How to photograph landscapes

A lot has been written about landscaping. I do not want to repeat myself, because I will describe the main points here and focus on the problems that I directly encounter when shooting.

Landscape photo

Landscape photo

A very brief guide to photographing landscapes:

  1. Watch the diaphragm, often, you need to close it tightly to F / 5.6-F / 16.0
  2. Keep track of the horizon, the horizon should harmoniously “cut” the frame. Carefully and thoughtfully compose lines and proportions in the frame
  3. Watch out for light sources (the sun)
  4. Enjoy the result
Landscape photo

Landscape photo

As you can see, there is nothing complicated in shooting the landscape. But the problem is to get a high-quality picture, you need to work hard:

  • Landscape implies that you will need to find it. Finding a pretty landscape is not always easy. Very often, when you find a good landscape, there is no camera with you.
  • It is best to shoot in the morning and evening, when there is no “hard” (strong) sun. Shooting in strong and hot sunlight is very difficult.
  • Since it is best to shoot in the morning and evening, and even with closed apertures, you need a tripod. A tripod means extra expenses and extra weight during transportation.
  • To catch good shots, you need an internal sense of harmony, which can either be innate or acquired over a long time photographing.
Landscape photo

Landscape photo

Masters of landscape photography have in their arsenal a very large stock of skills and best practices, it is useless to describe them, since every little thing in cunning will be useful only in one out of a hundred cases, and the person himself must choose how he needs to be removed in a particular situation.

Landscape. The horizon line divides the photo off-center. The sky takes two-thirds of the picture.

Landscape. The horizon line divides the photo off-center. The sky takes two-thirds of the picture.

Setting up the camera for landscape photography

  1. Almost always, the landscape is shot on a closed aperture: F5.6-F36.0. The easiest way to do this is in aperture priority mode.
  2. The ISO value must be set to the minimum: ISO 50, 100, 200, lo1
  3. Color Saturation Adjustment - Maximum
  4. Focusing is best of all - manual, focusing preferably at infinity (on the farthest object)
Landscape photo

Landscape photo

Theory is great, but with practical shooting, all the simplicity vanishes. First, when shooting landscapes, a very serious problem is the effect of overexposure or overexposure of areas in the photo... The most common example is a photo of black earth and white sky. In this case: either the sky will be with details, and the earth will be completely black (dark, without details), or the earth will be normally exposed, but the sky will be strongly lightened (overexposed). This is due to the dynamic range of the camera. A gradient filter helps to solve this problem, which compensates for the difference in the “glow” of the earth and sky. Very often, it is enough to make an amendment exposure in order to "save" the frame a little. For a landscape, it can be very useful polarizing filter.

Landscapes are easy to shoot not on the phone due to the fact that on many phones the lens has a focus on hyperfocal distance

Landscapes are easy to shoot not on the phone due to the fact that on many phones the lens has a focus on hyperfocal distance

Second: landscapes are shot on closed (covered) apertures... On digital-SLR cameras with closed apertures, every speck of dust on the matrix will be visible. This is very unnerving, frustrating and ruining the photo. For example, already on F11 "blots" appear on the matrix (they can be seen in the examples for this article). On the F14, fine dust is already quite visible. You can fight this ailment with the help matrix cleaning, or by lowering the aperture value. It's funny, but ordinary digital cameras (soap dishes) and film cameras are less prone to this ailment. But, soap dishes suffer greatly from diffraction by closed diaphragms.

Landscape photo

Landscape photo

Thirdly: often, by eye it is very it’s difficult to compose a frame, so that the lines fit perfectly into the frame. The horizon line strives to bend. When I shoot hand-held, thoughtfully and attentively, and then look at the footage on the computer, the horizon often "falls" by a couple of degrees. For some plots, even 5 degrees is already an unacceptable error. To overcome the littered horizon, I turn on the "grid" in the viewfinder. The grid draws lines, dividing the frame into 9 or 12 segments, which allows you to immediately see the symmetry in the frame, as well as position the horizon evenly. Almost all Nikon CZKs support the grid. Some cameras have a virtual horizon (for example, D300s), which allows you to control the line. Well, if there are problems with lines at all, then you can crop the image with rotation of the plot in Adobe Photoshop or other editors.

Field. Landscape.

Field. Landscape.

