Landscape Photography For Beginners
If you have any interest in the outdoors, then you’ve probably thought about trying your hand in landscape photography at one point or another. It’s hard to resist those beautiful images we’ve all seen online of epic mountain tops, vibrant wildflowers, or glacial lakes bathed in golden light.
“I wish I could be there right now.”
Landscape photography is an incredible way to showcase the places you visit, an enjoyable challenge, and gives you the motivation to get out and explore. Landscape photography, for beginners, can feel overwhelming, and many people don’t even know how to begin. In this article, I’ll go over 10 essential beginner landscape photography tips you should know if you want to capture incredible landscape photos. Before we jump into the 10 tips for beginner landscape photographers, let’s discuss more on what actually classifies a photo as ‘landscape photography.’
What Is Landscape Photography?
Landscape photography is considered any photo showcasing the great outdoors. It can be showing an incredible coastline, jagged mountains, or just a simple pond near your house. This genre of photography doesn’t need to be in the most epic locations (although it certainly helps) but rather a photo showing off an environment.
Although very similar, landscape photography is not to be confused with nature photography. Nature photography is photos of the outdoors, but with a focus on smaller areas such as flowers, tree branches, or a flock of birds near a forest. Landscape photography showcases an entire outdoor scene, nature photography showcases a single piece of a scene.
10 Landscape Photography Tips For Beginners
Below are 10 easy to follow landscape photography tips for beginners to quickly improve their landscape photography.
1. Bring The Right Lens
There are two lenses you’ll always want to have for landscape photography: a wide-angle and a telephoto lens.
A wide-angle lens will allow you to capture all of the details and really help to establish a captivating foreground. Wide-angle lenses make it easier to capture exciting parts of the scene and help your audience to feel like they are right there with you. I love using wide angles to more easily establish some basic compositional techniques like leading lines, focus points, and foreground.
A telephoto lens can be equally as useful for landscape photography beginners. Sometimes that one spot you want to take a photo of is off in the distance. With a telephoto lens, you can capture those distant scenes and make your photo appear larger than life. The lens compression created with a telephoto lens helps to make your landscapes look more epic than what’s possible with any other lens.
2. Experiment With Photography Filters
There are a ton of incredible filters out on the market, but as a beginner landscape photographer, I would recommend starting with two: a polarizing filter and an ND filter.
A polarizing filter works to cut the highlight glare from your photo and helps make colors appear more vibrant. Polarizing filters can be used to reduce the glare in any part of your picture from the sky, to water, to the highlight on some trees. There are countless uses for this filter, and you’ll never regret purchasing one.
The polarizing filters I love are the Freewell Magnetic Polarizing Filter, and the Nisi ND + Polarizer combo filter. You can find my review for the Freewell Polarizer here, or my Nisi ND + Polarizer review here.
A Neutral Density Filter is otherwise known as an ND filter for short works by darkening your photo to help you capture long exposures in the middle of the day. An excellent starting ND filter for beginner landscape photographers is a 10-stop ND filter. This filter was my first photography filter, and it completely changed my landscape photography. If you have more questions about ND filters, check out my ND Filter Buying Guide.
3. Invest In A Tripod
Tripods are the best friend of any landscape photographer. Without a tripod, you won’t be able to utilize the benefits of having an ND filter, and it will become impossible to experiment with more advanced techniques like bracketing or focus stacking.
Tripods can make a good dent in your wallet, but you truly get what you pay for, and they last for years. I’ve had one tripod for the better part of 10 years, and it’s still running perfectly even after dragging it around the world with me. It put me back $300, but it has been worth its weight in gold over the years.
I would recommend finding a lightweight and easily compactable tripod. One that will easily fit in your bag and won’t break your back during a long hike. I would also suggest a tripod that has legs that can go flat to the ground. You’ll utilize this feature more than you know!
4. Find The Best Light
The truth is nothing looks as good in the middle of the day as it does during golden hour. Golden hour is the hour during sunrise and sunset, where the sky becomes exceptionally colorful, and the landscape lights up with warm tones.
