Landscape photographer’s guide: this is what you need to know to make pictures worthy of National Geographic

The landscape photography has always been, since the beginning of it, one of the most used photographic styles, made and displayed. Without a doubt, capturing the beauty of our environment and freezing those places that we love so much when we visit them is one of the situations in which photography becomes more used and patent. We will collect tips for understanding and achieving quality photographs within the landscape photography. All this, reviewing the necessary instruments, both materially and creatively and visually.

Types of landscape and its preview

First of all we have to know that landscape photography, although often associated with photography in natural or not so urban environments, does not have to be anything like that. The fact is that within this style encompasses all types of landscape, whether it be natural landscape, urban, or any type of it. The best way to understand or resolve our doubt is always to realize what is the reason to photograph and therefore which will be the “protagonist” of our image.

That is why, due to this, and before starting to take a photograph of this style (and indeed of anyone) we should try to preview in our head, and with our eyes, the photograph we want to make. More if possible in this type of photography; in which the study of the area, hours, light and environment interferes with the final result of the shot.

Landscape HD Wallpaper
Photo of 
Banter Snaps

Because one of the most important factors is to plan, search and choose the right moment, the use of applications like The Photographer’s Ephemeries, Starmap Pro or even the helpful Google Maps to guide us are some examples of very useful apps in the work postproduction of our hours. All this together with the work of studying the weather of the area, which we can see in the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET), for example among the multiple sites.

Night or day

The choice between day or night will make factors such as natural or artificial lighting key

Landscape photography can be associated with any type of ecosystem or environment, and therefore the time of the same matter. We must take into account in the preparation of it, although an area can be great for the day, at night it does not have to be, or vice versa.

The choice between day or night, will make factors such as natural or artificial lighting are very important when it comes to any of our alternatives. Needless to say at the time of using one or other parameters, or one or other accessories.

Landscape Photography guide
Photo by
Tim Foster

For example, in the diurnal landscape you have to try to avoid midday on very sunny days, because the light is excessively powerful and generates strong contrasts and subtraction of texture. You have to choose the right moment according to the motive, but it is usually better in the early morning or late afternoon. Do not forget that the control of light is essential to capture a good landscape.

The night landscape is obvious that always works when artificial light is present and, although it is possible to do it with large exposures if we have moonlight, always artificial light supports will help to a greater extent.

Required equipment

Landscape photography is usually a discipline that usually requires one of the most extensive equipment. The main reason is the great variability of environments that we can face and the innumerable situations of it. In spite of everything, there is a basic and important equipment that we should never leave at home if we want to get a quality photograph.

There is a basic and important equipment that we should never leave at home if we want to get a quality photograph

The main thing to get a landscape photograph will be to have a camera with BULB mode or at least one camera that we can configure with slow shutter values. Although we can get compositions or landscape photographs with fast shutter values, the availability of this is important because we are going to face situations where light.

In addition to this mode in the camera we will need an important accessory, a tripod . And is that, although we believe that photography can be done without a tripod, I am one of those who believe that while we have the possibility to use it always, and we are allowed, its use is indispensable. The trepidation is a value to keep in mind always, and more when it is something so subjective and dependent on our pulse.

Another important accessory will be that of a trigger cable . This accessory becomes less important depending on what you take, as opposed to what happens in night photography if our exposure does not exceed 30 ‘Raising the mirror is something to keep in mind.

A basic equipment for photographing landscapes would be the following:

  • Camera with manual adjustments.
  • The tripod is not strictly necessary but essential if we want to achieve better results.
  • Trigger cable (can be wireless or not). If it has an intervalometer function it will be better, otherwise we will use clock.
  • ND filters (gradients and totals) and polarizer.
  • Applications to know sun set and exit, weather, places of interest or better position to photograph, etc.

Finally, among the essential photographic equipment, the use of batteries and memory cards will be very important or if our camera does not have an electronic level, it would be very good to carry one.

Landscape Wallpaper HD
David Bertho

Composition and theories of it

Although in landscape photography the technique is important, but also very simple to achieve with a couple of rules, the point that can make the difference of a great landscape or another is the composition . We have to keep in mind that the composition must always be based on the main object. That main object will be on which we must rotate the entire composition .

Landscape Wallpaper HD
Marcus Pink

The horizon

It is not that the horizon should not be placed in the center, the error is in doing it for sure, without exploring the scene before and ignoring possible points of interest.

One of the big problems among beginners, if not the main one, is to place the horizon in the center or close to it, always, without possible discussion. It is not that the horizon should not be placed in the center, the error is in doing it for sure, without exploring the scene before and ignoring possible points of interest.

If the sky is worth it and is, for example, loaded with an imposing cloud formation, do not be afraid to turn it into the center of attention. Lower the horizon line and let the sky shine with its own light. Exactly the same if the floor is the most attractive. Climb the horizon line and let the texture that has caught your attention fill the frame.


Another common mistake is to forego the foreground. We must be aware that we will not be able to capture in a photograph exactly what our eyes see. While technology does not provide us with a kind of virtual reality that immerses us in a photograph, we will have to work the scene more. Enter a reference element in the first plane , with this you will get to give depth to the image. Lower the camera to the ground and test from there.

Landscape Wallpaper HD
Lenny K Photography

The lines, one of the attractions

It happens many times. You are in a forest and you think you can identify an attractive frame, you take the picture and then what you have obtained is a bunch of branches and bushes that intermingle without any rhyme or reason, without a point to focus your gaze or how to direct it, without attractive.

