What is Landscape Photography? Your Complete Guide

What is Landscape Photography?

Landscape photography is a type of photography that captures the beauty of nature, bringing the viewers into the scenery, setting, and mood in these outdoor locations.

symmetrical clouds reflection in water

Have you ever looked at the stunning photos from National Geographic and wanted to capture these exquisite nature images? Landscape photography captures the beauty of the great outdoors. A great landscape photograph can convey great emotions and make the viewer immerse themselves into the scenery. 

For many photographers, they love capturing landscapes and nature. You don’t need a model, props, or any people in the shot. There are many pros to getting into landscape photography, including the peaceful and meditative quality of your subject matter and having the potential of incorporating travel into your work. Looking to add landscape photography into your online portfolio website? In this guide, you’ll find everything from taking a great landscape photo, to how you might end up selling your work.

The Difference Between Landscape and Nature Photography

The definition of landscape photography can be quite broad. Mountains and oceans, nature and urban—these can all be considered landscape photography. When it comes to identifying the difference between landscape photography and nature photography, it's important to take a closer look at what each of them are.

What is Landscape Photography?

Simply put, landscape photography captures the beauty of nature and the outdoors. These photographs bring the viewers into the scenery and perfectly captures the setting, mood, and feeling in the location. 

Whether you’re capturing a panorama or wide-angle of a mountain, or a close detail of a patch of beautiful grass, landscape photography shows the photographer's connection with nature. The photographs make you feel what the photographers are feeling when they are at the location. 

What is Nature Photography?

Nature photography is also often referred to as landscape photography, although it's more accurate to consider it a subset of nature photography. While this category broadly includes wildlife photography and other types of close-up outdoor photography, landscape photography is all about bringing the viewer into the world you are capturing with your camera. It can certainly include other subjects, such as flowers and animals, but from a vantage point that captures the broader setting.

blue water and trees

Types of Landscape Photography

The two types of landscape photography we are all probably most familiar with are nature and urban, from wide shots to close ups, both are popular environments for landscape photographs.

Nature Photography

As mentioned, nature is the scene most commonly associated with landscape photography. From earth to sky, desert to the Milky Way, the sky really is the limit when considering the natural scene you are wanting to capture, and nature photography absolutely can fall under a type of landscape photography. 

Urban Photography

For lack of a better definition, urban photography concerns itself with parts of the world that are man made, but it can still absolutely classify as landscape photography. Structures such as buildings, roads, sculpture, architecture as a whole, are common subjects for photographers to utilize when composing their images. Oftentimes, photographers may refer to this as architectural urban landscape. 

Which Camera is Best for Landscape Photography?

DSLRs, point-and-shoot, and film cameras are all capable of taking breathtaking landscape images. Keeping in mind your experience level and budget, be sure you're considering the following features when choosing the best camera for landscape photography that can make a big difference to photographing landscapes:

  • Megapixels: go for high-resolution so you can be sure to capture every detail

  • Dynamic range: find one with a wide DR so you can capture more details and spend less time in your camera settings

  • Full frame sensor: not a necessity, but cameras with one will provide stellar image quality

  • High ISO range: allows you to shoot in low light. This is particularly important for nighttime photography and astrophotography

  • Live view display: make composition easier

  • Weather sealing and durability: try to find a camera that can withstand the elements and the wear and tear that comes with location scouting

Some great choices include:

Nikon D850, $2999.95

If you've got the budget, this option has an extremely high quality sensor and can even shoot 4K and 8K time-lapse sequences, allowing you to bring your nature photos to life.

Canon EOS 6D II, $1399.00

You don't have to pay top dollar for an excellent full-frame camera: this option is more affordable, while still featuring an excellent sensor, weather sealing, and a relatively light build making it easier to carry around with you.

Sony a600, $549.99

If you want a super-light, quick-focusing, sharp and affordable option, the Sony a6000 is a favorite for a reason. Even though they've released newer bodies, this remains a top seller and a great choice for landscape photographers.

What is the Best Lens for Landscape Photography?

