Most photographers love landscapes, and if you are just starting out, you can’t wait to get out there and capture that fantastic scene in front of you. But there are a few common mistakes beginners make that will mark you as a novice. Avoid these five beginner mistakes in landscape photography.
Too Much Empty Space
The scene in front of you is beautiful, and so you want to capture all of it. But too much uninteresting empty space in the foreground or background can make your image boring. Take a look at the scene through your viewfinder before you snap the shutter.
- Is the sky washed out, overcast or clear blue? This doesn’t add anything to the image, lower your view or zoom in to get less of the sky.
- Is the foreground a lot of empty space, an empty field, or a barren desert? Tilt the view up or zoom in to capture less of it.
No Clear Subject
One problem that can lead to too much empty space is no clearly identifiable subject. A mountain range in the distance or the ocean isn’t a subject; it’s a background. Find something in the foreground to include as the main focal point. This will not only add interest to your image but a sense of scale and space. Put a fence or tree in the foreground in front of those mountains, or find a piece of driftwood on the beach to lend scale to the ocean.
This is both the most common mistake and the easiest to fix. Your viewfinder has grid lines for a reason; use them. As you compose your shot, make sure the camera is level with the horizon. Sure, you can quickly fix this in post-processing, but it may cause you to crop out something important. This is one thing that is so easy to get right in the camera, and it should become second nature. And don’t try to say you were trying to do this or that. Your horizon is crooked. Please fix it.
This one is a little tougher and will get better with experience. Your eye can even out the light much better than your camera. The sky is usually much brighter than the foreground. The shadows are actually darker than you think they are. Learn techniques to deal with tricky lighting.
Eventually, you will master graduated filters, bracketed exposures, and HDR processing. But for now, meter different parts of the scene and decide on the best exposure to nail the shot. Learn how to use your exposure compensation dial to fine-tune the lighting without having to shoot manually. You can do much in post-processing to recover lost highlights and shadows, but if the information isn’t there, it’s gone forever.
Not Using a Tripod
This may not always be practical, but you must use a tripod if you want to master landscape photography truly. No great landscape image you have ever seen was shot without one. It eliminates handshake and allows for the lowest ISO and smallest aperture to get super-sharp photos throughout. And almost as important as those reasons, it forces you to slow down, think about the scene, and fine-tune precisely what is and what isn’t in your frame.
A great landscape photograph can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will achieve with your camera. Make sure it is the best image it can be by avoiding these five beginner mistakes in landscape photography and fast-track your way to success.