The most horrible sentence a photographer encounters way too often is: “Oh wow, that’s an epic shot, you must have a good camera!”. It is not, simply not, just about the camera. A picture of good quality is about so much more. It is planning the shot, finding a spot, be there when the light is perfect, compose the shot, find the right settings and eventually edit it the way you perceived it. One single picture can actually take quite a lot of time! And in the end everyone is taking pictures in a different way. Read this post to get to know my way of taking epic landscape pictures!
written by Anskar
It’s all about the planning
A picture always starts in the mind of the photographer. It is an interpretation of a certain scene or location. You can have 10 photographers at the same location and still every image would turn out different. Sometimes planning starts way ahead and sometimes everything can be pretty spontaneous. But nevertheless: planning is always a part when I take landscape pictures.
There are two possible situations: either you know a location or you don’t know it. For me, the best way to get the most epic landscape pictures is to actually visit the location beforehand. Through this, I know how everything is built up, where I find the best light at what time and how I want to put the scene together. Looking for foregrounds and nice backgrounds is also a great part of it, because it’s not just about getting the leading motive in your frame. If you really don’t know a location and can’t visit it before hand, it is advisable to study google maps or similar maps. Have a look at the location and where the sun is at what time.
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams
Pro tip: There is much more to plan! Such as the weather, the wind, the clouds and so on. It always depends on what you want to shoot! Make sure to find a trustworthy weather forecast page such as Kachelmann (for the Europeans).
Against the Light
As soon as the scene is planned you can move on to the next step: finding out when you should actually take your image. And then it’s all about finding the right light (hence the name of this website). In general sunrises and sunsets are the best times to get epic landscape pictures. The light is warm and soft, the sky beautifully coloured and the shadows long. First you have to decide if it is better to go during sunrise or sunset. I can highly recommend to choose sunrise whenever it is possible. It is simply even more atmospheric than sunset. Also, by going early you can avoid the crowds, even at the most popular spots.
Trust me, sometimes it’s waiting for hours to get the few seconds of perfect light conditions but it’s all worth it! But: if you want to take pictures that nobody else took, you have to do things that nobody else is willing to do!
Don’t take snapshots: compose
For now we have: a good location and the perfect light. The next step is to compose our epic landscape picture. Composition is, especially in landscape photography, such an important factor. There are certain rules you should stick to.
The most important rule is the ‘Rule of Third’. It simply means that you should split your picture in one third to two thirds. For example: 1/3 is sky and 2/3 is the actual scene. It is also possible the other way around if you have really interesting clouds (1/3 scene and 2/3 sky).
With this rule comes another one: ‘The Golden Ratio’. Imagine you have (additionally to the three lines) three more lines in the same distance to each other, this time vertically. Now you’ll have four intersections. You should compose your image in a way that important objects (such as the leading motive, people or the foreground) are placed in one of these intersections.
Leading lines can also make your landscape pictures more attractive. They should act as some sort of help for the viewer. With the leading lines the viewer should be able to find his/her way into the image and towards the main motive.
Pro tip: Every once in a while, it can be nice to intentionally break the rules. For Instagram for example it is very popular to put your leading motive into the centre of the image as images are often in 1 x 1 format.
Editing the final touch
I will not talk much about my editing as this deserves an own blog post. First of all, I must say that I take all landscape pictures manually and in RAW. This means I have the full control about how an image should turn out. A RAW picture is the ‘naked’ version of a picture with all available information in it. But it will look pretty boring.
A certain misbelief is, that there exist unprocessed images. Its simple as that: there aren’t. If you don’t take RAW shots, you take JPG. And that means the image comes out already processed and edited. In this case your camera (or phone) takes over the editing part.
As I like to have full control over my pictures, I edit them myself afterwards. Therefore, I use specific software’s such as Adobe Lightroom (and rarely Adobe Photoshop). What I want is that a picture looks exactly how I’ve seen or perceived it. People at home should experience the same feeling I felt when taking the picture, when they view my shots. To obtain that, it is so important to really pay attention while taking the actual landscape picture and be aware of how the light actually looked and which colours were present.
I hope you’ve learned more about how to shoot epic landscape pictures. And that it’s not just getting out your camera, take snapshots and hope they turn out to be good. Sometimes it’s about visiting a location several times, think about a composition, wait for hours for the right light and then add the final touch to your image with your very own style of editing. Often it is more about the way you take pictures rather then about what you take pictures off. So it doesn’t necessarily need to be the most epic landscape you shoot!
Actually, with all of these tips you can easily get epic shots yourselves, even with your phone. Try it out and show/tell us about your results!