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Landscape photography

how to shoot landscape photography, general landscape photography tips, and camera settings for landscape photography.

What is landscape photography?

Have you ever seen a stunning sunset framed between mountains only to wish you had a better camera to capture the moment? If you’ve experienced this feeling more than a few times, you might want to consider pursuing landscape photography—whether you explore it as a hobby or something further is totally up to you. In this article, we cover the basics of landscape photography, including the different styles of landscape photography, the basic equipment you will need, and tips for creating powerful images. If you’re new to landscape photography or simply want to learn more, keep reading.

Landscape photography is admittedly a generic and all-encompassing term. It can mean anything from capturing vast, sweeping vistas to detailed abstracts of our outdoor environment. There are many ways to approach landscape photography but, in general, the practice is aimed at showcasing the beauty and grandeur of the natural world and conveying a sense of place, mood, and atmosphere. Landscape photography can include rolling hills, sparkling lakes, snow-capped mountains, lush forests, expansive deserts, and even bustling cities. It often demands a photographer to travel, explore, and adventure through remote locations, which means you have to be willing to get up early and stay out late to get the shot. 

Think of it as an opportunity to not only get out in the world and see new things but to share the beauty of our natural world with those who may not get to see these often hard-to-reach places. A well-photographed landscape can evoke strong emotions, bring out the essence of a place, and transport a viewer so they feel they’ve been there too. 

9 different landscape photography types

All types of landscape photography cover the outdoors (yes, even urban landscapes), however, there are quite a few categories within landscape photography. Below, we cover various landscape types, from oceans to deserts to the night sky. 

Nature photography

Nature photography and landscape photography are often confused with one another or used interchangeably. While both types of photography can overlap, landscape photography has a broader focus on capturing the overall natural environment whereas nature photography can actually be considered a subset of landscape photography since it tends to focus on specific aspects of a landscape, such as animals or plant life. I like to think of it this way: not all landscape photography is nature photography, but all nature photography is landscape photography. Nature photography is also closely associated with wildlife photography, where images predominantly show “life in the wild”. 

Seascape Photography

Seascapes photography involves capturing stills of the ocean, beaches, coastlines, estuaries, and other marine environments. Some examples include photos that portray the vast expanse of the sea, waves, sunsets over the water, lighthouses, rocky cliffs, and more. Seascape photography holds the beauty, power, and mood of the ocean and its surroundings, often highlighting the interplay between the sea, sky, and land. It’s also a great genre of photography to experiment with longer shutter times and water movement. 

Mountain photography

As camera technology continues to advance, it becomes easier for photographers to capture images in more and more extreme places. However, photographers like Jimmy Chin continue to push the limits of photography and have given new meaning to mountain photography—for example, scaling Mount Everest with a camera in hand. Not only is Chin performing a lot of the same physical feats as these professional athletes, but he’s doing it all while making stunning images. Chin is paving a more extreme career path for photographers who accompany climbers, hikers, and professional athletes on their mountaineering adventures. 

Forest photography

The best way to approach forest photography is to look past their denseness and often chaotic branches. Try playing with light and composition. For example, the mere outline of a forest at night can create a strong impression. You can also try low-angle shots looking up at the treetops, or bring a drone to experiment with aerial forest photography.

Desert photography

Though the frames can appear minimal, deserts often carry beautiful patterns through the sand and plant life. Try paying attention to textures, the warm color palette, and light. Golden hour, the hour before sunset, can create an ethereal glow that makes textures pop on the desert sand. And don’t forget to pack a water bottle. 

Panoramic photography

Panoramic photography, also known as wide-format photography, involves stitching multiple images together to form one photograph that covers an extremely wide or tall area. The word actually means “all sight” in Greek. Some cameras have built-in panoramic capabilities, which means they automatically stitch your images together, but if yours doesn’t, you can manually stitch images together in post-processing. You’ll just want to make sure they blend seamlessly. 


Astrophotography encompasses astronomical objects, celestial bodies, or portions of the night sky. Think of other-worldly entities like the moon, stars, shooting stars, planets, the Milky Way, and more. These images are often taken using a tripod, long exposures, and a remote shutter (to avoid camera shake) to capture glimmering star trails.

Intimate landscape photography

Intimate landscapes are focused on small, often overlooked, details of the natural world, like flowers, leaves, and rocks. These images are ideal for showing the beauty and intricacy of nature or for creating abstract art that dives into a smaller scale of the world we aren’t used to seeing. For example, maybe the varying colors of a string of rocks in a riverbed caught your eye. Instead of zooming out and capturing the entirety of the river, you focus on the colors and patterns of that string of rocks.

