photographers have found interesting before your visit.

Charge Up

It should go without saying, but make sure you’re camera is fully charged before you go to sleep. The last thing you want is to be ready to head out the door and find out your camera’s got one bar of battery life left in it. On the same note make sure your SD/CF cards are empty and packed as well – that’s a mistake you’ll only make once.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

This step doesn’t just include the camera though – you should make sure that your own body is fully charged as well. Have a good sized dinner and get to bed early, eat a healthy breakfast and pack snacks to take with you. If there’s one thing that will ruin your photos faster than anything it’s an empty belly – you’ll start to get frustrated easy, you’ll care less about what you’re doing, and ultimately you will make mistakes which is the last thing we want to do when we’ve gone through all the effort to get to this location in the first place.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots: Before You Leave

Check the Weather Report

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

It’s easy to take for granted, but it’s important to get a weather report for the day and area you’re heading before you leave the house. If you’re planning to hike a mountain know that it will be chillier the higher you go and just because the weather is fair in your backyard doesn’t mean that it’s the same at your location of interest.

Dress Accordingly

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

Hiking boots are a must if you want to get into locations off-the-beaten path, but you can do fine in comfortable sneakers if you’re not planning traverse any serious terrain. That said you should plan to wear comfortable and breathable clothing – jeans and cotton shirts are rarely a good option as they don’t keep you warm and if they get wet they will take forever to dry.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots: On Scene

Arrive Early

I can’t stress this enough! The last thing you want to do is show up as the sun is setting or after it has risen. If you arrive early you can set up the camera and capture many different locations with the light that you have.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

As the light changes you may want to revisit your previous locations or continue looking for new ones, but as long as you’ve gotten there early, you should end up with a bunch of shots to process when you return home.

Take Your Time

Rushing around will not allow your mind to think properly. When you rush your shots the odds are increased that you’ll get home to find out that you left your ISO at some unusable number or your aperture was at f/2.8 when it was supposed to be at f/11.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

Take each shot as seriously as the last one you took and make the adjustments that are needed to get the best image out of the scene before you. Sometimes I find it helpful to even simply get up and walk away from the camera and give myself a break. Of course, when I do that, I still end up taking photographs with my phone, but those are more  for fun than anything else.

Returning Home

Processing the Results

After all is captured and you’ve safely made it back to your house it’s time to process your what you’ve recorded. This part is truly up to you and your creative style, but here is my workflow as a basis point.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots

I will start with import the RAW files into Lightroom and going through to clean out the ones I absolutely don’t see any use for. I’ll then make my selections of the ones that are first on the list to get process and do just that. On occasion I will do more processing and clean up in Photoshop, but with how powerful Lightroom has gotten over the last couple iterations of the software I’ve seen less and less need to do so. If you’re curious you can also watch me edit select photos every week on my Let’s Edit series.

To get even more information on landscape photography check out this amazing DPS eBook on the entire process.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots [Before You Head Out]

The post How To Prepare For Successful Landscape Shoots [Before You Head Out] by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

11 Surefire Landscape Photography Tips

My first love in photography when I first got my trusty old Minolta SLR as a teenager was landscape photography. There’s something about getting out in nature with the challenge of capturing some of the amazing beauty that you see. Perhaps it fits with my personality type – but I loved the quietness and stillness of waiting for the perfect moment for the shot, scoping out an area for the best vantage point and then seeing the way that the light changed a scene over a few hours.

While I don’t get as much time as I’d like for Landscape Photography these days – I thought I’d jot down a few of the lessons that I learned in my early years of doing it. I’d love to hear your own Landscape Photography tips in comments below.

Landscape Photography Tips

1. Maximize your Depth of Field

While there may be times that you want to get a little more creative and experiment with narrow depth of fields in your Landscape Photography – the normal approach is to ensure that as much of your scene is in focus as possible. The simplest way to do this is to choose a small Aperture setting (a large number) as the smaller your aperture the greater the depth of field in your shots.

