Five Steps to Better Landscape Photography

If you are just starting out with landscape photography, you are going to make many mistakes early on, and chances are you will be asking yourself “What am I doing wrong?” Here are five simple rules for landscape photography, which can help any beginner to get better results more quickly.

Do not treat them as gospel – I do not – and you are certainly going to want to break them as you become more experienced. Keep them in the back of your mind, though, and you will get a lot more pleasure and satisfaction out of your photos!

1. Diagonal Lines

When you are taking a landscape photograph, you want to engage the viewer and direct their attention to the focus of your composition.

Diagonal lines are a great way of doing this. For instance, the line of a fence can draw your eye to a farm building, or a riverbank to the young boy fishing at the river's edge. Two of more diagonal lines which converge on the focus of your photo can sometimes deliver even better results.

2. Geometric Shapes

You want your landscape to be balanced, and a great way of doing this is to use geometric shapes and place key objects in the shot at the vertices of the shape. It is not as common as the other techniques I am discussing, but if you use it cleverly, you can create really well proportioned photos.

For example, consider taking a shot based on a triangle. Two objects can be positioned symmetrically on each side of the photo, and one located more centrally and perhaps somewhat higher in the shot. These form a triangle and create a real sense of balance and harmony. Try it and see what I mean.

As you become more advanced, you can even use the shape to draw the eye into the photo, in much the same way you can with diagonal lines.

3. The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is probably one of the first things that most students of photography are taught, and is one of the most common rules, which people use in just about every type of photography. Whilst following this rule can seem very unadventurous at times, the truth is that it can produce great landscape shots. Keep in mind that breaking this rule can also result in striking landscapes, so use your judgment.

To use the rule of thirds, divide your shot into nine equal boxes with two horizontal and two vertical lines, and position the key elements of your shot at the intersection of these lines. This will give your photo balance and draw the viewer's eye to these major points of interest.

4. Frame Your Image

When you are taking a landscape photo, you want your entire image to be interesting, even around the edges. One way of doing this is to 'frame' your shot by capturing objects around the edge.

For example, you might frame your shot by having a tree branch draped over the top of your shot, or taking your shot from under a bridge.

5. The Foreground is Important

The next time you are about to take a landscape or city photo, pause a minute before you shoot, and ask yourself the question “Is the foreground in this shot interesting?”

Too often, landscape photographers spend a lot of time getting the background for their shots just right, and do not spend enough time on the foreground composition. Alternatively, they try to make sure that there is nothing in the foreground that distracts the viewer.

The trouble with this is that while you will get a clear field of view, with nothing blocking the main objects of interest, your photo is likely to come over as dull and unimaginative.

Instead, think about finding something interesting that you can include in the foreground, without overpowering the main subject of your shot. This can create a more lifelike and interesting scene, and draw your viewer's eye into the landscape.

When selecting your foreground image, it does not have to be fascinating – remember we do not want to overpower the main subject. It could simply be some boulders, a bush, a trail or a stone pillar. Or, crouch down when taking your shot and use the ground itself to add interest to your landscape.

Do not follow these Rules Slavishly

As with any art, you need to know the rules of landscape photography – and when to break them. As you become more experienced, you will start to learn when you can do this. Most great photographers do this, but you have to crawl before you can run.

Keep these techniques in mind when you are taking you landscape photos, and you will improve your results dramatically. Don't let them stifle your creativity, though!