Landscapes can be one of the easiest of all photographic subjects to shoot. Basically, all you need to do is find a nice view in the right lighting and snap away. Look a little closer at landscape images that really hold your attention, however, and you’ll often find that there’s much more to this simple subject than meets the eye.
To improve your landscape shots, you need to find visually compelling locations, and then you need to work out the right time of day and the right season to visit them, so they’re looking their absolute best.
Once all of this research and planning is done, you need the technical and artistic skills to make the most of the scene. All of this comes with practice – but where do you start, and how can you give yourself the best chance of landing some great shots? That’s where this guide comes in.
Rather than simply tell you to set your camera to an aperture of f/16, fit a wide-angle lens and use the rule of thirds, we’ll reveal the ten ‘laws’ that will help you plan more effectively, compose your shots, and understand when a trick or two might help. You’ll improve your success rate by going to the right places at the right times, and you’ll know how to get amazing images at any location.
So, don’t let your landscape photography get stuck in a rut: read each of these laws and take your landscape photography to the next level.
Law 1: Don’t leave locations to chance
Learn everything you can about your landscape location before you go there – from likely viewpoints to where to park
You’re unlikely to stumble across great landscape locations by just going out into the country. It may seem like a lot of work to do, but it’s easy to check out the location, sun position, weather and tides before you set off.
The first port of call for most locations is an online map service, such as Google Maps. The amount of detail available on the satellite view, along with the Street View facility, is invaluable for getting an insight into the basic features and landscape.
Check out online photos of the location. We’re not suggesting you copy the approaches and styles employed by other landscape photographers: the images we use are more likely to be shots taken by tourists, say, who simply want to record the sights. These shots are perfect for getting a good idea of what to expect from a location, without the risk of subconsciously imitating what other photographers have done.
It’s worth doing this process even for areas you think you know well. It’s amazing how many hidden gems we’ve found just by using online maps and images.
Once you’ve narrowed down the area that you’re interested in, look at detailed maps like the Ordnance Survey series. These give precise details of paths and access, although you should check an online map as well to see if there are any other options. Look for likely car parking spots.
Next, check when and where the sun will rise and set. There’s little point going to a location if the main subject is in shadow because the sun’s behind a mountain. There are plenty of online resources, plus apps such as the Photographer’s Ephemeris.