Do keep in mind that smaller apertures mean less light is hitting your image sensor at any point in time so they will mean you need to compensate either by increasing your ISO or lengthening your shutter speed (or both).

PS: of course there are times when you can get some great results with a very shallow DOF in a landscape setting (see the picture of the double yellow line below).

2. Use a Tripod

As a result of the longer shutter speed that you may need to select to compensate for a small aperture you will need to find a way of ensuring your camera is completely still during the exposure. In fact even if you’re able to shoot at a fast shutter speed the practice of using a tripod can be beneficial to you. Also consider a cable or wireless shutter release mechanism for extra camera stillness.

Related ReadingIntroduction to Tripods

Get more tips and tutorials like this one by subscribing to Digital Photography School via email or RSS

3. Look for a Focal Point

All shots need some sort of focal point to them and landscapes are no different – in fact landscape photographs without them end up looking rather empty and will leave your viewers eye wondering through the image with nowhere to rest (and they’ll generally move on quickly).

Focal points can take many forms in landscapes and could range from a building or structure, a striking tree, a boulder or rock formation, a silhouette etc.

Think not only about what the focal point is but where you place it. The rule of thirds might be useful here.

Related ReadingFocal Points in Photography

4. Think Foregrounds

One element that can set apart your landscape shots is to think carefully about the foreground of your shots and by placing points of interest in them. When you do this you give those viewing the shot a way into the image as well as creating a sense of depth in your shot.

Related Reading: Getting Foregrounds right in photography

5. Consider the Sky

Another element to consider is the sky in your landscape.

Most landscapes will either have a dominant foreground or sky – unless you have one or the other your shot can end up being fairly boring.

If you have a bland, boring sky – don’t let it dominate your shot and place the horizon in the upper third of your shot (however you’ll want to make sure your foreground is interesting). However if the sky is filled with drama and interesting cloud formations and colors – let it shine by placing the horizon lower.

Consider enhancing skies either in post production or with the use of filters (for example a polarizing filter can add color and contrast).

6. Lines

One of the questions to ask yourself as you take Landscape shots is ‘how am I leading the eye of those viewing this shot’? There are a number of ways of doing this (foregrounds is one) but one of the best ways into a shot is to provide viewers with lines that lead them into an image.

Lines give an image depth, scale and can be a point of interest in and of themselves by creating patterns in your shot.

Related Reading: Using lines in photography (mini-series)

7. Capture Movement

When most people think about landscapes they think of calm, serene and passive environments – however landscapes are rarely completely still and to convey this movement in an image will add drama, mood and create a point of interest.

Examples – wind in trees, waves on a beach, water flowing over a waterfall, birds flying over head, moving clouds.

Capturing this movement generally means you need to look at a longer shutter speed (sometimes quite a few seconds). Of course this means more light hitting your sensor which will mean you need to either go for a small Aperture, use some sort of a filter or even shoot at the start or end of the day when there is less light.

Landscapes-WeatherPhoto by 3amfromkyoto

8. Work with the Weather

A scene can change dramatically depending upon the weather at any given moment. As a result, choosing the right time to shoot is of real importance.

Many beginner photographers see a sunny day and think that it’s the best time to go out with their camera – however an overcast day that is threatening to rain might present you with a much better opportunity to create an image with real mood and ominous overtones. Look for storms, wind, mist, dramatic clouds, sun shining through dark skies, rainbows, sunsets and sunrises etc and work with these variations in the weather rather than just waiting for the next sunny blue sky day.

9. Work the Golden Hours

I chatted with one photographer recently who told me that he never shoots during the day – his only shooting times are around dawn and dusk – because that’s when the light is best and he find that landscapes come alive.

These ‘golden’ hours are great for landscapes for a number of reasons – none the least of which is the ‘golden’ light that it often presents us with. The other reason that I love these times is the angle of the light and how it can impact a scene – creating interesting patterns, dimensions and textures.

