Creating Sharp and Colourful Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is one of the most enjoyable forms of photography. Not only do you have the opportunity to take stunning photos for your home or office, but you can create canvases, large prints and even gifts for people. How to take good landscapes depends on a few very important factors. The light you shoot in and your lens are the two primary features that create beautiful landscape photos.

How to take landscape photos

First, before I go into detail about these two things, let’s examine how to shoot landscapes. You will need a camera that is able to be attached to a tripod. Then of course you need a tripod. A tripod is what gives you sharper and clearer images. We use a tripod for landscapes because we want to be able to keep the camera free from camera shake. Having a camera that is perfectly still enables us to get sharp images in many different types of light.
A shutter release cable is another handy tool that is often a big part of mastering your landscape photography techniques. A shutter release cable is a small cable with a button at one end. You can attached the cable into your camera and activate the shutter, simply by pressing down a button on the end of the cable. It means you do not have to touch your camera at all. This increases your chance of getting even sharper images.



Lenses for landscape photography

Now that you have your camera, tripod and shutter release cable, now what? Now we come to our lens. There are many different types of lenses for landscape photography. It can be hard to chose one if you have not mastered landscape photography before. One of the best and sharpest lenses is called a prime lens. This means it does not zoom in and out. It can’t. It stays at a fixed focal length. As a result of this immobility, your landscape images become sharper and clearer than if you used a zoom lens.

If you want to capture a big, expansive look to your landscape photos, then I recommend looking at your camera manufacturer’s wide angle and ultra wide angle lenses. A wide angle lens is a focal length of about 35mm. An ultra wide angle lens is even wider and can be around 14mm. There are many lenses to choose from.

Landscape camera settings

There is never any perfect setting for a landscape photo. However there are some pretty good guidelines to shoot landscapes. To begin with the aim of landscape photography is to create impressive, sharp images with beautiful lighting. Before we get into lighting, I want to explain that a smaller aperture is usually what landscape photographers shoot at. A smaller f stop, such as F22, is what is regarded as an ideal aperture for landscapes. This is simply because it helps our camera focus well into the distance. If you are shooting at a medium distance of ten to twenty meters away F13 or higher works perfectly well too. You will of course have to take your lighting into consideration.



The perfect lighting for landscape photography

I have to admit it. I am very surprised there is not more written on lighting for landscape photograph because it is so important. I’ve left it till last; because I want top help focus your attention on the most important aspect of landscape shooting.

The reason why a landscape photo looks so colourful and beautiful is because of the light. Without good lighting a landscape photo can look dull and uninteresting. And no amount of photography gear will fix this problem.
The best time of day to photograph your landscape is in the early morning or late afternoon. This gentle light is called sweet light. You will find that the light is soft and gently colourful. At these times of day the light the hues and tones give your scene a completely different look to the middle of the day. Shooting in the mid summer sun can create unwanted shadows, washed out colours and a general lack of intensity. Shooting in a soft light gives us back those soft colours, muted tones and gentle skies. There are generally no harsh and horrible shadows ruining our landscapes.


Landscape photography editing techniques

Once you have your fixed lens, camera set up on your tripod, small aperture and ideal lighting you can fire off a whole series of shots to your hearts content! I know I certainly do. Once you have created your lovely landscape photo you can then bring it home for editing. Finding the right editing techniques for landscapes isn’t that difficult. You must first know what you are aiming to achieve. Some of us love to turn a landscape photo into a black and white scene. Others love to keep the soft, muted colours that mornings can provide. Some of us love to create different effects altogether to add more drama and impact to create an almost apocalyptic look to our landscape photos.

The main thing is to keep your images sharp, wide and colourful. Aim to have your photo looking sharp and colourful. This means you may have to increase the sharpness a little using the smart sharpen tool in Photoshop. For Lightroom fans, open up the Detail panel and increase the sharpening, radius and detail sliders to the right.

Increasing the colour vibrancy can do wonders for your landscape photo. You will notice that most landscapes contain incredible colour. That is due to the increase in certain colours throughout the scene. It is also due to a general increase in colour vibrancy across the whole photo. Don’t increase the colour too much; you don’t want dark greens to look fluorescent green or soft pinks of wildflowers to look hot pink. It will just look out of place. Keep the colours natural looking as possible, but just improve the presence of colour.


High Dynamic Range

If you have trouble getting with shadows that are too dark and highlights that are way too bright, then try HDR. This is an awesome landscape editing technique that can really save your photos. You take 3 different photos. The first is two stops under exposed. The second is perfectly exposed and the third is two stops over exposed. This will bring natural highlights to your shadows and tone down your highlights to a more natural looking appearance.

Landscape photography ideas

Depending on where you live, you may have many opportunities. In case you are stuck for ideas then try these. A beach scene, waterfalls, a highway from a bird’s eye view, a cityscape at twilight, a long open road, mountain range with hanging mist, a field of flowers and even a paddock with animals grazing in the background. You can see that there are endless opportunities for brilliant landscape photography.
Shooting landscapes depends on your light, lens and sharpness. You don’t have to have an expensive camera to take beautifully stunning landscape photos. You can rely on the things I have taught you and in no time at all you will be on your way to creating stunning photos.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (9)

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  1. Sharnie says:

    Thank you for your very helpful posts Amy. I am leaning every week.

  2. Gandalf says:

    I am surprised that you did NOT mention the benefits of using a polarizing filter. It can eliminate a lot of haze and reflection from landscape images and increase the saturation of the colors.
    Also, a lens hood will eliminate stray light from entering the camera.
    When using a cable or wireless shutter release I usually also use mirror lock-up to eliminate any vibration caused by the mirror flipping up at the time the shutter opens.

  3. Penni says:

    Love your work Amy!

  4. Dennis says:

    Thanks Amy, your information is very useful. DEnnis

  5. Judson says:

    Thanks for all your photography tips.

  6. Manni says:

    Love your stuff!

  7. George says:

    I found your article very helpful and cant wait to put it into practice,I have been taking landscapes mainly mid-day or early afternoon and am never happy with the results, thank you for the tips.

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