What is landscape photography?

What is landscape photography?

What is landscape photography?

The definition of landscape photography would be photography that shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. But, what does it really mean?

The vast green fields that you see in photos, the silent, dense jungles exuding quiet power, the rolling hills, the winding streams giving life to the areas through which it passes, the sparkling blue lakes, all these photos that you see are the result of landscape photography. It is capturing the essence of nature in its purest form without human influence.

Landscape photography is a terminology that can include a wide spectrum of photography including rural, urban settings, industrial or nature photography. Mostly though nature is the subject of landscape photography. It can be done for tourism purposes or if you are going outdoors and want to capture nature in its pure form.

History of Landscape photography

It was only in the beginning of the 18th century, that painters started to use nature as subjected in their work. Prior to that, it was only used as a backdrop.

In the 1800’s photography started being regarded as a form of art. People started exploring and adventuring into uncharted territories, into unexplored jungles and discovered many jewels of nature that they wished to capture so that they could document their travels. Thus, began landscape photography.

Early landscape photographers imitated the early landscape paintings and it was not until the late 19th century that Peter Henry Emerson stressed on the importance of naturalism in photography.

Early landscape photographers imitated the early landscape paintings and it was not until the late 19th century that Peter Henry Emerson stressed on the importance of naturalism in photography.

Types of landscape photography

Sunset photography – As the name suggests, sunset is capturing the sunset. The reduced amt. of light and angle of light source can cause trouble during this type of process

Coastline and seascape photography – Capturing the seas, the oceans, the coastal lands and shores makes up coastline and seascape photography

Forest Photography – The dense, dark, eerie and beautiful jungles of Amazon and the woods and the wild provide for excellent subjects for photography.

Desert photography – The Sahara, the Gobi, the Thar all these beautiful deserts with the
sand dunes and vast stretches of land are subjects of desert photography.

Night landscape photography – Capturing the vast, starry, deep-blue sky along with the scenery entails night landscape photography.

Now that you’ve learnt about landscape photography, its types and its history, let’s get into how to take those stunning snapshots.

Choosing the Equipment

I know what they say, a bad workman blames his tools. And no I am not being picky about equipment but when it comes to photography your tools have to be suited to the type of photography you want to do so you have to choose wisely. Here are some factors that you should keep in mind.

Sensor size

There are lots of cameras with different sensor sizes but here the most common ones you will encounter are Four-thirds, APS-C, and full-frame( 35 mm equivalent)

Comparison of the sensor footprints


The size of a full-frame sensor is equal to a frame of 35mm film. There are few advantages of size:

  1. You get a wider field of view because of the large sensor and as there is no “crop factor” lenses provide the field of view expected at the selected focal length.
  2. There is less digital noise with large sensors
  3. There is higher megapixel count with large sensors.


  1. It can be heavy and a problem to carry about when it comes to full frame DSLRs.
  2. It is expensive


It is 2⁄3 rd the size of a full frame but the exact amount depends upon the manufacturer. This is the “crop factor” meaning APS-C is basically a full frame cropped in camera to a smaller size.

It leads to loss in wide angle capability( 25mm on an APS-C camera is a 16 mm on a full frame) and a net gain in telephoto capability an 800mm on an APS-C is 500mm lens on a full-frame.

Micro 4/3 sensors

It is about half the size of a full frame sensor. A 24mm becomes a 48 mm equivalent of micro 4/3 sensor.


Because these cameras carry a smaller sensor their size and weight is optimum to carry them easily from place to place.


It has relatively poor performance at high ISO’s.

Which one should you choose?

Well, there is no consensus on that. You can choose the one that suits your photography.

For night photography consider full frame and APS-C or 4/3rds for wildlife photography.


Many elements internally and externally determine the performance and quality of image of any lens. A zoom lens has vastly more components to it than a prime lens.

The way light passes to the sensor is changed by the several glass elements in the lens
body. The lens has some parts that focus the light, some parts that reduce unwanted effects like halos or chromatic aberration.

Faster processors and stabilised lenses cost more because sophisticated processors and motors, as well as internal stabilisation systems determine the price. It takes more effort and better design to fend off bad weather elements hence weather sealing is another determinant of price.

A wide range of terms are used to indicate special optical features which are designed to improve light transmission and also to correct common optical issues.

LD (low dispersion)
ED or ELD (extra-low dispersion)
SLD (special low dispersion)
ASP (aspherical).
UL (ultra-low dispersion)
HRI (high refractive index)

Some of these lenses are used together in the same lens. Groups of ED and groups of UL glass can be used to correct many imaging issues.

