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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.
If you’re a lover of the great outdoors and a photography buff, the prospect of a career as a landscape photographer is probably pretty exciting. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to entering the world of landscape photography, keep reading.
The definition of landscape photography is very broad. When you hear the term, it probably evokes the image of a vast horizon or towering mountain. While those types of shots are classic examples of landscape photography, there are plenty of other types of images that can also be given the same name. Some photographers even include architectural photography as a kind of landscape photography, specifically urban landscape photography.
While all landscape photography captures the outdoors, not all outdoor photography is necessarily landscape photography. Nature photography, for example, tends to focus on specific aspects of the natural world such as animals or plant life.
Like most genres of photography, there are plenty of examples that blur the distinction between landscape and nature photography, but as a general rule landscape photography tends to capture a wider scene. An animal might appear somewhere on the horizon of a landscape photo, but if the image is a closely cropped shot of the animal, that would be considered a nature photo.
Another defining feature of landscape photography is the relative lack of equipment required compared to other types of photography. All a landscape photographer typically requires is a camera, the right lens, and a tripod. Since the scenes they shoot are expansive, it’s impossible to light them. Landscape photographers have to work with the natural lighting conditions available to them on the day they shoot.
Similarly, they can’t change their image by moving things around until it’s just right the way a studio photographer or someone shooting people can. They have to work with nature as it is, so often the only way to get a shot is to travel to the right location at the right time of day, or right time of year. In some ways, this makes landscape photography more accessible than many other types of photography. You don’t need access to a studio or much fancy equipment, you just need a camera, a tripod, and a scene that inspires you.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the most iconic images in landscape photography are mountain shots. The famous 20th century American landscape photographer Ansel Adams created images that elevated landscape photography to an important art form and venue for exploring the importance of environmental conservation, and many of these were mountain landscapes.
A unique challenge within mountain photography is that it can be difficult to reach the vantage points needed to get the best shot possible. This makes it important to travel light, without many cumbersome lenses or camera bodies.
Oceans, seas and other large bodies of water make for excellent landscape photography subjects. They’re dynamic and usually in motion, so you can get very different shots shooting from the same location depending on the time of day and weather conditions. Experimenting with long shutter times to capture the motion of water can make for fantastic shots, as can finding locations with interesting features such as stones protruding from the water.
Coasts are places of contrast, making for some perfect opportunities for landscape photography. The types of shots you can capture will depend on the specific coast you are photographing; you may be able to find a position from above to shoot downward, or you may get some more closely cropped shots of waves crashing on the coast.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to travel to a desert, the warm color palette, psychedelic shapes, and unique textures are sure to inspire you. You will have to deal with some harsh conditions to get the shot, but the incomparable quality of desert landscape photos is worth the challenge.
Here’s a type of landscape photography you can start experimenting with no matter where you are in the world. Getting the hang of how to work in different lighting situations when shooting cloudscapes can take a bit of practice, but using a polarizing filter can help you get more detail and contrast in your shot.
Forests may not be the first location you think of when it comes to landscape photography because the tightly packed trees obscure the horizon and the wider field of view. However, they’re full of interesting lines and light conditions, and you can also play around with shooting from outside of the forest and capturing its periphery.
No matter what the subject of your landscape shot is, you can take it to the next level by shooting a panorama of it. Some newer cameras have a panorama setting that automatically stitches together a series of images as you pan across the scene, but if yours doesn’t, you can stitch together several photos in post production.
Astrophotography can be combined with other types of landscape photography for dramatic effect. You can silhouette any other landscape, such as the treeline of a forest or a rock formation, against a sky filled with stars that aren’t typically visible to the naked eye. To get the best results with these kinds of shots, you need a very slow shutter speed (several seconds minimum), so a quality tripod and shutter remote are a must to avoid camera shake.
Both sunrise and sunset offer beautiful colors and light conditions, which can enhance any other landscape photo you’re taking. You can use sunrise or sunset to silhouette your landscape against the warm colors of the sky, or you can make the sun itself the focus of your landscape shot.
Aerial photography opens up a whole new way to approach the same landscape. Shots that would have been very difficult and expensive to capture before the wide accessibility of drone photography can now be created by any landscape photographer who is willing to get familiar with using drones in their photography workflow.
Now, instead of hiking to remote spots to get that perfect landscape snap, you may be able to let your drone make the last leg of the trip.