Urban photography

Urban photography captures cityscapes and areas built by and for humans. It’s popular amongst hobbyists and professionals alike. When shooting architecture and busy street scenes, it can be fun to think about the geometric patterns that arise if you look closely. Laura Sanchez is a great example of a photographer who makes colorful, abstract art from urban landscapes. 

Landscape photography tips 

Landscape photography lends itself to spending time in the outdoors and exploring the world around you through your lens (pun intended). It can often feel meditative, especially if it’s just you and your camera out in nature. The beautiful thing about landscape photography is that you can work autonomously if it suits you. You don't need props, models, or lighting equipment, usually, you just need your camera, a lens or two, and an eye for composition. Despite the ease of picking up a camera and shooting varying environments, there are a lot of factors that go into creating well–crafted landscape images. In this section, we get into how to shoot landscape photography, general landscape photography tips, and camera settings for landscape photography.

Planning and research

First things first, planning and researching the environment you want to shoot will help bring your images to the next level. Most professional landscape images come from careful planning and a bit of patience. When planning your shoot, some factors to consider include seasonality, time of day, daylight hours, sun path charts, and weather charts. For example, depending on the type of landscape you want to shoot and the moment you hope to capture, you may want to know when sunrise or sunset is (and the exact location) or if it will rain. Capturing rain at sunrise in an urban landscape may actually be your goal, but if you want to stay dry, you can simply check the weather charts and pick another day to shoot. 

If you can, it’s worth spending time location scouting before you shoot. This will help you assess the environment in relation to your goals, tolerances, and interests. You can get an idea of shots you might want to make as well as how light interacts with the environment. If you can’t scout in person, Google Earth and Google Maps are handy for the digitally savvy. 

Lighting and timing

Light can be used to create mood and depth so it’s important to have a sense of when you plan to shoot—especially because outdoor lighting conditions are dependent on weather and time of day. When it comes to natural light in landscape photography, there are three characteristics to keep in mind: 

  • Quality: Light is often considered soft or hard. Whether light is soft or hard is determined by the size of the light source relative to the subject.
  • Direction: The direction of light can affect the mood of a scene through the way objects are lit or shadows are cast.
  • Color temperature: The color temperature of light refers to its hue, measured in degrees on the Kelvin scale. Without getting into the numbers, natural light can range from warm to cool. 

Many photographers prefer to shoot during golden hour, just after sunrise, or just before sunset when the light is soft, diffuse, and often warm. Midday sun, on the other hand, is something most photographers tend to avoid since it can be unflattering, harsh, and direct, often making images look flat or uninteresting. Blue hour, or twilight, is the time of day just before sunrise or after sunset when the light is cool and the sky becomes inky blue. 

Shooting Techniques

In any type of photography, you want to guide the viewer through your photo and tell a story. A good way to do that is to experiment with composition and perspective. Try shooting from different angles, such as from above, below, or even sideways—experimenting can literally shift your perspective in fun and surprising ways. 

In general, composition refers to the arrangement of the elements in an image and interacts with things like scale, proportion, and balance. When composing landscape images, there are various techniques that can help guide your work and create depth and interest. These include:

  • The rule of thirds: This basic principle of photography suggests dividing an image into nine equal parts by two vertical and two horizontal lines, and placing the points of interest along these lines or at the intersections.
  • Leading lines: These are lines that naturally guide the viewer's eye toward the main subject or point of interest. They can be created by roads, rivers, or even diagonals in urban architecture.
  • Foreground interest: You can try adding elements in the front of the frame to enhance the depth and composition of your image. Doing so can provide context and better lead the eye to the main subject.
  • Selective focus: This is a fun technique that pulls the viewer’s eye to a portion of the image that is in focus, while the rest is blurred.
  • Frame within a frame: This compositional technique frames a subject with elements already in the scene, such as windows or trees, to create a sense of depth and provide additional context to the subject.

Camera Settings

  • Essential Camera Settings for Landscape Photography 
  • A. Aperture - The more you open the aperture, the more light you let in. Aperture is measured in F stop, and in fractions. The higher the F stop, the darker the photo, but the deeper and better the depth of field and clarity. F8-F22 is good for landscape. The lower the F stop, the shallower your depth of field and the more bokeh. Which is great for portraits.   
  • Depth of field refers to the amount of the image that is in focus. In landscape photography, you often want to have a large depth of field, meaning that both the foreground and the background are in focus. To achieve this, you can use a small aperture (such as f/11 or f/16), which will give you a deeper depth of field.
  • B. Shutter Speed - measured in fractions. The longer the shutter is open, the more light hits the sensor and the brighter your photo becomes—but also things become more blurry if they’re moving. With a longer shutter speed, you can blur the water and show the chaos and beauty of water movement.  
  • C. ISO - if you increase iso, you increase the brightness of photos, but you also introduce more noise the more you increase ISO in your photos if you do this. The larger your camera sensor the less noise when you increase ISO. However, it’s pretty easy to keep your ISO low in landscape photography.
  • D. Finding the right balance between shutter speed, aperture, and iso is crucial to getting optimal exposure. This is determined by the available light in your landscape scene. If you want low noise such as ISO 200, at F11 to have the scene in focus, then your shutter speed will 
  • Back to lighting, your settings and lighting available will impact your photos exposure, which refers to the amount of light that is allowed into your camera when you take a photo. In landscape photography, it is important to make sure that your exposure is correct, as this will ensure that your images are bright and well-exposed. To get the right exposure, you can use the exposure compensation feature on your camera, or you can take several test shots and adjust your settings accordingly.

