If I were a betting man, I’d say that landscape photography is the genre most photographers rank as their first love.
I’m certainly part of those ranks…
There’s nothing like getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, heading outdoors, and taking in some beautiful scenery (and taking some beautiful pictures of that scenery too).
But it’s not just the scenery that draws people to landscape photography.
If you ask me, I think it’s one of the most accessible types of photography.
Think about it…you have a subject that’s ready to go, and in most cases, free to access.
You can use any camera to photograph landscapes, from your mobile device to a medium format camera and beyond.
You can also use any lens, from a wide-angle to a telephoto, and get good results.
Besides, if you find that your shots just aren’t cutting it, there’s plenty of things you can do to improve your landscape photography.
Let’s review a few essential tips for doing just that.
An ND Grad Filter Isn’t Always Helpful
In many cases, a graduated neutral density filter helps you solve difficulties with dynamic range.
That is, when you encounter situations in which the foreground landscape is very dark and the sky is very bright, an ND grad will help even that out by filtering out some of the brightness of the sky.
That means you can get a better exposure right then and there and not have to mess around with post-processing techniques to balance the exposure.
However, an ND grad isn’t always the answer.
For example, what happens when there are objects in the shot that protrude above the horizon and into the sky, like a tree or a mountain?
Even with a soft-edge ND grad, you won’t be able to deal with the differences in exposure between those landscape elements and the sky because those treetops and mountaintops will fall into the darkened upper portion of the filter, resulting in a well-exposed sky, a well-exposed landscape, and extremely dark treetops and mountaintops.
The Solution: In this case, post-processing becomes your friend.
All you have to do is take two shots – one that’s exposed for the brightness of the sky, and another that’s exactly the same compositionally, but which is exposed for the darker landscape.
Then, open both images in your post-processing program (each on its own layer), and use the layer mask function to paint over the areas in each photo that are well-exposed. See how it’s done in the video above by Brendan van Son.