Do you admire nature?
Nature is a source of beauty that works as a therapy for our eyes.
Those who love to travel and to take photos of nature live remarkable and special moments because the photos become records of incredible places and scenes. Natural landscapes can result in fascinating images when combined with the sunlight or with cloudy skies at certain times of the day.
Nature is very rich in elements and you can choose the style of landscape you want to photograph. But natural landscapes are not modified by man, and for that reason they can be difficult to access. Taking photos of those places is a real adventure!
In this post you will discover how to take photos of natural landscapes with all types of cameras, even the one of your smartphone!
Let’s get started!
Get a tripod to grant image stabilization
The first thing you can do to get great shots of natural landscapes is get a Tripod, even if you’re using your smartphone’s camera. That’s because a Tripod can grant your photos, plus a greater probability of shooting clearer images, more security for your camera device and a better camera stability, which is great for certain settings that will be explained ahead.
Also, the slightest movement of the camera can create blurred parts in photos, and that’s very hard to be corrected unless you use a photo editing software, and even then it can be difficult. Getting a Tripod can avoid that.
Find a focal point to be photographed in the landscape
The next thing you need to do is find a focal point for your photos, which is a focus spot in the photo scenery. To do that, observe the place you’re at and search for an element that stands out in the landscape. Remember that the focal point of a landscape photo can vary, it could be a rock, a tree, a silhouette of the place, those are examples but it can be something else. So you need to choose what’s the main element in your photos. Use the Rule of Thirds Grid of your camera (search for this feature in the camera settings), that’s a grid that appears in your camera screen to help you center elements of the scenery before shooting.
Take photos on cloudy days
The sky is very important when composing photos of natural landscapes. The clouds add a touch of beauty to the photo. A cloudy day with a chance of rain is a great opportunity to result in photos that are more intense, more cinematic and even more dramatic. Natural landscape photos taken on cloudy days are also good for creating Black and White Photography.
Taking pictures of natural landscapes with weather variations is more interesting than taking this type of photo on days with a completely cloudless sky. For example, you can capture images of a rainbow in the sky during sunset after a late afternoon rain, you can also focus on the upper part of the sky that can show interesting cloud formations.
Be patient to get the best photo framing
Framing a photo is including or not including elements of the photo scene, is how your camera “sees” the scenery, it’s what will be or won’t be included in the final shot. So, be an observer of the place you choose to take your photos, be patient about the angle. Go to higher spots to take photos from higher angles if necessary.
When taking natural landscape photos, remember to break the photo scene into three planes: the sky or whatever is at the top of the photo scene, the middle of the photo (such as a set of mountains, a lake or a cluster of trees), and the part closest to your camera lens. By using this technique you will distribute the elements of the natural landscape evenly, creating a background that will catch the eyes of whoever sees your natural landscape photos.
You can also use water in the natural landscape as a mirror for your natural landscape photos, such as lakes and rivers. The early morning or the late afternoon are the best moments to photograph reflections of natural landscapes mirrored in natural water streams, that’s because the sunlight is softer during those moments, bringing more life to the elements of the photo scene.
How to set up a pro camera for natural landscape photography
Maximize the Depth of Field (DoF)
Depth of Field or DoF is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in the photo scene that have an acceptably sharp focus. An image where everything or almost everything is in focus has a good depth of field. But if only a part of the scene is sharp and this sharp part is contrasting with the rest that is out of focus, this photograph also has a good depth of field.
You must know how to sharpen what you want in the image, and know how to blur it. Getting the right Depth of Field for your photo can make all the difference.
If there are elements closer to the lens and elements far away and you want to keep the whole image sharp, set the camera’s diaphragm aperture (f) between f/9 and f/16. Where the elements are far apart, set the aperture to f/16 for a good sharpness distribution in the final shot.
To take pictures of very distant natural landscapes, such as valleys and mountains, use the aperture of your camera’s optimized range of sharpness = f/9, f/7 or f/11 as this optimized aperture is sharper.
Get Wide-Angle Lens for the camera, they’re better for landscape photography as they can show a wider view and therefore give a feeling of wide open space.
More settings for pro cameras
- Consider using the camera’s self-timer or a wireless camera remote mechanism to ensure the camera stays still.
- Set the camera to Av Camera Mode or to A Camera Mode.
- Shoot in RAW.
- To freeze movement in your photo, set the shutter speed to 1/200 sec or 1/400 sec. That’s great for “freezing” movements in the final shot when there’s wind blowing trees, passing clouds, ocean waves, waterfalls.
- Set the camera to slower shutter speeds if you want to capture any type of movement of the photo scene, such as animals nearby (like birds) or the wind blowing tree leaves.
- Use lower ISO (from 100 to 400) because photos the higher the ISO, the higher the image noise and the lower the image quality in natural landscape photography.
- Set the Exposure Compensation to -1 EV or to -0.7 EV.
- Use camera filters. A Polarizing Filters can darken and enhance blue tones to contrast the white of clouds (if any). A Neutral Density Filter (ND) can prevent too much light from entering the camera lens and avoid too bright photos.
How to set up a smartphone for natural landscape photography
Smartphone cameras have improved a lot and now they’re full of features that you can use to photograph natural landscapes. Here are some things you can do with your smartphone camera for this type of photography:
- Get external lenses made for smartphones to improve the phone camera.
- Take photos in HDR Mode for getting pictures with more contrast and brightness (use an HDR Mode app if your phone doesn’t have it).
- Use the Rule of Thirds Grid to center elements in the photo. You can “break” the Rule of Thirds (don’t center the elements in the grid) to get wider images.
- Shoot in RAW (you may need an app specific for that).
- Choose the right time to take your photos, learn the best moments to take photos according to the sunlight.
- Don’t zoom in to avoid losing image quality
- Use them as scale birds and other animals to scale the size of natural elements in the photo scene, such as a mountain.
- Use apps to edit your photos.
Great! Now you know the importance of getting a tripod to grant image stabilization, how to find a focal point to be photographed in the landscape, why you should take photos on cloudy days for this type of photography, how to frame natural landscape photos, how to set up a pro camera for natural landscape photography and how to set up a smartphone for natural landscape photography. So don’t hesitate to put what you’ve learned into practice!
You can also share your thoughts in the comments below!