The Ultimate Landscape Photography Guide

The Ultimate Landscape Photography Guide

There is something about landscape photography that is so beautiful. Being able to capture nature in its most honest form is one of many people’s favorite things about photography.

However, while landscape photography may look effortless (as there are no people to deal with), it is actually a very delicate art form and a very unique type of photography.

Whether you are new to landscape photography, or could just use a refresher course, here is the ultimate guide to shooting landscape photography.

Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is a relatively general term used to describe taking pictures of different types natural landscapes. It doesn’t matter what type of landscape, whether it is rolling grass fields, a beautiful beach or a majestic mountain.

Landscape photography can include wildlife, inanimate objects or even people in the subject matter—or it can just be of nature as it is with no other inclusions.

No matter what type of landscape photography you are shooting, it is important to remember is there is a lot that goes into these types of shots before you ever actually click the shutter.

Landscape Photography for Beginners

The most important thing for beginners to remember when shooting landscape photography is that your goal should be to try to capture the landscape in front of you in its most natural form.

There are so many different filters and post-editing features you can add to photographs, but you don’t want to rely on those in landscape photography. After all, your attempt is to capture nature as you see it. So, focus on the basics of photography and worry about editing and fancy features later.

And, make sure that you have the right equipment.

Joshua Tree Sunset Photography

A simple sunset over Joshua Tree National Park

Best Cameras for Landscape Photography

There are certain types of photography where you can get away with shooting images on a sub-par camera. Landscape photography is not one of those types of photography.

You need to have a good camera in order to get really crisp, clear and beautiful landscape shots. The two most ideal cameras for shooting landscapes are DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

While smart phone cameras have improved tremendously over the past few years—they are not sufficient for landscape photography. They have larger and better sensors and more settings that allow you to customize your shot more and get the stunning final product you are looking for.

Best Lenses for Landscape Photography

In addition to a good camera, when shooting landscape photography, you will also need a good lens. Start with a quality lens that pairs with your camera, and make sure that you also get a wide-angle lens.

This is a must-have for landscape photography as it offers a wider perspective and allows you to capture more of the scene. Some avid landscape photographers even go with ultra-wide-angle lenses which are shorter (such as 24 mm) and give you even wider shots.

There are a few different types of wide-angle lenses, so make sure that you play with different options before choosing the right one for you.

Bishop fall colors

Capturing and pulling natural color is essential when shooting landscape photography.

7 Landscape Photography Tips

Once you have your foundation down, and are starting to get the hang of photography, here are a few essential tips that will take your photos from ordinary to extraordinary.


1.   Follow the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the first things that are taught in photography classes, and for good reason—they can help create a balanced photo and teach you how to frame a shot.

Here’s how the rule of thirds works:

  • Imagine that your photo is broken down into a grid of nine equal rectangles.
  • Place the subject of your photo on one of the four intersections of these rectangles.

This gives the photo a more natural look, when compared to putting the subject right in the middle of the screen. This isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule, but it is a great standby you shouldn’t forget, if you start to feel like your images look too staged.

Coba Ruins

The Coba ruins are amazing to photograph. Standing atop this ancient pyramid was a real treat.

2.    Perfect the Exposure Trifecta

Getting proper exposure with any shot is not only essential but it can actually be quite difficult. Proper exposure all comes down to balancing the three things that make up the exposure trifecta: shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings.

  • ISO- The ISO (international Organization Standardization) indicates how sensitive the sensor or film is to light. For darker situations, you need to use a higher or more sensitive ISO setting to capture light (like 800 or even 1600). However, higher settings bring more noise into the image, so if you don’t need the extra light, don’t overdo it on the ISO.
  • Aperture- This term is used to describe the size of the opening in the lens diaphragm. Smaller aperture numbers mean a larger opening, but more shallow depth of field.

 Larger aperture numbers mean a smaller opening (and less light) but sharper images.

  • Shutter Speed- As the name suggests, the shutter speed refers to the amount of time that your camera’s shutter is open and the amount of time your sensor or film is exposed to light. A fast shutter speed will stop motion, while a slow shutter speed will capture blur and movement.

While beginners may want to start off in automatic or priority mode, if you really want full control of your camera and your photos—you need to switch to manual and learn to balance this trifecta properly.

yosemite snowfall

Shot on a canon 5D mk IV

3.    Have a Camera on You At All Times

This is a simple, yet straightforward tip that every photographer, no matter how new or experienced you are, should follow.

You should always have a camera on you.

You never know when you will find inspiration for a shot or see something that needs to be captured in an instant. Trust us, most photographers don’t regret taking their camera somewhere they didn’t end up getting photos at, but they do regret not having it when they wanted it.

June Lake Fall Colors

Setting up the right scene requires shooting in Manual more often than not. Avoid the GREEN button (auto mode)

4.   Embrace Your Histogram

Histograms are one of the staples of any modern piece of image editing software. Histograms are important, but they can sometimes be complicated if you aren’t already familiar with them.

Take the time to learn about histograms, they will only help you in the end.

A histogram is a graphical representation of the tones in your image—or the amount of tones in a particular brightness, ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness).

Histograms also usually display information for the three primary colors (red, green and blue). Take the time to take a tutorial on histograms, the graphs may seem complicated at first, but they will ultimately help you with your editing.

5.    Composition Matters

It can be really easy to get caught up in the artistic value of a photo, or in messing with the lighting and the manual settings on your camera, to suddenly have you forget all about composition. Don’t forget about composition.

You can’t go back and change composition later on. You need to pay close attention to your composition in the moment. Here are a few of the basics that you should always keep in mind when working with the composition in a photo.

Mesquite Sand Dunes Sunrise

Here’s a shot I captured in the pre-dawn hours of December at the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

Sunset Photography

Make sure to use a tripod when shooting a sunset scene—this can be helpful with the challenging (and changing) lighting of sunset photography. Set the aperture to a large number so everything is in focus, and keep your ISO low which will result in a cleaner image.

Sunrise Photography

Lighting with sunrise photography is very different. You should choose a low to mid-range ISO setting, such as 200, 400 or 800. You still want to make sure that you choose a large aperture to keep everything in focus. This is particularly important with sunrises, which have a soft glow that can sometimes translate to a fuzzy image.

Griffith Park Sunrise

Shot at 400 mm from Griffith Park Over Los Angeles. f 32 to get detail from the sun

6.    Seek Landscape Photography Advice From Your Peers

You are never too experienced, never too old and never too good of a photographer to stop taking advice from people. But instead of looking just to people who are more seasoned or more experienced, look to your peers.

These are the individuals who are likely going to be in a similar journey with their photography skills. These are also the people who are going to look at the world most similarly to you. Your peers are a great resource. Consider setting up a photography group that gets together regularly to discuss topics or join a forum of your peers to meet new peers to connect with.

Sunrise is one of the most rewarding times to shoot outdoor photos

7.    Invest More in Learning

If you really want to take your photography skills to the next level, then you need to invest your time and money into some formal education. Online forums, meetings with peers and good old-fashioned practice can all go a long way in helping you with your skills—but you should still consider paying for some formal classes.

There are community college courses anyone can take, classes available at local schools and community centers and even formal online courses that you can take. A formal class will really help you and give you a sense of accountability when it comes to working on and perfecting your skills.


There are so many things to be learned about the art of photography. No matter how long you have been taking photos, everyone can use some tips now and then to remind them of what they know and teach them new things that they don’t—all in an effort to make them a better photographer.

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