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Landscape photography is a wonderful way for an amateur to hone their skills without too much pressure to ‘get it right’. There’s no posing of subjects, special lighting or studio setups, and there’s not necessarily a need for special equipment –because if you’ve got a camera (or even a smartphone) you can record a beautiful sunset, a majestic mountain scape, a tropical beach or in fact any inspiring scene you encounter in the world around you. However, if you’re looking to get serious and specialise in this genre at a higher level, you’ll want to avoid the ‘picture postcard’ look by researching and putting into practice some professional landscape photography tips. This can make the difference between a snapshot and a masterpiece. Above all, when planning a shoot it pays to be prepared.

Choose the Right Location

While there is, of course, an element of luck involved, the professionals work hard to make sure they have the best luck by choosing their location carefully. But this goes beyond simple geographical serendipity and involves research so that you can learn as much information about the location as possible. This should include things like how the light behaves at different times of the day, interesting or unusual viewpoints, and any natural features or terrain that could make for a unique composition.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye, 2013 by Albert Watson

 


Tip: Think outside the box when it comes to researching and don’t stick to places you know. Use Google Maps, Google Images, Flickr and TripAdvisor and you’ll discover a wealth of information!


 

Understand the Weather and Stay Informed

Keeping up to date with weather reports for your chosen location is extremely important if you are to make the very most of the opportunity. Capturing images of the natural world is all about patience and persistence, so you just have to accept that Mother Nature is never going to be at your beck and call! You need to consider not just rain, but also clouds, wind and even the humidity. Always allow yourself plenty of time to get there (and maximum time at the location) and ensure you stay abreast of any weather coming your way. (There are plenty of apps for this so you can always be one step ahead of the weather.)

Decide the Right Time to Shoot

Ah the light, the light! The most important landscape photography tip you’ll ever get is to pay attention to the light. While you need to be able to make the most of any situation and any time of day, the so-called ‘golden hour’ – that time just before sunrise and sunset –will produce the most compelling and emotive images. It doesn’t matter how incredible the scene in your viewfinder, if the light isn’t right it just won’t cut it. The light you choose to work with will completely define the finished image.

Ullinish Point, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2013 by Albert Watson

Prepare the Equipment Basics

If you can afford to invest in some specialised equipment your work will definitely benefit. Very top of the wish list should be a good quality tripod –if you’re working in low light it’s a no brainer in order to avoid camera shake. You should also consider a range of filters: in particular a polarising filter, which will reduce reflection and enhance the greens and blues of a scene; and a graduated neutral density filter, which will help to balance out the exposure between the sky and the foreground –one of the biggest challenges you’ll encounter on your search to capture the perfect image.As well as your equipment, make sure you pack appropriate protective clothing, spare batteries and extra memory cards.

Know What You Want: Depth of Field Matters

Depending on the creative result you’re aiming for, you may certainly choose a shallow depth of field but, generally speaking, you’ll usually be looking for sharpness from the foreground right the way to the farthest point in the background, so you’ll need a deeper depth of field. Anything above F/8 will provide that sharpness (depending on the scene and available light of course), but you can push it further to F/11 and even F32 for stunning effects.

Setting your camera to aperture priority is a fantastic way of getting used to the effect of light on a scene –experiment, experiment, experiment!

Be Organised and Expect the Unexpected

That’s two landscape photography tips in one, but they go hand in glove. If you’re to be able to anticipate potential problems, being organised is absolutely key –which means making a plan and sticking to it. But (refer to the previous comment about Mother Nature) when it comes to shooting outdoors, not everything will always go to that plan. That’s just life. From equipment failure to inclement weather to capturing a killer image then discovering you’ve left the lens cap on –you have to learn to expect the unexpected but be as prepared for it as possible.

Do Something Different

Finally, if you’ve got ambitions to join the ranks of the icons of landscape photography, tips like the above ones won’t mean much unless you have the conviction and courage to step outside the norm, to see and do things in a different way. Put aside the notion of the picture perfect snapshot and genuinely aspire to greatness – it’s the only way you’ll achieve it.

The Road Ahead, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2013 by Albert Watson

Learn from a Legend

When you enrol in the Masters of Photography online course, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from the renowned Albert Watson, one of the most respected photographers of our time. While he’s also known for his fashion, portraiture and still-lifes, his landscape work is nothing short of iconic. In this Masterclass, several modules cover Albert’s famous Isle of Skye shoot, detailing not just his approach, mind-set and some top landscape photography tips, but also the technicalities of how he prepared –making sure he was as organised as possible in order to take advantage of every single moment. An online course with Albert Watson is a wonderful way to learn new skills and be ready to put them into practice in a highly effective way, allowing you to elevate your images above amateur status and give them genuine meaning. Try one of our free photography classes to see how it works.

From the Masterclass: Albert Watson shows you how he makes landscapes in on Isle of Skye

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