Fourth: for landscapes, most often, need a very wide viewing angle, for this use wide-angle and super wide angle lenses... All “super-widths” have distortion (geometry curvature). Distortion can spoil the picture very much, or it can make it unusual (like, for example, the fish-eye effect). However, the less distortion, the better. Unfortunately, all ultra-wide-angle lenses have this disadvantage. Distortion can be corrected using graphic editors, some cameras have built-in distortion correction for a number of lenses (for example, Nikon D5100) Or, you can shoot with a longer telephoto lens without distortion. Photos of the sky taken at fifty dollars Nikon 50mm F1.8D AF, this lens does not have distortion.

The mountains. Landscape

The mountains. Landscape.

Personal experience:

If I shoot without a tripod, I use S mode (priority excerpts) I usually set the value from 1/80 to 1/200, while I know that the aperture will be very closed when shooting (in good light), which is necessary for the landscape. In poor lighting conditions, I’ll still get a fairly sharp shot without blur, taking it off hand. When I use a tripod, I work in A or M mode (aperture priority or manual mode). With a tripod, long excerpts on closed diaphragms. I rarely shoot landscapes, because this is where my experience ends.

Fog in the mountains

Fog in the mountains

I am often asked, but what is the best aperture for landscape? There is no single answer. Sometimes, to shoot handheld in the evening, F2.8, ISO 800 is enough. And sometimes, to “freeze” the waterfall, you need F / 36.0 ISO 100. By the way, at closed apertures, almost all lenses (and whale ones) give a very sharp image, so that, chasing a specialized landscape lens for home purposes - it makes no sense.

The clouds.

The clouds.

Landscape photography is very complicated if you need to shoot a person against the background of nature. In this case, focusing on infinity will not always help. When shooting people in nature, I also recommend monitoring the placement of objects in the frame, and in some cases, it is better to place the person not in the central area of ​​the image.

Landscape with man

Landscape with man


Shooting a landscape is not difficult, it is difficult to find a good location. In a landscape, the most important thing is the harmony of combinations of lines, shapes, light and shadow. To correctly compose (select) a picture, you just need to go and experiment. In practice, experience comes very quickly.

Do not forget to press the buttons social networks ↓ - it is important for site. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 124, on the topic: How to photograph landscapes

  • Igor

    Thanks. Love your site :)

  • Paul

    Arkady, tell me which Soviet lens to choose for landscape photography? Camera - Canon 1200D. Thanks!

    • Artem

      No! Use whale. When used correctly, most of the plots can be removed. If the budget is modest, for the rest you can buy 55-250 or 50-200 from sigma. Also, the Canon released an extra-budgetary wide-zoom 10-18. From justifies its value with interest.
      Soviet lenses rarely give acceptable sharpness, contrast for the landscape, suffer from chromaticity, and are not resistant to backlight.
      And don't forget the important thing - a stable and reliable tripod! Good luck!

  • Paul

    Artem, I agree, of course, that if you skillfully use a camera, then you can shoot very good landscapes on a DSLR with a whale. You can even use a soap dish, however, it will have fewer opportunities. I asked about Soviet optics because, it seems to me, with its help, and even for its low price, you can get a more natural image. Now you look at many modern landscapes - they are like candy wrappers: shiny, contrasting, polished to the last corner, but somehow lifeless, not natural.

    • Denis

      the manufacturers of Soviet optics for cameras could not know that you were going to shoot the landscape with them in 2017

    • Artem

      It all depends on the processing and shooting technique. Unfortunately, many have a strong opinion from the film past - as the camera shot, it was. Now technology has stepped forward and we can, for example, collect an hdr with elaborate shadows and highlights. Not to be confused with the surreal xdr preset on the machine.
      Soviet and foreign lenses are mostly an artistic tool for works where bokeh, “drawing” are important and sharpness is secondary.
      I once tested the existing manual fifty dollars against the Sumsung lens 20-50 on a 20MP crop for the landscape. It was a failure.

      • Paul

        I have a book-photo album by Russian photographer V.E. Gippenreiter "The Seasons". Photos of nature - landscapes, general and close-ups. I have always liked his photographs. Periodically looked through, then forgot it for a while. During this time I read the forums of photographers, where I often heard about sharpness in photographs. And recently I reopened Gippenreiter's book - and what do I see? Some of the pictures that I liked so much, it turns out, are not always and everywhere sharp. At the same time, I personally still like them, and not a bit less. I wondered why this is so? And I realized that [for me personally] in photography it is more important to convey her mood, in a word - her spirit, and not wrinkles (sharpness / lack of it).

