Landscape Photography: A Beginner’s Guide


    Landscape photography is a separate form of art photography that can convey much more meaning than simply words. The beauty of the sky or mountain peaks, or a message to mankind about the results of its activities for the environment — all this can be conveyed through one correctly taken picture. Landscape photography is loved not only by professionals, but also by beginners. For this genre, its own rules of correct shooting have been developed. This article will give you some tips to turn your photos into art. And maybe one day your work will be offered to be used as stock photos for commercial use.

    Landscape and nature photography are not the same

    Many aspiring photographers mistakenly believe that landscape photography is synonym for nature photography. Butthey are actually two different genres. Nature photography depict flora and fauna, shows their beauty and diversity. Whereas, in landscape photography there may not be a beautiful place at all. What does it mean?

    Landscape photos are often used to draw attention to the irreparable changes in nature caused by human activities. Deserts, deforested areas, polluted water, deaths and mutations of animals — a landscape photo can carry a deep meaning that is not always pleasant to understand. Such photos capture large free spaces, a minimum of city landscapes and people. Landscape photography and nature photography often overlap. Some consider the first one being subgenre of the second. The object of landscape photography can be a whole scene in which the main role is given to the place.

    Preparing equipment for landscape photography

    Several devices can be used as equipment for shooting this genre of photography:

    • DSLR camera. For professional photos capable of winning prizes in competitions, this is the best option. Optical lenses are able to convey the finest details of reality. It is a mistake to think that a good digital camera is expensive. You can find a decent device on sale at an affordable price.

    • Film cameras. Suitable for persons which like to hold their breath while waiting for the result. The disadvantage of such devices are a limited number of photos, as well as the high cost of equipment.

    • Smartphones. There are many phones with smart cameras for taking brilliant photos. The quality of images can be equal to pictures cut by digital cameras. Even professionals often take photos with a regular smartphone. Simply due to the fact that they saw a plot filled with meaning, and did not have professional equipment with them. Or they didn’t want to carry bulky equipment in a trip.

    Here are a few tips if you are going to take landscape photography with your mobile phone:

    1. Do not use the zoom. Enlarging the subject will degrade the quality of the photo. It will become fuzzy and grainy. Just do not be lazy to move — approach the subject at the required distance. Smartphones don’t have optical lenses like digital cameras. The magnification of the subject in the picture happens simply by cropping the whole picture.
    1. Choose devices that can tolerate different weather conditions. Your mobile should be good at shooting in the rain, in the dark, in the hellish heat and winter cold. Otherwise, the device may fail at the most inopportune moment.
    1. Be sure to buy a tripod for landscape photography. Slow shutter speeds may be required for an outstanding shot. You will not be able to stand still for several minutes/hours, holding the phone in your hands. The slightest movement will ruin the quality of the photo. A tripod is a great investment. After all, you can use it for other types of photography.

    How to set up your camera correctly?

    Whichever device you choose for landscape photography, always adjust the settings manually. Automatic settings give less room for creativity. Exposure is important in any photography, but for landscape goals it is critical, because nothing happens in the frame.

    The three main parameters that affect exposure are called the “exposure triangle”:

    • diaphragm,
    • exposure,
    • ISO.

    ISO — the level of light sensitivity of the camera. The higher it is, the brighter the photos are. However, too high ISO level in low light can introduce noise in the picture. Therefore, it is best to combine a low ISO with a properly adjusted shutter speed and aperture.

    The diaphragm is needed to adjust the width of the lens aperture. The wider it is opened, the more light the camera lets through. Aperture directly affects the sharpness of a photo. Wide opened aperture will reduce the depth of field. Foreground objects will appear crisp and the background blurred. This technique is good for portraits. And for landscape photography, you need a high depth of field. Then the whole scene will look clear.

    The shutter speed determines how long the camera shutter will open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light and time-varying scene details will enter the frame. A slow shutter speed is used for photographs at night, or under water. This allows capturing every detail and also make smooth shots.

    How to compose a landscape shot?

    In order to intrigue the viewer with your photo, you need to interest him from the first second, to attract the eye. No one will look at pictures that have no zest. It is very important for the human brain to perceive the correct arrangement of objects, to place wright accents in the picture for their optimal perception.

    You can analyze how to compose landscape photos by checking out free stock images for commercial use. These pictures were taken by professional photographers and will be useful for your training. High resolution stock photos will help you to understand the importance of correct exposure.

    For a proper landscape shot, it is important to arrange the composition based on one of the following rules:

    1. The rule of thirds. In order for your landscape to look organically in the photo, imagine that the screen is separated by two vertical and two horizontal lines, forming 9 equal squares. You need to place your subject (mountain, river, tree) along the intersection of these lines. In some smartphones, you can turn on the grid in the camera settings.
    1. The rule of the golden ratio. The screen is divided in a ratio of 1:1.618. An object is placed on the dividing line of two squares. Some phone models also have a grid dividing the screen according to the golden ratio (9 unequal squares). The subject is then located in the middle of the frame.
    1. Observe symmetry. In the usual sense, you can build the symmetry of the left and right parts of the photo. You also need to pay attention to the symmetry of the top and bottom of the photo. For example, if you are taking a photo of water and objects reflecting in it, the top and bottom of the photo should be approximately equal. There is also a natural symmetry of circular things that you can see around. In nature, perfect symmetry is rare. But in the photo, you can do it so that the same number of objects would be located on both halves of the photo, as an option.
    1. Use negative space and leading lines. Negative space is the blank space in your shot that is needed to draw attention to your subject, to create contrast. It allows you to separate the main object of the picture from the environment and draw attention to it. Leave some place for the sky in your landscape photo, for instance. The sky plays an important role in landscape photography. It gives depth and frames the picture with air clouds.

    Leading lines are roads, bridges, rivers, which, falling into the frame. They lead the eye from the background to the main subject of the picture. Leading lines allow you to get rid of the mundane in photography. They make it unique and not like other works. Leading lines can be either straight or spiral.


    Creation of the photography requires preparation of equipment, as well as studying of some photography rules. Simple tips will help you to depict landscape photography as vividly as possible, maintain the integrity of the picture, and at the same time, place accents in the scene. You can use stock photos for free as an example for your first shots. And of course, theory is one thing, and practice is quite another. Take pictures as much as possible, notice the difference. Apply the gained knowledge in practice. Study the result, erase low-quality photos and improve your skills over and over again. If you manage to make one good photo out of dozens, this is already a success.


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