Watch out for the 3 Most Common Mistakes in Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is one of the most popular genres. And practically every photographer brings back a few landscape photos from their journeys. But often there’s something lacking in these photos. So here are the 3 most common mistakes to watch out for in landscape photography.

Watch out for the 3 Most Common Mistakes in Landscape Photography

You can fix a lot of photo problems in Zoner Photo Studio, of course. But you can’t fix them all. That’s why it’s better to just be careful while taking your pictures. It’s usually easier than you’d expect.

Think About Composition

Photos are most often bad because of composition mistakes, which are easy to overlook at first. So always keep the rules of composition in mind when you’re photographing landscapes.

Watch the foreground, middle, and background of the landscape that you’re photographing. Ideally all three of these should be connected by lines.

Watch out for distracting elements in the composition as well. These can be anything from stray branches, to trash, to sun reflections, to shadows. Landscape photos also shouldn’t have your own shadow—watch out for this if you’re using a wide angle. Although you can remove most of these elements from a photo during computer editing, if you keep them out while taking the shot, you’ll save time.

A photo’s horizon doesn’t necessarily have to be one third of the way into the picture, but do make sure that it’s straight. A crooked horizon will reliably ruin an otherwise good picture.

3 most common mistakes in landscape photography: tilted horizon.

A photo a tent under a sunrise, worked into a golden-mean composition. This interesting winter-night photo is ruined by the horizon—it’s tilted. Overall the photo feels like both the tent and its occupant will slide off the peak, and the fog will pour into the left side of the picture.

Above All, Make Sure It’s Sharp

Sometimes you’ll have a picture that has good composition and a straight horizon in that one-thirds position. And yet it’s ruined because it’s not sharp. Perhaps because the photographer didn’t focus right, or perhaps because they moved the camera during focusing.

Beginners also sometimes end up blurring their pictures by keeping the aperture too tight (e.g. f/22 and higher). That causes diffraction and softens a picture’s details too much.

The best way to focus in landscape photography is to first set an appropriate aperture and then manually focus using the live view. For the sharpest picture, use the hyperfocal distance, which guarantees that nearly the whole scene will be sharp. (The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which you can focus while keeping very distant objects sharp enough.)

TIP: When focusing using live view, consider covering the camera’s viewfinder with the cover that comes with every DSLR. That will keep stray light from getting onto the sensor. You’ll especially appreciate it when using long exposures.

3 most common mistakes in landscape photography: a blurred photo.

This photo doesn’t have bad composition. But it’s blurry overall, and so it’s best to just delete it.

Wait for the Right Light

One often forgotten element is the weather and light. Weather very important for landscape photography. A landscape that is uninteresting at sunrise and sunset can be unbelievably impressive after a storm, for example—or during it.

You’ll generally get the best light early in the morning or at sunset. That is, during the morning or evening “golden hour”. These two times of day have softer and warmer light than the rest.

But you can get interesting pictures at other times as well. If you use an ND filter to shoot a scene with quickly moving clouds, you’ll get a landscape with very interesting shadows even in mid-afternoon.

Editing Is Important

Your work doesn’t end with taking a picture. It’s also important to edit that picture and give it a specific form. Even in the days of analog film, pictures were developed, and through that, edited. Today’s photo editors are nothing more than digital darkrooms, so don’t be afraid to use them.

3 most common mistakes in landscape photography: a RAW photo before and after editing.

RAW development in Zoner Photo Studio X has given this photo a whole new dimension. And yet the edit hardly took 20 minutes, which is nothing considering how much it improved the picture.

Constructive Criticism Helps

To avoid bad landscape photos, don’t be afraid of constructive criticism or self-criticism. But at the same time, learn to ignore non-constructive criticism. Objections that are simply “I don’t like that” won’t move you forward.

3 most common mistakes in landscape photography: bad editing.

A picture with lines that guide the viewer towards the rising sun. On the plus side, the sun has been positioned onto a golden-mean line, and the horizon is slightly above the middle of the picture. But edits have ruined the picture. While they’ve highlighted the rising sun and the illuminated clouds significantly, the rocks that form the main line leading from the foreground are too dark, and they lack detail. The bottom part, meanwhile, is underexposed and bland overall. So the picture could use some mild brightening of the shadows around its main line, followed by brightening of the bottom part to give it more detail.

3 most common mistakes in landscape photography: bad composition.

At first glance, this photo seems to have turned out well. At second glance, it’s clear that the composition goal with the line of trees, while a good one, was badly executed. On the right, the treetops should touch the corner, and on the left, they should point more towards the center. The reflection of the trees in the water is also a problem. Its full potential isn’t being used, and it has been cropped pointlessly. Here the best solution would be to retake the picture. Or if possible to re-crop it to better utilise the reflection in the water, as well as the line of trees.

3 most common mistakes in landscape photography: too wide panoramic picture.

This panoramic picture respects the rule that the horizon line usually shouldn’t be in the middle of the picture, and yet it still just doesn’t work. It’s too wide. It could use a crop at both ends to give it a better ratio of sides. Also, the photographer didn’t fully take advantage of the weather. And meanwhile—there had to have been some more interesting foreground around. Maybe a boat, or an anchor point. Also, the edits could also have been a bit milder, and the photographer could have made their work easier by using an ND filter. With the help of that type of filter, the light pouring through the storm clouds could have marvelously brought out the detail in the ocean surface.

Last updated 12. June 2018

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Author: Josef Gabrhel

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