In short, wide-angle lenses. Landscape photographers suggest anything 30 mm and below, however, if you're capturing far off distance, telephoto lenses (85mm to 300mm +) are another option to consider. Beginner photographer doing some dabbling? A standard lens (18-85mm) would absolutely work too. Something to consider, the narrower the lens, the wider and flatter the photo will appear.

Personal preference and style also come into play, so don't be intimidated by the options. Compare your own past photography and other image rich pages to help you along the decision making process. From Canon and Nikon to Sony and Sigma, choose from a selection of great lenses for landscape photography that can truly bring your style to life.

Do I Need a Tripod for Landscape Photography?

It depends. If you want the option to shoot long exposures, use slower shutter speeds and higher apertures, a tripod will ensure you have the option to get the best detail. After choosing your camera and lens, consider tripods based on your needs. Do you prefer lightweight carbon or portable models for, or would you settle for the standard metal kind? Cost, ease of use are conversations to have with yourself.

Ready to complete your gear kit? From protecting against the elements and keeping your equipment powered up, to finding the right density filter, level up with these landscape photography accessories.

bird view of city

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How To Photograph Landscapes

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to nature photography, there are a few tips and techniques that you can implement if you want to take nature photos that really stand out. As with all types of photography, your skills as a nature photographer, wildlife photographer, or landscape photographer will improve the more you get out there and flex your photography muscles.

Try implementing some of these tips the next time you head outside with your camera:

Play With Depth and Layers

When experimenting with landscape photography, incorporating different elements in your shot will keep the picture interesting. You can do this by creating a sense of depth and positioning yourself so that the photo has different layers. For example, you could shoot a mountain head-on, or you could shoot it from a vantage that includes some other elements, such as a flower field or stream leading to the main subject, in the foreground.

By using this tip, your photos will have more visual interest and complexity. The key to creating depth in your landscape nature photos is shooting at a small aperture to make sure the whole picture is sharp. Go to your camera settings for aperture, also known as the f-stop, and make sure it's set to a number of 16 or higher. Below this, you may end up with part of the picture being blurred.

Include Movement

Another way to make your nature photos more interesting is to capture movement. If you're shooting around moving water, set your shutter speed to a long setting, like two seconds, and you'll get a cool dramatic effect that evokes speed. To do this you'll have to use a tripod, and we'll get into more detail on the type of gear you'll need for nature photography later in the article.

If you're lucky enough to be shooting in a part of the world with active wildlife, you can try these techniques to capture animal movement in the shot.

Capture Reflections

No moving body of water? No problem! Still, water can make for some amazing nature photos too, doubling the scene in the reflection. You won't be able to capture a reflection at any time of day, however. To do this, avoid harsh light and shoot either shortly after dawn or before dusk to get the best reflections. This way, you'll also get the beautiful warm evening light or the serene and cool color palette of the morning.

Play With Silhouettes

Incorporate some silhouette photography into your landscape shooting sessions. There are lots of creative ways to do this, from silhouetting animals against an evening sky to doing some urban landscape photography and scoping out the perfect skyline to shoot. No matter your subject, a good rule of thumb with this type of photography is that the more distinct the subject is, the better.

For example, if you're capturing the silhouette of a dog, the photo will turn out much better if the dog is in profile so that you can get an ice crisp silhouette than if they're facing you. A tree with a distinct shape will likely look better than a bunch of dense trees, which may just come out a dark blob in your final photo.

To capture a silhouette photo, you'll need the light to be coming towards you from behind your subject. For this reason, shooting when the sun is low tends to work best.

Shoot at Different Times of Day

As you've probably gathered by now, each time of day offers its own unique color temperature and lighting conditions that allow for different types of photos. An image taken at the same location with the same equipment can look very different in the morning, at high noon, in the evening, and at night. That's one of the fun parts of landscape photography and nature photos more broadly: you're not in a controlled studio setting, so you can never be sure what you're going to get. The element of discovery and surprise makes it all the more rewarding. 

Choose Different Subjects

When you think of landscape photography, photos of famous national parks and wide open spaces probably are conjured in your mind. However, you don't have to live in a natural wonderland to capture stunning landscape images. Sometimes the best photos are of unexpected subjects, so search for scenes that are available to you. It may be a local park or wild area, or it could even be a cityscape close to your home.