When it comes to storms, some landscape photographers love the thrill of the chase. Storm chasing can get you access to some once in a lifetime shots of extreme or unusual weather events, such as tornadoes. This type of photography can be potentially dangerous given the unpredictable nature of storms, and landscape photographers can spend a lot of time planning to make sure they’re in a location where they’ll get the most impressive image possible.
Urban landscape photography is a type of city photography that aims to capture wide shots of cityscapes rather than single urban subjects such as a building or street scene. The aim is to provide an overall impression of the urban environment, rather than the specifics of a city scene.
Regardless of which kind of landscape photography you’re shooting, if you’re trying to create a faithful rendering of the scene as it really was, the result is representational landscape photography. The effect of this type of landscape photography is to transport the viewer into the scene and give them some sense of the feeling of really having been there.
In contrast to representational landscape photography, abstract landscape photography abstracts the scene, focusing on colors, textures, and shapes created by the landscape to make something new, to evoke an emotion, or simply to create an aesthetically pleasing image.
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.
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.
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.
To get a sense of the wide variety of images that can be created in the landscape photography genre, it helps to look at the online portfolios of the best landscape photographers. From traditional to fine art, realistic to abstract, and documentary to commercial, there are endless ways to approach the world of landscape photography.
Poland-born, Baltimore-based photographer and videographer Bartosz Koszowski has an approach to landscape photography that makes it easy to get lost in time scrolling through his portfolio. An avid traveler, the range of images in his portfolio are a great example of what it means to see the world like a landscape photographer: beautiful images are available almost anywhere you look, as long as you know how to see the potential.
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Micky Wiswedel is an award-winning South African photographer whose work focuses on outdoor, extreme sport, documentary and lifestyle photography. His portfolio provides a great example of how landscape photography can be incorporated into a commercial photography career, particularly for outdoor and sport brands. Aspiring landscape photographers may think that the best path to a paying career in the field is through something like travel or nature documentary photography, but there are plenty of commercial and advertising possibilities as well.
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For an example of a stunning approach to fine art landscape photography, look no further than the portfolio of Brooklyn-based photographer Adam Raymaker. While his portfolio features some more traditional landscapes, the collections Peace by Peace and Surface Semblance are abstracted to the point that you might not immediately realize you’re viewing an ocean landscape. They are gorgeous as standalone fine art pieces that would be at home in a gallery or displayed on a wall at home, and viewed together they provide a completely new way of looking at something familiar.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re interested in pursuing landscape photography professionally, it’s definitely possible to do so without obtaining a degree in photography. Going the education route may have some benefits, and it is one way to develop your skills as a photographer, but it isn’t the only way.
Whichever way you choose to go about building a career as a landscape photographer, creating a strong online portfolio that showcases your technical skills, creative eye, and unique style as a photographer in the genre is among the most important things you can work on. The only way to do this is with regular practice and by taking a ton of photos.
Many landscape photographers have a formal educational background in photography, and there are some perks to going this route if you have the time, resources, and interest. You can find a degree program at an art school, or, for less of a commitment, look for individual courses in skills that you’d like to improve upon.
By pursuing a degree in photography you’ll be exposed to many genres within the field, not just landscape photography. However, if landscape photography is your main interest, you can always try to weave it into as many of your assignments and projects as possible.
As a landscape photographer, you won’t be shooting in a studio setting, so you don’t necessarily need to be a pro at studio photography, directing models, editing skin tones, and other skills that are essential if you were to focus on, say, portrait photography. Instead, you’ll need to understand how to work in different natural lighting conditions, and all the ins and outs of how your camera settings will impact your final image. It’s less about fancy and complicated equipment, and more about becoming a pro at the fundamentals.
Another area in which getting some formal education may help is with post-production. Many landscape photos really come together in the editing process, where you can draw out the different colors, textures, and contrasts of the environment.
Of course, the downside to going through a photography program is that they can be costly and take up time that you might be better spending visiting different locations to build up your landscape photography portfolio. If you know you want to get super focused on landscape photography specifically, a general photography program may feel too broad.
If you’re more of the learn-it-yourself type, you can absolutely build up a stellar landscape photography and start pursuing commissions, selling prints, or booking jobs without the need for a formal degree. Whatever you choose to do, to truly master the craft of landscape photography, you have to spend time outside of the classroom shooting. That’s the best way to develop a deep understanding of how to best capture the landscapes before you.
Part of standing out as a landscape photographer is developing a look or style that people associate with you. Whether it’s the tones and colors you bring out in your photos, the types of landscapes you shoot, your unique framing, or something else about your images that makes them yours, having an aesthetic or thematic thread that ties together the images in your portfolio will help potential clients know what they can expect if they hire you. The best way to develop your look is, of course, by shooting and experiementing with your craft.
