25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape Photography

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25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape Photography

Whether you’re just starting out in landscape photography or even if you’ve been doing it for a while now, sometimes it can be easy to get stuck in a creative rut.

If you’ve noticed that you haven’t been making as many advances as you’d like with your skills, then it’s time to take a closer look at the ways in which you can move forward. Here are my top 25 tips that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration to take your landscape photography to the next level.

Tip #1: Try the Aperture Priority Mode

When you first start out in landscape photography, it can be difficult to know where to begin. You might find yourself shooting in full automatic mode most of the time. However, to really learn photography and how to use your camera, it’s important to take a step away from automatic mode and switch to manual.

While shooting in automatic may be easy, you will be limited in what you can achieve. It can also prevent you from developing certain skills and improving upon your work. So rather than setting your camera to automatic mode, try the Aperture Priority mode instead.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyThe aperture priority mode is very useful in landscape photography. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

The Aperture Priority mode allows you to set your desired aperture, which is a very important function in landscape photography. You’ll be able to select your depth of field in order to get as much in focus as possible from the foreground to the background, while your camera will do the rest. It’s as easy as that!

Tip #2: Start Shooting in RAW Format

Have you checked your camera settings? When you first purchase a camera, there’s a very high probability that it’s been factory-set to record in JPEG.

While shooting in JPEG may be great because all of the editing is done automatically by your camera, it is extremely important in landscape photography to shoot in RAW.

A lot of people shoot in JPEG because they aren’t really familiar with what the RAW format actually is or how it works. Basically, shooting in RAW gives you the ability to edit your photos while maintaining image quality, as the files contain much more data.

Even if you’re uncomfortable with shooting entirely in RAW, simply set your camera to record RAW+JPEG, which will give you the best of both worlds. This way, you’ll have a JPEG to fall back on if you’re not confident with your editing skills, though you’ll also have the RAW file saved for when you learn how to better edit your photos.

Tip #3:  Learn Basic Photo Editing

It’s rare for a photo to come out of your camera looking completely perfect. Even in the days of film, there was some degree of editing involved to improve upon images.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyEditing is very important when shooting in RAW. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

If you’re shooting in RAW, then it’s important that you edit your photos, because the RAW format means that your camera basically records all of the data within the scene without applying any changes. All of the information about colours, highlights, shadows and more will be contained in the data which you’ll have to edit to bring out.

So try to edit your photos, even if you’re just making slight adjustments. A great way to do this is by downloading and installing post-processing software, such as Adobe Lightroom. It’s easy to use and can help you to make your images better with a few simple clicks.

Tip #4: Avoid Using the Same Settings All the Time

The benefit of photo-sharing websites such as 500px and Flickr is that you can view other people’s EXIF data to get an idea of the settings that they used to take a particular shot. While it’s a great tool for learning photography and how to use your camera, some people fall into a rut of using the same settings all the time and not being able to improve upon their skills.

The camera settings that you use for shooting landscapes will depend largely upon the light and what is actually happening in the scene. So rather than using a combination of settings that you’re used to or that you’ve seen someone else use to shoot a similar subject, pay attention to the conditions and choose your camera settings accordingly.

Tip #5:  Invest in a Good Tripod

A good, sturdy tripod is one of the most important pieces of gear that you can invest in as a photographer. Having a tripod will allow you to minimise camera shake, meaning that you’ll end up with much sharper images.

A tripod is also one of the essential tools that you’ll need when you have to keep your camera steady for an extended period of time, such as when making long exposures, for astrophotography, time-lapses and shooting the Northern Lights.

Rather than picking up just any old tripod, take the time to do your research and go for the best that your money can buy, without breaking the bank. You’ll be much happier with it in the end.

Tip #6: Try Shooting with an Ultra Wide Angle Lens

The secret to the success of most landscape photos is to shoot with an ultra wide angle lens. This gives you the ability to exaggerate leading lines, emphasise the foreground and include more of nature into your shots.