Remember the Rules of Composition

Sure, rules may be made to be broken, but it's a good idea to master them first before you come up with creative ways to break them. The same general photography composition tips and techniques that apply elsewhere are also valid when it comes to nature photography. A few rules that will help you compose nicely balance and visually appealing images include:

  • the rule of thirds, or placing points of interest in your image along the thirds of your frame

  • leading lines, or featuring line shapes such as roads to draw the eye toward your main subject

  • symmetry, or maintaining symmetrical balance in the image

While there are plenty of great nature photos that break one or more of these rules, there's a reason these composition tips come up again and again. Our eyes tend to be pleased by balanced and well-composed photos, so beginners are best off making sure they compose their subjects according to these techniques.

close up field

Can I Make Money with Landscape Photography?

The short answer: yes! The way photographers make money has been shifting for years, but that shouldn't turn you off.

Firstly, social media and a website are arguably necessities for landscape photographers to gain notoriety, share their work, and be digitally introduced to clients. You can use your social media platform as an outlet to attract potential clients. Perhaps your landscape photography may be the secret to growing your followers on social media.

Now, if you already have a solid or growing portfolio you are sharing online, check out the ways photographers are selling their work.

1) Stock Sites

Stock Sites such as Getty, Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe and more are sites to all consider. When doing your research, look for royalty rates and potential exclusivity rights. You’ll also want to take a look at how you can create stock photography that sells. You can make small adjustments and post-production edits to create stock images that work well for the public to use.

2) Sell Prints

Prints are a great way to digitally showcase and hopefully sell your work. Plus, eliminating the gallery or buyer means you don't get hit with a commission fee.

3) Commissions or Assignments

Publishers, tourism bureaus and ad agencies are some places worth looking into if you want to make money as a landscape photographer. When you have a portfolio to share (agencies and bureaus) or an idea or body of work to pitch (publishers), this is ideal when you can start your reach-outs. Once you've bagged an assignment or commission, here are some budgeting considerations to ponder when quoting on a job.

If you're budgeting a quote for a potential commission, consider the following:

  • Your hourly, day or project rate

  • Gear costs (the camera, lens, tripod and accessories mentioned above)

  • Travel time

  • Location access e.g. national park fee

  • Licensing fees, per image

  • Editing or post-processing fee, per image 

4) Contests

Contests are a great way to gain notoriety. On top of that, many photo contests involve a monetary component. Enter as many as you can, just be wary of accumulating entry fees. Photo Contest Guru is a great one-stop-shop for upcoming contests, deadlines, and requirements.

snowy landscape

What Should I Include in my Nature Photography Portfolio?

Once you've taken all those awesome nature photos, it's time to put them together and present them in an online portfolio. But how do you decide what to include?

While a photography portfolio is a must for any serious photographer, you don't necessarily want to just throw every photograph you've ever taken up. It's important to be a bit selective about which photos to include.

Try choosing one or two images of each subject you've shot, rather than a ton of photos from each session. Identify the very best of the bunch, and put that one up.

Consider limiting the number of pictures to 20 or so, so as to not overwhelm your visitors. If including a large number of photos, make sure you choose a website builder with templates that make it easy to create distinct galleries, so that you can neatly organize them in a way that won't make viewers feel like there is too much content to sift through.

Where Can I Sell My Nature Photography?

Why not make some money with those landscape shots you've been taking? A great way to earn passive income from your photography is to set up an online store. Adding an eCommerce component to your online portfolio will make it easy for you to sell prints of your favorite shots. Since landscape photography is so well suited to interior decoration, it's a perfect choice for an online print store.

You can also submit your photography to nature magazines and travel magazines for consideration.

Finally, selling your images to stock photography websites is another great way to earn extra money from your landscape photography.

Landscape photography can be a great addition to your photography business. If you’re a new photographer just starting your career, you may also want to explore this niche to build your landscape photography portfolio. Building your business will take time but there are lots of great potential for landscape photography

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