I remember when I first started in landscape photography being completely and totally overwhelmed. I simply didn’t know what to do to “get over the hump” from taking photos that looked like I was a beginner to taking photos that looked like perhaps I knew what I was doing. All those years ago, I tried tons of tips and tricks to improve the quality of my images. Many of them worked. Some of them didn’t. Here’s three of my go-to tips that are sure to help you as well.
Experiment with Depth of Field
Not every landscape photo you take has to be sharp from front to back like the one shown above. Sure, that’s the norm, and you should take a lot of photos with a large depth of field. However, part of what will help you elevate your landscape photography game is experimenting with different takes on the same subjects. Using a shallow depth of field is one such experiment. By shrinking the depth of field by using a large aperture and focusing on just one small aspect of the landscape, you begin to train your eye to see beyond the big picture.
That is, sometimes we take the small details that a landscape offers for granted. Instead, we often try to stuff absolutely everything we see into the frame. With a shallow depth of field, though, you’re forced to highlight that one fence post, that interesting rock, the beam of light behind an animal, and so forth. The result is an unexpectedly intimate landscape photograph that’s also unique. And when you can create something unique, the photo will grab the viewer’s attention.
Use a Polarizing Filter
When you think of some of the biggest challenges of landscape photography, a polarizer helps control or eliminate quite a few of them. A polarizer reduces sun glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces, minimizing that distraction and allowing viewers to more fully appreciate the scene. Furthermore, a polarizing filter boosts contrast in the sky, making the blue tones deeper and the white tones of the clouds more vibrant. The result is a sky that immediately grabs people’s attention. Another thing that a polarizing filter specializes in doing is reducing atmospheric haze.
As you look out at a landscape, distant features can often look hazy, as though there’s a thin layer of smoke or smog between you and that distant feature. But polarizers help minimize that haze, giving you the opportunity to create a clearer image of the landscape before you. When it comes to polarizers, you need to do your due diligence because not all polarizing filters are made alike. Some are cheap and poorly constructed, and won’t do you or your images any favors. Others, like the Firecrest Circular Polarizer from Formatt-Hitech, are made of premium materials that give your images that extra visual pop they need.
The filter’s anti-reflective multicoating ensures high contrast and spot-on color fidelity. What’s more, the Firecrest Circular Polarizer is precision milled so its rotating rings offer smooth and precise operation. In other words, not only do these filters give you the power to control glare, boost contrast in the sky, and minimize atmospheric haze but because they are so well built, they’re also incredibly easy to use, too. Just screw the filter onto your lens, put yourself at a 90-degree angle to the sun (or as close to that as possible) for the best results, and frame up your shot!
Look for Opportunities for Black and White Landscapes
Much like experimenting with depth of field will help you increase your creativity, so too will looking for opportunities to create black and white landscape photos. In the absence of color, you have to incorporate other features into your black and white photos to give them interest. Often, this includes features like leading lines, patterns or textures, as seen in the image above. But there are other aspects of a landscape that are ideal for black and white photography. Contrast, for example, is a powerful component of a black and white photo.
And best of all, high contrast lighting is often found during the middle of the day. That means that when you’re out shooting and the lighting is simply too harsh for a color photo, all is not lost! In addition to looking for the features outlined above, it’s important that you understand how to properly create a black and white photo. Shoot in color and in RAW, that way you have all the image information available to convert the color image to black and white in post-processing. By going about making a black and white photo in this way, you give yourself the most tools for creating an epic final image that will be clearer, sharper, and more detailed than if you shoot in JPEG and in monochrome mode.