If you’ve ever had to look through a friend’s vacation pictures, you likely already know that landscape photography can be incredibly boring. Out in the world are too many indistinguishable photographs of well-known landscapes: mesas in the American southwest, the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco skyline, any waterfall – you get the idea. As a photography instructor (okay, my dad) once told me, “You’re not Ansel Adams, so don’t try to be him.” Harsh, but correct. As soon as I realized I needed to find a different way of approaching landscapes, my landscape photography improved dramatically. Here are ten tips to help you take your own landscape images to the next level.

1. Avoid a flat, boring landscape

While any type of landscape that you find interesting has the potential to be a good photograph, this is not true of every landscape at every time of day. Imagine an early afternoon during which you come across a massive field of poppies, complete with snow-capped mountains in the background. The scene is gorgeous, but when you snap the photograph, the result is flat and underwhelming. You return to the poppy field a few hours later, when the slowly setting sun is reflecting beautifully off the tips of the orange flowers. You snap another photo and the result is entirely different. This time, the colors are much more vibrant, and the highlights from the setting sun have provided a unique element to your photo. Sometimes, the key to a great landscape photo is waiting for the right time of day, and the right kind of lighting.

2. Add a surprise element to your landscape

Add a surprise element to your landscape, such as an elongated shadow in your photo of a sun setting over the ocean. Not every landscape photo need be devoid of everything but natural elements, so be creative and keep your eyes open for unique opportunities.

3. Focus on nearer images and blur out the background

Using a shallower depth of field (DOF) to essentially blur out the background of your image might seem opposite of what most obviously characterizes landscape photography, but doing so can also create a far more interesting photograph. Think of the flat-topped mesas in the American southwest. We all know what they look like, because we’ve all seen a million photos of them. If you were to use a shallower DOF to shoot a cluster of wildflowers, your resulting photograph would be focused wildflowers in the foreground, and the blurred – yet unmistakeable – shape of the beautiful mesas in the background.

Landscape Photography Flowers

4. Incorporate man-made structures

It’s easy to forget that there is nothing in the Landscape Photography Rulebook that says we are only allowed to use natural environments in our landscape photos. Therefore, break the mold and incorporate some man-made structures to contrast with the natural landscape: a wooden dock in your waterscape, a rusted bus in the overgrown meadow, or a tent in front of a mountain range.

5. Strive for an unconventional view

If time and resources allow, think of unconventional ways in which you can photograph conventional scenery. For example, a coastline sure looks different from the air than it does from a boat or from the ground. The waves of sand dunes in the Namib desert look different photographed from a dune’s highest point than they do photographed from the dune’s lowest point. Once you find a landscape that interests you, walk around and look from different angles and viewpoints. By doing so, you’re likely to find a unique way of looking at something otherwise seen a hundred times before.

6. Experiment with different lenses

Traditional wide-angle lenses may be considered the go-to for landscape photography, but shouldn’t be considered your only option. A 70-200mm is a flexible choice of lens because it has the ability to go to from short to full telephoto and can capture the smaller details of a landscape. To really switch it up, experiment with a fish-eye lens. Especially effective for special effects photography, this ultra-wide angle lens will distort any line not running through the center of the lens.

7. Look for natural elements of composition

Natural elements of composition, such as an s-curve (a road traveling up a hill, a stream meandering through a forest landscape), receding lines (eroded rocks of a coastline), or layers (a field of poppies below a mountain range below a clear blue sky). Elements such as these are pleasing to the eye, and will draw your viewer right into your photograph.

Landscape Photography Arch

8. Photograph contrasts

Contrasts can add some interesting commentary to a landscape photograph. For example, a photo of a rusted bus abandoned in a pristine Alaskan meadow incites all kinds of interesting questions. Identifying contrasts are also a useful way to photograph cityscapes in a style other than the traditional skyline. For example, if you are wandering through London, a photograph of an old, 17th century building next to a modern high-rise is a unique, but no less fascinating, way to capture a cityscape.

9. Use the sky to your advantage

This so-called “negative space” is a great tool to use when shooting landscapes. The sky can further define a skyline in a cityscape, add another layer to your photograph (see tip #7), or reflect off of buildings or glassy-topped lakes. Be creative and experiment.

