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Shooting Tips

Beginner Landscape Photographers | 5 Tips to Help You Capture Excellent Images

By Joseph Cha on May 28th 2015

From Photographer to Photographer

I usually photograph portraits and I consider myself a novice landscape photographer. I recently took a trip to Pfieffer Beach in California and one of my goals was to capture beautiful landscape images. Thanks to what I learned from Photography 101 and Matthew Saville, I was able to accomplish my goal. I want to share with you 5 tips that helped me capture these images.

Camera Body and Lens

This entire set (and my entire trip really) was shot with a single camera outfit.

[REWIND: Photography 101: Landscape Photography]

landscape-photography

1/400 sec, f/16, ISO 200

Tip 1: Don’t Use The Automated Landscape Mode

Just don’t do it. Using landscape mode is like going to Supercuts; they’ll get the job done, but it won’t be pretty. Landscape mode typically closes down the aperture to increase depth of field, and will adjust the shutter speed to get a correct exposure. If you’re going to thrive in any photography discipline, then you’ll need to understand the Exposure Triangle and use Manual Mode to have a technical and artistic mastery over your camera and images.

landscape-mode

Tip 2: Be Adventurous

Walk around! Climb things! You need to explore your surroundings to discover the potential of the landscape you’re in. Don’t be afraid to take detours, to get close to the water, or to climb on rocks. Some of my most satisfying photos are a result of me trying new things.

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1/400 sec, f/4, ISO 200

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1/400 sec, f/4, ISO 200

Tip 3: Challenge Your Composition

When taking landscape photos it’s easy to simply “capture the scene” and call it a day, but where is the reward in that? You need to challenge yourself to find better and more stimulating compositions. Don’t be satisfied with an image that everyone else has shot, challenge yourself to capture an image that’s unique.

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1/100 sec, f/13, ISO 200

Tip 4: Be Patient

Landscape photography is unique in that you cannot simply cue the action and capture the moment; you have to wait. Sometimes this requires waking up at ungodly hours, hiking many miles, or sitting on your sandals with the crabs and clams for an hour (which I did to capture the photo above). Be patient, it’s easy to quit in the moment, but it’s well worth the the captured image in the end.

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1/400 sec, f/16, ISO 200

Tip 5: Enjoy The Process

Landscape photography can be an agonizing experience, but it’s also extremely enjoyable if you approach it the correct way. For me personally, I used to hate traveling alone and taking photos by myself. After a few times of going out alone, I began to find the entire process meditative, and I began to enjoy myself when I ventured out to take Landscape photos. As soon as I started to enjoy the process, my photos also improved significantly.

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1/200 sec, f/16, ISO 200

Conclusion and More Info

So there you have it, these are my 5 tips for any photographer who wants to start venturing into Landscape Photography territory. All the photos in this article were edited with the Lightroom Preset System v6. If you want to learn more about Landscape Photography, then check out this video!

About

I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

17 Comments

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  1. Gissele Melcher

    my colleague required a form yesterday and was informed about a document management site with lots of form templates . If people are wanting it as well , here’s a link http://goo.gl/Ms4ebj

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  2. Dragoș Ardeleanu

    Just preparing to go in Holidays and was a bit stressed by the fact I don’t have any wide or super-wide lenses.
    But I DO have a 24-70mm f2.8 from Canon which, according to this article will save my holiday :)

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  3. J. Dennis Thomas

    There’s nothing wrong with using Scene modes once in awhile. When I’m riding around on my motorcycle with my camera strapped on I don’t use manual. I stick it in P mode for quick grab shots.

    Telling people that they should NEVER use Scene modes is ridiculous. These modes are optimized and they work pretty well most of the time. I’ve written so many books on Nikon cameras and have used the Scene modes for years to test them. They are pretty damn good at what they are programmed to do.

    You don’t HAVE to shoot in Manual to take “good” photos. I know exactly what any given Scene mode is going to do. How does that make it any different than me setting the camera myself? If I’m going to select the same settings as the landscape scene mode then why not save a little time?

    Yes, learn the exposure triangle, but learning exactly what the Scene modes do can save you a lot of time as well.

    This “Manual Exposure Only” mentality is silly and elitist.

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    • Aidan Morgan

      There’s often a streak of elitism in the whole “Manual Mode Only” message, but in this instance I can see Cha’s point. Learning to shoot in manual mode as a beginner is good discipline and gives you confidence in your own work (or, you know, tooth-grinding anxiety). I think the best move is to at least understand how the Scene modes work if you’re using them. Or hell, just go out and shoot 10,000 frames. You’ll figure out what works.

