There are no shortage of photography blogs on the net and each of them features hundreds of articles on how to be a better photographer. There’s a lot of good information for anyone wanting to learn. But I’m frequently frustrated by some of the advice I read which seems to assume either an unlimited budget or unlimited time to get everything lined up for perfection.
I am the epitome of an amateur. I don’t make a living taking photographs, I use a point and shoot camera and I’ve really only been seriously into photography for about four years. Any one of these things would make most photo snobs dismiss my opinions. But I’m not writing this for them. I’m writing it for the millions of photographers who are like me.
So here are my five landscape photography tips for amateurs:
1) Find a Location and Keep Revisiting
When you’re not a professional photographer access to good locations can be limited (no trips to Alaska for example) and photographing the same scenes again and again. But locations change radically with ever visit due to a combination of time of year, time of day and weather.
I have a handful of handy locations that I visit on a weekly to monthly basis and every time I’ve gone, I’ve found a new angle, new view or something that stood out that I haven’t noticed before.
2) The Shot You Can Get Is Better Than No Shot
Most photography advice will stress that you shouldn’t just randomly snap off shots. That you should find your spot, find the right lighting and get everything perfect.
All true in an ideal world. But most likely the day you’re at your location, it’s mid-day and the sun is harsh or you only have 20 minutes before you have to go and pick up the kids. So take the shot you can get.
At a minimum, it’s good practice. It also serves as a marker for something you may want to try again the next time you are there. And if it’s a particular weather phenomenon (rainbow for example), it may be your only shot at it anyway so at least grab a photo for the memories even if it’s not going into your portfolio.
3) You Can Fix A Lot of Things In Post
Everyone always tells you to get it right in the camera and not to rely on post processing. I agree.
But… there are many many things you can fix or improve on in post. Don’t feel guilty about using Photoshop to remove a smudge, adjust the contrast or pump up the color a little. Everyone does it. For some reason though it is continually presented in a negative light online.
Ignore what people are saying and focus on making your photo as good as it can be. That means doing the best you can when you take it and then doing the best you can to improve it in post.
4) Shoot Many, Keep Few
You may have heard the phrase Spray and Pray which is used rather derisively in the photographic community to describe the habit of shooting off a bunch of shots in the hope that one will be decent. This is certainly a poor way to improve your photographic skills.
However, you absolutely should take multiple shots to find the keeper. Try different apertures, shutter speeds and exposure settings. Move the camera up or down. Walk five feet in each direction and see how it looks from there. They may all be technically competent photos but one will be better than the rest.
At my current skill level I’m hoping to keep maybe one in ten of my photos.
5) Use the LCD Display
I favor the viewfinder, probably out of habit, and I think it’s better for correctly framing a shot. It can also be difficult to see the LCD clearly in bright light. But it significantly limits where I can put the camera. I’m prepared to crawl about on the ground to get a shot but some angles are just about impossible if I want to put my eye against the viewfinder.
If you want to produce a really good landscape shot, you really need a different angle and using the LCD display may give it to you. Many cameras now come with a swiveling LCD display which allows you to put your camera and very unusual angles and may give you a perspective on the landscape that people just don’t normally see.