The design choices determine the construction, quality and price of lenses. The “faster” a lens (the wider its maximum aperture) the better is what is usually expected. An ƒ/2.8 lens is expected to be better than a less-expensive ƒ/4 lens but in some cases the internal design is more important. So choose wisely.

Fixed aperture and variable aperture are the two different types of zoom lenses. In a fixed
aperture zoom, the maximum aperture remains constant across the whole zoom range. With a variable aperture lens, maximum aperture decreases as you get to the longer end of the range. It’s much more difficult and expensive to create a fixed aperture lens.

Earlier when computer modelling and precision robotic manufacturing was not advanced, there was a yawning gap between zooms and primes. So zoom was usually used where travelling light was most important. Now, the gap has narrowed quite a lot. Nowadays lenses come with their built-in microprocessors and precise focusing motors.

If you shoot a zoom lens at the widest setting all the time, then there’s not a lot of value to the zoom capabilities. This will lead to more cost savings.

Expected uses, image quality and budget are the biggest determiners of wide-angle lenses.


For landscape photography, a tripod is a must to keep your camera rock steady while you
set up your camera and filters for your shot. It helps to avoid unwanted camera shake when there are low-light conditions (nighttime landscapes, golden and blue hours) or when you are shooting for HDR, panoramas, and other types of landscape photographs.

Things to keep in mind while buying a tripod set:

  • The max. load of a tripod stand should be 30-40% higher than the total weight of the gear that will be mounted on it.
  • You should choose a tripod that can be set high enough without having to fully extend its central column as extending the centre column might reduce camera stability.
  • 4 or 5 sectioned legs are less stable than 3 sectioned ones.
  • To avoid being bogged down by the weight, consider a carbon fibre made tripod stand as it is lighter than aluminium or other metals. Full-sized tripod stands are heavier than compact ones.
  • Buy a good tripod head.

Setting Up a tripod stand

  • Always extend the larger sections of the legs first.
  • Always fully extend the legs first. Raise the central column only when you need that extra height.
  • Put a flat stone or similar object under each foot to distribute the weight onto a larger surface when setting up the tripod on soft ground, such as mud or wet sand. There are some manufacturers that offer optional feet with larger surface areas.
  • To stabilize the tripod against strong winds and give it some weight attach your backpack to it with some bungee cord.

Remember to take your gloves, lens cleaning kit, filters and lens hood.


Light is the biggest factor in landscape photography. It makes or breaks your perfect photo. But unlike studio photography where you have artificial light, in landscape photography you can only depend on natural light.

  • The UV (ultraviolet) filter is the most known. But, its purpose has been rendered useless due to digital.
  • The ND (neutral density) filter helps to decrease shutter speeds for long exposure shots.
  • The GND (graduated neutral density) filter averages out the huge difference between sky and landscape.
  • To cut out glare and reflections, use polarised filters.


There are 4 primary modes. They are:

Automatic mode
Here the camera is in-charge of everything. The camera selects the aperture,ISO and shutter speed. You just have to point the camera and shoot. It is generally used by amateurs. It is effective for quick shots but you will realize quickly that you won’t be able to capture the magical shot with it.

Aperture Priority mode
In this mode, you control the aperture while the shutter speed is controlled by the camera. The Depth of Field or DOF and the amount of light that reaches the sensor.

DOF is generally maximized in landscape photography. As you change your aperture, your shutter speed will also need to change. This one drawback of this mode.

Shutter priority mode

During an exposure, the length of time the shutter remains open is known as shutter speed. A fast shutter speed will freeze motion while a slow one will cause moving objects to blur. Shutter priority helps you to control the shutter speed of the camera while the camera controls the aperture settings.

Manual mode

Here you control everything from shutter speed to aperture to ISO. Manual mode is usually used for the following:

  • Panoramas: use manual mode after selecting the proper exposure to avoid changes in brightness from one image to next.
  • Time lapse video: Use manual mode here because automatic settings will change every new image in the series and will damage the continuity of time-lapse.


Exposure is very important in landscape photography It is used to not overexpose the highlights and not underexpose the shadowy areas. The camera’s metering, the settings you choose, and your personal vision make the ideal exposure.

For good exposure, you need to know how to get the picture that you envision in your mind’s eye.


The meter has to look at the lights and darks of a scenery and zero in on an exposure to capture it.

Evaluative Metering

In this type of metering,the camera decides on an exposure depending on what is happening in the entire frame. It decides on an average for the scene by taking in all the factors. But, it is suited to some occasions like if you want to click a forest on a rainy day, it will give a good image by drawing on an overall average.