Try getting down low with a wide angle lens, or shooting up high from a different perspective. You can even get super close with your lens to patterns or details in the foreground, which can be made all the more interesting with wide angle distortion.

Tip #7: Get Close to Your Subject

One of the benefits of using a wide angle lens is that you can get really close to your subject, which will allow you to create a sense of depth. This can exaggerate the foreground and make it much more interesting by highlighting textures and patterns.

With a wide angle lens, you can get so close to your subject that you might even be close to touching it. Don’t worry if some of it seems out of focus. One way to work around that is to use a smaller aperture such as f/16 to get everything in focus, or to use the technique of focus stacking for sharpness from front to back.

Alternatively, you can simply leave whatever is in the foreground a little blurry for a much more dynamic effect.

Tip #8: Think Outside the Box

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to move out of your comfort zone with photography. It can force you to look at the world in a different way and to find a way to express your creativity in which you normally wouldn’t.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyTry different genres of photography. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

For instance, if you normally shoot with a wide angle lens, try shooting with a telephoto lens instead. If you always shoot handheld, then try mounting your camera on a tripod.

Of course, you could even expand even further out of the box by trying different genres, such as cityscape and even street photography.

Tip #9: Try New Equipment

While it’s expensive to purchase new gear, that doesn’t mean that you can’t try using new equipment. Some camera shops will allow you to rent or borrow a lens for a day. This is a good way of experimenting with different focal lengths in-field to expand your creativity.

If you wouldn’t normally shoot with a fisheye, then try using one and seeing what you can do with it. The same goes with macro lenses, prime lenses and even super telephotos.

When you use camera gear that you don’t normally use, it is possible to discover a whole new way of shooting.

Tip #10:  It’s Not Just About Camera Gear

While having the best camera gear can feel great, it won’t actually improve your photography if you don’t know how to use it. Even if you manage to learn how to use the equipment, there is still much more that goes into making good photos that will determine your success as a landscape photographer.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyLearn photography techniques, rather than the specifications of your camera gear. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

So rather than focusing on the latest specifications of your camera gear, take some time to learn about the intricacies of landscape photography instead, such as scouting for good compositions, understanding the lighting conditions and how they may affect your exposures, as well as how the weather can influence the mood of your shots.

The truth is that even if you have the best gear that money can buy, you won’t be able to produce amazing photos unless you understand what you’re doing. So take the time to learn how certain photography techniques can be useful in contributing to what you want to achieve with your photography.

Tip #11:  Get Outside

While you can learn a lot about landscape photography from reading forums and engaging in online discussions with other photographers, you’ll learn a lot more if you pick up your camera and take it outside.

Getting out and about with your camera is the best way to start taking landscape photos. So make a habit of taking your camera out with you whenever you go somewhere, rather than just relying on taking pictures with your phone!

Tip #12: Set a Date for Photography

Rather than waiting for the next trip, try to head out for landscape photography at least once a week. If you work Mondays to Fridays, then set a date for the weekend. If you work on a rotating roster, then choose your next day off. When the day comes, go out and shoot, no matter what the weather conditions!

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyGet outside to shoot, even if you feel like there's nothing out there! Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

The second that you start putting limits on when you can go out is the moment that you stop going out altogether. So push yourself to set a date and head out, even when you’re not feeling creative.

Tip #13: Visit New Places

Landscape photography can get boring, particularly if you’re always heading out to the same location. Although shooting the same place can yield different results depending on the condition, you might find yourself limited in terms of compositions.

Rather than returning to the same spot over and over, try to set a goal to visit a new location at least once a month. If you like to travel, then you can even look at saving some money to visit a new destination or country once a year.

By visiting a new place, you can refresh the way that your eyes are looking at the world and find new things that you love about nature to photograph.

