Landscape Photography

The Black Box in Nature c.2010 Kathleen Ruiz

Ansel Adams

QUICK HINTS for effective landscape photography

These quick tips are not essential to every landscape picture you take, but bearing them in mind and applying them judiciously will improve your picture-taking.

A foreground object will help to frame the scene and add a look of three-dimensionality.

Frame the scene so that it contains a center of interest - an object that draws the viewer's eye into the picture.

Placing the center of interest off-center, in accordance with the Rule of Thirds, will create a harmonious composition.

Placing the horizon a third of the way down from the top or bottom of the frame is usually much better than having it in the middle of the scene.

Scale can often be important to the understanding of a landscape, and can be achieved by including an object of a known size in the scene. People, animals or other recognizable objects that would naturally belong in the scene are suitable for showing scale.

The quality of lighting is perhaps the most influential attribute of a successful landscape. Waiting for interesting lighting that is moody, dramatic or diffused usually pays off in a memorable photograph.

Ensure that your camera's flash is turned off when shooting landscapes, unless you require it to brighten a foreground object. Flash in a dusty, misty or foggy scene may cause flare by reflecting off the droplets of moisture or dust particles.

Use a tripod to ensure sharpness, especially in low-light conditions.

In very low light, be sure to select a fast film speed or a high ISO sensitivity setting in your digital camera that will permit proper exposure and good depth of field.

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

Don't let the weather stop you from capturing an attractive landscape. Rain can add a degree of softness and peacefulness to a scene. On an overcast day, be sure your scene has an area of color in it to counteract the overall dull lighting.

Keep the rules of composition in mind when framing a scene. Lines, in particular, can be a strong factor in making an interesting landscape. An awareness and the judicious placement of planes in the scene can also be factors in improving your composition.

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.

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 in Shutter Priority mode.



The genre often calls for high resolution DSLR, Medium or Large Format cameras[5] to record the very details of the scenery. For digital cameras, the preferred file format is RAW, as RAW allows to record a wider dynamic range and all information is retained. With RAW, the camera does not process the file in a destructive way, all information is kept, resulting in significant high file sizes.


Usually wide angle lens (24 mm and 35 mm are especially popular) are used to capture the vast scenery of a landscape. For artistic expression, telephoto lenses are used to compress the scenery and emphasize certain aspects (e.g. rendering the moon very big beyond a mountain ridge). For high quality, the lenses are very often prime lenses rather than zoom lenses. Some landscape photographers however prefer medium telephoto lenses and prefer to capture a typical part of a particular scene revealing the detail of the landscape rather than use wide angle lenses that show the vastness of the scene but which lack detail and can be non-specific.


To reduce contrast or control exposure, a split neutral density or polarizing filter are used very often. Neutral density filters are used to extend exposure and allow to include motion blur (e.g. for waterfalls or waves) in the scenery. Control of contrast was the major motivator to create the Zone System, often associated with Ansel Adams. Today, the Zone System may become obsolete for digital landscape photographers as HDR allows a very good control of contrast by combining several exposures of the scenery to one single picture.

Other Equipment

A tripod and a cable release is very often used for landscape photography as this allows minimal camera shake and thus very sharp pictures.

Post Production

Digital Photography has provided landscape photographers with a very useful post production tool. Conventional photographs give pictures revealing the best average of brightness and colour. HDR post production work allows the photographer to darken and brighten particular parts of the overall scene ( skies often appear brighter in photographs than originally seen) or to tweak colours either to give a more accurate rendition of the scene as seen originally by the photographer or to dramatically enhanse it as in boosting yellows for instance to make an autumnal picture look more so. Burning and dodging have always been used in black and white photography to make landscapes more artistic but difficult to do in colour before the advent of digital photography.