10. Think about Horizons

It’s an old tip but a good one – before you take a landscape shot always consider the horizon on two fronts.

  • Is it straight? – while you can always straighten images later in post production it’s easier if you get it right in camera.
  • Where is it compositionally? - a compositionally natural spot for a horizon is on one of the thirds lines in an image (either the top third or the bottom one) rather than completely in the middle. Of course rules are meant to be broken – but I find that unless it’s a very striking image that the rule of thirds usually works here.

Related Reading: Getting Horizons Horizontal

11. Change your Point of View

You drive up to the scenic lookout, get out of the car, grab your camera, turn it on, walk up to the barrier, raise the camera to your eye, rotate left and right a little, zoom a little and take your shot before getting back in the car to go to the next scenic lookout.

We’ve all done it – however this process doesn’t generally lead to the ‘wow’ shot that many of us are looking for.

Take a little more time with your shots – particularly in finding a more interesting point of view to shoot from. This might start with finding a different spot to shoot from than the scenic look out (wander down paths, look for new angles etc), could mean getting down onto the ground to shot from down low or finding a higher up vantage point to shoot from.

Explore the environment and experiment with different view points and you could find something truly unique.

updated: this post was updated in Nov 2010.

Post from: Digital Photography School


How to Take Good Pictures of Landscapes

If you’re ike most camera owners and have a digital compact, this is your camera’s time to shine. For most serious photographers, an SLR or DSLR is the obvious camera choice, but when it comes to landscapes, compact cameras rule because they offer a much better depth of field. All you need to do to get some great landscape photos is to set your compact to landscape mode and follow these tips. And before you know it you’ll be hanging your landscape pictures in gallery picture frames on the wall for all your friends and family to admire.

Remember one of the most important keys to taking good pictures is the quality of light.

  • For lighting that is soft with a touch of warmth, take your landscape photos during the “Golden Hours” which is the hour after dawn and the last hour before sunset.
  • For intensified colors and subdued highlights, shoot under an overcast sky.
  • For dramatic shadows, shoot under a cloudy sky.
  • Enhance the quality of your image and add drama by photographing a landscape scene with contrast; for example, red and gold autumn leafed trees against a strong blue sky.
  • To get an ultra soft effect, almost ethereal effect, shoot on a foggy day.

The next most important element of any good picture is composition. Here are some tips for composing perfect landscape pictures.

  • Compose your landscape picture so that the horizon appears straight. Creative, fun angles have their place in photography, but not when you’re taking a horizon.
  • Fill two thirds of your viewfinder with the landscape you want to be the subject of your photo.
  • Look for lines. Lines could be anything from the obvious river or road to a shadow running along the sand dunes. If your image has lines, try framing your shot so that the major lines lead the eye toward the main point of interest, for example, a road winding its way to the mountains that are the subject of your photograph.
  • Compose your photo with a point of interest in the foreground. This could be anything like a tree, person, animal or house. Although the focal point won’t be the main subject, it adds depth and draws the viewer into the picture so they’ll look at the picture longer. In short, a focal point makes your landscape photo more interesting and more enjoyable to view.
  • Watch out for clutter. In a landscape photo, clutter could be a power line or a branch in the way or garbage on the ground. If you can’t get the picture you want without the clutter, you can always use photo editing software like Photoshop to remove it.

And another tip for mastering landscape photography is to properly frame your picture in a picture frame that complements your image. In most cases, landscape pictures look best in frames with clean lines like simple metal frames or a classic wood picture frame.

There’s always more to learn with photography, but just by following the tips above you can start taking great pictures of your favorite landscapes.

Related posts:

  1. Learn How to Take Good Pictures of People and Pets People and pets are the trickiest subjects to photograph yet...
  2. How to Take Impressive Pictures Have you ever felt so impressed with your pictures and...
  3. The Best and Worst Photos to Display in Round Picture Frames Round picture frames add a unique style and shape to...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.