Photo: Shooting the landscape by Khánh Hmoong

Photo: Shooting the landscape by Khánh Hmoong / CC BY 2.0

Believe me when I tell you there’s more to landscape photography than wide angle lenses and a dramatic horizon. While those two things can indeed help you get an awesome photo, there’s a lot you can do (or, in this case, avoid doing) that can make your landscapes images look like a million bucks. So, next time you’re out there shooting, ask yourself if you’re committing any of these common landscape photography mistakes that could be holding you back.

1. Abolish Those Crooked Horizons

This one almost goes without saying, but since it’s the one rule of landscape photography that I abide by 100% of the time, I think it’s certainly worth a mention. When you’re taking a landscapes, keep those horizons straight–as straight as it appears to your eye when you’re standing there with your camera composing your frame. I know, I know…It’s crazy to think such a small detail can make that much of a difference, but it does. Really.

Many digital cameras offer virtual horizon option, which helps you to get pinpoint accuracy, but there are other ways to get the horizon as straight as an arrow, too, such as comparing the straightness of the horizon to one of the horizontal lines in the grid of your viewfinder or attaching a small bubble level to your camera. At the very least, make sure you’re at least paying attention to it, even if that means you have to “eyeball” it without the help of tools or gadgets.

An uneven horizon tends to be distracting by making things look off kilter. Photo: Crooked Horizon by Island Joe

An uneven horizon tends to be distracting by making things look off kilter. Photo: Crooked Horizon by Island Joe / CC BY 2.0

2. Wide Angle Lenses Are Great, But…

…they shouldn’t be thought of as the only lens to use when shooting landscapes. So, mix it up every now and again. Feel free to pull out that long lens, it’s completely okay to zoom in on occasion! In many cases it will allow you to narrow in on an compelling subject or point of interest within your landscape that can elevate the photo to an entirely new level.

→ Related reading: Landscape Lenses: The Characteristics

Which leads me to this next bit of advice…

3. Don’t Just Look At The Big Picture

I’m going to venture and guess you’ve heard the phrase “more than meets the eye” at least once or twice in your lifetime. It can apply to an almost infinitesimal amount of agendas, including becoming a better photographer. It’s easy to look at a gorgeous sun set colorfully behind a a grand mountain range and conclude it would make a great photograph. But, the most keen photographers know those massive breathtaking views are being powered by a collective of much smaller, yet equally powerful scenes.

Photo: Boat by Alessandro Caproni

Photo: Boat by Alessandro Caproni / CC BY 2.0

They may appear as a quaint fishing vessel quietly slicing through fog and water or the silhouette of an animal against the backdrop of a sunrise. There could be any number of things happening that could make a landscape photo stand out from others and all you have to do is look to for them.

4. Wait For It

When you can, don’t be in a rush. Taking seriously awesome photos can take a seriously awesome amount of time and landscape photography takes a ton of patience. It’s not uncommon for a professional photographer to spend months, sometimes years trying to capture what they envision as a perfect composition. While we won’t always have the time to be able to get the shot we want–whether it be due to bad light that just doesn’t want to make a change for the better or due to the fact you’re already running late to an important meeting–that doesn’t mean we can’t take the best photo we can at the time, then go back at a later date and try it again.

Photo: Anıtkabir – Ankara – Turkey by Nezih Durmazlar

Photo: Anıtkabir – Ankara – Turkey by Nezih Durmazlar / CC BY 2.0

Patience is key. Take your time to study the scene and think about the best, most unique and eye catching way to photograph it. If a specific composition means a lot to you and you can’t get it just right the first time, don’t sweat it–get out there again and try again!

Photos used in this blog post are licensed as Creative Commons BY 2.0

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