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5 Tips for Landscape Photography

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by Alicia Strous (subscribe)
I am a Science student with more hobbies than university subjects.
Published March 1st 2013
Easy methods to improve your photography
Taking a picture adds a border to what we see and reshapes the landscape. We see the photograph differently to how the original panorama presented itself, and it often looks worse. However, there are things the photographer can do to turn a holiday snapshot into a memorable image that reflects what you saw at the time.

city night long exposure landscape
Adelaide by night, using the rule of thirds to portray the views accurately.

1. Follow the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is based upon the idea that putting the main subject to one side of the image, rather than in the middle, leaves more room for the eyes to travel and makes it more interesting. A dead-center picture becomes boring quickly, unless there is strong symmetry or colour to hold the viewer's attention.

Most cameras come with a grid that lays over the image on the LCD screen: it annoys everyone who does not know what it is, and many who do. It can often be turned on or off with a display button. Two lines divide up the horizontal and vertical axes, and can easily be used to make a better photo. If you have a person as a subject, place them on either the left or the right line, and have them face into the middle of the photo slightly.

When shooting a landscape, place the horizon on one of the horizontal lines, leaving the largest space (two-thirds of the image) for the more interesting part. For example, if the sky is dull, compose so that two-thirds of the image is of land.

rule of thirds photo rules photography beach sky landscape
The rule of thirds is followed by the positioning of the horizon and the person.

2. Find an interesting foreground
Using local plants, rocks, jetties, people or anything else you can find for the foreground helps to give the image depth (make it look more 3D) and create interest and context. These details give insight into the time of year, location, country and really help to turn a simple holiday snap into a photograph.

You can only have so many images of the same sunset as it progresses over one night in a holiday picture album. So change the foreground and you can take a lot of varied images throughout the same sunset.

rule of thirds photo rules photography beach sky landscape
Plants and rocks in the foreground give texture and interest to the beach, which is a part of the Coorong in SA.

3. Don't clutter the frame
This means having only one subject. Maybe a few supporting elements. Each should be included for a reason, and avoid brightly coloured things like signs and bins that might distract they can be worse than a clutter of subjects at drawing the attention away from the main subject.

rule of thirds photo rules photography beach sky landscape
To me, this image is too cluttered. The subject ought to be the movement of the water over the rocks, but there is no particular point of interest.

Be very clear what you are taking a photo of, before you press the shutter. Standing somewhere different, changing angles, and zooming in are some easy ways to take control.

4. Use a large depth of field
Depth of field refers to the distance of an image that is in sharp focus. This is controlled by the camera's aperture, and without going into detail on this, this can be easily done by using the automatic settings and switching the dial or selecting it under a menu to 'Landscape'. If you know more about manual exposing, use the Av (Aperture value) setting and dial in a high number, such as f9 or f11.

A large depth of field ensures everything is in focus, which is how our brains usually perceive the world (even though our eyes do not). This makes the image sharp and keeps it more realistic.

seagull beach Victor Harbour pier jetty landscape image
The large aperture keeps everything sharp and in focus from the seagull in the foreground to the distant area of Victor Harbour.

5. Utilise a tripod
Getting a large depth of field darkens the exposure, so the shutter speed will become slower to compensate. Using a tripod prevents camera shake or blurry photos. Any stable surface can serve as a tripod, from a beanbag to a backpack to a wall to an empty shoe.

rule of thirds photo rules photography beach sky landscape
Using a tripod also allows for long exposures, which smooths the water into mist. Note the use of the rule of thirds and the rocks in the foreground.

These 5 tips will help you protray that beautiful holiday like it really was rather than how it is seen through a camera. No big DSLR is needed to improve your photos, just a little knowledge.
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Your Comment
Loved your tips Alicia. Now if I can just remember them before I press the button :-)
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 2708 days ago
Great piece of article!
by yohan (score: 0|3) 2710 days ago
I liked this article. Well written and easy to understand. I am looking forward to applying these rules to improve my photos.
by jillr1 (score: 1|48) 2708 days ago
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