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    • Barry Cunningham

      I always interpret the “Manual Exposure Only” advice as telling people to get off the training wheels so they can see what is really going on. I shot on “Manual Exposure Only” for over 50 years because that was all that I had, mainly on Yashica A TLR, late 1960s Minolta SLR, and Olympus OM-1. When I got my first DSLR I had to train myself on how to use the automated and semiautomated modes. I don’t try shooting jets pushing the sonic envelope at air shows in manual mode.
      We may not be the target demographic for the manual only advice.
      Also, remember the context. This is an advice article for beginning landscape photographers. For most landscape shooting, from a tripod or hand held, using manual is probably a good idea. But, I would have included “Use RAW” in Tip 1, which would automatically eliminate use of the worst built in modes on the cameras I’m familiar with. The shooting of landscapes from a moving motorcycle is more of an advanced technique. ;3^) Definitely falls under Tip 2 though!

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    • Graham Curran

      Auto modes can give good results 90% of the time and are useful if you need to grab a quick shot, but if you have difficult lighting conditions or need to work a scene for artist effect then being able to control your camera gives you the ability to capture the “great” shot.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Yeah but all the cool kids shoot manual. Don’t you wanna be in the cool kid group? :)

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    • Lauchlan Toal

      Modes are for speed. Need to grab a shot off the cuff? Leave it in program. No idea where that bird’s going to spring into view? Shutter priority. Candid street portraits around the town in various alleys and conditions? Shutter priority.

      Manual is for consistency, and of course control. Sports games, landscapes, commercial work – all perfect candidates for manual mode.

      There’s never one right answer, and everyone has a different use for these features. (Not disagreeing with you here, just elaborating.)

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      Well, telling a beginner they NEED to start in Manual is counterintuitive. The idea is to use the Scene modes as a stepping stone. If all cameras only shot manual then can you imagine how frustrating it would be for a beginner?

      Learning some composition techniques and getting some good images is a great impetus to get beginners interested in learning the Exposure Triangle and about aperture/DoF and shutter speed/motion effects.

      When I was an instructor we started out with the basics of exposure, but the students were already interested in learning otherwise they wouldn’t be in the class. The dynamic has changed. Most people want to start out making decent photos and THEN learn the boring stuff.

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    • Lauchlan Toal

      Interesting. I started out shooting manual everything (including focus) because I bought a DSLR to take better photos of my LEGO creations, and I wanted the control that a camera with full manual controls gave. Since I was so interested in it, it only took me a couple days of reading articles online to figure out all the functions. I can imagine that if you’re buying a DSLR for better pictures as opposed to more control, you wouldn’t have the same motivation to learn about the exposure triangle and such… Thanks for bringing this up, it’s good to keep all those different motives in mind.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      @LAUCHLAN TOAL:

      You would be an exception rather than the rule. I don’t know how much time you spend in camera stores, but most people’s eyes glaze over when you talk about aperture, f/stop, shutter speed, ISO, etc…

      They want a DSLR because DSLRs are supposed to make the best photos. The DSLR is the top of the line to people that want to make good pictures, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want to learn all the other stuff right away. The fact that it does more than a point and shoot is good, but most consumers want a glorified point and shoot until they get sufficiently interested in learning the stuff.

      My ex-girlfriend is a doctor and she wanted a DSLR to take good photos with. She wasn’t having a point and shoot. She’s had it for a few years and takes great photos, but she only uses Scene modes. Obviously she’s not stupid, but the Scene modes work for her, she can print big quality prints. She doesn’t give a shit about the mechanics of it because she knows the dial will do what it’s supposed to.

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    • Ralph Hightower

      Barry,
      Like you, I started out with film. I primarily used one of three modes on my Canon A-1: Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, or Program mode. I have used manual mode on my A-1 for lunar photography and also for panoramas. I bought a used F-1N in 2013 and even though it has the AE Finder FN for aperture-priority and AE Motor Drive FN for shutter-priority, I primarily use manual control with the match-needle.
      I was at an air show a few years ago, shooting film, and I missed the Air Force Thunderbirds doing their “knife-edge” pass because I didn’t want to engage the motor drive. I still shot two rolls of film during their performance. With digital, I wouldn’t even stop to think about multiple frames per second.

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    • Ralph Hightower

      Dennis,
      DSLRs have made it much easier for people to take photos. My first SLR camera was the Canon A-1 which featured aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and programmed mode, besides manual; but it was manual focus. But I read photography books from the 1980’s to better my skills. From books, I learned the ISO triangle. But, I occasionally make stupid mistakes, like forgetting to change the ISO from 100 to 400 after changing film to Kodak BW400CN, or forgetting to change the shutter speed from 1/1000 after switching to ISO 100 slide film.

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  4. Brian McCue

    Great info, 3-5 really sum it up well.

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  5. Thomas Horton

    Another suggestion is to watch those horizons. Unless the photographer is going for a deliberate Dutch Angle effect, horizons should be level. A horizon that is slightly tilted will probably be interpreted as a mistake and not art.

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  6. Nick Viton

    haha Supercuts!

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