Essential equipment for landscape photography

Now that you understand a bit more about the basics of landscape photography, the next step in creating landscape photography is to have the right equipment. The following are some of the basic items you will need:

Best cameras for landscape photography

To shoot landscape photography, you’ll need a camera that’s capable of capturing high-resolution images, with a high dynamic range, and good color accuracy. That often means using a camera with a large sensor

There are a lot of cameras on the market, ranging from DSLR to mirrorless cameras, however, camera bodies are so well-made these days that it really depends on the lenses you use and your skills and techniques.

That being said, below are a couple of DSLR and mirrorless options:


Mirrorless cameras:

Whether you're shooting with a digital camera or film, the most important thing is to approach each landscape with a creative vision and a passion for capturing what transfixes you. 

Best lenses for landscape photography

The lenses you use will determine the optical quality of your images more than any camera body. A good quality lens will also help you create sharp images, with minimal distortion and chromatic aberrations. Depending on the environment you’re shooting, you may want to shoot with a prime or zoom lens. Prime lenses tend to have great optical quality and can open their aperture more, which can be great for nighttime or astrophotography. 

Zoom lenses have the ability to vary their focal length, or the measurement of a lens that represents the distance between the lens and the image sensor. Focal length is expressed in millimeters (mm) and determines your field of view—the lower the mm, the broader the perspective the lens covers. A good rule of thumb to remember for landscape photography: you generally want to be able to cover a focal range from 16mm to 200mm.

A collection of 3 lenses should cover your landscape photography needs.  

  • 16-35mm - A short focal length offers a wide-angle view and is one of the most commonly used lenses in landscape photography. With a wide-angle lens, you can capture an expansive scene. 
  • 24-70mm - This is a great all-purpose lens and a good starting point if you’re new to landscape photography. It can be used for a wide range of situations, from wide-angle shots to medium telephoto shots.
  • 70-200mm - This longer focal length lens has a narrow field of view and is ideal for telephoto shots, like capturing distant objects or finer details within a landscape.

The lens you get can often depend on the body of the camera you have. Most camera providers sell great glassware to match the camera body you already own. I recommend sticking with the provider of your camera body because they will make the best lens suited for that camera. 

Other essential equipment for landscape photography

  • Tripods are often a landscape photographer’s best friend. With the help of tripods, you can keep your camera steady even when you use long shutter speeds to get that coveted blur of movement for subjects like water or stars. They’re also helpful if you’re shooting in low light conditions and want a slow shutter speed to let more light in. When investing in a tripod, aim for something light and easy to travel with. Landscape photography often means hiking to hard-to-reach places and if you have a super heavy tripod, you’ll be pretty unhappy on that hike.
  • Remote releases are super handy for taking pictures without physically touching the camera. This helps reduce camera shake and ensures sharp images—especially if you’re using a low shutter speed. 
  • Filters such as polarizers and neutral density filters, lend a hand to crafting better landscape images. Like polarized sunglasses, polarizing filters help reduce reflections and increase the saturation of colors including blues and greens. Neutral density filters are a cheat code to using slow shutter speeds in bright light conditions, which can help to create dramatic images with silky smooth water and cloud movement even when it’s midday. It’s sort of like sunglasses for your camera. 
  • Post-processing software, also known as image editing software, provides a platform to unleash your creative potential. With tools like VSCO, you can enhance your photos through techniques like dodging, burning, and color grading. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for showcasing your unique vision.

Practice, practice, practice

If you’ve made it to the end of this article and landscape photography sounds even more interesting to you, it’s time to get out there and start shooting with whatever camera you have available. To quote Chase Jarvis, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” 

If you’re interested in pursuing landscape photography, the best thing to do is practice, practice, and practice. Find out what interests you and why—or what sparks your curiosity. Ask yourself, do you like to capture beauty for the sake of beauty? Or do you find joy in telling abstract stories in your landscape photography? In doing so, you’ll be able to take stock of where and just how far you want to take your landscape photography. However you choose to approach landscape photography, the only way to get better is to practice regularly by making a lot of images.

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