Shoot Landscapes like a Pro!

These are tips that I've learnt, read about or remembered from conversations / emails from people I've met....these tips work for me...I'm sharing them here in case they work for you too...


I’m not going to say equipment doesn’t matter – it does to some extent provided you have the skills.

If money is no object get the best FF camera, the best wide angle, throw in an UWA as well.

Get the most stable and lightest tripod possible, the best filters you can get (CPL, GNDs, NDs etc), unscrew and throw away your UV filter, keep your camera remote with you.

Don’t forget – a torch with batteries which have been charged, water and some snacks / biscuits etc (no don’t leave the plastic behind after you are done with your photos)

Make a pre shoot checklist

Shoot using the highest settings available in your camera

- RAW / best resolution / highest megapixel settings etc

- Turn stuff like dynamic range etc off

- Shoot at the optimum ISO (in not saying lowest as cameras these days allow you to set the ISO lower than the base ISO..example the normal ISO for a D90 is 200 however you can set it lower too)

- Throw away your kit lens

If possible put something better in front of your camera. I’ve used a number of kit lenses and got keepers but I personally feel that pics look better if shot with better lenses. Apart from the pic looking better, it also looks different from everyone else’s if you use a focal length that’s not between the range of 18mm to 55mm.

- Use lenses like a 8mm, 10-20, 16 something, 20mm 2.8, 28mm 2.8, 90mm 2.8 etc if you want the pic to look a bit different from what that rich techie kid with his first DSLR has


You need to visualize the image before you trip the shutter.

Everything that looks good to you in real life will not look good in a photograph if you just point the camera in the right direction and press the button…unless if you are really lucky.

• What are you trying to capture or convey?

• Is there a story?

• Don’t just point and shoot – think about what the final output is going to look like

• Think about composition, leading lines, shapes, patterns, horizon placement, etc

• What colours will the pic look good in? Vivid? Filters?

• Would B&W look better?

• Is there enough drama in the sky to include a good portion of the sky or should you move the camera a bit lower and keep more of the foreground? The easiest way to spoil a good pic is to have a dull sky

• Is the horizon straight?

• Are there any unwanted objects that are spoiling the pic – wires, telegraph poles, garbage, beer bottles, cars etc etc

• Is there drama? In the colours or the sky? If not - dont press the shutter.


Look for –

1) Foreground objects (a bit more on this later) – these will add some more appeal to the pic

2) Background / middle / forground – if you’ve got all 3 in the pic then it will make your photo look better than a normal 2 dimensional image…it will give it a feeling of depth .

3) Patterns – look for patterns on plains, hills, trees etc

4) Layers - especially if you are shooting mountain ranges

5) Lines - the sort of lines that lead into the pic and not telephone lines. Google leading lines for more details

6) Minimilistic / negative space – will do a write up on this later…for now use google or just forget about this point

Anchor points

Landscapes usually need some foreground object / anchor points to look better.

Search for trees or rocks or a hut or something which can be used to your advantage.

An empty landscape may look good…but one with anchors and objects if used correctly will look better.


Focus in the lower half of the image…meaning somewhere between the bottom of the frame and the half way mark.

Don’t ask me why..i don’t know why but the pic looks better when you focus in this place.

Do not focus on the horizon.

There is a longer technical answer as to why you should focus there and that deals with math and hyper-focal distance but ignore it for now…..focussing at the place I mentioned works for most of the pics.

If you are really keen on getting into details then you can read some more or perhaps chat off line during one of our club meets.

I always use manual focus as I’ve got a few filters in front of the lens which make the auto focus hunt, It’s also difficult to set focus lock in dim light, long exposures etc.

I’m also used to older lenses which don’t auto focus. So the best thing for me is to look at the lens / distance and set the focus manually.

Since you are shooting at smaller apertures the focusing will not be all that difficult.

When the auto focus is on it can be quite annoying when you are shooting the setting sun and you camera starts hunting for focus (it will keep hunting more and more as the sun disappears) just when you’ve got that timing right.

If needed you can plan in advance, use auto foucs – lock it and then turn it off.

Keep shooting the sun till it goes down without bothering about the camera hunting.

Don’t stop shooting after sunset…’ll get magical colours after the sun disappears.


Is the light just right?

Is it the sort of light you want?

If it’s not the way you want it – don’t take the photograph unless you are happy with mediocre photos.

There are times when I’ve visited a particular location quite a few times – I’ve come back without any pics because the light wasn’t right.

The wifey does get annoyed “where the f*** were you? If you went for photography then where the hell are the bloody photos”.

If you’ve got a similar situation at home do what I do – ignore her :p

Don’t take normal boring photos – everyone has them.

Wait for that out of this world light kind of a situation.


Check the sunrise and sunset time before you get to your location….there are lots of websites and apps that can do this for you.

Shoot at sunrise and sunset - don’t shoot at any other time unless you are in some place where you can get amazing colours, tones, shades and photographs in the afternoon.

And if you do happen to be in a place where things are magical (from a photography perspective ) at all hours of the day please settle down there…and keep taking pics.

Okay I’m not saying you can’t get good photos in the afternoon ….maybe you can if its cloudy and the sun isn’t out and its foggy or the weather is stormy etc ..But it’s easier to get great photos at sunrise and sunset when the weather is normal.

Afternoons are very important (no Brendon..not for sleeping or drinking).