        • Artem

          Everything was limited by the technical capabilities of the camera. This is also evident from other authors. And if you look at the development of these authors, then the technical quality grew with the improvement of technology. Many mammoths switched to digital. This is normal.

  • Paul

    So, of course, but as for Gippenreiter, he basically did not switch to digital. I shot either on the FKD, or (as I read in one article) on film cameras. True, he had foreign cameras, and the optics on the FKD were by no means domestic ...

  • Nicholas

    Thanks for the tips on shooting landscapes. How to make the landscape so that the foreground and background of the picture are in sharpness?

    • Valery A.

      Theoretically, this is how you open the “DOF calculator” on the Internet, enter your shooting data, for example: FR 35mm, distance 10m and several aperture values, say, from f / 4 to f / 16 and read: for f / 5,6 DOF from 5,3 to 81m, and for f / 8 from 4,4m to infinity. You write down, use.

  • Marina

    Great and informative article! Thanks! I still read here I also liked it, maybe someone else will come in handy

  • Lyudmila

    The photos are amazing, but aperture 22 seems unreal

    • Sergey Caesar

      Everything is real, just come to this diaphragm gradually. That is, they saw an interesting story at golden hour or at dawn, deployed a tripod, set the settings and begin to close the diaphragm slowly making a frame by frame. Then come home and look at the computer the result. This way you will know the maximum sharpness threshold of your lens and camera. Since excessive closing of the diaphragm will not lead to sharpening, but to its fall.

      • Dmitriy most lenses are tested, so I noticed that almost all lenses have a sharp drop in sharpness from f11, only the elite fix85 or 24-70 hold up to 16.

        • Onotole

          This cannot be, because the sharpness drop with closing the aperture is _only_ connected with the diffraction threshold (Airy circle and all that), therefore, for the same camera, the sharpness starts to fall with closing the aperture equally on different lenses.
          Perhaps these 85 and 24-70 of yours were tested on a small pixel full frame, the only way to explain this.

  • Lyudmila

    How much I liked the photo from the phone - the blue shadows on the left, I just can't catch them. Or is it photo processing?

  • Dmitriy

    I believe that the depth of field in the landscape is not needed. A person has a depth of field, near and deeply subjective !, somewhere equivalent to f5.6. When you look from the mountain, in the distance not everything is as sharp as in the photo from f16. It is worth going to an exhibition of paintings, some local landscape painter, and you will immediately understand what angle and depth.

    • Onotole

      You have myopia, my friend :)

      But honestly, the task of landscape photography is not to reproduce the picture as the eye sees it, but to reproduce it as the brain remembers it. This means that everything that the viewer is looking at should be sharp (except, well, very distant objects of several kilometers - but this already depends on the transparency of the atmosphere), because this is exactly what happens in life: you look at a blade of grass that is close at hand - it sharp. And the forest 300 meters away is also all sharp, with good eyesight, and on a good day you can see every twig. In photography, this is achievable only at very closed apertures, and at short focal lengths.

      • Andrei

        You cannot simultaneously sharply see the blade of grass to which you can reach and the trees 300 meters away. The human eye cannot. Only what the eye is focused on at the moment will be sharp, the rest will be blurred. Hence the conclusion: the human eye works similarly to the lens with aperture of 4-5,6.

        • Michael

          I can. I turn my eyes from a blade of grass to the forest and my brain remembers a sharp picture on all planes.

          • Dmitriy

            and here I turn my eyes, the photo is a freeze frame, a slice of space and time in the usual angle and sharpness for a person, so everything cannot be sharp, especially the foreground.

            • Michael

              Well, well, check on harmony further with algebra. Good luck

            • Novel

              Blades of grass in the foreground with a bokeh in the background are not landscape photography. Landscape photography is about infinity focus and hole 8-11 to see all the details. Well, a suitable light. And the angle of view is more human, which is why landscapes are filmed at a width of type 14 - 40mm. All this is not at all the way we are used to seeing.

              For a landscape painter, everything may not be as sharp as on f16 (unless it’s a superrealist artist who doesn’t want to write every leaflet), but plus or minus is evenly sharp (except for the background). Because a good landscape is customary to consider.

