As they say, lighting is one of the most important factors in determining whether an image is a success or a dud. So it should be of no surprise that lighting it the primary reason why your landscape photos just seem a bit off. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there is an easy solution to your landscape lighting problems. In fact, let’s have a look at a few common lighting issues that arise for landscape photographers and identify a way that you can overcome each obstacle.
Lighting Problem 1: Bright Sky, Dark Landscape
The problem with many landscapes is that you’re presented with a large dynamic range. That is, the sky is often quite bright and the landscape itself is often quite dark. That means that you usually try to do the best you can with the lighting that you’ve got, and end up with an image that just doesn’t do the scene justice.
Another common “fix” for this problem is to try to bring down the highlights or open up the shadows in post-processing. And though this is usually a more fruitful avenue for dealing with this issue than just taking the photo and hoping all turns out well, it can be a time-consuming process. Images that have been processed in this way often look like they’ve been processed as well.
Instead, the ultimate approach for fixing this problem is to use a graduated neutral density filter like the one pictured above. These filters are pieces of glass that are dark on one half and light on the other. Essentially, this helps balance out the dynamic range of a landscape scene by filtering out the bright light of the sky such that it is more in line with the brightness of the foreground. So, instead of taking a photo that’s exposed well for the sky and having a dark foreground, or exposing for the foreground and having a sky that’s too bright, you can use a graduated neutral density filter to get a scene that’s well-exposed throughout.