Use them to look around and choose your location. Use the afternoon to find the perfect spot where you will get the sunrise / sunset pic you want.

Visualize the scene and look for what you want to include in the pic…what needs to be left out.

What equipment will be needed? I keep reading about people saying you need to enjoy the view etc…this is possible if you’ve reached your location in advance.

In my humble opinion the usual shooting window is quite small so you can either focus on getting the pic you want or wander around enjoying the view.

If you sit there to enjoy the sunset you will miss the shot.It’s difficult to do both – if you know how to do this please let me know...I don’t. To get around this – I usually enjoy the view through the viewfinder…

Number of photos

If I get 1 good photo in a day – I consider that as time well spent.

I feel it’s better to have one photograph that makes you go “wow” instead of having ten normal pics.

To get this one photo that makes you go wow you may have to take quite a few pics if you are not sure of your settings, not sure if the sun is just right etc.

Don’t worry if someone going through the pics on the camera LCD says why the hell have you taken so many pics of the same location? You need one killer shot…if that needs you to take 20 pics take them.

Learn to go easy on the shutter. I usually press the shutter only if I’m really sure I need the pic and I'm sure of the settings….i sometimes go wrong so need to tweak the settings and press the shutter again.

Remember you are there not to show people “I was here”…you’re there because you are in search of that one perfect photograph that will make the entire trip worthwhile.

Lens Flare

Use a hood…or better still use the lens flare to your advantage…this is a personal choice but I like pics with some lens flare

Long exposures

Work really well but remember that trees and even your tripod can move if its windy…it usually is windy when you are on top of a mountain.


I usually google for photos from a place Im headed to – this gives me an idea of the type of pics which are possible…even average shots from a point and shoot taken by tourists can give you some sort of an idea of what the place looks like.

I also use google to figure out what are the best places to get a sunrise of sunset – locals in India call these places “points”. Example – sunset point.

I go to this place in the afternoon and then look around for a better view….its usually a place or hill that’s near the popular “point” however is difficult to reach / access, terrain that’s a bit risky if you are stupid, doesn’t have stalls for tourists and hence most people give it a miss.

That’s exactly the sort of place which will give you the photos you want.

It will involve a bit of walking, trekking, climbing…but the photo will be worth the effort.

Note – most of these places will have a problem with mobile network. Please tell someone where you are going.

Also remember – you need to head back home after shooting the sunset in the dark – so you need to go to a place from where you can get home.

Unless you happen to be really brave or stupid or like spending a rainy cold night out in the open on the top of a hill in the middle of no where.


Mine is'll have to figure out a way that works best for you.

What I can safely say is if you go with the metering the camera has suggested without tweaking it you wont end up with that one perfect shot I mentioned earlier.

Ignore the camera meter – or read it to your advantage.

The camera meter will try and give you a “normal” exposure. Normal usually means boring.

That’s what our rich techie friend with his first DSLR shooting in auto mode is going to get.

That’s not the pic you want right? Learn to get “incorrect” exposures that portray things in a more dramatic manner.

Carry your music with you – or poetry …whatever helps you shoot better.

Leave your friends at home or tell them to shut the f*** up till you finish shooting.

Do not get distracted by chicks in short skirts :p

Take a macro and zoom lens along – shoot some flowers or birds or some prop / toy if you don’t get the perfect light you were waiting for. (this is especially important if you've got a suspicions girl friend who needs proof that you really went out for photography and not with some other babe. Its also important if ur suffering from --- and may get depressed if u don't get something to post on Facebook "today"!! :p

Perspective / Orientation – yes …take the normal landscape pic..but also try out crouching low and getting one through the grass..also try a pic in portrait orientation.

Just for kicks take a pic that you can later make into a square frame…yes the kinds that used to be available in the good old days.

Stick to the rules – all of them…about horizon placement, rule of thirds etc etc..these are “safe” pics which you know will work…then break them…try a few different shots.

Challenge yourself to break rules once you've got your "safe" shot....example - take a pic with the horizon in the centre in such a manner that the pic still looks good.

Cropping – don’t crop. End of the story.

Try and get everything right before pressing the shutter.

Crop or straighten the horizon only if it’s the only way possible way you have to save an image.

There’s nothing unholy about cropping (maybe there depends on your religion) but it definitely will result in reduced quality.

I had to straighten this pic as i had held the camera in level with the ground...forgot that on a hill the place where you are standing isnt really level ground so the end result was a bit tilted

Aperture – a question often asked is whats the best aperture for landscapes.

The short answer - f11

The long answer is something that’s higher than f8 and not more than f16.

Sometimes..just sometimes you may be able to get away with something higher than f16..Something like f22 maybe…it depends on how large you want to print, what sort of sharpness you are looking for and the type of pic you are taking.

For more details google “defraction”.


Short answer – NO :D

Long answer - Show us you can shoot proper landscapes first and we’ll be happy to discuss HDR landscapes later

Avoid post processing problems

These usually ruin a good landscape photo...

1) Banding - look at the the top half of the pic...and check if you see banding. This occurs if you tweak things too much while post processing.

2) Halos around the edges of the treeline, mountain ranges - some amount of what appears to be a halo will appear if the sunlight is behind the hill...this is different from the halo that will appear due to over-sharpening of a pic. Will also occur if you over do the bringing out details bit in post processing.

3) Noise - this is different from grains...grains are beautiful...noise is ugly. You can add some grains to prevent banding..but dont over do it.

  • Red October
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