For many of us, landscape photography is a lifelong obsession that we never want to overcome. Once you dive down the rabbit hole, it is very difficult to come out. And so this page here on Light Stalking is our shrine to landscape photography that we hope will encourage new and old to invest more time into this passion.
On this page, you will find our attempt to produce the best resource on the internet for a landscape photographer to easily learn. We will cover the history, the artists and the techniques that are all central to the craft of capturing the natural world around us. If you have a resource that you think we should add, please let us know in the comments.
A Landscape Photography Gallery of Some of Our Favourite Examples of Late
Download Our Free Landscape Photography Cheat Sheet
When do you actually need information about landscape photography? When you're out in the field and shooting, right?
That is why we developed this essential free cheat sheet for landscape photography that you can keep on your phone, iPad or even print out and throw in your camera bag. So that it's always there with you when you need it - in the field!
Just click here to grab it. It's an instant download and it's yours absolutely free!
The Components of Landscape Photography
Landscape Photography Composition
You will find that landscape photography composition is one of the main considerations to mastering the craft and developing an awesome portfolio. In many other genres, you can get away with imperfect composition, but in landscape photography it is regarded as essential. At the basic end, you can start with the rule of thirds, leading lines, the s curve and foreground interest. That will give you the basics. But don't be hamstrung as landscape composition is a huge topic. There are even those who would throw all discussions of composition away so as not to be hampered by "rules." But if you are looking to capture great landscape shots, it's a great place to start learning.
What You Need to Know About Landscape Photography Lighting
Landscape photography lighting is often the element of the image that makes it pop the most. Good lighting is almost as essential as good composition in creating a landscape photo that makes audiences stop and take notice. Now good tips is that you're going to want to learn as much as possible about the golden hour and the blue hours as they are when the best landscape photographs are usually taken. But you're also going to need to develop the skills to shoot at other times of the day include in midday sun, times when there is a huge dynamic range in the scene and at night time as well as including water in your images.
Why Post Production is So Important in Landscape Photography
Post production for landscape photographs is an essential consideration if you want to get those magazine quality images. Lightroom or Photoshop (or other software) skills are as important today as darkroom skills were in the film era. But where do you start to learn how to properly process your images? You will almost certainly want to take a look at our list of the best photography software to choose a piece that suits you. We also have a piece specifically for photo editing software. Depending on your workflow, you may also want some presets. The key here is to find your own style and workflow (easier said than done).
Post production articles that are useful for landscape photographers:
Black and White Landscape Photography
Black and white landscape photography has a series of unique challenges. Some of the most classic landscape shots taken were black and white (think Ansel Adams) and to this day, photographers still challenge themselves with producing the perfect black and white image.
We suggest you start with our black and white landscape photography section to start your journey down this very rewarding path.
When you want to dig down into specific sub-genres of landscape photography, it is often useful to take a look at specific shooting scenarios. We have you covered - here are some of our best and most popular guides.
How to Print Amazing Landscape Photographs
Printing your landscape photographs is one of the great pleasures of the craft. Nothing quite matches the personal satisfaction of seeing a great landscape picture that you created, hanging on a wall. But there is a lot of learn about getting a good result from printing a shot. Considerations such as type of paper, export settings and mounting are paramount to getting a good shot. If you are printing the images yourself, one tip is to consider the best photo printer for your needs - not an easy task and one that you will want to research first.
Read these resources before you print your landscape shots:
What is the Best Landscape Photography Gear?
The great news about landscape photography is that the gear, tools and accessories you already own are probably sufficient to take a respectable landscape photograph. That being said, there is also some classic kit that a serious landscape photographer tends to own and use. Even when you look at different photographers and what they carry, there are some recurring themes. Of course, one thing to remember is your own shooting circumstance - for example, if you travel a lot you will need to watch the weight and size of your gear.
Camera - Believe it or not, most modern digital cameras are capable of taking a very good landscape shot. Even an iPhone can do this in the right conditions. With that said, the progression in camera ownership for a landscape photographer usually goes like this:
Smart phone >> mirrorless >> cropped sensor DSLR >> full frame DSLR >> medium format camera >> large format camera.
The cost and quality rises through that progression and even most professional landscape photographers are content with their gear at the full frame DSLR stage. For aerial landscape photography, you will need to invest in a drone and they can help with capturing stunning landscape photos with a totally different perspective.
Lenses - In landscape photography, wide angle lenses are the most helpful and the best lens is usually considered to be an ultra wide angle lens. Shooting on a full-frame DSLR, this will usually be in the range of 12mm through to 28mm. In practical terms, the classic landscape lens for a full frame is the 12-24mm f/2.8, versions of which are made by Canon and Nikon among others. If you shoot a crop frame DSLR, then it will be even wider. There is an interesting video here on using at 24-70mm lens that is worth a watch.
Besides wide angle lenses, as landscape photographers progress in their skills, a wide angle lens alone may seem quite limiting. Having telephoto lenses in the bag can help to capture stunning landscapes with closer details.
Tripods - Get the heaviest, most stable tripod that is practical for you. For landscape, unfortunately, you will also want a lighter one so it's easy to carry a long distance. That is the dilemma, so make your choice accordingly. Take a look at our article on choosing a tripod to dig down into all of the issues.
Filters - Most professional photographers carry a selection of filters for various lighting conditions and, of course, of differing sizes according to the lenses they carry. A circular polarizer for cutting down glare. A neutral density for reducing overall light hitting the camera sensor or film and a graduated neutral density filter (nd grad) for reducing the light from a portion of the scene (usually the sky). Most carry multiples of the last two types.
To dive more into this, take a look at our detailed landscape photography gear guide.
What Are the Best Camera Settings for Landscape Photography?
