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how to be a landscape photographer

How to Be a Landscape Photographer

by Alex Coleman on Sep 9, 2019

If you love to take pictures of scenic landscapes, you might be wondering how to become a landscape photographer. Getting paid to travel and capture the beauty of the world can be a great job. And luckily, getting started doesn’t require much equipment.

Want to know what you need and how to be a landscape photographer? This article will cover all the essentials of becoming a landscape photographer:

  • Skills
  • Gear
  • Earning potential

What are the First Steps to Becoming a Landscape Photographer?

Whether you already a portrait photographer looking to branch out, or just want to learn more about travel photography, it can be helpful to consider the basics of a landscape shot.

The essential landscape shot highlights the natural beauty of an area. If you think of a postcard photograph, it is probably a sweeping vista at sunset.

Nowadays, landscape photographers have to produce more than just a postcard shot. They not only do landscape photography, but also might shoot like portrait photographers or travel photographers.

Shooting detail shots requires a good understanding of nature photography. These skills all help tell the story of an area by giving context to the landscape.

Some of the best landscape shots you’ve seen on Instagram probably include a person in the frame. This gives a sense of scope, helping the viewer connect with the shot.

Blue sky with mountains in the distance. Grassy trail in the foreground and two walkers in blue shits in the mid ground

Of course, the basics are the same for any type of photography: a camera that can produce quality photos. A landscape photo doesn’t inherently require any special gear, but most professional photographers will want to expand their kit with accessories. These include wide angle lenses and neutral density filters.

We’ll discuss more later, but you can practice many of the essential skills with any camera.

The ease of getting started makes improving your landscape photography skills easy, too. Just go out into the world and practice shooting.

Fortunately, this also keeps the startup costs low. Your first landscape photograph doesn’t need to be a 3-week trip to Norway. You could start with a hike in a local park.

What skills do I need?

You’ll need a number of skills to become a landscape photographer. One of the biggest is building an understanding of composition.

Composition refers to how the artist arranges their frame to best showcase the subject of their work. You may have heard of composition rules like the rule-of-thirds. This rule is a guideline for placing an interesting subject a third of the way into your frame.

Beyond composition, you’ll want to have a mastery of your camera’s settings. The choice of aperture, shutter speed, and focal length can all have a huge impact on the final look of your photo.

If you’re starting with a cellphone, you may not have access to as many of these controls. If that’s the case, consider expanding your tools any way you can. Additional lenses can open up a number of creative options, making them a great choice for any photographer.

To create compelling images, try out some of the practices of a professional photographer. Pros will approach images as part of larger story. This may mean including or excluding certain elements, or combining pure landscape shots with photos from a different discipline.

Check out these other types of photographers, and see which kinds of photography you think go well together.

For training, consider taking a workshop or class from a photographer. Many of your favorite photographers may teach these courses, so check their websites.

To stand out in a field as crowded as landscape photography requires a number of skills beyond being good behind the camera. Having the ability to build a brand identity on social media can be key to getting your work seen. If you’re looking to build your social media platform, consider reading our guide on social media best practices.

What equipment do I need?

You can get started by using just about any camera, but to get the best possible shots, check out this guide. Here, we’ll talk about the equipment needed to become a landscape photographer.

Camera

Your choice of camera is very important. Cameras with interchangeable lenses, either mirrorless or DSLR, are only compatible with certain types of lenses. This is indicated by their mount, the name for the opening where the lens is attached.

For example, a Nikon D850 will only take F-mount lenses, produced by primarily by Nikon and some other manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron. This could be a good thing, if you like Nikon. But it could also mean a lot of expense to switch down the road.

With that in mind, think about your goals when choosing a camera.

Canon DSLR camera hovering above blurred nature background. Waterfall to the right hand side and trees in the distance

The biggest brands, including Canon, Nikon, and Sony, offer plenty of options for gear. Every type of camera, from beginner to high end professional, is available in their lineup.

Smaller brands, like Fuji or Olympus, may not offer the same wide range of products. They may also be more difficult to try out locally. Of course, smaller brands may have the perfect fit for you, so don’t write them off completely.

When buying a landscape camera, there are some important features. If you want the ability to print your landscape shots big, make sure your camera has enough megapixels.

