When working on a website, or print collateral for my clients, it’s not unusual for me to bring my experience in photography into the mix to help a brand get across it’s story with striking imagery. To help aspiring photographer’s who want to push their landscape photography further, I’ve put together a few tips to help you achieve that perfect shot every time. Follow these tips, and you’ll be taking stunning landscape photos in no time!
Totally up to you what lens you’d prefer to use, and what results you’re after. But for me, I like to work with a wide-angle zoom lens such as 15-85mm for landscapes.
Before taking your image, scout out the area first. Don’t worry about mounting your camera on your tripod, just work quickly moving around and taking pictures hand-held to get a feel of the location and what works best for the picture compositionally.
The golden hours
Shoot early in the morning or during late afternoons where the sun is lower and can really add impact to a scene – landscapes come alive with the brilliant light. Ideally you want to be at your location, all set up and ready to shoot half an hour before the sun rises or sets.
A handy app to help you look up sunrise and sunset times for any day and any place in the world is Rise.
Shoot in Aperture Priority or manual?
If you’re a beginner to photography, and have used Aperture Priory (A or AV) or Shutter Priority (S or Tv), now is the time to step away for semi-auto shooting and work with manual – you’ll have complete control of your exposures, especially when shooting landscapes at sunrise or sunset.
By all means, experience to get your shot, but it’s worth thinking in terms of ‘rule of thirds’ as a starting point. If the sky has a dramatic formation of clouds and interesting colours, focus on this filling 2/3rds of the photo. If the foreground makes for a more interesting subject, let this have more prominence. To add colour and contrast, consider using a polarising filter on your lens or post production.
Depth of field
If you’re wishing to shoot a similar photo as above and you’re after sharpness throughout the scene, a smaller aperture will be needed such as F16-F22. Watch out for lens diffraction (loss of sharpness), which can happen. If this happens, say, at F22, you may want to bring it back a few stops until you’re happy with the result. To find the sweet spot in your camera and lenses, I’d suggest you run a test to discover where you feel diffraction is tolerable with your own gear. Once the the correct aperture is set, this means less light will be hitting your sensor, so lower the shutter speed to compensate. Noise in your images can affect the quality, so you’ll want your ISO set to it’s lowest at 100 to keep noise at an absolute minimum.
Ideally you want to avoid using auto focus. If it’s set to auto focus your camera will focus on objects closest to you, and the entire scene won’t be sharp. Set the camera to manual focus and Live View preview, position the central AF point one third up the scene to ensure your photos are sharp from front to back. If you switch to portrait, or move your tripod, remember to reset the focus!
Alternatively, if your lens has a built-in distance scale, use an app such as Simple DoF Calculator to work out the ‘hyperfocal distance’.
Preventing camera shake
A remote shutter release will work extremely well here. If you don’t have a remote, set the camera to timer. To also keep the camera stable, you’ll need a tripod. If you’re using a lens with IS (image stabiliser), switch this off to help reduce vibrations further.
Before taking your image, scout out the area first. Don’t worry about mounting your camera on your tripod, just work quickly moving around and taking pictures until you’re happy with the composition.
Every time time you take a photo, the mirror flips up so that light goes directly onto the image sensor. This movement can create enough vibration during long exposures to cause unwanted camera shake. To avoid this, set the mirror lock-up function available on your DSLR (found in the custom functions menu). Remember to revert the mirror back once you’re done with the shoot.
This may be a tip particularly useful for Canon users. For me I prefer to use Live View, as you use it to check whether your scene is sharp, but Live View also essentially locks up the mirror, helping reduce unwanted camera shake. Setting the mirror lock up through your camera’s menu function means you would press the shutter once, this lock ups the mirror. You then press the shutter button again for the camera to take the picture. This can be more convoluted and interfere with exposure bracketing and when using the self-timer function.
If you’re after long exposures that create an ethereal look to your images, with ‘milky seascapes’ or movement in the sky, an ND filter (Neutral Density filter) will help you achieve this. It’s good practice to set your camera up first with the composition, focus and exposure settings you’re happy with, then add your ND filter. If the filter is added sooner, the lens is pretty dark and checking your scene will be a real headache.
To edit your photos non-destructively, shoot in RAW as apposed to JPEG. Even though the file size for each photo taken will be larger, more data is captured and this method of shooting is essential for adjusting the white balance, exposure and generally processing higher quality images.
How do you achieve your landscape shots? Got any tips? It’d be great to hear of them.