Landscape photography is one of the most challenging and most rewarding hobbies a person can have. One of the things I like most about it is that there is always more to learn. It keeps our brains active! Between learning about what type of gear you need, how to use it, understanding light and composition, and learning to process your photos, you will quickly come to the realization that making a striking landscape photograph involves a number of essential ingredients.
The goal of this guide is to touch on each of these essential ingredients because you need to know a little about each one before you’ll start making the quality of images you are after.
My journey in landscape photography began 25 years ago, and since then I’ve constantly thought about what makes a truly great landscape image. I hope that you will take what I have learned over the past 25 years and use it to jump start your own journey in photography and start making striking images you are proud of.
I want to emphasize that gear is not the most important factor in landscape photography. The other chapters outlined in this guide are all more important when it comes to making striking images. However, you do need some gear, and it can be hard to make the right choices when you are just getting started. This chapter will help you understand the most important things to look for when buying your gear.
There are three basic categories of digital cameras: point-and-shoot; digital single lens reflex (DSLR); and mirrorless.
Point and shoot cameras are the small digital cameras that most people start with. These cameras do not have interchangeable lenses, and they have tiny sensors that have limited image quality. Point-and-shoots are used for making snapshots. If you are getting serious about your photography, you’ll want a camera that has a bigger sensor for better image quality, manual functions, and one that accepts a variety of different lenses.
DSLRs are the most popular type of camera for landscape photography for a number of reasons. They allow you to shoot in RAW format for maximum data capture (more about that later). They have a variety of shooting modes including fully manual. DSLRs have large sensors and you can use a huge variety of lenses with them.
Sensor sizeMirrorless cameras are relatively new technology. They have all the same features as a DSLR, but they don’t have the internal mechanism that includes the mirror, which is why the camera bodies are smaller and lighter. However, they are not cheaper! But if weight and size are important factors to you, you may want to check out a mirrorless system.
When it comes to image quality, the only thing you should concern yourself with is sensor size. Megapixels are not nearly as important as sensor size.
The largest sensor is known as a Full frame because it is the same size as a 35mm film negative. You’ll pay the highest price for a system with a full frame sensor, whether it is a DSLR or mirrorless system.
Sensor sizes smaller than full frame are known as Cropped (or Crop) Sensors. The largest cropped sensor is an APS size. You’ll find a wide variety of cameras with these types of sensors at a more affordable price.
The next smaller size is the four-thirds sensor. There are actually quite a number of sensor sizes in between the three I have mentioned, but these are the most common. Sensors smaller than these three are what you find in point-and-shoots and mobile phone cameras.
Personally, I use a mirrorless camera with an APS sensor for my landscape photography because the weight of the kit makes a huge difference for me when carrying my gear on long hikes.
I recommend that when you are choosing a camera, you pick the sensor size you can afford, then choose the camera that feels good in your hands and has a menu system that makes sense to you. These days, all of the DSLR and mirrorless cameras available are capable of making great images so don’t worry about whether Canon, Nikon, Sony or another brand is better. They are all good.