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Starting out in Photography? Here are my Top 13 Landscape Photography Tips to get you shooting better shots

Through my many years of shooting photography, I've found myself teaching the same principles - look to the edges of the frame, use a tripod, step to the left or right...

Whether you're starting our in photography or been doing it a while, here are my Top 13 Landscape Photography Tips to get you shooting better shots.

1. EDGES OF THE FRAME

One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to check the edges of the frame before you take you photo. Often we’re so focused on our subject in the middle that we neglect the outer edges.

How often do we find half a person, a stick, or a seagull that really should be excluded. It’s not til we download the photos that we often notice these. Run your eye around the edges of your frame and recompose your shot if need be. Do this several times before taking the shot.

2. TRIPOD

Your tripod should be your best friend as a landscape photographer. Make sure your tripod suits all your needs - it is light enough, it’s heavy enough, it goes up high enough, it’s easy to set up. Too many people hate their tripod because the legs are hard to pull out, or they can’t seem to find which way the legs should be tighten. It should be a pleasure to use. 

3. STEP TO THE LEFT OR THE RIGHT

So simple right? But it’s often not done and it can make all the difference to a photo. The reason being is that sometimes a little movement left or right can have objects in a photo separate a little more which looks better. You don’t always want things to line up, or be obscured so a little step to the left or right will resolve this.

4. COMPOSITION - WHAT TO INCLUDE & EXCLUDED?

Identifying the key aspects then including these in a photograph can be vital to telling your story. I often see photographers include unnecessary elements in their photographs which only dilute their story telling. One of the best ways around this is to think that you’re describing the scene in front of you to a friend. You tell them descriptively what you saw and what you liked. Then you show them your photograph. If you’ve done a good job at telling your story and your photo matches, your composition is spot on. If there’s a mismatch, it may be that your photo includes some things that we’re necessary or are distracting.

5. RULE OF THIRDS

This is one of the best rules in landscape photography. Yes it’s a cliche but it works and I use it all the time. Put your subjects off-centre. Have negative space. Place the horizon at the top of the frame.

6. HISTOGRAMS

The most maligned tool on a digital camera today. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know how to use it or have been told the wrong information. The perfect histogram is not one that is bell shaped. Or in the middle. Or not peaking above the top. The best histogram is one that is as far to the right as possible without blowing out the highlights. It’s as simple as that!

7. CRITIQUE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS AS YOU GO

Many times we shoot without really thinking about what we’re shooting - and that’s ok. WE’re out there practicing, making sure the settings are right or challenging ourselves to see as much as possible. If you want to take your photography to the next level, try critiquing your photographs as you go. Take a shot, look at it on the back of the camera, and ask yourself, “What won’t I like about this when I get home?” If there’s ways you can see to improve it, correct it there and then and that way you won’t be kicking yourself later wishing you’d done it differently.

8. FOUR SHOTS

I’m a big believer that there’s four shots in every set up. What do I mean by that? Well if you have a wide-angle zoom lens, you can take a shot as wide as possible then zoom in and take another. Then you can turn your camera to portrait mode, and repeat - take a wide angle shot, then zoom in and take another. There’s four shots just like that!

9. PLAN AHEAD

I use several apps to help me plan ahead withy my shoots. On the Mornington Peninsula where I live, the tide, weather, sunrise and sunset times and places can make all the difference depending on the time of year. I use the Weatherzone app for forecasts and rain radars, WillyWeather for tide times and heights, and the Photographers Ephemeris for sunrise/sunset times and directions. 

10. CHECK YOUR CAMERA EVERY TIME

Every time you pull your camera out, check the settings to make sure they’re correct - ISO 100, F16 and on Manual tends to be my default. Of course it changes depending on what I’m shooting. But how often have I just shot away then realised my ISO is up at 3200 from an astro shoot the right before?? Arghhhh. Get in the habit of checking your camera each time you get it out.

11. LESS IS MORE

One of the most common mistakes I still make is trying to include too much in my photos. If you can get into the habit of including just 2-3 key elements in the frame then your photos will be far superior to most others out there. Wide angle lenses are the biggest culprit. They include too much! It’s very difficult to tie everything together sometimes when you have so much in front of you!

12. WIDE-ANGLE LENSES

The best advice I can give you in using a wide-angle lens is to ensure you have a strong foreground, middle ground and background. Identify these three key elements first, then construct your composition around this. Make sure they are positioned nicely so they all work in together. And make sure you are within 2-3 metres of your foreground otherwise everything is going to seem miles away and lack impact.

13. GET CLOSER

Following on from above, if you photos lack impact, get closer! Your wide-angle lenses push everything back to include so much. So it’s vital that you get closer to your foregrounds so you can see them! And with your longer telephoto lenses, sometimes you’re just not closer enough. Take bird photography for example. We take a shot, thinking it looks great, but then see that the bird looks tiny in the frame. Get closer and if you feel the need to back off, then you’re probably close enough!!!

 

Did you benefit from these? Got something to add? Or perhaps you've got a question to ask me...email me tom@tomputt.com

I'd love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Tom Putt

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