5 tips for fine-art landscape photography
1- LightThere is a reason that fine art landscape photography is often termed “chasing the light”. Any type of photography is essentially controlling light, in Landscape photography you are unable to control the external light source. It is light that can turn an everyday landscape into something spectacular that people might want to look at every day on their wall. Light is a photographers raw material and to create fine-art photography, a photographer needs to be artistic with the light. Often in landscape photography, this means planning, everyone will have images that they just happened upon, but coming up with the concept of an image, planning how to make it happen, and executing that plan are what sets fine-art landscape photography apart.
2- WeatherWeather is a lot about light, but it is also more than that. Ansel Adams, the father of landscape photography, said: “Bad weather makes for good photography”. I agree entirely, but whatever conditions you are looking for, weather apps will be a huge help in getting your perfect image. Knowledge of weather patterns will also help immensely. Understanding what conditions are likely to lead to a ground mist or cumulonimbus clouds will help you lookout for opportunities. Whenever you go somewhere try and have a plan for what sort of shots you might be able to achieve in different weather conditions, this means you are less likely to have a wasted trip if the weather is not what you expected.
3- Celestial positioningNowadays there are some incredible smartphone apps, like Photo Pills, that give you detailed information of where the sun, moon, and stars will be in a given position at a specific date. This has given people the ability to plan some incredibly detailed shots. On the most basic level, it has allowed you to know what direction you will need to be facing to have the Milkyway in your image or the moon next to a particular landmark. But you can enhance the quality of your fine-art landscape photography by understanding even things as basic as where the last rays of sun will fall. I use Stellarium a lot, is a desktop application free to download.
4- PersevereFine-Art Landscape Photography is often pretty cold and wet! It takes a great deal of perseverance to say out in the bad weather with freezing fingers wiping rain off you lense. However, this discomfort always seems worth it when you get that shot you wanted. If it’s not, then your in the wrong game! Landscape photography but in particular fine-art landscape photography is so much about light. And light you can not control. Only by perseverance and an understanding that you will often come back disappointed will you make it work.
5 – Learn to EditThe first thing to say is that editing is part of any photography process, and this includes fine-art photography. One of the strangest questions you will hear is people saying “do you process your photos”. All professional photographers process their images, whether in a darkroom or on a computer. Part of the talent of being a good photographer understands the RAW file that you need to get in the camera that will give you the best prospect when editing.
It is also important to understand the differences in what we term ‘editing’. Taking your RAW image and brightening areas, adding contrast or adjusting the tone curve are the type of edits that fall into the above category and are expected. If you do any of these, you would be able to enter your images into high profile competitions like Landscape Photographer of the Year or Wildlife Photographer of the Year. If however you take your image into Photoshop and stitch two images together because you prefer the sky in one, or you remove a telegraph post, these edits fall into a different category. You would not be able to enter these images into the above competitions as the digital manipulation has gone too far. This by no means though is something to be avoided as a large proportion of fine-art landscape photography will have used too much digital manipulation to enter into competitions like the ones above. Neither method is right or wrong, but it is important to understand the difference. I use Lightroom for 99% of my editing. It is a brilliant programme that allows you to sort and keep track of all your images as well as edit them. Occasionally I work in Photoshop, but I rarely need to do something that can not be achieved in Lightroom.
If you found this short guide useful please have a look at my longer posts. From Equipment to Settings and more these posts set out in detail everything you need to know and what you need to be a successful Landscape Photographer.