10. Convert your photo to black and white

Most landscapes are published in color for the purpose of capturing the vibrancy of a scene. But if your photograph has a unique composition, includes interesting shapes, or is dependent upon the use of shadows, consider converting it into black and white. While some default conversions can be lackluster, you can easily adjust tones to improve the final product. If appropriate for the subject, you can also try converting your image into a “sepia” or “antique.” Though this is much less traditional, and is rarely seen amongst professionally published landscapes, an “antiqued” photo done correctly can be very eye-catching.

Landscape Photography Adams (Main Image)
Kelsey Fox

Kelsey Fox

Kelsey Fox is a freelance writer and photographer from Louisville, Kentucky. She specializes in wildlife photography, and travels each summer to Southern Africa in search of the perfect photo.
Kelsey Fox

You may also like

Ben Novoselsky November 13, 2015

Shooting Wide Panorama of Cities

Even with a wide angle lens you need to realize that there is no way that you can shoot a wide ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 15, 2015

Photographing at the Beach

Summer in India is legendary for all the wrong reasons. So much so that there is actually a phrase ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 6, 2016

Essential Tips to Improve your Photography

If you have recently migrated from a compact point & shoot to a DSLR you no doubt will be very ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 7, 2015

Some Tips on Landscape Imagery

I would say landscape photography is the most underestimated genres of photography. Budding ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 10, 2016

Winners of the 3rd Annual International Drone Photography Contest Announced

Dronestagr.am holds the annual International Drone Photography Contest, an annual extravaganza ...

Ben Novoselsky May 2, 2016

How Does Hyperfocal Distance Affect Your Images?

Landscape photographers often use the terms focusing distance and hyperfocal distance in relation ...

Ben Novoselsky April 9, 2016

Finding the Right Light for Your Landscape Photos

The art of photography is God’s way of saying man, he needs an audience. When his mighty yet subtle ...

Rajib Mukherjee November 21, 2014

Improving Photography Skills – Landscape Images

The title of this discussion might evoke a feeling that this is yet another mundane and clichéd ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 28, 2016

How to do Breathtaking Forest Photography

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” ...

Ben Novoselsky July 18, 2016

How to Work with Leading Lines in Your Photography

Leading lines are one of the most important aspects of photography. They have the power to draw a ...

Ben Novoselsky December 23, 2015

Outdoor Photography Beyond the Golden Hour

Landscape photographers love shooting during the golden hour of the day. They love the warm mushy ...

Popular posts

Rajib Mukherjee February 23, 2017

Pricing Yourself – How Much to Charge as a Wedding Photographer?

In reality it is a question of assessing your costs and then setting a price which covers that ...

Rajib Mukherjee March 20, 2017

Getting Started in Street Photography

Choose the Right Lens
The right lens is a matter of ambiguity as there are different schools of ...

Ben Novoselsky March 23, 2017

Shooting Solo vs Shooting with a Photography Assistant

Many among us have often felt the need to employ a photography assistant to help us manage a shoot ...

Ben Novoselsky March 28, 2017

How Real Estate Photo Editing Services Help to Sell Your Properties?

Looking to put your home up for sale? Planing to move to a bigger home for your growing family and ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 1, 2017

The Essential Guide to Posing the Groom

A ton has been written and said about the essential aspects of posing the bride. However, nobody ...

Ben Novoselsky April 6, 2017

Correct Framing in Portrait Photography

Framing is an integral part of the whole process of image making. Be it landscapes, or portraits or ...

Ben Novoselsky February 28, 2017

A Wedding Photographer’s Guide to Photographing the Bride

The bride’s portraits on the day of her wedding is one of the most important appointments of the ...

Rajib Mukherjee March 3, 2017

A Beginner’s Guide to Shoot Environmental Portraits

As a genre, environmental portraits are a challenge of sorts for most photographers. It is because ...

Author March 9, 2017

Should I Upgrade my Camera Body or my Lens?

It is all too common for a wide range of emotions to complicate the decision to upgrade the body of ...