Tip #14: Explore Your Hometown

Some people think that travelling gives them more opportunities to shoot than when they’re in their own country. In actual fact, they haven’t really explored where they live. Your hometown may have many possibilities for landscape photography that you’ve never even noticed because you’re so used to seeing it all on an everyday basis.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyTrain your eyes to look for potential compositions around your own area. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

Sometimes, it’s even possible to shoot around your own house… you just need to train your eyes to look for potential compositions.

Whatever genre of photography you’re into, there is always something to shoot if you keep your eyes open for the things that interest you. So plan to head out by yourself or with a group of friends to really explore the area in which you live. You might unearth some great locations for photography that have been right underneath your nose the whole time.

Tip #15: Take a Photography Workshop

Photo tours and workshops are a good way of immersing yourself in the landscape, doing the one thing that you love. When you’re shooting all around the clock, you’ll find that your skills develop much more quickly and you’ll make significant improvements in your photography.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyPhotography workshops can really help you to develop your skills. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

If you’re not quite sure where to start, then think about taking a photo workshop with a photographer whose work you admire, in a destination that you’ve been wanting to travel to for a long time. That way, you can satisfy your hunger for travel and learning photography all in one go.

The benefit of taking a photography workshop is that you can receive tailored education from someone who knows the location well and can help you in the areas that you need improvement. You can find out all about their workflow, from composing a shot to the post-processing stage, and even ask questions about other aspects of photography such as business management and how to market your work.

Although photography workshops may seem expensive in the short-term, they really pay off in the long run.

Tip #16:  Be Patient and Willing to Work Hard

Most of the amazing images that you’ve seen on social media probably didn’t just happen with the click of a button. Sometimes, taking an incredible shot of the landscape means that you’ll need to be extremely patient and have a lot of dedication.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyPlanning is one of the most important things in landscape photography. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

A lot of planning goes into landscape photography. It’s important to think about where you want to shoot and what you hope to shoot there. This might mean that you have to return to the same location over several days, weeks or months until you finally achieve your goal.

Even going out to shoot the Northern Lights takes a lot of hard work. First of all, you could be standing outside in the cold for a very long time, waiting for the Aurora to appear. Secondly, you’ll need to find a composition and set up your camera… all whilst being in the dark! There are some nights when the Northern Lights might not even appear and others when they turn up in the sky but you haven’t got an appropriate foreground.

So even if you have a great image in mind that you want to take, be patient and you’ll have the perfect chance to capture that shot at some point in the future.

Tip #17:  Don’t Copy Other Photographers

It’s great to be inspired by other photographers but don’t rely completely on copying what other people are doing. Rather than trying to make your photos look like everybody else’s, take the time to develop your own style and express your creativity.

A good way of doing this is to critique your own photos, or to find a mentor in landscape photography who can give you some critical feedback. You can even ask your friends and family what they think about shots that you’ve taken. Most of the time, the way that others look at our work is completely different to how we might see it ourselves. Being the creator of your work, you might feel very proud about it and fail to see certain aspects upon which you can improve. 

By seeking feedback from others, you’ll be able to make improvements to your photography much more quickly.

Tip #18: The Wow Factor

Even when you think the scenery is beautiful, sometimes it doesn’t translate well into a photograph. The reason is not because there is something wrong with the landscape or your camera gear, it’s just that you need to find a subject that will anchor the shot and give it a certain ‘wow factor’.

This might be an object in the foreground, such as patterns and textures in the sand, or even a rock that has some moss on it.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyLook around your area for interesting subjects. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

Having a good subject will make for a more interesting composition and contribute to your success in landscape photography.

Tip #19: Use Your Feet

The best tool for composition that you have is your feet. Once you arrive at a location, rather than standing in one position with your camera, try walking around the area to scout for different compositions. It’s also useful to imagine what the scene will look like through your camera and lens as you move around.

