Digital Landscape Photography Tips

Shoot you landscapes during the golden hours

There may be varying opinion of how long the golden hour lasts, some people will say 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after sunrise and sunset, but in truth it will vary with your latitude. I suggest in more northerly or southerly latitudes a few hours before sunrise and sunset are the best times for shooting landscapes. This is because the low angle of the Sun picks out shadows and textures. Position the horizon a third of the way down from the top or bottom of the frame. This gives a much better perspective than having it in the middle of the scene - this is known as the rule of thirds and is probably one of the most important tips in digital landscape photography. Another trick is to choose an object to help to frame the scene and add a look of three-dimensionality. Frame the scene so that it contains the object that draws the viewer's eye into the picture.

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Rule of two thirds

The rule of two thirds is a great guide for beginners. In simple terms you should divide your landscape vertically or horizontally into three equal sectors and make the sky or ground occupy two of those sectors.

In the landscape above the sky occupies two thirds of the picture, while in the photo below it only occupies one third.

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It is important not to get hung up on the rule of two thirds, often it simply doesn't work and it is better to go for a more balanced composition.

Find a focal point

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A good trick with landscapes is to find a focal point and place it off-center, in accordance with the Rule of Thirds will create a harmonious composition.

Scale can often be important to the understanding of a landscape, and can be achieved by including people, animals or other recognizable objects. Another important digital landscape photography tip is to use a tripod to ensure sharpness, this is especially important in low-light conditions often experienced before sunset and immediately after sunrise.

Watch for unsightly or unnatural elements such as overhead wires, hydrants, poles and garbage cans, especially in the foreground. If you cannot easily move them, reposition yourself to a camera angle that eliminates them from the frame. It you find it impossible to remove them you can always photo edit them out.

Generally speaking, the more expensive the camera the more likely it is to take great pictures. Light however is a great leveller and in bright sunlight you can still take great pictures with cheap point and shoot cameras by using the light well and carefully choosing your shooting position. The old adage of keeping the sun behind you still holds good. Shooting into the sun can cause flare and blown highlights. A polarising filter is great when you are shooting at 90 degrees to the sun but with modern DSLRs the effect is less significant when the sun is directly behind you.

Creating panoramas

Landscape photography is often more horizontal than it is vertical, presenting the opportunity to shoot a panorama. If you are faced with a wide vista and your camera has a panorama mode, this is the time to select it. Cropping afterwards can achieve a similar purpose.

Photoshop elements now comes with a built in panorama maker which is great for combining two or more images to do justice to a good panorama. Even if you don't have Photoshop you can use free package like Microsoft ice or commercial packages to create a good panorama stitch. Canon and other camera manufacturers often provide good panorama stitch software with their cameras.

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When the wind is blowing or water is moving - waves, waterfalls, a tumbling brook - capturing that movement by using a slow shutter speed to create blur can add great interest to a landscape. When selecting a slow shutter speed, be sure you retain proper exposure by also appropriately adjusting your camera's aperture. Many cameras will do this automatically for you. To ensure as much of your scene is in focus choose a small aperture setting (a large f number) as the smaller your aperture the greater the depth of field in your shots.

Use a good tripod

If you do shoot during the golden hours the light will not be as bright as during the day so a tripod always helps to ensure you capture a crisp image. Also remember to get a good depth of field you will need to use a smaller aperture of f8 or above. This means less light is hitting your image sensor, another reason you might need to use a tripod

Even when you use fast shutter speeds practice using a tripod with a cable or wireless shutter release mechanism for extra camera stillness. If you don't have a release cable use the 2 second timer usually built in to most cameras


A tripod is also almost essential if you are going to create a stitch panorama or produce an HDR image