LESSON 12: LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHS

Photo by @WanderlustRuby

Ever admired the sweeping vistas immortalized on your Instagram feed and wondered how you could capture such beauty yourself?

From snaps of mountain peaks and pristine shorelines to photos of alpine forests and desert expanses, we’re outlining the best practices for taking truly stunning landscape photographs.

While you can make any lens length work for landscape photography, a 24mm to 35mm is your best bet; this lens is wide enough to capture broad scenes and is also versatile for photographers who want to capture a variety of subjects.

Photo by Karl Ndieli

First off, determine the focus on the photo. While most landscape photographs have large depths of field (meaning that most of the image’s elements are in equal focus), you may also experiment with shallow depth of field, highlighting a single element instead of all of them. While a deep depth of field will create a detailed image, a shallow depth of field can make a scene especially striking.

Experiment and shoot with both fields of focus to see what results you get. For deep fields of focus, photograph with a small aperture (a large f/stop like f/11 or f/16); for shallow fields of focus, photograph with a large aperture (a small f/stop of f/1.8 or f/3).

After you determine your aperture based on your desired depth of field, set your ISO. A good rule of thumb is that a reading of 100 or 200 is best for outdoor photography in settings with good lighting.

With landscape photography, you should always search for a visual point of interest. Use the Rule of Thirds to frame a scene in an engaging way. Focal points can range from mountain peaks or tiny cabins to dead trees or unusual cloud patterns. Be sure to add visual interest in your image’s foreground, as well. Whether it’s a field of wildflowers or undulating hills, be sure that every part of your photo is compelling.

Photo by Cees Timmers
Photo by Rachel Heckerman

If possible, consider incorporating movement into your photo. When photographing ocean tides, river currents, waterfalls, or even fields of swaying grasses, set your camera to shutter priority mode and photograph a long exposure — it’ll add a dream-like quality to your images. If you decide to shoot long exposure, you’ll need a tripod or another kind of stabilizing mechanism.

While you can photograph landscapes at any time of the day and get striking results, note that doing so in the early morning or early evening usually yields the best results. The light is best during these times of day, as there are no harsh shadows from direct sunlight that could detract from the composition.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Shoot with a 24mm-35mm lens to easily capture wide vistas
  • Photograph in the early morning or early evening for the best light
  • Find a focal point and frame your image
  • Decide whether you want your image to be entirely in focus, or have specific elements highlighted
  • Experiment with movement using long exposure (with a tripod)

Header image by Angelo Mendoza 

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Camille Danielich
Camille is a writer, traveler, and visual storyteller from New Jersey. She has lived in the Czech Republic, Thailand and in New York. She's always looking forward to her next adventure and probably won't stop instagramming her food anytime soon. Follow along on instagram