Photo by Go Wild
Have you ever seen a photograph that totally and completely captivates you? Not just a random photo that grabs your attention and sparks an “oh, that’s nice,” but a shot that physically pulls you in, triggers your emotions, and teleports you to another time and place? It’s capturing this type of image -- one that has a profound effect and leaves a lasting impression -- that’s the goal of most photographers.
Landscape portraits, in particular, have a unique way of capturing the sites and scenes of this earth like no other art form can. From city skylines cloaked in a blanket of after-rain mist to vast deserts that showcase a brittle, barren terrain at the first flicker of dawn, landscape portraits have the ability to catch a particular scene in time and space that will never exist again. Aside from being one of the most popular, prevalent style of photography, landscapes are often the easiest to master, and therefore a recommended starting place for those looking to break into the world of capturing images.
Whether you have some experience with photography and are eager to learn more, or have always dreamed of being a photographer but have never peaked behind the lens of a camera (that wasn’t part of your phone), this comprehensive beginner’s guide to capturing the perfect landscape portrait has all the tips, tricks, and advice you need to master landscape photography.
Getting To Know Your Camera
Photo by Jakob Owens
Vincent van Gogh didn’t just wake up one day, pick up his first-ever paintbrush, squeeze paints onto his pallet and magically create Starry Night. No. After taking up painting in 1881, at the age of 28, van Gogh spent years experimenting with different materials, refining his skills, and developing his technique before discovering the unique style and vivid colors that distinguish his most popular works.
As an artist yourself, you need to take the time and consideration to learn all you can about your camera. Not only will this knowledge be useful down the road as you advance your skills and style, but understanding how your camera works will also help you learn and master photography significantly easier.
Because you’re relatively new to the world of photography, consider using one of the following cameras to shoot landscape portraits:
- A compact camera
- A smartphone camera
- A digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR)
Not only are these three types of cameras intuitive and user-friendly, but thanks to modern technology, they also produce high-quality photographs that can capture the desired effect. Prior to beginning your landscape photo shoot, do your due diligence in understanding the operational ins and outs of your camera. Once you’re comfortable managing your camera, you can take the next steps in mastering landscape photography.
Before getting into specific tips and tricks with each camera, however, it’s important to first understand the basic concepts of capturing a landscape photo.
Key Landscape Photo Tips You Should Know
If you’ve found the perfect setting for your first landscape photo, having a thorough understanding of the basic procedure helps to ensure that you capture the scene in the best possible way. Be sure to review these rudimentary tips.
1. The Rule of Three: Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when framing out your landscape is the Rule of Three. Every stunning landscape photo has three different layers:
- The foreground or area that’s closest to you
- Objects, scenery, or subject in the distance
- The sky
By doing your best to give these three elements equal space in your frame, you’ll significantly improve your chances of having a well-balanced, attractive photo.
2. Time it right: Ask any professional photographer about the best time of day to take photos and they’ll tell you either early in the day or late in the afternoon. When the sun is highest in the sky around the middle of the day, lighting can turn flat and dull, making it nearly impossible to get a good photo. However, by timing your photoshoots with the sun as it rises and sets, you’ll be able to take advantage of intricate shadows that add depth, dimension, and movement to your scene.
3. Be smart with structures: Many photo opportunities you’ll come across will involve big buildings, distant structures, or intricate home fronts. Avoid the rookie mistake of imbalanced landscape photos but making sure to get the entire building in the frame, as well as a bit of foreground that falls before the structure. This will help viewers to have a better understanding of the subject and make your photograph more attractive.
4. Don’t settle: Unlike the human eye, which can communicate with the brain to perceive images and predict their appearance from different angles, a camera lens is restricted only to the angle in which you provide. Therefore, before snapping the final shot, move around and experiment with different angles to capture the landscape.
5. Play with nature: One of the most unique, charming things about landscape photography is that it makes you appreciate the beauty in natural colors. From the billions of shades of brown in a single rock to the blending and meshing of greens on a hillside, it’s these fabulous, eye-catching colors you want to capture in your landscape shots.
With these important novice tips in mind, you can start to dig a little deeper into the specifics of working with your particular camera to capture the best landscape photo. Below you’ll find several pro tips for how to get the best shots from your compact camera, cell phone camera, or DSLR.
Tips for Landscape Photography on a Compact Camera
Unlike heavy, fragile DSLR cameras with high-quality lenses and bulky features, compact cameras are lightweight and can easily fit in your pocket, meaning you can take it virtually anywhere. And while the megapixels may not be as high-def as the more advanced cameras, there are several tricks you can use to maximize your compact and get the most out of your photos.
