Back to basics: shooting Landscapes

Unlike portraits and close-ups and as a general rule in photography, landscapes need to be sharp and in focus across the photo unless you are trying to disseminate a message or you want your audience to be guided to a specific subject in the photo.

What do you need for gear?

If you don’t a have a sturdy one, go ahead and invest in a quality tripod. Slow shutter speeds and the sharpness required are two elements that only a tripod can provide. If and when you are using a tripod however, turn the Image Stabilization feature (Canon) off and remember that sunrise and sunsets are the best times for landscape photography. Using tripods brings you the advantage of shooting at ISO-100 which means less noise in low light conditions. Other than the camera and the tripod, consider taking with you on a landscape photo endeavour:

  • ND filter
  • Polarising filter
  • Remote shutter release cable (or you can use your camera timer)
  • Water to keep you hydrated
  • Sun cream (if it is sunny)
  • Anti-mosquito repellent (if at sunset shooting at the beach)


Camera Settings

Set your ISO to the lowest possible i.e. less than or equal to 400 depending on the shutter speed you want to achieve. So if you are shooting the waves at sunset and you want shutter speed to be no more than 5 seconds, you should compensate the exposure using more ISO.

Select "Daylight" for white balance if it is sunny. If it is overcast, choose the Shade or Cloudy setting. You can also experiment other settings to give other moods or to give the impression of other timing when the shot was taken. I always shoot RAW and Auto WB and experiment later in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW.

If you are shooting JPEG, consider changing the image style (Canon) to Landscape. If you are like me always shooting RAW, lower the Exposure Compensation by 1/3 to 1 stop. This will boost the saturation and vibrance in your images. 

Composition and Focus

Hyper Focus Distance (HFD) is the point of focus that will give you the greatest acceptable sharpness from a point near your camera all the way out to infinity. To do this, compose your photo then focus on an object that is 1/3 of the distance.

You can also use your camera Depth of Field (DOF) preview button to check the sharpness of all objects in the scene. I rarely use mine.

Use the rule of thirds to emphasise on the subjects. The horizon should be placed at the upper third. If you are shooting panoramas, shoot vertically and take overlapping shots (by 20%) then use software like Adobe Photoshop for panoramic stitching. Set your WB to cloudy. If you leave it to auto it might change between segments.

Shooting landscapes does not always mean your camera has to be horizontal. Shooting the same scene both vertically and horizontally takes only few minutes but will increase your chance of finding the best composition. So shoot in both formats and decide later. You might find that the format you initially chose was not the best option.

Shoot when it is raining for clearer pictures. An aperture of f/22 usually provides a sharp photo all around. Use your Polariser for that blue sky and water reflection and don't try to capture it all: shoot the details.

When composing, don’t forget your foreground! Think of your foreground as a points of interest in your photo that leads your viewers a way into the photo as well as creating a sense of 3D to the shot.

For maximum impact, look for simplicity.