More megapixels means more resolution. And achieving fine details can be important in giving the viewer the sense of depth to the shot.

Most cameras have more than 12 megapixels of resolution, which can provide good sized prints and photos. Keep that number in mind if you’re considering a used camera.

Saving some money with a used camera can be nice, but if it isn’t competitive with the least expensive interchangeable lens cameras, you’re better off buying new.

Of course, megapixels aren’t everything. The size of the sensor is important too. The sensor is what actually captures the image.

Point-and-shoot cameras can have a sensor that is much smaller than the APS-C or full frame sensors of interchangeable lens cameras. This means that while they may have the pixel count of those larger cameras, the actual image quality isn’t the same.

Lens

To go along with your new camera, you’ll probably want a wide angle lens. While landscape photos can be created with any focal length of lens, a wide angle is a classic choice for a reason.

Whether it’s to help fit in the entire dramatic mountain range, or to accentuate an interesting foreground element, a wide angle lens is the go-to choice for landscape photography. To get an idea of the shots possible with a wide-angle lens, read these 5 tips for shooting landscapes with impact.

Wide angle lenses could mean any lens wider than 24mm on full frame or 18mm on APS-C. This means that a lens like 10-24mm is a great choice for smaller format cameras. Full frame photographers will want to consider a lens like 14-24mm or 16-35mm.

Accessories

To try out some more advanced techniques, like long shutter speed shots, star trails, or capturing photos of lightning, a tripod is essential. A tripod provides a stable platform to hold your camera during longer exposures.

This makes your image sharper by reducing shake and allowing much longer shutter speeds than when handholding. Tripods don’t have to be expensive, but make sure you’re getting one that can hold the weight of your chosen camera and lens combination. A steady camera makes for high-quality images.

Along with a tripod, consider buying some filters. While a number of filter effects can now be duplicated in editing tools like Photoshop, others need to be done in the field. To get started, consider filters like a circular polarizer, neutral density filter, and graduated neutral density filter. Each of these can have a dramatic impact on your photos.

A circular polarizer can cut glare, like putting on a pair of sunglasses over the lens. This means less reflections of water, darker blues in the sky, and brighter green leaves on trees. Be careful not to use a circular polarizer on too wide of a lens, however, as this can cause an unnatural darkening of the sky.

A neutral density filter reduces all the light coming into the lens. By cutting the light, you can get silky smooth waterfalls, even in bright daylight. This is also a good looking effect when shooting photos of waves or fast moving clouds, since a long shutter speed smoothes them into a pleasing blur.

Neutral density filters come in different stops, which refers to how much light they reduce. A 6 stop filter is a good middle ground, while a 10 stop filter can allow for really dramatic photos. Make sure you’ve brought your tripod with you, however!

Night time shot of a busy city. Taken with a long exposure, which produced streaks of red lights from cars. Tall city buildings in the distance.

Graduated neutral density filters work similar to regular ND filters, except they aren’t solidly dark. Instead, they fade from dark to clear. This lets you get a proper exposure for a subject like a sunset. By allowing more light in from the foreground, you can better balance the exposure against a bright sky.

Earning Potential

Once you’ve developed your skills, you can make money with your landscape photographs. Working as a travel photographer or freelance photographer will require you to find clients who want to buy your images.

One of the best ways to get your work out there is via stock photography. While these markets have thousands of photographers and millions of shots in them, the users of these sites are actually looking to purchase images.

At the beginning, you may only make a few dollars from each sale, but each landscape photo in your portfolio can be sold multiple times. To get into stock photography, make sure you have high-quality images, as both the buyers and the marketplace expect the best.

There are many options for selling nature and landscape photography online. We’ve put together a list of 15 options, available here.

Another option is to go local. Selling to local businesses or setting up a table at an art fair can be a great option. Not only can you earn some money, but you can make connections within your community. These connections could lead to commissions for work down the road.

While there are a number of great ways to earn money with landscape photography, it’s difficult to establish salary potential for landscape photographers. So much depends on how you find work and the quality of images produced.

Of course, you never know until you try, so get out there and start building your skills and portfolio. 

Consider following us on Twitter and Facebook for more landscape photography tutorials if you enjoyed this guide!

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