6 Secrets for Stunning Landscape Photography

Capturing incredible landscape photos can be a struggle.

But did you know that there are a few landscape photography secrets…

…that will have you shooting like the pros in no time?

In this article, I’m going to share with you 6 secrets for gorgeous landscape photos. You’ll come away with the ability to capture amazing shots–no matter your current skill level.

Sound good?

beautiful landscape sunset
First light at Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, South Wales | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

Let’s dive right in.

1. Shoot During the Golden Hours for Amazing Light

If you want to capture incredible landscape photos…

…then you need incredible light.

And the best light?

It’s found during the ‘golden hours.’

The golden hours are the short period during the beginning and end of the day–when the sun is low on the horizon.

(The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset.)

The warm light during the golden hours can change an ordinary vista into something extraordinary.

Sunset in Scotland
Sunset at Loch Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Scotland | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

One of the first things you can do to improve your landscape photography?

Spend time shooting during these golden hours.

Try to avoid shooting in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky and casts long, harsh shadows. Images taken during the middle of the day are difficult to capture and process.

Whereas the soft golden light of sunset/sunrise…

…will give your landscape photography an immediate boost.

2. Photograph the Sunrise and Sunset for Gorgeous Colors

Do you want to capture brilliant, colorful landscape photos?

Then shoot at sunrise and sunset.

Check the skies a few hours prior to your photoshoot. Take note of the cloud cover. If the sky is partially (but not completely) covered by clouds, that’s a good sign the sky will look incredible.

Lake district morning mist
Light breaks through the mist to illuminate St Herberts Island on Derwent Water in the Lake District | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

The problem with shooting dramatic sunrises and sunsets, however…

…is that such conditions involve massive dynamic range.

That is, there’s a huge difference between the brightest parts of the sunset and the darkest parts of the foreground. And your camera will struggle to cope with it.

Which brings me to my next tip:

3. Invest in Landscape Photography Filters for Perfect Exposures

Cameras are good at dealing with differences between light and dark in a scene.

But sunrise and sunset?

They’re often a bit too much to handle.

The bright yellows and whites of the sun get overexposed (blown out), while the dark parts of the foreground get underexposed (and lack detail).

This is where filters come in handy.

Because some filters are designed to darken the top half of the scene, while leaving the bottom half of the scene untouched. These are called graduated neutral-density filters, and they are the staple of any landscape photographer’s filter kit.

A graduated ND filter enables you to expose for the darker foreground while maintaining the highlights in the sky. This immediately gives you more control over an image–and saves you from extensive work in post-production.

Another filter that I use regularly is a circular polarizer. A circular polarizer can reduce glare on water, darken skies, and increase the impact of colors within an image.

Finally, you should also consider purchasing a 10-stop neutral-density filter.

long exposure with filters rainbow
Long exposure of Wast Water in the Lake District taken using a 10-stop filter + circular polarizer | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

You see, ND filters are essentially a dark piece of glass that sits in front of your lens and acts as a barrier between the lens and the light.

This allows you to lengthen the shutter speed–while keeping the aperture constant.

This is especially useful if you wish to capture the landscape in motion (for instance, during a seascape or a waterfall shoot).

However, shooting moving water with a neutral density filter requires another piece of kit, one that is essential for landscape photography…

4. Invest in a Good Tripod for Tack-Sharp Landscape Photography

Here’s a common mistake beginning landscape photographers make:

They invest a large amount of money in the good camera and lens

…but they forget to purchase one of the most essential tools of all: a rock-solid tripod.

Now, I’m a firm believer that investing in a good tripod will have a positive impact on your work.

Why?

long exposure beach landscape
Incoming tide in motion, Traigh Bheag, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

Amazing photos can easily be ruined by a shaky tripod (or a no tripod at all). Your tripod needs to keep your camera still–whether you’re capturing a long exposure or producing a 10-image panorama.

Knowing you have a trusty tripod–even in the most brutal of conditions–is invaluable.

So purchase a tripod.

And make sure it’s good quality.

Related Article:Best Travel Tripods

This will free you up to make the most of the light and scenery.

5. Create a Compelling Composition for the Best Photos

Here’s a fact:

One of the most important aspects of landscape photography?

Composition.

You have to carefully consider how you arrange the elements in your landscape photos. And you have to carefully consider what to include–and what to leave out.

If you use an ultra-wide lens, don’t get caught in the trap of including everything you see. Instead, be selective.

Lake district landscape photography
Moody morning at Devoke Water, Lake District | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

To make your images impactful, look for something to include in the foreground. A rock, some vegetation, or a river are all great options.

If you can’t find a compelling foreground, then consider switching lenses. Take a tighter shot of the scene. One where you emphasize a particularly gorgeous feature of the landscape.

That’s how you’ll capture amazing landscape compositions.

6. Experiment With Different Shooting Modes for Incredible Landscape Photography

Beginner landscape photographers often stick to ‘Auto’ mode–where the camera makes all the decisions.

But if you stick to ‘Auto’ mode?

You’re going to struggle.

Because ‘Auto’ means that the camera controls every aspect of the photo, such as the aperture and shutter speed. That means you aren’t really in control of how the image will turn out.

Birmingham blue hoar frost landscape
Hoar frost at dawn, Sutton Park, Birmingham | © Verity E. Milligan Photography

Instead, take control of your camera!

To do this, there are two shooting modes that I suggest you use:

The first is Aperture Priority mode. It gives you control over a photo’s depth of field (and lets the camera choose the shutter speed).

For most wide-angle landscape photography captures, you want your image to be pin-sharp–from the front to the back of the frame. This calls for an aperture of f8 to f13.

So switch on Aperture Priority mode, and dial in the aperture you need. Your camera will do the rest!

The other mode that I suggest you use?

Manual mode.

This gives you control over everything. It can be very useful if you’re photographing scenes that are tough to expose.

Now, Manual mode takes more knowledge of how the camera works–and how it’ll interact with the scene in front of you.

That’s why I recommend starting with Aperture Priority until you feel comfortable. Then you can start to experiment with Manual mode.

It can result in incredible landscape photography.

Northumberland sunset
Sunset at Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland |© Verity E. Milligan Photography

Now that you’ve learned these tips for stunning photos, you’re a better photographer.

Guaranteed.

But the fact is, the journey doesn’t stop there. There are more tips, tricks, and secrets--all of which will help you take gorgeous photos.

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