Tips For Better Landscape Photos

Superstition Mountains at Sunset - Lost Dutchman State Park

When taking landscape photos, whether you’re using a professional DSLR camera, or something as simple and convenient as your cell phone, it may seem difficult to get that “perfect shot”. Yet, other times, without even trying, you find that you took that “amazing” photo, but are unsure as to how you did that so you can duplicate your success the next time you take a photo. Here’s some ideas that may help make your next landscape photos much more satisfying!

Plan your shots ahead of time

Many times, what makes the difference between an ordinary sunset photo and an extraordinary one, may be knowing exactly where the sun will set. If you know you’re going to be on a certain beach for sunset, having a general idea of where the sun will go down may help you align your location so that you also capture other elements that give more life to your shot. A great tool I use is an app that is available for both Android and Apple phones is The Photographer’s Ephemeris. This app uses Google Maps to show you all the information you need when planning a landscape shoot – like where the sun will rise and set, and also where the moon will rise and set. The web/browser-based version is free to use, while the smartphone app costs about $5


Use a Tripod or something to support your camera.

Sanding and shooting makes for good shots. But, any slight movement may result in a loss of sharpness in your final image. And when you use your cell phone, you may not be able to control your shutter speed – slower shutter speeds let in more light, but also can emphaise every little movement in your camera as well. You want to make sure you are shooting from as stable a platform as possible, and a tripod is the perfect tool to help you accomplish this. There are even small, inexpensive tripods that you can use with a cell phone to minimize camera movement.

Be patient!

As incredible as many sunset or sunrise photos may be, don’t limit yourself to just those moments. Twilight can bring many new opportunities for light and color, both in the distance as well as your foreground, that the intense light during sunrise or sunset may overwhelm. The hour or so surrounding sunrise or sunset is known as “The Golden Hour” – staying around for some time before and after this period of time means that mostly blue and violet wavelengths of light are reaching the Earth. Even though the sky may still contain flashes of red or orange, the ground will have a cooler tint, as though it is bathed in soft blue light.

Clouds are cool!

What if the day isn’t sunny out? Clouds can add drama to your photos – you’ll get an entirely different mood to your images. You can always use photo tools ranging from Adobe Lightroom to a variety of different phone apps, that can allow you do increase the contrast, darken the image, or boost the color after you’ve taken the shot – these can help you bring out much more mood and drama from the image.

Strive for balance

One of the things that can make a good image great, is visual balance. Try to balance light and dark colors, warm and cool colors, make your focal point where lines intersect. On the flip side, balance doesn’t necessarily mean keeping your main subject in the center of the frame. Keeping it off to one side a bit, and using the “rule of thirds” – where the horizon line is not in the center of the rame, but 2/3 down the frame, can make a boring image much more interesting and exciting!

There’s many more ways to keep your landscape photos from looking like a snapshot – but try these to start with and good luck with your next photo!

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Pono Images is based in Phoenix, AZ. Specializing in images of the American West, as well as Mexico, Costa Rica, and Hawai'i, Pono Images strives to capture and create art that connects, and builds emotion with the viewer.

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