In another type of photography, such as street photography, it is easier to focus attention on a subject or event. In the landscape it is something more complicated. If you do not find something to focus on, and even having found it, stop before shooting, look at the scene as if it were a rough sketch. Study the lines and use them to achieve an attractive composition and guide the look. Lines in rock formations, trees, roads, clouds … the possibilities are multiple.

Landscape Wallpaper HD
Bureau of Land Management

Find the contrasts

Another interesting way to enhance the visual impact of a landscape is to use the contrasts as a resource. We speak of contrast as a global concept, any contrast is effective . An intense blue sky will look great with a desert of an orange brown. A scene in which you probably think while reading “contrast”, right?

We can go further and look for less obvious contrasts visually but equally powerful in the face of our brain. For example, to face the sensation of softness that a sky full of white clouds with an arid land, cracked, maybe, by the lack of water.

Some of these ideas will make us flee from the typical postcard and look for new perspectives and frames being more creative.

Landscape Wallpaper HD
Magdalena Roeseler

Trigger values ​​and other technical issues to consider

First of all, in landscape photography we must take into account that everything must be focused, or at least that our eye perceives it. This means that we must always establish a closed diaphragm around af / 8, f / 11 or f / 16. These values ​​are the best since a value above f / 16 can begin to produce diffraction in the objective, and even more so if we are going to make prologandas expositions.

In landscape photography we must take into account that everything must be focused, or at least that our eye perceives it

From these values ​​in opening is when we set the shutter speed . This speed will depend a lot on what we want to show or achieve, as well as depending on the elements on stage. For example, if we have clouds and / or water, long exposures usually work very well, although everything will depend on our intention and capture.

Regarding the issue of the ISO value, and especially if we use a tripod, the best option will always be to use the lowest ISO value of our camera or the native ISO. This will cause that in long exposures there will be less noise even though the long exposure can produce some slight artifact. But that is something that in postproduction we can correct without problem.

Summary of basic technical aspects for landscape photography:

  • Use angular and telephoto lenses. Never use fish eyes.
  • Diaphragms closed between f / 8 and f / 16.
  • Shutter speed according to the intention of the scene. Long values ​​if there are clouds or water is ideal.
  • We will use the native lower ISO if we have a tripod. For example ISO 100.
  • To focus we will always use manual focus and we will try to make use of hyperfocal
  • Shoot in RAW whenever possible.
  • We will use the White Balance in a creative way to emphasize colors. Try not to use automatic mode.
Landscape Wallpaper HD
Photo of 
Anders Jildén

Finally, a subject that is important to mention is that bracketing or bracketing can help us enormously to get photographs of a few points above exposure and others below in case we did not have ND filters and we had to make a superposition of shots in postproduction.

It is true that, with the current dynamic range of many cameras we could achieve them with a single take in RAW; but at the expense of adding noise to the final shot.

In focus and hyperfocal distance

To culminate a hot spot is the focus. Two important points in this section are using manual focus with hyperfocal distance .

The hyperfocal distance is the minimum distance that I have to focus with my camera in a given focal length and diaphragm opening conditions so that the reasonably clear area behind the focus point reaches infinity. All this very important when it comes to landscape. Thus, therefore, we will have three variables: camera, focal and aperture.

Hyperfocal distance = focal² / (confusion circle x F number)

Also, keep in mind that the circle of confusion varies depending on the size of the sensor (full frame, APS or CSC for example).

It is always possible to consult hyperfocal tables based on our camera and our objective mounted on it.

And we can always use apps like DOF Calculator (Android) and SetMyCamera(iOS) to calculate it more easily.


Landscape Wallpaper HD
Photo by
Sergey Pesterev

There is a lot of interest in landscape photography in the panoramic format . To achieve good results, technically it does not differ much from what has been explained so far, except that we have to take into account that the tripod is an indispensable tool. And also, we should know that we should never move it from its initial place.

In addition to this, to get good views there are certain guidelines that we must take into account before its subsequent edition :

  • We must never change exposure between photography and photography. It is important to leave all the parameters equal and if we change one that is only the shutter speed (although I repeat, if we can not change any better). Bear in mind that the diaphragm can not be changed because we would change the depth of field.
  • Always leave a fixed color temperature and do not leave the camera in automatic white balance.
  • When turning the tripod head between photography and photography, it is convenient that the tripod is very stable and with a counterweight.
  • It is important that the next photo to be made contains at least 25% in content of what was included in the previous photo. This is important for the subsequent processing of the panoramas on the computer.

Post-processing of landscape photography

Within the post- processed subject there are thousands and multiple ways to get a landscape photograph processed. In Xataka Foto we find many articles with basic rules , in Photoshop and, as not to exceed .

Some tips from landscape photographers

The truth that landscape photography can be simple a priori but the whole creative process that incorporates make it one of the most difficult.

  • JB Ruiz is one of the best-known national photographers in this discipline. For him, composition is an essential element in landscape photography, even above technique. In this super instructive talk you can learn great tricks about composition data and the reason for its importance.
  • Antony Spencer is an internationally recognized English photographer and has been participating for years with the Phase One brand. One of the tricks he reveals and gives to many people who want to learn landscape photography is to remove the camera strap when we perform this type of photography; since the only shock of it against the camera in wind blows interferes with sharpness. This, together with putting the trigger cable with a Velcro on the tripod will help us to get sharper pictures.
  • Chris Burkard is a stereotype somewhat different from the landscape photographer. Because it considers that introducing the human factor in the discipline helps much more to give narrative to landscape photographs.
  • Peter Carsten is a photographer for National Geographic and one of the best advice he gives is to take your time to explore. Part of the joy of photographing landscapes is in nature itself. It will take time and patience to discover the best way to show what makes it unique.
Landscape Wallpaper HD
tommy @ chau