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Landscape Photography - Learn to Take Stunning Scenic Pictures

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/29/2010

Unlike portraits, the goal of landscape photography is to capture scenery from a specific perspective. Learn about the many factors that go into taking exceptional landscape photos.

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    An Overview of Landscape Photography

    There is much more to landscape photography than simply pointing at a scenic view and clicking away. You should consider factors such as lighting and shadow, equipment such as tripods, lenses and filters, your angle and perspective as well as the best types of scenery to photograph. Read on to learn some helpful landscape photography tips.

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    Selecting Scenery for Landscape Photography

    Landscape Photography: choosing a scene 

    Perhaps the key element in landscape photography is the landscape itself. There is no particular type of scene or location that is the "best" choice. A stormy ocean, a serene forest and a dusty city corner can all be ideal settings for landscape photography.

    Choose settings that are visually appealing to you, and landscapes in which you are able to perceive great detail. When you are ready to start taking pictures, you should have a distinct viewpoint. Your landscape photography will be much more evocative when your photos clearly reveal the elements of the setting that grabbed your attention. Do not second-guess yourself about whether a scene is attractive or charming. If you find loveliness or significance in a location and incorporate the proper tools and techniques, the appeal of the setting will come through in your photos.

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    The Best Lighting for Landscape Photography

    Landscape Photography: lighting 

    Lighting plays a large part in landscape photography. The lighting and shadows you will encounter in nature vary from hour to hour and season to season. A grassy field may look vastly different in the shadows of early morning than it does at noon's full sun, and different still under a gray, February sky.

    While midday certainly provides ample lighting, many seasoned photographers consider dusk and dawn to be the "Golden Hours" when it comes to landscape photography. You may wish to visit a favorite scenic location at different times of the day to decide on the best natural lighting for the photo.

    Along with the intensity of the sun, you will also want to consider its direction. While you have probably heard that, whether shooting landscape photography or any types of photos, the sun should be behind you. This is called "frontlighting," as the light - in this case, the sun - shines on the front of the subject you are photographing. Frontlighting can certainly illuminate your subject vividly, but may not be the best choice for landscape photography. In fact, it may result in a flattened appearance in your photos. Try shooting from other angles so that your landscape is lit from the side or behind. Read Use Directional Lighting to Create More Interesting Images for more detailed information.

    Even though landscape photography consists solely of shooting pictures outdoors, you are not limited to relying on the sun for lighting. Your camera's fill-in flash feature will help you avoid unwanted shadows. You can certainly use your flash outdoors when it is simply too dark to capture the scenery you want to photograph, as well. Conversely, if the sun is shining too brightly and you are experiencing excessive glare or reflections, seek out or create some type of shade. For example, if there are no trees, awnings or other covers nearby, bring an umbrella under which you can stand while you photograph.

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    Camera Equipment Used for Landscape Photography

    Landscape Photography: lenses and filters 

    There are several pieces of equipment that can be exceedingly helpful for landscape photography. A tripod is almost necessary to help you capture images without blurriness or graininess that so often comes from even the slightest shake in the photographer's hands. Filters can also be quite valuable in landscape photography, helping to compensate for the difference between the land or the water and the sky. For help selecting the best lens filter, read Deciding on a Camera Lens Filter - Which is Right for You? Additionally, wide-angle lenses allow you to encompass the scene you are photographing, and one with the ability to zoom can be the key to getting a great shot of a more remote setting.

    Although it might not directly help you take better landscape photographs, a backpack-style camera bag will certainly make it easier to transport all of your equipment to the perfect location for your photo shoot.

    You can also make use of photo editing software to enhance your landscape photography. Utilize it to correct brightness, color, contrast or even fix crooked and tilted photos.

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    Landscape Photography Perspective and Technique

    Landscape Photography: Perspective 

    Once you have found the perfect location for taking landscape photography, determined the proper lighting and acquired the best equipment, you are ready to start taking pictures. Before you point and click, though, there are several framing techniques to consider. While you can certainly photograph from eye level while standing, perhaps your photos would be more interesting if you crouched closer to the ground or even reclined in the grass. Landscape photography comprised of tall trees in a forest will take on a whole new depth when you stand in the midst of them and point your camera upwards. Try holding the camera on its side for vertical pictures that capture a different slice of the scene, as well.

    One of the best set of techniques to use for landscape photography is HDR photography, which stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR allows for a vaster and more noticeable difference between the lightest and darkest areas of a landscape, making the photo more intense. Read HDR Photography - How to Take the Best HDR Photos to learn more.

    Include points of interest in the foreground of your landscape photography for a more complex and stimulating shot. Read the Bright Hub series The Big Picture – Photographic Composition Techniques for helpful tips on infusing your photos with interesting images. Then go out and start shooting; practice makes perfect!