Keep tabs on what time the sunset and sunrise are during the day you want to shoot and try to be at the location one to two hours beforehand. It’s also worth noting which way the sun will be facing since that will drastically change how the scene will look. My favorite apps for this is the free web version of Photographers Ephemeris, or the paid app called PhotoPills. Both are fantastic tools ideally suited for any landscape photographers, especially beginners.
5. Keep Your Horizons Straight
Nothing screams beginner landscape photographer than a crooked horizon line. This is really easy to fix, once you become aware of it. Every time you set up for a new shot, make sure your horizon is perfectly straight by using your cameras’ internal level, the grid in live view, or to the best of your ability. You can always correct this in post, but it’s still better to get it right in camera.
6. Get Out And Explore Further
Landscape photography is all about finding the incredible landscapes few people get the pleasure of seeing. Rather than going to your local lake that everyone visits in the summer, try to find a hike that will take you out to a more remote area that not everyone has been to. Your landscape photos will have a much more significant impact if you’re continually shooting in areas that make people wonder, “where the heck is that?!”.
Google earth is a fantastic source to scope out new trails or backcountry destinations, and it’s totally free! Other great options can be found in hiking books or topographical maps of your area. Both of these can be found in most outdoor recreation stores.
This should without saying but always be prepared when hiking in the mountains for changing weather, animals, or taking longer than you expect. Pack out what you pack in and leave no trace. Be a responsible landscape photographer!
7. Include A Person In Your Landscape Photos
Landscape photos are all about making a scene look larger than life. No technique will make that easier than including a person in the scene. A person can add scale and give viewers a point that they can associate themselves with. Try to place a friend (or yourself!) somewhere in the scene to showcase the scale of something. Nothing provides a better scale than a fully grown adult standing by a raging waterfall!
It’s also worth considering the color the person will be wearing. If someone is wearing black, they will likely blend in and not be noticeable against a dark background. If you have the option, always try to showcase bright-colored clothing!
8. Shoot Your Landscape Photos In RAW
If you really want your photo to be the best is can be, then you’ll want to shoot in RAW. RAW is an uncompressed image file type that allows you to have far more control over the color and exposure of a photo in post-processing. Consult your cameras user manual to see how to change your image files from JPEG to RAW.
Keep in mind that shooting in RAW will require you to edit your photos in a photo editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop. You can click here to learn more about what the difference between RAW and JPEG is and how it will affect your photos.
9. Post-Process Your Landscape Photography
These days everyone’s getting on the photo editing bandwagon. It’s easy, affordable, and can be the crucial difference between an average and an incredible image. Learning how to edit your pictures can be difficult at first, but with practice, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier.
I am personally a huge fan of the Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop. I even made a tutorial on an easy way to make your photos look more professional with Photoshop, you can find that tutorial here. If you aren’t as interested in the whole subscription plan adobe has, you can also consider programs such as Luminar, Capture One, or Affinity Photo.
10. Experiment With The Orton Effect
The Orton Effect lets you add a magical glow to the highlights of your landscape photos. It’s a fun effect to make a scene look more magical and helps accentuate the natural light that’s already in your photo. It’s incredibly easy to create, especially with a one-click Photoshop action. If you want to learn how to create the Orton Effect for yourself, click here.
Bonus: 11. Enjoy The Learning Process
As a beginner landscape photographer, it can be easy to get down on yourself when you see what some of the pros are up to. The best advice you can give yourself is to just get out and practice. The more places you visit, the more sunsets you shoot, the further you explore, will all culminate into better images over time. Nobody starts out taking award-winning landscape images, but with some time and dedication, anything is possible!
Try to get out as often as you can to places that make you excited. Places you can’t wait to see for yourself or finally tick off that photo idea you’ve had brewing for weeks. Landscape photography can be full of adventure, and a perfect sunset can bring out the child-like excitement in all of us. Just enjoy the learning process, and you’re already doing the right things to improve!
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