Landscape Photography: Simple Tricks To Improve Your Technique

Composing a photograph and writing a play are a lot alike in some ways. A poorly composed picture won't resonate with the viewer, no matter how well the shot is executed technically.

To develop your composition skills, you need to practice over and over again. However, here are some basic tips that will give you a head start. If you keep these tips in mind whilst taking your shots, you will start to discover how to frame your photos properly and get some great results.

Follow the Rule of Thirds

This is one of the easiest ways to improve the composition of your photos. When someone looks at a picture, they tend to focus on points that are a third of the way in from the edges of the picture, from the left, right, top or bottom. You can take advantage of this when composing your photo.

When you take a beginner's photography class, this “Rule of Thirds” is usually one of techniques you are taught right at the start and for good reason – it is one of the best methods for taking interesting shots that are well balanced.

As with all rules, you do not have to follow this one all the time, and you can create well composed and interesting shots – sometimes even dramatic ones – by breaking it. However, you need to know that you are breaking it and that you are doing this to create a specific effect. If you just forget about the rule, then chances are you will just end up with a poor shot.

Some photographers have an in-built sense of the “Rule of Thirds”, but for most of us, we need to practice before it becomes natural. When you are taking a shot, keep on asking yourself “What are the main focal points of this shot? Am I positioning them to create the maximum effect?”

The “Rule of Thirds” also comes into play when you are editing your photos. With modern photo-editing tools, you can easily crop and re-frame your images, so use these to improve your composition. The best way to try this out is to take some of your existing shots and see how you can make them better.

Remember, you can create dramatic shots by deliberately breaking this rule, so go ahead and experiment – but make sure you have learned and understood it first.

Use Negative Space

Negative space can provide balance in your shots. Think about how negative space can be used to create a better composition and support the main focus of your photo.

Geometry is Important

Shapes, lines and patterns create a framework for your shot, and can add realistic depth to your composition. They also direct the viewer's gaze into or out of the picture, so find lines which draw the eye into the main subject of your photo. Spend some time training yourself to look for these geometric shapes, and you will be surprised at the results.

Frame Your Photograph

If you frame your photograph well, you can draw attention directly into the main focus of your shot. Be creative, look for different ways of framing your photo, and think about varying the size of the frame (or using frames within frames). Don't just stick to fences and windows; there are many things that can be used as frames – trees for example.

Get Your Horizon Right

There is nothing worse than a horizon that is not level, or one that cuts right across the center of your photo. Decide whether the sky or the ground is going to create more effect, and then point your camera up or down accordingly.

Make Your Pictures Lifelike

The real world is not regular and neat, and your photos shouldn't be either. For example, if you are taking a shot of a building, try to make sure that the horizon does not line up exactly with the roof line. Move your point of view around until you get a more realistic composition, otherwise you may spoil what may have otherwise been a great photo.

Isolated Subjects Create Interest

You can create a dramatic composition by having an isolated subject as the main focus in your frame. Think about finding a single tree in a field, an isolated tractor, a lonely farmhouse or some other object which stands alone, frame it properly, and you can create really interesting results.

Set the Scale

You want you viewers to relate to you picture, and to do this, they need to understand the scale. Include a recognizable object or person in your photo to provide a size reference.

Take a Step Back and Think

As with all photographs, you need to take a second before you actually take your shot to make sure that there is nothing that will spoil your composition. Are there any objects in the field of view that don't belong there? If so, try to move them if possible, or, if not, see if you can move yourself to avoid them without affecting the rest of the composition.

If you follow these simple tips, you will get a real head-start on landscape photography and get better results much more quickly. Also keep in mind that many of these tips apply to other types of photography as well, so you'll be able to use what you learn in many different situations.