A Newbie’s Very Basic Guide To Landscape Photography

I haven’t always been a bird photographer. I’ve done my share of landscape photography. Since landscape photography is wildly popular and there are new people jumping into the genre every day, I decided to compile a newbie’s guide to getting good landscape photos. If you know someone who’s new to photography who might be interested, please share this with them.

Let’s start with gear…

First the good news – nearly any camera will do. But for best results, interchangeable lenses cameras offer the most flexibility. Likewise just about any sensor size will do. Some people will argue that you need a full-frame sensor to do this work, but based on the newer cameras available, anything can do the job unless you are planning on printing larger than 60."

You’ll want a camera that allows you to control the settings manually. You’ll want a wide lens and a medium telephoto lens (or a zoom that covers both) to give you options. For serious landscape work, tripods are a must and ball heads w/Arca Swiss style tongue / groove systems preferred.

For a list of landscape photography gear visit this link.

Next up is subject matter – what to shoot…

Here your choices are wide open but some suggested starting points are:

  • Bodies of water
  • Waterfalls
  • Mountains
  • Trees
  • Canyons
  • Forests
  • Sunrise/Sunset

After you know what you want to shoot, you have to know how you want to approach it…

  • Minimalism
  • Color
  • Lines/Layers
  • Shapes
  • Patterns
  • Context

Next you need to know WHERE you want to shoot…

If you live in North America you almost certainly live within short driving distance of one or more of the following places:

  • Local parks, lakes, rivers, forests
  • State parks
  • National wildlife refuges
  • National parks

If you want to get a jumpstart on all of this just pay for a guided tour by a reputable photography tour group.

One of the most important factors in a good landscape photo is composition…

Good composition in landscape photography starts out the same as most other types of photography. The following all apply:

  • Rule of thirds
  • Balance
  • Clean background
  • Use layers (Not Photoshop layers but layering in picking objects in the foreground & background to include in your shot)
  • Strive for depth
  • You will also want to pay a great deal of attention to light…

You will also want to pay a great deal of attention to light…Look for, study and be ready to decide on:

  • Direction of Light
  • Side lighting often great for landscapes
  • Backlit for dramatic effect
  • Quality of Light
  • Harsh/Soft/Diffuse
  • Color of Light
  • Warm/Cold/Natural
  • Quantity of Light
  • How much or little

Having good light is usually the difference between an otherwise poor photograph and a good one.

Here are some miscellaneous tips…

  • *Be sure to photograph everything in both horizontal and vertical positions to give yourself choices later.
  • *Try making panoramic photos using stitching software in your phone or in your photo editing app.
  • *Don’t forget to account for high dynamic range. Programs like Photomatix Pro can help with this.
  • *Most of the original masters of landscape photography shot in B&W. You too can do this even with a digital camera. Check your manual for your settings or better still, shoot in RAW and convert to B&W in post.

After you get the shot you’ll need to do some post-processing…

If you’re on a Mac – MacPhun’s Products, especially Luminar, are great post-processing apps for beginners. Their products are inexpensive and much easier to learn than Photoshop. Use the code PHOTOPLUGINS to save money there via the link above.

Whether or not you have Photoshop or some other post-processing program, you might be better off as a beginner relying on presets or plug-ins.

  • Presets / Plug-ins save time in post, let you spend more time shooting less time in front of a screen
  • Presets / Plug-ins help pros and newbies alike by getting images to look good in just a few clicks
  • Presets / Plug-ins part of my regular workflow and I use Perfectly Clear on every single image to get it 95-100% ready


Like any form of photography, landscape photography takes practice and dedication. The good news is that in most places it’s pretty easy to get to special locations that offer a visual feast for the budding landscape shooter.

About The Author

Scott Bourne is an Olympus Visionary and a professional wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He was one of the founders of This Week In Photo, Founded Photofocus.com and is co-founder of the new Photo Podcast Network (photopodcasts.com.)

Scott is a regular contributor to several photography related blogs and podcasts and is the author of 11 photography books.

Scott is available to speak to your birding group, photography group and for both private and small group bird photography workshops. For more information on engaging Scott as a speaker or workshop leader, or for image licensing and print information, e-mail scott@scottbourne.com.


Copyright Scott Bourne 2017 - All Rights Reserved - scottbourne.com - scottbourne.photography.

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