Best 5 Steps to Help you Take Better Landscape Photography

When photographing landscapes, it can sometimes be difficult to produce a an image that is focused in its content, that leads the viewer’s eye exactly where you as the artist want it to go.   Sometimes, even though you may be presented with a beautiful vista, an image may not present itself and you have to work to find it.  Here are five basic steps to help you take better landscape photos. I follow these any time I’m looking to create a landscape image.

1 Find your subject

Sometimes it’s easy. You choose a building, or a rock formation, or a tree, and it all just comes together.  Other times, it becomes more difficult.   Sometimes nothing in particular stands out.  Look around the scene, find something that draws your eye. Look through your viewfinder, and see how things frame up through your camera’s eye.  Once you have found your subject, you have more decisions to make.

Haystack Rock is a fairly obvious subject. But there are myriad options when it comes to photographing it. For this image, I decided to use a tidal pool and some rocks in the foreground, but also wanted to include plenty of sky since there was so much interest in the clouds.

Haystack Rock is a fairly obvious subject. But there are a myriad options when it comes to photographing it. For this image, I decided to use a tidal pool and some rocks in the foreground, but also wanted to include plenty of sky since there was so much interest in the clouds.  The rocks and water create some nice lines leading right to Haystack Rock.  EOS 5D Mark III with EF 14mm f/2.8L II, at f/16, ISO 100.

2 Where is your subject in the composition?

There was no real foreground to speak of here. Just a lot of sand and some uninteresting brush. What I did see was the way the moon was rising between the arms of the saguaro, and the soft gradation from orange to blue as the sun set behind me. Taken with EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, 1/20 @ f/22, ISO 1000.

There was no real foreground to speak of here. Just a lot of sand and some uninteresting brush. What I did see was the way the moon was rising between the arms of the saguaro (cacti), and the soft gradation from orange to blue as the sun set behind me. Taken with EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, 1/20 @ f/22, ISO 1000.

This will partly be dictated by its location in relation to you, but also by what else is in your scene. Look for interest in relation to what you’ve chosen as the subject. Is there an interesting object or pattern in the foreground, which could lead the viewer’s eye to the subject? Is there something in the foreground that frames your subject or otherwise adds interest without being distracting?  I will often use water or rocks in the foreground if I can.  If it’s water, can you get a reflection of your subject in it?  Sometimes it’s leaves, sometimes trees or a fence.

If there is nothing in the foreground, try minimizing it by putting the subject as the foreground, and looking for background interest.  Interesting clouds or sky, buildings, or trees, can all create a backdrop for the landscape. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get both an interesting background AND foreground. These are the times to play with your composition and vary the amounts of foreground and background to see what works best, or what doesn’t work at all.   Generally speaking, if the sky is flat and lacks interest, I will place it in the top third of the frame, using the rule of thirds.  If the foreground lacks interest, I place that in the bottom third.

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