But for images where there are bright spots and equally dark shadows like blue skies and dark jungles, an average would result in neither the skies nor the jungles appropriately exposed

Centre-Weighted average metering

Most subjects of a picture are placed in the centre, so this metering emphasizes on the central region of the photo.

It is a useful tool for subjects that are at the centre and need to be emphasised.

Spot metering

This type of metering is when you need precision in your photos.

In spot metering, the rest of the image will be ignored and the camera will select suited exposure for only that spot which you want. This is the perfect metering mode, if you want to make sure the exposure is right for your subject and don’t care about the other parts of the image.


A histogram is a graph that shows the distribution of brightness across the image. If the graph is pushed to the right, the image is bright; to the left, and the image is dark.

Most data is captured by the sensors on the right (bright) side of the histogram. When you “expose to the right” the distribution of light is mostly bright. Then your RAW image will hold more data and detail than when you expose it to the darks.

Exposure compensation
A camera has the ability to adjust your exposure up and down with the flick of a dial or button. This is extremely helpful. If you find your image too dark or too bright, Exposure Compensation can be used to quickly add or subtract light.

How to shoot landscape photography?

Choose the best Location

Location is very important in photography and more so in landscape because your subject is the location.

  • You have to select a location, the date on which to shoot and make sure that there will be no inclement weather on that day.
  • Scout the location beforehand. Make sure that it is the best spot. Check if there are any other interesting spots.
  • Decide what compositions are available from that particular spot.
  • Ensure that there are no obstructions while shooting.

Choose the best hour

The hour before sunrise and after sunset is often termed the “golden hour” of landscape photography because light quality is at its peak.

The light is warm and it touches the surroundings at a lower and better angle. There are soft shadows that add colour, and make compelling photography.

Just because the light quality is best at this time doesn’t mean you can’t shoot in the middle of the day. If photographers are looking for contrast or black and white photos, they prefer the middle of the day when the sun is high as it causes things to be brightly lit and dark shadows.

Expect to go empty handed

The whole process of landscape photography entails a lot of waiting and trying. There will be times when you will wait the whole day but not get a single photo. Weather keeps changing, what was beautiful then may not be beautiful now. You have to wait and keep trying till you get the perfect shot. Because when you get the perfect shot, your wait will be worth it.

Don’t forget the essentials

Landscape photography is basically outdoor photography usually in remote locations. So you need to get other things along with camera equipment like torches at night, maps in case GPS doesn’t work, mosquito repellent, sunscreen and food as well as drinks. It is always better to come prepared.

Choose the right lens

Landscape photographs are composed at wide-angle lengths, such as 24mm or wider to capture as much of a scene as possible.

Sharpness is the primary quality in a landscape photography so you don’t necessarily need the lowest maximum aperture.

In landscape photography, prime lenses are preferred because their construction is solid and has less moving parts.

Choose the maximum depth of field.

To ensure that much of the scene is in focus, you need to maximize your depth of field. Choose a small Aperture setting (a large number) because the smaller the aperture, the
greater is the depth of field.

But you have to increase your ISO or lengthen your shutter speed because with small
apertures, less light enters your image sensor.

Choose RAW

In the RAW format, the image is saved in an uncompressed file type that maintains the data as it is recorded on the sensor of the camera. This way you can later adjust the image as well as its exposure, shadows and highlights with more leeway in post-processing, as it captures the full dynamic range.

The drawback is that this increases the file sizes but in this age of multi-terabyte storage devices, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Choose to use tripod stand
It is essential to use a tripod stand because of wind and other unfavourable conditions to stabilize the camera and give it solid support. You can even hang weight from the centre column to stabilize the camera. A tripod stand also counteracts slow shutter speed. Go for the sturdier tripod stand.

Bracket your shots

It means to take multiple shots of the same scene or frame so that you get the right exposure.

They are shot in groups of 3 or 5 and it is separated by one stop of exposure. You shoot a scene at normal exposure, with balanced shadows and highlights and even light. After that you shoot one at one stop lower and one at a stop higher exposure. Now you have 3 images with different exposures. You can try out with more exposures.

Choose to use Histogram
A Histogram is a representation of the brightness levels of all pixels in your image and shows the tonal ranges throughout the image.

It gives you a better and comprehensive understanding of how the light is hitting the camera sensor.

Choose a beautiful foreground

For a unique and beautiful picture, you need an interesting foreground. Add a second subject in the foreground, whether it be a row of contrasting flowers or a river or stream to layer your image. This will help to set your photo apart.


Landscape photography is by the travel-lovers and for the travel-lovers. It helps to boost tourism and enhances the natural beauty of places. It also exposes nature’s wonders in front of us. It makes us fall in love with nature and to do it correctly is to pay tribute to nature.


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