Photographer Christian Høiberg shares his most important dos and don'ts of landscape photography that, ultimately, will help you create images that you're proud to share
Have you just got your first camera and have fallen in love with outdoor photography? Perhaps you've had a camera for a while but aren't able to capture the landscape images you dream of? Follow these essential dos and don'ts of landscape photography and you'll be on your way to getting those beautiful shots in no time...
Do: Learn the fundamentals
There's no doubt that modern cameras have improved and that their automatic functions are far better now than what they were only a few years ago. That being said, it's crucial that you learn how to manually operate the camera if you want to get the best possible images.
The camera's automatic functions calculate the best settings based on available light but it doesn't take into consideration the creative aspect of photography and, in some cases, it fails to give settings that result in higher image-quality.
It will take some time and effort but you'll benefit greatly from knowing how to manually adjust the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. If you're serious about taking better photos you should also learn what these settings are and how they impact each other. You'll find in-depth guides on the fundamentals in the Focus section - For Beginners.
When you're comfortable with these settings you'll soon see how you can take advantage of this knowledge and create more interesting images using techniques such as long exposure photography.
Do: Photograph during the golden hour
While it's perfectly possible to get nice landscape images during the daytime, there's no getting around the fact that the light is a lot more welcoming during the Golden Hour. This is the period where the sun is low on the horizon (the hour before and after sunrise and sunset) and casts a nice soft glow on the landscapes.
The combination of soft light and at times colourful skies can lead to beautiful image, that transforms an otherwise ordinary scene into something that makes your viewers say wow!
Read on with our dedicated guide to shooting during the Golden Hour here.
Do: Use a tripod
Photographing during the Golden Hour means it's getting darker and there's less available light. In order to allow more light to reach the sensor you'll need to extend the exposure time. When shooting in automatic mode the camera will instead most likely increase the ISO (the camera's sensitivity to light) but this also means introducing noise and grain to the photo. Entry-level cameras aren't able to handle a high ISO well, so this is a less desirable option.
Extending the shutter speed is a better alternative but it means that you'll need to mount the camera on a tripod. The slower the shutter speed, the more important this is. It's simply not possible to capture a sharp handheld image when you're using a shutter speed of several seconds.
A tripod is also useful if you want to get more creative and intentionally experiment with the use of a slow shutter speed or other more advanced techniques.
I recommend a carbon Fibre tripod as they tend to be sturdier and handle vibration better. Personally I use a FotoPro TL-64C, it's big and heavy but perfect for Arctic seascapes. I've also got a lighter Sirui tripod that I use for hiking.
Don't: Fear 'bad' weather
'There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes' is a saying we grow up with here in Norway.
This is in many ways relevant for landscape photographers too. The truth is that you can capture amazing images in any type of weather – it's just that we tend to find the couch or fireplace more comfortable when the skies are grey and temperatures cold.
Some of my personal favourite images are captured in rough conditions where most stay at home. In fact, I prefer shooting in these types of conditions as I find the images to be more atmospheric and interesting.
Blue, sunny days might be good for the soul and mind but not so much for photography. These conditions lead to more generic holiday and travel images. Just take a look at award-winning landscapes – most of them are captured in what most consider to be bad weather.
Do: Invest time – not money
One mistake that many beginner photographers tend to make is to invest lots of money into the very best camera gear before knowing anything about the basics. A better camera isn't going to make you a better photographer.
I recommend that you rather invest time into learning the fundamentals of photography, such as the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and compositional techniques.
It's far more important to understand how to take a compelling photograph than to walk around with expensive equipment. You can get amazing images with a smartphone or entry-level camera.
If you've made it all the way to the end. We think it's fair to say that you're ready to invest a little extra time into improving your landscape photography.
The biggest favor you'll make yourself is to invest most of this time into learning the basics of how to operate your camera and the impact the fundamental settings have on the final image. We've repeated this several times now but that's just how important it is.
At the end of the day, it's not the price tag of your camera that will make you a better photographer; it's the desire to keep learning and the hours invested in being outside with a camera in your hands.
Never forget to enjoy the process and to have fun. Take the time to enjoy your surroundings and appreciate being out in nature.
After all, it's this love for nature which drives your landscape photography, right?
Article images by Christian Høiberg.
- AuthorChristian Høiberg
Christian is a Norwegian landscape photographer based in the scenic Lofoten Islands. Besides working on various projects and guiding workshops, he teaches landscape photography on his website CapturedLandscapes.View all articles