While the intelligence of your camera is pretty phenomenal, it still won’t creatively think for itself. When it comes to Landscape photography, there are significant ways you can improve your shots by understanding these tips. We explore compositional and technical secrets that will let you capture those intimidating vast landscapes with your camera.
1. Understand Natural Light
Being aware of qualities of natural light such as direction, intensity, and color allows you to better plan and utilize natural light in your landscape photography.
Intensity of Light
Around the noon hour, the sun is high in the sky and light can be tough and cast horrible shadows. The noon hour is for scouting out locations, not so much for shooting. Unless you’re going to use the high sun to intentionally play with shadows, you should probably avoid this hour. The best times for photographing landscapes are just after sunrise and before sunset. You will find the light is much more pleasing and easier to work with. This is called the Golden Hour. Partially cloudy days are also great because they cast soft and diffused light. A simple exercise to learn about intensity is to photograph the same landscape scene during the golden hours and high noon. You will notice a significant change in color and quality.
Sunrise golden hour is great for capturing landscape photos
Direction of Light
This quality refers to where the light is placed. Relative to your subject, light can come from the side, back, or front. Front produces great subject exposure. Back produces great silhouettes. And side lighting can be great for bringing out shadows and textures of your subject. Playing with the direction of lighting can be a lot of fun! Find an object in the front of your landscape and play with different angles and times of day to see how the direction of light makes a big difference. If you want to understand this concept find a dark room, place a baseball or hardboiled egg on a table and use a flashlight to go around the object. You’ll see how light exposes and cast shadows in different ways and directions. It’s a very simple exercise that will help with improving your images.
Light direction can influence your landscape photos greatly.
Color of Light
Sunlight’s Kelvin value (it’s color) changes throughout the day. During the morning and afternoon Golden Hour, the Sun will have a warmer and golden cast to it. This lighting is perfect for capturing dramatic landscape scenes. Try finding a body of water with surrounding trees, or a beach with multiple objects, and test this out by using the same settings morning, mid-afternoon, and evening. You will see a big difference in colors between the golden hours and all others.
The golden cast on this landscape gives it a warm and inviting feel. A photo by Glen Jackson
Understanding how natural light interacts with your subject or scenery will develop your creativity to new levels and dramatically improve your images. You’ll start to see the beauty of light in a different and exciting way. Try using both light and shadows to create your landscape image. Resist the temptation to only photograph the scenes that are well lit.