Landscape photography is a segment of photography that focuses on capturing the natural beauty of the world around us. Etymologically, the term “landscape” refers to what we see of the land. Photographing landscapes therefore opens up a wealth of possibilities: from towering mountains to vast plains, from rolling green hills to the calm waters of sparkling lakes, landscapes offer the perfect canvas for expressing nature’s splendor.
The seasons and climatic changes also bring an infinite variety of possibilities, as they change nature in spectacular ways. From the freshness of winter to the brilliance of spring, each season offers a unique palette of colors. Capturing these variations through the lens of a camera is the job of the landscape photographer.
Selecting the right equipment for landscape photography
Choosing equipment is an essential step for any photographer. Even more so when it comes to outdoor photography, because once the bag is packed, there’s no turning back. As for the equipment a landscape photographer needs, there are:
The camera: the digital camera is, of course, the most important consideration for the landscape photographer. Whether it is an SLR or a mirrorless hybrid, it doesn’t make much difference, as both models are capable for capturing the diversity of landscapes. However, it is best to choose the model with the largest sensor, i.e. the one with the highest dynamic range. In fact, a large dynamic range means that the camera’s sensor can capture both high and low light. This is a very useful feature for landscape photographers, as it allows them to manage contrast very well.
Lenses: landscape photographers use two main types of lenses in their work. The first are “wide-angle” or “ultra-wide-angle” lenses. These lenses are used for photos that require a very wide angle of view because they capture most of the background. They are ideal for capturing the vastness of panoramic views. Second are telephoto lenses. These are high-zoom lenses that allow you to fine-tune your focus and perfectly capture the details of a landscape. The combination of these two lens types opens up new perspectives for the landscape photographer.
The tripod: to secure the camera. A stable tripod is essential for sharp shots, especially with long exposures. In fact, using a tripod allows you to shoot at a slower shutter speed. This compensates for the lack of light, and allows you to take photos when it is dark. For beginners, a mid-range tripod is sufficient. However, it is best to avoid plastic tripods, which are lighter and less expensive, but also less stable and less resistant.
Optical filters: filters can be used to control light and highlight details in a photograph. Again, landscape photographers generally use two types of filters. Polarizing filters reduce glare and add contrast to an image. Very useful when photographing blue skies or water, for example. There are also graduated ND filters, short for “graduated neutral density filters”. These filters are designed to balance the brightness of the scene, especially when the sky is brighter than the rest of the landscape. For example, when there is a high contrast between the bright sky and the darker ground, the graduated ND filter helps to balance exposure, preventing overexposure of the sky while preserving details of the ground.
In any case, choosing weather-resistant equipment is ideal for outdoor photography.
Using natural and artificial light
The combination of natural and artificial light can be a tremendous asset in capturing the beauty of landscapes. When it comes to natural light, the most interesting times for photography, especially landscape photography, are usually at sunrise and sunset. This is the ideal time of day, when the sun’s rays are low and provide a soft light. This light brings out the textures of the natural environment, creating subtle shadows. It is ideal for landscape composition. This is also why landscape photography requires patience. You need to take the time to observe the scene, and see how the light evolves, before capturing the perfect moment.
For the more impatient, the use of artificial lighting can also be an adequate solution when natural light is insufficient. In low-light conditions, or to brighten up certain shadowed areas, the use of flash or auxiliary lighting can balance the exposure without distorting the scene. These light sources can also be used to highlight specific elements of the landscape, by simply directing the eye to them.
Although very useful in some cases, artificial lighting should be used sparingly. The purpose of lighting is to complement natural light in a subtle way, not to replace it entirely, as the photographer must maintain the authenticity of the scene.
To achieve quality images and master the art of using both natural and artificial light, landscape photographers have no choice but to experiment in the field. Balancing lighting by combining different types of light sources requires patience, rigor and hard work. Once mastered, these shots can produce unique and striking results.
Post-processing for vivid landscapes
Post-processing is a crucial step in landscape photography. Post-processing is an art form, known as artistic post-production. Artistic post-production can transform landscape photographs into true works of art. Using retouching software such as Lightroom or Photoshop, you can adjust contrasts, colors and details to refine your artistic vision without altering the reality of the landscapes you’ve captured. In this sense, post-production is a powerful tool for refining and magnifying the very essence of landscapes. The basic rules are the same as for any type of photography.
The starting point is to import the photos into a post-production software. Then sort them to select the best shots. In landscape photography, retouching is mainly about contrast and brightness. The basic settings of post-processing software allow you to correct exposure problems by adjusting brightness, contrast, shadows and highlight levels. This makes highlights brighter and shadows deeper, adding depth to the image.
Color management is equally important. Software tools can be used to adjust saturation and vibrancy to intensify or soften colors. These adjustments, such as those made to the sky or foreground elements, create a specific atmosphere depending on the desired rendering.
Finally, it is important to pay special attention to correcting the composition of landscape images. Crop the image to improve composition by eliminating any distractions, but also to adjust the horizon if necessary to achieve a straight, balanced line.
By applying these post-processing techniques, we can add vibrancy, contrast and a visually appealing aesthetic to landscapes, while preserving the authenticity and natural beauty of the scene captured.
Discover the training courses at Spéos
Spéos offers a range of training courses, from simple one-week photography courses (introductory and advanced) to 3-year courses. Long-term training courses to become a professional photographer not only enable you to master all photographic techniques and vocabulary (blur, hyperfocus, sharpness zone, depth of field, backlighting, focal length, shutter release, autofocus, wide-angle, rule of thirds, etc.), but also all stages of shooting and image processing.
Visiting the school allows you to discover the premises, studios and equipment. In addition to Open Days, Spéos offers visits by appointment throughout the year, so that you can discover the school in the company of a member of the team.