Any experienced photographer has heard the question, "what are the best camera settings for X type of photography?" And the proper answer is, "It depends." Light is always different and hence camera settings need to be different too, depending on the type of image you want to capture.
With that said, there are a few common themes in camera settings that can be applied to landscape and nature photography with reasonable consistency to get the type of shot you might see in a magazine. Some of the most basic camera settings to keep in mind are to always shoot in manual mode and raw, so you can have creative control over the exposure and have a good file with all the details possible for post processing.
We go into more detail on our Best Settings for Landscape Photography article which is worth a read.
This handy tool is a digital landscape photographer's best friend. If you are not sure about what the histogram does, it shows you a representation of the light that your camera is capturing (in your view finder or LCD screen depending on your setup). The good news is that a histogram is usually a LOT more accurate about making a judgement on light than simply looking at the image on your LCD and hence can be a useful tool when capturing beautiful landscape photos.
How do you read a histogram? Basically, on the viewfinder of your digital camera, the left side of the graph represents the shadows of the image and the right side, the highlights. The easiest way to remember that, is "black and white" in that order. If the graph is mainly towards the left, then the image will be dark. To the right and the image will be bright.
In general, you will want to avoid have a histogram stacked up against the left or right of the graph. This means that the camera has recorded either black or white areas that are 100% of that tone. So you will not be able to change them in post production.
What is the Best Histogram for Landscape Photography? For most colour photography, you want a histogram that looks like a bell - pretty close to the middle. For landscape photography, you usually want it to err towards the right. This is called "shooting to the right" and it's something most landscape photographers do. The reason? It is a lot easier in post production to pull down bright pixels than to brighten darker pixels (which introduces noise a lot sooner) and makes those beautiful images easier to finish off.
For an in depth look at this tool, take a look out our histogram tutorial.
Aperture is a key setting for every photograph and it controls the depth of field. In landscape photography, in very general terms, you will want to find the sweet spot of your particular lens, but it will probably be somewhere between f/11 and f/16. This will usually get you nicely sharp photographs. Of course, there are about a million exceptions to this advice, and it also depends on the lenses you carry, so be sure to read our guy on aperture and aperture priority to get up to speed.
Landscape photographers generally like to minimise noise in their stunning images and ISO is a key component of being able to do this. Most advice you read about landscape photography ISO will suggest an ISO of 100 or 200. Keeping the ISO as low as possible is usually good advice unless you are specifically trying to introduce noise to your final image (which would be unusual, but as it's an artistic decision, not unheard of). Read our longer explanation on choosing ISO here.
Shutter speed will depend on a few things for landscape photography. If you want to freeze the action, (for example you may be photographing on a windy day and freeze movement of trees and other elements in the frame) then you will want a faster shutter speed (but may have to adjust ISO and aperture to compensate for overall exposure - see our article on the exposure triangle for this). If you are not worried about freezing the action, then you will want slow shutter speeds to match the aperture and ISO. For that, you may very well need a tripod to stablise your camera in order to avoid camera shake. A slow shutter speed is useful when capturing long exposures and nigh time landscape photography. Read our longer guide to shutter speed here.
The Golden Hour is one of the common themes you will hear about in landscape photography as being the time you should be out shoot. The quality of light during the golden hour certainly makes it much easier to take a spectacular landscape photograph. But don't despair if you cannot get out during this time. There are fine landscape images to be taken at any time of day.
Landscape Photography Tips
Landscape Photography Tips contains our advice on the things that every landscape photographer should be considering on every shoot. The article covers the time of the day you should be shooting landscapes, your gear selection, desirable exposure times, easy landscape compositions, landscape perspectives and post processing.
Well worth a read to get some quick tips for your next shoot.
The History of Landscape Photography
As you become proficient at any craft, a part of your interest becomes a yearning to understand how we got to where we are. Landscape photography is no different and has a pedigree stretching back almost 150 years. What is striking about the history of landscape photography, as opposed to other photographic genres, is its intimate role in the history of environmental activism.
It is not a stretch to say that say that many wilderness areas (including many a national park) owe their continued existence to the pioneers of beautiful landscape photography who were able to widely share their images. Certainly the work of Carelton Watkins, and later Ansel Adams, had a massive influence on the decision of the US government to make Yosemite a protected area.
As time progressed, the style of landscape photography changed to a degree, but it is still difficult to find a famous landscape photographer who doesn't have at least some intentions in the direction of nature preservation.
Our article on the history of landscape photography takes a much deeper look at the evolution of the craft.
Landscape Photography FAQs
We get a lot of questions about the craft of stunning landscape photography so we are doing our best to collate them all and give some brief answers to the most commons ones.
What settings should I use for landscape photography?
Which is the best lens to use for landscape photography?
In general terms, you will want to shoot with a wide angle lens and one of the most common is the 14-24mm f/2.8 from both Nikon and Canon. The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 is also a very respectable lens for cropped frame DSLRs and is also more affordable.
While the current king of the DSLRs for landscape is the Nikon D850, the truth is that almost any camera from the humble iPhone up is capable of taking a respectable landscape photograph in the right hands. Click and Learn Photography has a very good wrap up of this topic if you want to dive deep - take a look at it here.
The Best Landscape Photography Videos
There are a lot of really great landscape photographers who make youtube videos. It's worth subscribing to the channels of Thomas Heaton, Andy Mumford, Matthew Vandeputte and Brendan Van Son. There are also a lot of great channels to do with post-production that are worth looking at. Youtube really is a gold mine for good landscape photography knowledge.
Below are some of our favourites.
Our Latest Landscape and Outdoor Photography Articles
We are constantly updating our landscape photography section here on Light Stalking. Be sure to take a look at our latest articles and tutorials and check back here often to see what's new.