You can’t make everything look good all of the time
I’ll start with the what seems like an obvious statement, yet many photographers get hung up when they come away from a shoot without a five star image. The fact of the matter is that you can’t make everything look good all of the time.
Lighting is everything in landscape photography. Understanding how light works in a photograph is one of the key factors that all great photographers must understand to achieve consistent results. That being said, sometimes the lighting will not be in your favor. Lighting can make or break a shot. In the event of the latter, roll with the punches and try again at another point in time. Those who practice patience are often rewarded.
Knowing how to work with the conditions you are given will allow you to maximize your results
As stated above, you can’t make everything look good all of the time, but knowing how to work with the conditions that you are given will greatly increase your odds of walking away with a winning shot. Sometimes people get so focused on a single idea that they miss out on everything else around them.
Consider shooting at night when daytime conditions are unfavorable due to a lack of clouds. This is a great way to turn a mediocre scene into an amazing scene. When there are too many clouds to let light hit your subject, consider shooting subjects that would otherwise look terrible under direct light such as waterfalls, creeks and glaciers. Sometimes what seems like bad light can actually be good light if you think outside of the box. Black and white photography can look great in the harsh light of day because direct sunlight provides deep contrast.
You have to be into it, in order to get good results
You have to be into it, in order to get good results. This statement is not only good life advice, but great photography advice as well. If your heart is not into what you’re doing then you will never achieve good results. While I have a pretty good work ethic when shooting, there are times that I just have to stop and put the camera down. It’s important to relax once in awhile so you can reenergize and give 100% to your craft.
Sometimes, simply changing subjects or locations can be enough to get your head back in the game, other times you may need to call it a day and give it your best in the morning. Traveling with friends and family who do not share the same passion as you can hinder your creativity. When traveling with non photographers, you may want to set up specific times for some solo photography adventures in advance. This way you can relax without having to worry about holding up the others and really get into your work. Sunrise is a great time for solo adventures since non-photographers generally do not like to wake up that early.
Seasons can dramatically change a location.
Every place on earth experiences weather fluctuations. In some areas, those fluctuations are very extreme while in other areas they are a more subtle. Weather and light should be in the forefront of every landscape photographer’s agenda. Before planning a trip it is important to ask a few questions.
What do you want to photograph and what conditions will be most conducive to shooting that subject? It wouldn’t make much sense to go Norway to photograph the northern lights in July when the sun doesn’t set.
Do some research and find out what the average monthly temperature and rainfall is. Would the scene look best covered in snow snow or would rolling green hills look better? Is the location accessible year-round or is there only a certain time when it can be photographed? Answering these questions will get you on the right track to achieving some great images. If you rather not deal with the headache of planning out a trip, photography workshops could be a great option for you.
If you don’t bring it, you’ll need it
This next phrase is perhaps the most ridiculously accurate statement on this entire list. If you do not bring it, you will need it. There is no substitute for being prepared. As soon as you leave a lens or other essential piece of gear behind, you’ll want to use it. I guarantee it! There will be some situations where you will not be able to bring all of your gear such as long hikes or when traveling on small airplanes but when traveling by automobile it is best to bring all of the essential items in your photo kit. If landscape photography is your main objective, always travel with a tripod. No exceptions.
Clean filters make for clean images.
There’s nothing worse than nailing a shot only to find out later that a big portion of the image is blurry because you had a smudge on the front of your lens or filter. It is a good habit to clean your filters regularly. I suggest examining them before every photographic outing and removing any smudges with a lens cloth or Zeiss Lens Wipes for stubborn spots. It’s not a bad idea to throw a few extra lens cloths and wipes into your camera bag too. If you’re like me, you’ll accidentally touch the glass with your fingers on a regular basis.
Knowing the look you’re after will always yield the best results.
Have you ever looked at a photographer’s body of work and found yourself in love with every image? That is because the photographer had a clear vision of what they wanted to create. A quality image is the result of good foresight before the shutter button is even pushed.
The best photographers can visualize what their final image might look like all of the way through post processing. This is a skill that is not easy to learn and takes years of practice. The more you shoot and process, the more consistent and fluid your work will become. When in the field, try to envision what feeling you want to convey with the image and what shooting and processing techniques will best achieve that feeling.
Incorporating color schemes into your photography will help it stand out.
People react to color in a significant way. Advertisers have known this for a very long time. As a photographer, it is important to understand color relationships. (Assuming you’re shooting in color of course) You don’t need to know the name of every single color scheme but it is very helpful if you have an idea of how different colors work with one another. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is simply ignoring color all together.
Look for strong color relationships while you’re shooting. This is the easiest way to work with color. Additionally, you can create powerful color schemes by making selective adjustments in post processing. The white balance and tint sliders are a great starting point to achieve the feeling that you want to convey in your image.
Once you set your white balance you may want to hone in your image a little more by making adjustments to the hue, saturation, or luminance of individual colors in the scene. You can desaturate some colors while adding saturation to others. Color grading can be challenging and having an idea of what you want the final image to look like will always yield the best results.
Always shoot in RAW
Most people who’ve been shooting for a little while know the importance of shooting in RAW. While this is common knowledge, it is too important not to mention in this article. RAW files have a significantly larger amount of data than JPEG files. JPEGs have all of the color information, profile settings, contrast, and sharpening baked into them, while RAW files allow the photographer to fine-tune the file as much or as little as they would like. Raw files take up a lot more space than JPEGs, but space is cheap so don’t let that tempt you into shooting JPEG.
The most expensive camera will not improve the quality of your photography
I’ve heard it a million times. “What kind of camera do you use?” and “you must have a nice camera”.
While, I do have a nice camera, that is far from the most important aspect of my photography. The things I’ve outlined above and in The original truths of landscape photography article are far more important than an expensive camera. Composition, and creativity will always trump expensive camera gear. This is not an argument to buy the cheapest camera possible or even worse a cell phone, but rather an argument to assess your gear and skills. Practice shooting and processing as much as possible to see a real difference in your work.