Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five tips for better landscape shots

There is more to landscape photography than just arming yourself with a wide-angle lens and shooting at small apertures. Some shutterbugs make an the effort to wake up at the crack of dawn, aiming to capture that majestic sunrise, but often, they fall short. The result: Washed-out skies and underexposed foregrounds which can be quite discouraging for the budding hobbyist. If this sounds familiar, fret not as we have five useful tips that should help you improve your landscape photos. 

1. Quality of light
In landscape photography, the quality of light can make or break a photo. Many experienced photographers will tell you that the best time for capturing landscapes are during the "golden hours". Typically, they are short periods in the mornings and evenings, which give images an overall warm glow. This results in three-dimensional images due to an interplay of light and shadow. For those who can't drag themselves out of bed to catch the sunrise, try shooting sunsets instead. 

2. Position, position, position
It's always wise to visit the location of your shoot beforehand. This allows you order to determine the best vantage points to shoot from and observe how the light falls during different times of the day. Typical vantage points can produce images that were "shot-to-death", so try looking for more obscure areas to shoot from to ensure you get images that are different from others. 

3. Highlights and shadows
The camera meter tends to be biased and often exposes for the foreground, leaving the sky looking like a white mess of blown highlights which lack detail. For cameras with manual controls or exposure compensation modes, try underexposing the image by one stop to retain more detail in the sky. Image processing software--such as Adobe Photoshop--find it easier to remedy an underexposed foreground than to salvage blown highlights in the sky. 

4. Skies and clouds
Clouds give landscapes a sense of depth, space and drama. In a landscape photo, skies that lack content appear uninteresting and this is especially so if your foreground subject is not eye-catching. For countries located along the equator such as Singapore, skies are plain and lack the blue you see sub-tropical or temperate locations. To capture more vivid skies, shutterbugs can use a Circular polarizing filter to enhance the blue in skies. Compact cameras also have color settings such as Vivid or Scenery mode which make skies look more saturated and dramatic. 

5. Silky waters
Sharp images of flowing water can come across as boring. Rivers and waterfalls are best captured with a slow shutter speed where the motion blur gives viewers a sense of the movement. The best way to capture silky smooth water is to use a slow shutter speed, a steady tripod and a small aperture (F11 to F22). For more artistic shots, use a Neutral Density (ND) filter slow down your shutter speed even more for really misty water! Some compact cameras even come with scene modes that help beginners to automatically achieve this effect. 

Picture credit: Shawn Low


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