Landscape photography is a broad genre in which the outdoor landscape itself is the subject of the photo. Often, landscapes don’t have any people in them at all, although they are sometimes included to give the viewer a sense of scale. There are also subgenres that are generally considered to be under the umbrella of landscape photography, such as urban landscape, or cityscape as it’s sometimes called, long exposure, nature, astrophotography, and seascape photography, like the photo of the Block Island shoreline at the top of this page.
Landscapes can be literal documentations of a given scene, or they can be more impressionistic interpretations. They can even be abstract images that home in on the geometry and color of just a small part of a landscape. To catch the full breadth of any given scene, landscape photographers often use wide-angle, or even ultra-wide-angle, lenses. But landscapes can be shot with almost any lens. In fact, shooting landscapes is one style that you can experiment with as soon as you get your hands on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, even with a kit lens. No models, no props, and no lighting needed. This makes landscape an obvious go-to for many photographers who are just starting out, and eager to start developing their photography chops.
As in other styles, one of the most important elements of a landscape photograph is its composition. Finding a sense of balance within any given composition is a very subjective thing, unique to each scene. Yet, there are some “norms,” one of which is theorized in the Rule of Thirds, which is a rule of thumb that can be helpful. This is not to say there haven’t been many important images throughout history that don’t follow the rule of thirds at all, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt them any, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
One way to ensure your picture is as sharp as it can be is to use a tripod. Using a tripod stabilizes the camera, allowing you to avoid camera shake, for sharper photos. Tripods also make it possible to use longer exposure times for capturing the blurred movements of water, traffic, or anything else moving in the scene. If you’re interested in getting into long exposure photography, similar to the photo of the Croton Dam shown above, another essential piece of gear in addition to the tripod is the neutral density filter, which allows you to achieve longer exposure times in bright conditions.
If you decide that you love landscape photography, and you want to take your work to new horizons, a logical next step is to pick up a wide-angle zoom such as a 10-24mm or a 16-35mm. These focal ranges give you some flexibility in the field while shooting landscapes, allowing you to shoot from many different perspectives, which can open new creative possibilities.
When you’re first starting out in photography, landscapes are a great way to practice learning the fundamentals of the art form. Some photographers start with landscape, and never feel the need to shoot any other style. For others, it’s a gateway to countless other styles.
What kind of landscapes do you like to shoot? Let us know in the Comments section, below.