My favorite kind of photography is landscape photography. Especially nature. There is something magical in capturing nature, from the vast and magnificent beauties of the world to the tiniest details. There is really no end to what you can capture.
Amateurs and professionals alike have found themselves captivated and drawn towards landscape photography. However, besides skill and talent, there is another factor at play with landscape photography and that is Mother Nature. Sometimes the weather can turn bad very quickly ruining every chance of you getting the shot you wanted. Or fog can obscure everything not letting you even see the subject let alone get a good shot of it. Yet those challenges are part of what makes the rewards so great. When you get the perfect shot it is such a great feeling. Here are some tips that help me when I am taking landscape photos.
1. Be Prepared
First things first. Always be prepared to shoot in any condition so make sure to have all your equipment stored in a waterproof bag. Make sure to have lots of battery as depending on conditions you may have to take many shots to get the one you want. Always check ahead for the forecast to see if conditions will be as you want them. But know things can always change - that is the challenge of Mother Nature
Try to research ahead of the time the best places to go. Then once you get to the location try and scout out the area looking for the best angles. I can’t tell you how many times I have spent quite a bot of time trying to get a shot and then as I am leaving realize that there is a much better angle than the shot I had taken. Sometimes I take test shots in multiple areas to give me an idea of the kind of results I can expect from that place
A tripod is essential, yes even with mobile photography. I highly recommend getting something small and compact like this one. If you ever want to take a shot with slow shutter speed or a long exposure shot it is crucial to have a tripod. A good example is running water is a popular shot that requires a slower shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed the more the camera will pick up every little movement.
Another little tool that is very helpful is a filter. No, I don’t mean Instagram type filters. I mean a physical filter that goes over your camera lens. These are very helpful at filtering out excess light. Here is the filter that I use. To learn more about filters and why you need them, check out this tutorial for beginners.
5. Wide-Angle Lens
Almost all new smartphones have multiple lenses. One of these lenses is commonly a wide-angle lens. This lens will give you a much broader shot. This is extremely helpful in capturing great expenses like mountains and will give you a feeling of more open space. They also tend to give greater depth to the photo. Lastly, they let in more light as they are a larger lens and therefore can take faster shutter speeds.
6. Long Exposure
A classic shot involves running water for example a waterfall. When you slow the shutter speed down it creates a cool effect with water where it looks like a smooth white flow of water. Here are some helpful tips for shooting great waterfall shots. Another use case is when lighting is low and you want to let more light in, you can slow the shutter speed down to get the right amount of light.
In nature and cities alike there is lots of movement, from birds to cars to the clouds and sun. As just mentioned sometimes you want to slow down your shutter speed to create cool effects with water or moving cars but sometimes you want to capture a moving object in all its glory and for that, you need your shutter speed to be as fast as it can. Make sure that you have good bright lighting as when you increase the shutter speed you reduce the amount of light let in.
Choosing the correct depth of field is very important in landscape photography. Most landscape photos have as many of the elements in the shot in focus in order to create a sense of depth. Playing around with this will give you very unique shots. Try focusing on something close up in the foreground and have the background blurred and vice versa.
Utilizing reflections is a great way to create a unique perspective and an extra dimension to your photos. In nature try using water to get a good reflection. In cities, you can use glass and mirrors. The best time for these shots is usually the first hour of the day and the last before sunset. If your shots are too dark try increasing your ISO.
Lighting is one of the most important factors in every shot. You can have the best location and the most beautiful scenery but if the lighting is off the whole shot can be ruined. The first and last light of the day are said to be the best with the harshest light right in the middle of the day. Now the challenge of landscape photography is adapting and be able to take those shots even when the lighting isn’t perfect
Some shots look best with the main subject perfectly center and some will look better with it offset. This is where the rule of thirds comes into play. To use the rule of thirds, imagine four lines, two running horizontally across the image and two vertical creating nine even squares. Most phones have the option to display this grid on the screen, check the camera settings for this feature, If you want to center the subject you place the subject in the center square, and if you want to apply the rule of thirds then place the subject so that its center is aligned with one of the intersections between a vertical line and a horizontal line. The idea is that an off-center composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than one where the subject is placed right in the middle of the frame.
A key ingredient is to be patient. With Mother Nature, there is a lot of unpredictability and therefore it is important to be flexible and patient in order to get the most of your shoot. You’ll be amazed at how many times a single element gets in the way be it the clouds or wind. Try to plan ahead as much as possible to cut down on these inconveniences and always leave plenty of time to get the best possible shot.
13. Pro Mode
Most people using mobile phones for photography don’t know their phone has a pro or manual mode or don’t know enough about how to use it. I am not going to go into depth in the post (I’ll save that for a separate post in the future) but in short pro mode allows you to control shutter speed, ISO, focus and many more things that are critical as mentioned above to help you get the best shot possible.
14. Be Creative
Lastly, it is important to remember that despite all these rules and tips you need to be creative and try new things. Experiment and bend the rules. As the American photographer Ansel Adams said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs”.