How To Shoot Stunning Landscapes

Landscape photography can be extremely rewarding, because nothing beats mother nature when it comes to beauty, and capturing the atmosphere of a place, to create a stunning landscape shot, whether it be idyllic countryside, imposing mountains, or a dramatic seascape, it’s not difficult if you know the best ways to approach it.

So here are my tips for shooting stunning landscapes!

1. Use a Wide lens for a big epic landscape, as it emphasises scale by giving you a broader view, plus it gives a greater depth of field. This is not a hard and fast rule though, it depends on the type of shot you want to achieve. If you want a big, wide landscape that takes in the entire view, use a wide lens. But if you want to pick out or frame a beautiful element within the landscape, close to or on the horizon, then use a long / telephoto lens.

2. Use a Polarising filter. This has the effect of darkening the sky, so it makes for a far more dramatic shot. It also reduces glare from water.

3. Maximise your Depth of Field. You want everything to be in sharp focus, form your foreground all the way to the far distance, so I’d suggest you set your aperture to f16.

4. Fast shutter speed. This again is to do with sharpness, the best landscape shots are super sharp, and a fast shutter speed will minimise any trace of blur caused by movement from pressing the shutter.

5. Shoot when the sun is low – early morning or late afternoon. The angle of the sun creates deep, sharp, long shadows adding form, and enhancing the shape of the landscape. Also, colours are much more vivid when the sun is low, especially in the later part of the day, as late afternoon sun often has warm golden colour, giving you really saturated colours, its best about an hour before the sun sets. This is often referred to as ‘The Golden Hour’ or ‘Magic Hour’. You can also achieve really beautiful colours if you shoot after the sun has completely set, when all the tones go the opposite way, towards the blue spectrum, giving you beautiful shades of purple, lilac and blue.

6. Composition – The rule of thirds is a good starting point, and following this simple rule will always give you a pleasing composition. When you look through your viewfinder, imagine splitting your image into nine equal boxes, with two lines along the horizontal, and two lines along the vertical, so you split your image into equal thirds vertically and horizontally.

Rule of Thirds

If you position your horizon on either of these horizontal lines, and position any other elements, a focal point like a tree or a rock, or a person, on one of your vertical lines, or in the left section or the right section, rater than in the middle, then this too creates a great composition.

I live by the sea, so Im often photographing a coastal landscape. As you can see from these two shots of mine, on both I have put the horizon on the lower horizontal line. In the sunset shot, and Ive positioned the end of the cliffs on the left vertical line. If I had the end of the cliffs in the centre of the image, it wouldn’t have been the best composition. Likewise with the daytime shot, I have the cliff edge on the left vertical, and I have the rocks in the sea on the right vertical.

Of course, you don’t need to follow the thirds rule, its just a good starting point, and it tends to work well for a lot of landscape shots. Sometimes it can be very effective to put the landscape along the centre, if there is a natural symmetry in your subject, then keeping things central and balanced equally on both sides can be very effective, and create a more graphic image.

So look for a focal point, a foreground element – something striking that relates to the scene, a tree, a building, rocks, or a person / figure. Water and reflections can add interest to your shot too.

Finally, get low down, close to the ground, as this simple change from photographing at head height, can dramatically improve your shot.

So have a go at putting these tips into practise, and you will transform your landscapes from snapshots into stunning, dramatic images.

Hastings Sunset