This beginner’s guide will have you shooting great landscapes in no time
Landscape photography means different things to different people. For some it’s about recording a memory of where they’ve been. For others it’s about discovery, and documenting the places they find. And then there’s those that turn up at the same location at 4am every morning for six months waiting for that perfect sunrise.
Whatever extremes to which you ultimately wish to take your landscape photography, we all start at the beginning. And in this extensive video, YouTuber Josh Katz offers a complete introduction to landscape photography for beginners. Everything from location scouting to settings guidelines to post processing tips.
This eighteen and a half minute video is a pretty extensive introduction to landscape photography.
- 0:57 – What is Landscape Photography?
- 1:38 – Equipment
- 5:02 – Step 1 – Location Spotting
- 5:36 – Step 2 – Timing
- 6:31 – Step 3 – Foreground Elements
- 7:38 – Step 4 – Positioning
- 8:07 – Step 5 – Preliminary Settings
- 8:55 – Step 6 – Aperture
- 9:41 – Step 7 – ISO
- 10:08 – Step 8 – Shutter Speed
- 11:07 – Step 9 – Focusing/Hyperfocal Distance
- 12:27 – Step 10 – Composition Tips
- 14:20 – Step 11 – Editing
Josh begins by going through the very basics of the minimum equipment. And you don’t need a whole bunch of expensive fancy gear to do it.
- A DSLR or other camera that offers full manual control over exposure
- A lens (if it’s not something with a built in lens)
- A tripod
That’s it. Josh uses a Canon 70D for his landscapes, which is a relatively inexpensive APS-C Canon DSLR, and a lightweight Manfrotto Befree tripod. You don’t have to get this tripod, but whichever one you use, make sure you weigh it down.
While not required, Josh also suggests picking up an intervalometer. These allow you to fire the camera without physically touching it. This helps to minimise vibrations while taking the shot. Many intervalometers and camera releases now operate wirelessly, too. If you don’t have an intervalometer or other trigger, you can always use the camera’s self timer.
To be clear, this isn’t the exposure settings. These are the camera settings.
- Put your camera in manual exposure mode
- Shoot RAW images
- Set white balance to auto or cloudy (you can change it in post)
- Plug in remote or enable self timer
- Turn on live view
- Use your camera on the tripod
Josh talks at length about how the three exposure variables – aperture, ISO and shutter speed – will affect your shot. Like Josh, I prioritise the aperture in my landscape (and most other) photographs, as it usually has the biggest impact on the final image. You can clean up some noise in post, but you can’t really change your depth of field. You could, of course, focus stack.
ISO comes next, and usually we want this as low as possible to minimise the noise. Of course, sometimes you may need to bump it up a bit, especially for night shots. But typically, if you’re on a tripod in the daytime, a low ISO is going to be the way to go.
Finally, with your aperture and ISO set, the shutter speed is how you control the exposure itself. Usually it’s not going to make much difference if whether you need to shoot at 1/250th of a second or 1/8000th to get a well exposed shot.
If you know you want a long exposure for those blurred out long motion shots, then you’ll want to add some neutral density to your lens. I use the B+W 77mm 1o stop ND for such long exposures, as does Josh. But there are also ND filters available from Lee and other manufacturers.
Having the gear all set up and ready to go, though, is only half the battle. You need to figure out your composition. There are so many composition “rules” out there, but ultimately they’re all just guidelines. For beginners, though, they’re good starting points.
Josh’s take on the rules is quite interesting. While he does mention the rule of thirds, he suggests considering it, not strictly sticking to it. Ask yourself if a particular “rule” is going to enhance your image or not. You may decide that your shot looks best with the horizon perfectly across the middle of the shot. And that’s ok.
Finally, Josh covers some editing tips. He goes over a whole lot of things here, so I’m not going to go over them, but the short version is to get Lightroom.
So, if you ever wanted to start taking your landscapes a little more seriously, or just want to know where to begin, it’s well worth a watch.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.