Also, don’t limit yourself to head-height. Try kneeling down and viewing the world from a different perspective, or getting up high to see what the view looks like below! You can also whip out your mobile phone to check what the scene will look like in a photo and to help you decide whether the image is worth taking.

Tip #20: Compress the Scene

If you’ve ever taken an image of the same thing with different lenses, then you’ll have noticed how various focal lengths can affect the outcome. One of the best things about using a telephoto lens at a distance for landscape photography is that you can compress the scene.

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyCompressing the scene can give you a sense of scale. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

That means that you can make the moon appear much bigger than it really is when it’s above a mountain, or even give a heightened sense of depth to an image when layering subjects within the foreground with things in the background.

It’s a great way to include a person or an animal in the landscape to create a sense of scale.

Tip #21: Experiment with Motion

There are lots of different photography techniques that you can try to experiment with motion. For example, long exposure photography can help you to emphasise the movement of water or even clouds. By introducing motion into your images, you can create more dynamic compositions that are able to draw your viewers in and to keep their attention.

You can try using neutral density filters for longer shutter speeds to get a drawn-out effect with the clouds in the sky. Alternatively, you can freeze-frame droplets of water in a waterfall by using a faster shutter speed. By adjusting how long the shutter stays open on your camera, you can create quite dramatic effects and change the entire atmosphere or mood of your pictures.

Tip #22: Wait for the Right Light

Have you ever wondered what’s missing from your images? You may have taken a photo at the same location as somebody else but the colours in their photo really seem to pop, or have a mood that yours might be missing.

Most of the time, the reason that people end up with dull landscape images is that they’re not shooting in the right light.

It’s important to remember that in landscape photography, it really is all about the light. The best times to shoot are during sunrise and sunset, through the golden hour and even during the blue hour. During other times of the day, the lighting may be too harsh, resulting in too much contrast.

Tip #23: Play with a Polarising Filter

Have you ever used a polarising filter before? Some people stay away from polarising filters because they don’t understand what they do.

Polarising filters are useful for controlling sunlight and reflections. They can even allow your camera to see through water to the objects below. Another benefit of polarising filters is that they can enhance the intensity of colours, particularly if you’re shooting autumn foliage or if you head out for photography just after it has rained.

The effect that you can gain from using a polariser is something that is difficult to reproduce with post-processing software, so if you have a polarising filter to play with, then try to use it whenever possible to improve your photography.

Tip #24: Create a Starburst Effect

Shooting directly into the sun can be difficult but sometimes it can be incredibly rewarding, especially if you happen to catch a bit of the sun behind a tree, a mountain or another object. The result will be a spectacular starburst!

25 Useful Tips to Quickly Improve Your Landscape PhotographyStarbursts are a very fun aspect of landscape photography! Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.

Starbursts are a magical effect that can elevate your image to another level. They add a warm layer of light and vibrancy to the landscape, which can complement the foreground and make your images really stand out.

To catch a starburst, you’ll need to get rid of your filters, set your camera to manual mode, shift your aperture to around f/16-f/22, position the sun so that it is against the edge of something within the landscape, and shoot with a 1-2 second exposure.

Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to try this exciting photography technique!

Tip #25: Share Your Photos

Last but not least, have you been taking lots of photos without really doing anything with them? Rather than leaving your images sitting around on a hard drive, why not share them instead?

These days, it’s easy to share your work on social media using apps such as Instagram. Desktop sites such as Flickr and 500px also make it easier for your work to be seen.

If you prefer to keep everything in one place, then you might even consider setting up your own website. That way, you’ll have complete control over how you’d like to display your work to a wider audience.

So there you have it! Those are my top 25 tips to quickly improve your landscape photography. I hope you’ll find them useful. Have you got any other tips and tricks up your sleeve? Leave a comment below!

About the author:  Albert Dros is a landscape photographer based in the Netherlands. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.

Don't just file your images away, never to be seen. Learn how to use social media to your advantage to share your photography. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Landscape Photographers!