As photographers, we know that there are literally hundreds of small things that need to be done in each scene, that add up to the final magnificent shot. There are lots of details to remember, but there often some obvious things that have been forgotten. These are the common mistakes I see in many landscape images. In today’s article, we found landscape photography mistakes make so you can avoid them and improve your images.
1. Not Using the Correct Camera Settings for Landscape Photography
Learning to use the correct camera settings on your camera is a very important step.
Many cameras have the default landscape mode. As a new photographer, this might seem the logical setting to use when it comes to landscape photography. But you’re handing over control of the photograph to your camera.
You want to be in control of your camera, not the other way around.
- Aperture – In most cases you’ll want sharp focus across your frame for a landscape photo. Your landscape photo will be taken at f/8 or f/11, generally. Depending on your lens. you will have a different aperture sweet spot for best sharpness. Find out what that is and then use this as your setting.
- Shutter speed – Shutter speed is less important for landscape photos. Until you’re photographing moving traffic or running water. Then you will want to use a slow shutter speed. To achieve this you’ll need to photograph in the blue hour or later, or for the daytime you’ll need an ND filter.
2. Not Learning the Post-Processing Techniques
The idea that you can get the best photos straight out of the camera is false. You should aim to get the best result you can before needing to use further post-processing. But all photos will benefit from editing them.
In landscape photography, there are a few steps that you should follow to get the best results.
- Digital blending – A lot of landscape photo will be taken towards the sun. This can result in either a blown-out sky or a foreground that’s too dark. Correct this by bracketing your photos. Then blend them together using luminosity masks. This will result in one image correctly exposed across the frame.
- Enhancements – Adding or removing contrast, saturation and vibrancy will affect the mood of your photo.
- Sharpness – You can achieve greater sharpness using sharpening programs like NIK sharpener pro. Sharper photos will stand out much more.
- Noise – Post-processing can actually add noise to your photo, especially programs that sharpen. Use noise reduction programs like noise ninja or NIK Define to selectively remove this noise.
3. Thinking You Can Take That Photo Later
There are many things you can plan ahead for in photography. That spontaneous moment is what gives your photography the special sauce that will elevate it though.
When something catches your eye there is a reason for that, and you need to be in that moment to capture it. Stop the car you’re driving and take the time to unpack your camera while you’re hiking. Set the tripod up to get the best photo.
So what are these transient moments that you need to take advantage of?
- People or animals – These will almost certainly not be in the same place on a revisit. If their presence makes the photo, make sure you take that photo.
- The weather – Eventually the weather will repeat, but you’ll be waiting for a long time for this to happen. If you see morning mist, rays of light coming through dramatic clouds, or a rainbow it’s time to stop and get the camera out.
4. Not Returning to a Previous Location
When a location is on the other side of the world, the logistics of returning are not favourable. That’s not the case when it comes to your own area though, where you can and should revisit.
Your photography will evolve with time. You’ll pick up different equipment, learn new ways to process images.
When you return to a previous location, you’ll also know the go-to spots already. You can re-use those, or go and find somewhere new knowing you have a backup location you could photograph from.
Photographing from the same location is also a great yardstick to measure your improvement as a photographer from year to year.
5. Using Angles as Every Other Photographer
There is often a great angle or viewpoint that every photographer visits. There’s no reason you shouldn’t also take photos from this position. But it won’t get you the most creative results.
Instead, visit a famous landmark. Study it for other potential angles or ways you can take a photo to make it more unique.
It may not take much to get something different from other photographers, so try out these ideas.
- Creative technique – Adding something different to your scene by using infrared filters, or a lensball!
- Vertical orientation – Many landscape photos are taken horizontally. Try changing it up by using a vertical orientation. See how you can frame that differently to the normal photo.
- Exploring nearby – Take a walk away from the tried and trusted angle. You can find your own point of view, and get an equally striking photo of a famous location.
6. Not Checking Local Conditions on the Day
You can plan everything ahead of time, but one thing that’s more difficult to plan is the weather on the day. You’ll need some luck when it comes to this. If you have several days available to visit a location you could then plan to visit when the weather is at its best.
Look to check your local weather forecast online, or through an app like windy.com. These services offer up to the minute satellite imagery giving you the location of clouds, rain and thunderstorms.
This can be used to decide whether visiting a place is a good idea on any given day. Another local condition that you will need to think about if you’re a coastal photographer is the tide. You can plan this ahead of time by checking a local tide timetable.
7. Getting the Horizon Line Wrong
If you’re not patient when taking a landscape photo it’s easy to get the horizon line wrong. Landscape photographers will use a wide-angle lens.
With these lenses, it’s even easier to get the horizon line wrong. There are several methods available to you that can fix this problem though.
- Electronic level – Use the built-in electronic level sensor, with a digital display on your viewfinder.
- Bubble level – A lot of tripods come with a bubble level, which can be used to make sure your camera is level.
- Post-processing – If you happen to have a good photo that you got the horizon crooked on then there is still hope. You can straighten the horizon using almost any post-processing software. But you will lose some detail on the edge of the image to do this.
8. Not Including a Main Subject
One of the most important things you can do is include a main subject in your photo. A main subject will ground your landscape photo and give it a narrative.
You still need to look for good composition when placing the main subject within your scene. Things like following the rule of thirds and leading lines can help emphasize your main subject.
The following are examples of good main subjects in a landscape photo.
- A lone tree – A classic in landscape photography. This can provide interest as it changes through the seasons.
- A lighthouse – A favourite for coastal photographers. It’s a great way of adding narrative to what are usually minimalist coastal scenes.
- A person – A fisherman, or someone silhouetted against the horizon can add to the story. It also gives your landscape a sense of scale.
9. Not Bringing a Tripod
If you’re taking landscape photography seriously you’ll always have a tripod with you. Not a lightweight shaky tripod either, one that will stay still.
Having a tripod is important for many reasons.
- Long exposure – Using long exposure for landscape photography can add much more drama.
- Bracketing – Many landscape photos benefit from a post-processing technique called digital blending. You’ll need a series of bracketed photos of different exposure values.
- Sharper images – Using a tripod will get rid of any chance of camera shake. If you’re using a sturdy tripod that is.
10. Photographing at the Wrong Time of Year
There is nothing worse than getting to a location at the wrong time of year. There are landscapes that come alive with the seasons. Think of the transformative effect of all those autumn leaves could have on a place.
Are there other seasonal shifts that you should be aware of? Of course, and below are a list of these that you should keep in mind.
Use the internet to research these seasonal shifts. If possible, look for the date a previous photo was taken so you can aim to get the same conditions.
- Milky Way – In the northern hemisphere Milky Way season runs from around March until September. This is a nighttime photo. It shifts from an early morning photo to a late evening photo as the season progresses. You need to know where the Milky Way will be in the sky, as this will also shift. Check out the Photo Pills app for help here.
- The sun angle – There is a reason Stonehenge’s pillars line up the way they do. That’s because they record the angle of the sun as the year progresses. The sun’s angle can have a dramatic effect on your photo. Knowing when to visit a location when the sun angle is most interesting is important.
- The seasons – You might be in a temperate location with four seasons, or in the tropics where there is a dry and a monsoon season. The local changes these seasons can bring to landscape photography could make or break your photo.
- Agriculture – Related to the change of seasons is the way agriculture can transform. Things like rice paddies look great with the many reflection pools they have in spring. The golden yellows of the fully groan paddies in autumn ahead of harvest are also beautiful. Knowing when the harvest will be is important.