              • anonym

                Well, here it actually happens in different ways, it all depends mainly on the author's idea. And the focus may not be at infinity and the aperture is 4, and maybe 16. You are right, landscapes are usually examined in full and the connection to the physical parameters of the human eye is nonsense, you need a connection to its perception. And in the overwhelming majority of cases, yes, hyperfocal, a tighter aperture, a wide angle are landscape classics.

        • Valentine

          Andrei, you tell the artists this, cheer them up a bit.

  • Dmitriy

    Arkady correctly noted about harmony, only it cannot be innate, because it depends on the way of life and thoughts.

    • Alexander

      Dmitry, Arkady is just right. To see harmony in the frame is an innate talent! If it is not there, you can spend a lot of time studying the mat part, but there will be no photography. And in order to awaken this talent - the vision of the frame, it is necessary to combine theory with practice, i.e. shoot, shoot and shoot. If after 10000 frames you still do not have an interesting photo, then you have no talent for seeing the frame. And so that you do not get hurt and excruciatingly for the money spent on expensive photography equipment, limit yourself to a budget camera and a whale lens. For shooting landscapes, they are quite suitable, not only for myself, but also for sale, using a multifunctional graphic editor, for example - Adobe Photoshop CC 2017. I use it myself, I like it. I shoot landscapes on a Canon EOS 600D lens - Canon EF-S 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6 III in RAW format, by the way, many people speak and write RAV in Russian, or even funnier - RAF, which is not correct, the word RAW is pronounced as lingering - ROO, and is written the same way.

  • anonym

    A very good site, a lot of the information you need can be found briefly and clearly. Thanks to the Head

  • Maria

    I really like the frame of the city in the article about Nikkor 28mm f2, in general about night shooting of landscapes you can do a separate article.
    It seems to me especially difficult to adjust the white balance in the night city landscape, since there are a lot of light sources, everything at different distances from the camera and objects are highlighted differently, each has its own nature.

    • Michael

      Turn on LIveView, turn the BB to full satisfaction. Then shoot

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№


  • Yuri.

    Thank you. Very informative, especially in the absence of experience.

  • Andrei

    "By the way, at closed apertures, almost all lenses (including the kit lens) give a very sharp image,"

    Alas, this is not so. Whale zoom gives sharpness only at 5.6, at 8.0 sharpness is already lost, and then you can no longer try. And then the more you close the more diffraction.
    Already on f / 22 on the crop, everything is so blurred that only a half megapixel remains. Regardless of the lens.
    To "freeze" the waterfall, it is better to use an ND filter.

    • BB

      The diffraction threshold depends on the megapixel matrix, and more precisely on the physical size of the subpixel, and does not depend on the lens. In fact, the sharpness continues to increase when the aperture closes 1-1.5 steps above the diffraction threshold

  • Stas

    Please explain why you need a fast zoom for landscapes if you need to cover the aperture more?

    • B. R. P.

      Not needed. Fix is ​​preferable.

    • Viktre

      And who said that to shoot any landscape you need a fast zoom?

      For night landscapes with stars - yes, it is desirable, but then a faster fix is ​​better. Well, or evening, useful when there is no tripod and the stabilizer has not been delivered (or it does not compensate for shaking)

      And in other cases, do not care.

  • Nadin

    All the good days!
    Please recommend an inexpensive but acceptable quality tripod for a SLR camera and a telephoto lens. What should you pay attention to when choosing a tripod, besides the potential load?

    • Basil

      Strength, vibration resistance, smooth head rotation in all planes, ease of use, weight. As a general rule, the more solid and heavier, the better the stability, but you will have to “drag” it on yourself. Well, if not far from the car. (By the way, be sure to use the preliminary rise of the mirror in the camera). A flimsy tripod will tremble and vibrate from the slightest breeze. Sometimes an additional weight suspended from a tripod helps. Lightweight and durable - this is the PRICE! If possible, get (buy) a geodetic tripod (it can be much cheaper), but you need to slightly modify the fasteners for the camera. But thoroughly and “deadly”! it was designed for this.

  • Alice

    Hello! Please tell me about the gradient filter. They sell filters of different colors; is gray suitable for darkening too bright areas of the frame?

    • Alexey

      Gray is just what you need. Colored ones are a joke; you can color the sky in Lightroom. But sometimes you need to reduce its brightness.
      Although the gray filter is usually not as gray as it seems))

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