As a self taught landscape photographer there are tons of resources available to you to help you improve your skills and your eye. Things like YouTube videos and articles can go a long way in helping you fill any gaps in your technical knowledge. Spending time studying the landscape portfolios of other photographers you admire, and identifying what it is about their images that makes them work, can help you zero in on the kinds of images you’d like to create yourself.
One of the nice things about school that you miss out on as a self-taught photographer is the quality, honest feedback from other professionals. Constructive criticism can be a powerful learning tool, so if you can find some other way to get it as a self taught photographer, you’ll only become better at your craft.
One way to do this is by submitting your work to publications and contests. You may not get the most detailed feedback, but it can help give you a better understanding of which of your images resonate most with a wider audience.
The best way to go about getting paid clients as a landscape photographer will depend on the type of landscape photography you want to do. If your landscape photography leans more in the direction of art photography, your approach will be different than if, say, you were targeting sportswear clients for commercial gigs.
No matter what kind of landscape photograph you plan to do, it’s essential to have a thoughtfully curated portfolio that showcases your best work and gives the viewer a good sense of the breadth of your skills. You’ll be sharing your landscape photography portfolio widely, so you want it to be an excellent representation of your abilities.
If you want to sell prints and show your work in galleries, you’ll need to get involved in your local art scene and look for opportunities to show your work. Getting your work published can also help your career, since having publications to your name can help legitimize you and show that there is a wider audience for your work.
If you’re planning to explore a more commercial route, landscape photographers are regularly commissioned by tourism boards to create images for advertising their region. Travel and nature publications are also potential clients. Finally, you can pitch to brands that have products that can be advertised with landscape imagery, such as car companies and outdoor gear companies. Whichever of these is most in line with the kind of work you want to be doing, make sure you’re gearing your portfolio toward that kind of imagery.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Location access e.g. national park fee
Licensing fees, per image
Editing or post-processing fee, per image
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.
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.
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.
We’ve discussed a number of different professional directions you can take with your landscape photography, and your pricing strategy will vary depending on which one you choose. For example, as a fine art landscape photographer, your income may come primarily from selling work at galleries, selling prints, and potentially contributing to publications.
In this case, the questions to ask yourself as you come with your pricing strategy will include:
What kind of art are you selling? Will it be unframed, or mounted and framed? How large are the prints? Printing, mounting and framing photographs can get quite expensive, so you want to make sure you’re making a fair profit after all of the costs.
Can you develop a relationship with an agent or gallery? If so, they may take a significant cut (average 30-60%) on any works sold, but they also may be able to help you command a much higher rate if they are reputable and can promote your work to a high paying clientele.
What does similar work sell for? It’s a good idea to do some research into comparable fine art landscape photographers to get a sense of how you can reasonably price your work.
Additionally, you can consider taking on some commercial work to round out your income (and your portfolio).
If you’re planning to focus on commercial clients such as tourism boards and brands, your pricing strategy will be less focused on individual prints. Instead, you’ll likely take into account the following:
Location. Landscape photography involves travel, which can get costly. Your pricing strategy should include compensation for any travel expenses, and a per diem for food and other daily expenses.
Number of deliverable images. For each landscape photograph, you’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time in post production to get it looking just right. This is especially true for commercial photographs, which need to be very polished and adhere to a specific content brief. Each extra deliverable image will add editing time to your workload, so make sure your pricing is clear with respect to the cost of each extra image.
Commercial licensing. If you’re shooting for a brand or a tourism board, you’ll also be licensing your images for commercial use. You can offer a few different licensing options, with the more expensive ones granting your client more usage rights.
When it comes to working with travel or nature magazines, the publications typically have set budgets for each image or series. You may not have as much bargaining power as you would with a commercial client, however, you may be able to repurpose photos you’ve already taken by selling them to magazines and publications.
Finally, stock photography can be another way to increase your income as a landscape photographer. By uploading your landscape images to stock websites such as Getty Images, you can potentially earn an income off those images for years to come as they are licenced by users. Stock image license fees won’t be as high as those for your commercial clients, but there is the potential to license the same image many times over.
However you decide to go about earning money as a landscape photographer, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the most thrilling and rewarding types of photography out there. The natural world will always be fascinating to gaze upon, so there’s always an audience for the work of landscape photographers, and landscape shots will always have a place in the commercial world for selling products to an audience of nature lovers. Now you just have to get out there and start building up that portfolio!
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