I remember before I invested in a DSLR camera and picked up a book to start learning about photography, I used to get really frustrated taking landscape photos! How can you look through the viewfinder and see a beautiful scene which is completely standstill, and yet the photos that results doesn’t do it any justice?! A common problem is getting the exposure right. Often you end up with a blow out (white) sky or alternatively the foreground is dark! I’ll show you how to correct this and get the photos you want to achieve. IN addition to reading this how-to guide, you may want to consider investing in this book which taught me most of what I know today about taking great photos! ‘The lonely planet guide to travel photography.
So today following on from my first photography how-to guide ‘How to take great travel photos to capture personality’, I decided to teach you some simple skills to take photos which do those spectacular landscapes you’re visiting some actual justice! Read on to learn how to make your photos totally instagram-worthy!
- Start with the right equipment. A DSLR camera if possible with a wide angle lens (you don’t want to crop out any of the gorgeous scene in front of you so go wide!) I recommend if you want a reasonable priced but trustworthy lens you try the Tokina 12-24mm lens. Be warned thought if you go too wide, it can distort the photo and give you more of a fish eye effect!
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- I’ve mentioned this before in another blog entry but I cannot stress the point enough! Remember the rule of thirds! We naturally prefer photos where the subject (a tree, horizon, jetty, mountain, lake etc) is placed off centre about 1/3 of the way into the picture. In the case of horizons, decide which is more dramatic – the foreground or the sky? Then give that 2/3 of the space! An example would be a beach with a stormy sky. The sky is what gives the photo impact so put the horizon a 3rd of the way from the bottom and focus on the sky! If the sky is completely clear of clouds, it would be a little boring so put the horizon a 3rd of the way from the top and focus the beach.Below the waterfall is the main subject so its positioned off centre towards the left.
- Getting the exposure right is tough. If you overexpose the sky will be blown out. If you underexpose things in the shadows will be too dark. It can be tricky to get the balance but if in doubt, underexpose slightly as it’s much easier to correct this in post editing. You can rarely recover a blown highlight! You don’t even need an expensive complicated editing programme. The iPhoto app for example will be able to easily correct this at the touch of a button.
- You may have heard of HDR photography. This is where the highlights and lowlights are each perfectly exposed to give the picture a certain amount of impact and wow factor! This can be achieved a few ways such as taking 2 or more photos of the same view (underexposed and overexposed and using a tripod) then stitching them together in an editing programme. Some cameras will do this for you taking 2 photos in quick succession but you will need a steady hand and a fast shutter speed! Another way to do it is to attach a graduated filter to your lens. Its darker at the top and clear at the bottom. You line it up with the horizon and it’ll give you a perfectly balanced exposure. This is the technique I used for the photo below
- Make a decision about your depth of field. For most landscapes you will probably want to keep everything sharp and in focus so you want a higher F number (narrow aperture.) Bare in mind that the higher your F number, the slower the shutter speed so unless you’re in a well lit place, don’t put your F number too high or your picture will be blurry! F8 is usually sufficient for most landscapes. There are times where you might want a wider depth of field for example if you want to focus on flowers in the foreground and blur the background.
- So you decide want a nice crisp clear photo and so you put the F number up to 8 but you’re losing light and so the shutter speed becomes too low. What to do? This is where you either need to use a tripod to keep the camera steady or you need to increase your ISO number. This will allow for faster shutter speeds but the higher the number the garner the image especially in older cameras. This is referred to as ‘noise.’ Think of your photography as always a trade off between ISO, shutter speed and depth of field. Alter one and you may need to alter the other to eep the photo sharp!
- Think about when is the best time to take your photo? Pre dawn and you’ll get peaceful serene scenes. At sunrise and sunset you’ll get beautiful interesting skies. Try pointing the camera away from the sun as the light cast on the clouds will turn them pretty colours – often much better than looking at an overexposed sun! Often the few hours before sunset are (known as the golden hour) is a brilliant time for taking photos – avoid the middle of the day where light is at its harshest and shadows cast can ruin your photos! Below is an example of a dawn photo and a golden hour picture.
- Composition is by far the most important element to getting a great landscape photo so never neglect this in favour of all the technical stuff! Always look for a point of interest – something that draws the eye towards it. look for leading lines that perhaps lead up to this point of interest for example fences, paths etc. (outback picture)
There is so much more to learn but this should hopefully help you get started! The best thing you can do now is get out there and practice as much as you can! Look around where you live for landscapes to practise on so you’re ready to get the most out of your photo opportunities when you hit the road!
Please feel free to post comments or questions and I will do my best to answer them! Keep your eyes peeled for more travel photography tutorials such as ‘how to choose the right camera for your travels’ and ‘how to take photos in crowds.’ Sign up for email alerts to be kept in the loop when more how-to guides become available!