4 January 2010

My Landscape Photography Tips for 2010

Here are a few of my suggestions to make some improvements in your landscape photography for the start of 2010. These are also points that I’m paying attention to so I’ll tell you how I get on with them too,

1) Work the whole composition

It’s often said that we should include some foreground interest in our pictures. If we take this by ‘rote’, we will end up with a cliched rock or tree or branch in the front of the picture. The idea behind the foreground interest is to give the viewers eye something else to focus on to help their eye move around the picture. Try looking at your composition as just a set of simple shapes, reducing them to their core elements. Many of the best pictures can be ‘summarised by four or five lines, curves or points. Graphically strong compositions become memorable.

2) Walking further doesn’t make a better picture

Many of the pictures that we like were taken on special trips or were ones where we had to walk a long way or wait a long time to get that picture. Viewers don’t care about this though, all they see is the moment you tripped the shutter. If you are after ‘vistas’ though, you have to walk a long way to change the view and so it’s sometimes essential. My personal taste is for ‘medium distance’ vistas because you don’t have to walk as far and you have much more control over the composition (i.e. to change the composition you don’t have to walk half a mile).

3) Spend more time looking and taking pictures

If you have four hours at a location, don’t spend all of those hours pressing the shutter. You should spend at least 3 hours looking around for interesting shapes and textures and then choose the most interesting thing to take your picture of. You will hopefully end up with 3 or 4 pictures where you had spent an hour each working on them rather than 3 or 4 hundred pictures where you had spent 30 seconds each. Which do you think would be better.

4) Don’t look for subjects; look for colours, textures, shapes and lines

I get caught in a mental trap sometimes where I see a really interesting subject, a dead tree or a waterfall or rock formation, and spend ages trying to build a photograph around it. At the end of the day, great photographs are a balance of subject, shape, texture, form, etc. You don’t need to have the best subject in front of you to get the best picture. Spend more time looking at the top 10 subjects and finding how they balance and combine together. You may find a composition which includes numbers 5, 8 and 9 in your top ten subjects but put together make a number one composition. (and a photographic super group of some sort I suppose)

5) Only put your camera on the tripod at the last minute.

I see a lot of people with their camera permanently attached to their tripod. Take it off and give yourself more flexibility when you are looking for your best compositions. Only put the camera on the tripod when you know you have something really worth it in front of you.

6) When you browse photo books or websites, ask yourself why you like or dislike each picture

I’ve learned more from analysing my own likes and dislikes and critiqueing my favourite photographers pictures than through any other method. Creatively analysing the flow of energy in a picture and why some pictures don’t flow well will help you do the same thing with your own pictures when out in the field

7) Use a different raw converter

Many of the standard raw converters give unsatisfactory colour reproduction and poor colour clarity. Try out Raw Developer or Capture One to give you a differnt take on the colour reproduction of your camera.

8) Use Film!

Go on, buy a cheap 35mm or medium format camera and put a few rolls of film through it. Just having a look at the colour reproduction can give you a good feel for how to realistically post process your own digital pictures.

9) Try limiting your widest lens to 24mm (or just use 24mm only)

The use of super wide angle lenses is becoming almost like a special effect and although in moderation they can inject dynamism into a picture, I think the use of a 24mm lens is the ‘butter zone’ where the view looks open without looking overly wide. Composing with this focal length isn’t as easy as with super wides but spending some time getting photos working at this focal length will then help you when you got back to your super wides.

10) Take multiple photographs of a single location as the light changes

In order to learn more about the light, find a composition on a day with patchy sun (i.e. not a clear blue sky day or a fully overcast day) and take photographs every minute or so for 20 to 30 minutes. When you get these photographs back, work out which ones you like and which ones you don’t and ask yourself why. You will learn a lot about when to press the trigger from a couple of runs at this exercise.

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12 Responses to “My Landscape Photography Tips for 2010”

  1. On January 5, 2010 at 8:09 am