Tutorial: Landscape photography

Abhijeet Rane.jpg
© Abhijeet Rane

We all regularly see great landscapes that could make memorable photos - if only we could capture them. This tutorial will guide you through the key features of a great shot and how your Canon camera can help you. We'll cover:

  • Composition
  • Time of day
  • Finding your own angle
  • Landscape becoming portrait
  • Focal length for landscapes
  • Being creative
  • Getting a different perspective on the same view

The first thing to get right is how all of the different elements in your image look together. This is the composition, and an easy way to get it right is to follow the 'rule-of-thirds'. Imagine a grid drawn in the camera viewfinder - two vertical lines and two horizontal lines giving four intersections. Place your main subject at one of these intersections to produce a strong composition. You can do this easily with many of our cameras, as you can add gridlines to the LCD screen display. Check your instruction manual for more details.

Time of day

Selden Vestrit.jpg
© Selden Vestrit

Lighting can dramatically improve the final result and early mornings and late afternoons are good times to shoot. The sun is low in the sky, the shadows are long and the light has a warmth that makes everything it illuminates look attractive.

But don't restrict yourself to these times. The period after a heavy thunderstorm, with menacing sky, gives very atmospheric images. The short shadows and increased contrast of the midday sun suit some subjects. Shooting in early morning mist can also add atmosphere.

EOS cameras offer a range of settings that help to control the colour and saturation of the light. Shoot with Picture Style set to Landscape for vivid deep blues and bright greens. The Basic+ selections of the some of our cameras offer Vivid, Soft, Warm, Intense and Cool choices. Try experimenting with these settings to see which you prefer.

Find your own angle

Harald Hoyer 1.jpg
© Harald Hoyer

To make your images interesting try and change your perspective relative to the landscape. For example, looking down on a landscape from the top of a hill can give an engaging and unusual image.

Alternatively, get down on the ground and shoot a point of interest in the foreground only a few centimetres from the camera. Try to find a patch of colour to fill the foreground - a cluster of flowers for example. With the low angle, the foreground will dominate the image and the rest of the landscape will appear more distant than usual. Either of these methods will produce images with impact because we don't usually see scenes from this viewpoint.

Many Canon cameras feature a vari-angle viewing screen that makes shooting at a low angle much easier. The screen folds out from the camera and can be turned so that you can look down on the image from above.

Other EOS cameras can be fitted with a right-angle finder that also lets you view the image from above, though you do need to bend down to see through the eyepiece of the unit.

The alternative is to lie down on the ground to look at the image before shooting. Some landscape photographers carry a plastic sheet so that they can lie down without getting wet or dirty.

Turn landscape photography on its head
Most landscapes are taken using what has come to be known as the 'landscape' format - where the width of the image is greater than the height. This works well as you usually want to capture a wide expanse of the scene from left to right. However, don't ignore the 'portrait' format, where the height is greater than the width. This often works where there is a tall subject, but can also be effective because it gives an unfamiliar interpretation of the landscape. Compare the portrait-format image on the right with the landscape format of the same scene at the top of this page.

Lenses for landscapes
The most important thing to consider is the field-of-view your lens gives with your camera. Short focal lengths are often recommended for landscape photography because the wide field-of-view takes in a large expanse of the landscape.

Long focal lengths give a narrower field-of-view, isolating just a small area of the scene. While they're less suited to landscape work, they can be effective if you want to emphasise a particular aspect of the view, or eliminate less attractive areas.

Zoom lenses offer a range of different focal lengths so you can vary what you can see and capture. Lenses with a single focal length are called prime lenses and give you a fixed field-of-view.

To learn more about the wide range of lens available for your EOS, visit the lens website.

You can also experiment with different effects. Set your EOS to shutter-priority (Tv) mode, choose a very slow shutter speed - a second, or longer, if possible. With the camera on a sturdy tripod, anything static in the scene will be sharp, but moving subjects, such as long grass or leaves blowing in the wind, will be blurred.

Get creative
The good thing about landscapes is that they're not going anywhere. So you can take your time setting up your camera and making sure you get the composition just right.

Harald Hoyer 2.jpg
© Harald Hoyer

Try a different perspective on the same view
You can capture an interesting series of images by returning to the same place throughout a year to photograph your favourite landscape through the seasons. Try to find a place for your camera that is easy to locate time after time - a particular stone on a low wall, for example, or a point mid-way between two distinctive trees.

Enter the results on the Gallery
Landscape photographs are some of the most popular in the Gallery and bright days are perfect for capturing great scenes. So now that you've read this tutorial, take your camera outdoors and capture some special landscape images. Select your favourites and enter them in the Gallery. Next month your photo could be displayed as one of the best!