Photo by Daniel Höhe
1. Work from dramatic vantage points: One of the perks of compact cameras is the maneuverability they offer. Get extra creative with your shots by working from dramatic vantage points: shoot from very low angles, getting as close to the foreground as possible. Take a few shots with the camera high overhead or right at eye-level for unique perspectives. Doing this will add drama and appeal to your photos.
2. Tweak the aperture settings: Because compact cameras have a small sensor, you have the ability to work with a massive depth of field in wide aperture settings. Aperture, as you may know, refers to the amount of parallel rays admitted into the lens and image plane. Generally speaking, the smaller the aperture, the more collimated the rays will be, allowing you to sharply focus on close-up objects. Wider aperture settings, on the other hand, admit uncollimated rays which result in crisp focus for objects in the distance. It’s these wide aperture settings that make compact cameras perfect for capturing landscapes. Consider starting at a 24mm aperture of f/4.5 and play around from there.
3. Manage focus manually: Perhaps the greatest advantage of compact cameras is their manually-operated point-of-focus abilities. Ideal for shooting landscapes, this feature gives you the power to manually set the point of focus on a particularly defined object within your landscape. Whether it be a vibrant red oak tree in the distance or a lone, fallen antler in the foreground, you can set the aperture to allow for infinite depth of field and be able to get the type of sharpness, detail, and depth only found in pro photos.
Finding and understanding the exact features that help you capture the image you want will take time. But the more you experiment with and learn about your compact camera, the better you’ll be able to manipulate the settings needed to get the perfect landscape photograph.
Tips for Landscape Photography on a Smartphone
In early 2018, renowned filmmaker Steven Soderbergh filmed an entire movie using only the Apple iPhone. That alone is a testament to the high-quality, high-definition abilities of today’s smartphone cameras. If you’re just beginning your photography journey or are an experienced photographer looking to challenge yourself on a different camera, a smartphone is a great place to start. When capturing landscape portraits on an iPhone or other smartphone devices, consider these tips.
Photo by Nadine Shaabana
1. Take advantage of accessories: With an entire market dedicated to smartphone accessories, the array of photography gadgets comes as no surprise. For striking, smartphone landscapes, consider investing in a clip-on lens that aids in capturing high-definition, 120-degree photographs.
2. Go low: Remember the Rule of Threes? Executing a landscape portrait with evenly distributed layers can prove challenging with a phone camera. Go the extra mile to get these balanced, beautiful landscapes by shooting from a low - very low- vantage point. Think of your portrait as the entrance to a beautiful home - everything in the foreground is the “welcome mat” that draws you in, objects in the distance mimic the grand foyer, and the sky, clouds, and birds are the stunning beams and structural elements of the home. Shooting from a low point of view allows you to capture the beauty and essence of each and every layer.
3. Take it slow: Great photos are taken deliberately, with much thought, concentration, and care. Because our phones are often a central part of our busy day-to-day lives, it’s easy to rush the process of capturing a landscape photo via camera phone. Each time you go to shoot with your phone, make a conscious effort to slow down, take a breath, and put extra thought into getting your frame exactly as you want it. Rushing will only hinder your success.
Perhaps the most valuable tip for smartphone landscape photography is to pretend you’re not actually on a phone. During your photo shoot, be exceptionally mindful of the process and treat it as you would an advanced, expensive camera.
Tips for Landscape Photography with a DSLR Camera
The versatility and quality of a DSLR camera make it ideal for capturing stunning landscape photographs. Check out these tips to get the best pictures possible.
Photo by Iswanto Arif
1. Be creative with composition: Photographing with a DSLR gives you the ability to take advantage of a huge depth of field and focus in on the most subtle details of the frame. Because of this, you can get ultra creative with the composition of the photo. While the Rule of Three still applies, consider offsetting natural features to one side of your frame. For example, if you’re capturing a wide field with a lone tree, instead of putting the tree in the middle of your photo, put it to one side or the other to make the shot more interesting and engaging.
2. Be in the moment: It’s all too easy to hide behind the lens of your DSLR. Make an effort to lower your lens and be in the moment. Engaging in your surroundings and interacting with your landscape will help you get the best photo possible.
3. Master manual mode: Just because DSLRs have the ability to capture fantastic photos in automatic mode doesn’t mean it’s the best or only option. Mastering the manual mode allows you to personalize your photographs and experiment with different settings.
Lastly, when you’re out and about capturing the perfect landscape photo, having the perfect bag to keep your camera safe and your belongings secure is key. When shopping for a photography bag, look for one with a sleek minimalist design and features that will protect your camera on all your adventures.
With these tips and tricks in your arsenal of photography skills, you’ll be able to capture masterful, magnificent landscape photographs that captivate and inspire.
- RYAN COPE
Ryan lives in Utah and is in charge of all things marketing. He is definitely more functional than stylish and has fallen in love with his Sony mirrorless system for shooting landscapes and lifestyle photos.