Landscape Photography 101: Tips, Technique and Gear

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.

The Best Landscape Photography Courses Online

The Complete Landscape Photography Guide - This excellent guide by Kent DuFault will take you through every aspect of landscape photography from subject selection through to gear, camera settings and post-production.

The Ultimate Landscape Photography Course - Brent Mail really went all out in his landscape course which included 36 video lessons and 9 case-studies.

On this page, you will find our attempt to produce the best resource on the internet for landscape photographers. We will cover the history, the artists and the techniques that are all central to the craft. 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 Favourites of Late

(Click on photo for larger version)

road and trees landscape

Johannes Plenio

Skeeze

leading lines

Frank Winkler

diagonals

Sasin Tipchai

Simon Migaj

Simon Migaj

andrea candraja

Andrea Candraja

drone photo of beach

Pok Rie

Johannes Plenio forest

Johannes Plenio

COMING SOON:

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

How to Compose a Landscape Photograph

leading lines landscape composition

Landscape photography composition is one of the main considerations to mastering the craft. 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."

These articles on landscape composition will bring your knowledge up to speed:

What You Need to Know About Lighting and Landscape Photography

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 image that makes audiences stop and take notice. Now, 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 and at night time

These are the articles you should bookmark regarding lighting and landscape images:

Why Post Production is So Important in Landscape Photography

Post production for landscape photographs is an essential consideration if you want to get the best image possible. Lightroom or Photoshop (or other software) skills are as important today as darkroom skills were in the film era. But where do you start? You will almost certainly want to take a look at our list of the best photography software to choose a piece that suits you. 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:

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, you will also want 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 Gear for Landscape Photography?

The great news about landscape photography is that the gear you already own is probably sufficient to take a respectable landscape photograph. That being said, there is also some classic kit that serious landscape photographers tend to own and use. Even when you look at different photographers and what they carry, there are some recurring themes.

Camera - Believe it or not, most 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 landscape photographers 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.

Lens - In landscape photography, the best lens is usually considered to be an ultra wide angle. 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.

Tripod - 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 landscape photographers carry a selection of filters for various lighting conditions. A circular polarizer for cutting down glare. A neutral density for reducing overall light hitting the sensor or film and an ND graduated filter (nd grad) for reducing the light from a portion of the scene (usually the sky). Most carry multiples of the last two types.

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. With that said, there are a few common themes in camera settings that can be applied to landscape photography with reasonable consistency.

This handy tool is a 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.

How do you read a histogram? Basically, 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 right, 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).

For an in depth look at this tool, take a look out our histogram tutorial.

Aperture

​Aperture is a key setting for every photograph. 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, so be sure to read our guy on aperture and aperture priority to get up to speed.

ISO

​Landscape photographers generally like to minimise noise in their 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.

Shutterspeed

​Shutter speed will depend on a few things for landscape photography. If you want to freeze the action, 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 to slow the shutter speed down to match the aperture and ISO. For that, you may very well need a tripod to stablise your camera. 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. Take a look at our guides on shooting in the golden hour, blue hour, night time or midday. You might be pleasantly surprised!


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 15o 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.

Tetons and the Snake River photo

The Tetons and the Snake River by Ansel Adams is regarded by many to be the best landscape photograph ever taken.

It is not a stretch to say that say that many wilderness areas owe their continued existence to the pioneers of landscape photography. 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 well known landscape photographers 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 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?

What is the best camera for landscape photography?

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 landscape photography knowledge.

Below are some of our favourites.

7  Important Lessons in Landscape Photography by Andy Mumford...

ND Grads vs. Bracketing by First Man Photography...

The Essence of Landscape Photography by Thomas Heaton...

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.