Beautiful Landscapes - Three Secrets to a better photo

by James Featherby April. 08, 2021 210 views

Do you enjoy a beautiful landscape? Most people do. There is nothing more rewarding than walking or driving to a beautiful location and getting lost in the magical view. But how do you capture that view on camera and make it appealing. Well here are a few basics.

I remember when I started out in photography, I would stare at an amazing landscape, wishing for the moment to last forever. So out came the camera to record the moment. Shot after shot. "These will look great". Famous last words, of course, they didn't. And in those days you paid to have the film processed by a lab and printed and it wasn't cheap, only for disappointment. (how photography has changed, I love digital, a bad shot and just delete it, for free).

So what makes a good landscape photograph that viewers will appreciate and maybe even be worthy of purchasing to showcase on a wall?

Here are the basics. Just a few rules and it's so simple I wonder why it took me so long for the penny to drop. Simple, it's a learning process we all have to go through.

A photo worthy of putting on my wall.

A photo worthy of putting on my wall.

The above photo ticks all the boxes. It attracts the eye and makes you want to walk into the scene and be part of it.

Let's talk about what makes this photo stand out against other boring ones.

In this tutorial I will discuss three basic rules that make a landscape. There are a couple more which could be included but these are the three to get you started. I'll go in to camera settings etc some other time. Set you camera on auto if you are not sure yet.

A good landscape needs the following ingredients, yes, all of them, or the beutiful scene you are staring at and want to take with you will be boring when photographed. So before you press the button think about these three.

Rule 1 - FOREGROUND

Rule 2 - MIDDLE DISTANCE

Rule 3 - BACKGROUND

Sound too simple, well it is. So simple, but without any one of these elements included, you will be disappointed when you look at the end result, and you will hide that photo away. Don't be too harsh on yourself, I took hundreds of these duds. I then read book after book and photo magazines and they all emphasised the same basics, foreground, middle distance, background. Eventually I started to learn from others and, yippee, now I have some photos on my wall.

Let me show you what I mean.

Boring, yuck, this is a dud shot.

Boring, yuck, this is a dud shot.

Here it is, yes I took this photo. yuck, it's so boring. No features in the foreground just a mass of boring flat water (rule 1). Nothing much in the middle distance (rule 2), just a little bit of an island but too small and far away. Background? (rule 3), it's there, the mountain,but without rule one and two the eye isn't drawn to it. End result, a boring photo nobody wants to look at, including me. I just walked several kilometres with all this beautiful scenery and I can't take it with me in my camera. I blew it.

So let's just add those three rules to the same scene and see the magic start to happen.

Add Foreground, middle distance and background, wow.

That's better

That's better

Believe it or not the above photo was taken from standing in the exact same spot. This time I moved the lens to the left over the same lake, the same view from my eyes but this time thinking through the camera's eyes.

See what I mean about the three rules. You have the same island as foreground only more of it to make it a feature. A mass of water as the middle. Rule one and rule two together draw the viewer's eye to the star of the show, the background, the mountain. It now has a 3D presentation you could walk into.

Three simple rules really work, all those photos I paid to have processed by the lab that were a waste of money, if only I knew then what I know now. (And if you noticed, I did tweak the colour with photoshop, it was an overcast boring day with no colour, but this is an example of the three rules, as I said I will go into camera settings etc in a later blog)

Let's look at a couple more examples of the before and after 3 rules.

Boring Beach

Boring Beach

We all love the beach, something about watching the water and listening to the music of the waves crashing. But beaches can be a photographic challenge to make them interesting. The above photo is totally boring, just sky and water and sand, flat and uninteresting. Funny, didn't look boring when I was walking around with wet feet admiring the beauty. It has a background (rule 3), has middle (rule 2) but rule 1 is missing. Next photo, the same beach with a simple fix, add rule 1 (foreground).

That's better, added a foreground.

That's better, added a foreground.

Ah, that's better. See the difference, how the three rules work together. If you don't have a person to put in the foreground, find a large piece of driftwood, or a rock, or a few seagulls, anything for a foreground.

Boring

Boring

Boring. Guess which rule is missing. Are you getting the hang of it?

That's better

That's better

The above two photos were take at the same location, a basically barren landscape, the result of chemicals from the mining process years ago. In the bottom photo I used the winding road to add some interest. Now you have the rocky mound in the foreground, road in the middle and the hills as background. Got that 3d effect happening. Shows that even an uninteresting landscape can be photographically interesting if you do it right.

There are a few more tricks to make landscapes even more interesting, I'll go in to them in my next blog. Enough for now.

Now that you know the three basic rules, dare I repeat them, foreground, middle distance, background, put them to practice and your friends will think you are a professional.

Now when you spend hours hiking to your favourite places of beauty, your camera will bring back the memories for you and soon you will have them hanging on the walls for everyone to see.

Good luck and enjoy life.

James Featherby

https://jimsausphotography.com

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There are 12 comments , add yours!
Kate Weaver 1 week, 6 days ago

Thank you! This was very helpful and such beautiful photos. Australia is number one on my places to travel bucket list.

1 week, 6 days ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Kate Weaver 1 week, 5 days ago

Glad it helped Kate.

1 week, 5 days ago Edited
Colin Massey 1 week, 6 days ago

Glued to every sentence, all makes perfect sense.. now lets go make some landscapessmile

1 week, 6 days ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Colin Massey 1 week, 5 days ago

Thanks Colin, glad it helped.

1 week, 5 days ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Colin Massey 1 week, 5 days ago

Thanks Colin, hope it helped, I'll do another one soon with more tips.

1 week, 5 days ago Edited
Benny Law 2 weeks ago

Nice tutorial, and #1 is gorgeous! Where is this place?

2 weeks ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Benny Law 1 week, 5 days ago

Thanks Benny, first shot is at Dove Lake at the foot of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. It's hit and miss there, I've been there twice and most of the time it is in fog or raining and you can't even see the mountain. I was lucky enough this day the sky cleared for about an hour.

1 week, 5 days ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Benny Law 1 week, 5 days ago

Thanks Benny, number one is Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain Tasmania, when the sun came out which doesn't happen often there.

1 week, 5 days ago Edited
Thomas Thompson 2 weeks ago

I remember the days of film, you had to be precise in what you were shooting you did not want to waste film and to develop film was another factor.   The First shot is an eye popper love it thanks for the wonderful tips

2 weeks ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Thomas Thompson 2 weeks ago

Thanks Thomas,  first shot is Dove Lake which is at the foot of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Australia.

2 weeks ago Edited
Chuck Staruch 2 weeks, 1 day ago

Thanks for tip!

2 weeks, 1 day ago Edited
James Featherby Replied to Chuck Staruch 1 week, 5 days ago

You are welcome Chuck.

1 week, 5 days ago Edited
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