Here you will find everything you need to know about landscape photography. We give you tips on the right camera (DSLM or DSLR), the best lenses for great landscape photos, and the right camera settings, such as aperture and ISO value.
We’ll also tell you what to look for when composing your shot. In total, we have collected 25 simple tips and tricks that will help you take great landscape pictures.
The 10 most important tips for great landscape photos
- Use tripod and remote trigger
- Shooting in RAW format
- Aperture value between 8 and 11
- ISO value as low as possible (100 or 200)
- Set focus correctly (hyperfocal distance or infinity)
- Observe the rule of thirds
- Observe line routing
- Use a beautiful picture foreground
- Shoot in the morning or evening
- Change your perspective as often as you can
1. the best camera for landscape photography
Which camera is the best for great landscape pictures? “Is a simple beginner camera enough or do I have to buy an expensive professional camera right away?”
You can rest assured: You definitely don’t need a sinfully expensive camera to take beautiful landscape photos. Even with your smartphone, if you follow a few simple rules, you’ll get great shots.
It also doesn’t matter whether you use a system camera (DSLM) or a single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) with a full-frame sensor, APS-C sensor, or any other sensor size to take pictures.
If you are on the road with a mirrorless system camera, you will get more dust on the sensor with frequent lens changes. This problem of every landscape photographer has so far only been solved by Canon with their R-models.
2. The best lenses for landscape photography
Ultra wide angle lens
In landscape photography, an ultra-wide-angle lens is a must. On a full-frame camera (such as the Sony Alpha 7 III), 12 mm to 16 mm focal length is ideal. There are even full-frame lenses with an even wider angle, such as the Laowa 10-18 mm. This allows you to take landscape pictures with an extreme angle of view.
On a camera with an APS-C sensor like the Sony Alpha 5000 , theSony Alpha 6000 or the Canon EOS M50, this corresponds to a focal length of about 8 mm to 11 mm due to the so-called “crop factor” of 1.5 or 1.6.
In addition to the ultra-wide angle lens, a telephoto lens also belongs in your camera backpack. With the telephoto lens, you can capture subjects that are far away. In addition, the subjects move very close together, which makes great effects possible. There are regions in the world where you would be lost without a telephoto lens, such as Tuscany or Scotland.
In landscape photography, you will always have subjects in front of your lens where a standard zoom (24-70 mm focal length full frame; 16-50 mm APS-C) works best.
Lenses for landscape photography at a glance
- Ultra wide-angle lens (to the wide-angle lens buying guide)
- Standard zoom
- Telephoto lens
3. The tripod
A good tripod is a must in landscape photography. I see photographers all the time who are out and about without a tripod – even at dusk. Sure, a tripod is heavy and sometimes a bit cumbersome – but in landscape photography, it is often essential.
With a tripod you can (regardless of the lighting conditions) expose as long as necessary. You can also be much more deliberate about the composition of your image. If you’re looking for a sturdy and extremely lightweight tripod, check out the Gitzo Traveler 1545T
With the tripod, you can align the horizon perfectly straight. There is no need for later correction and the inevitable cropping of the photo. A remote shutter release prevents blurred photos by pressing the shutter button.
In addition, you can use the remote shutter release in the so-called “Bulb Mode” to expose for longer than 30 seconds without pressing the shutter release button. Without a remote shutter release, the photo may blur despite the tripod. The alternative is a camera app on your smartphone if your DSLM or DSLR supports it.
Modern cameras such as the Canon EOS R5, the Nikon Z5 and Z6 or Sony’s 7 and 9 series have a built-in image stabilizer (always deactivate it on the tripod). This makes it possible to achieve handheld exposure times of up to two seconds – with only a slight loss of sharpness. However, you will still achieve the best results with a tripod.
4. manual mode (M)
If you are using a tripod, you should forget about the automatic mode of your camera! After all, the cam doesn’t “know” what effect you want to achieve. Do you want to capture the surf at the sea like fog or should the water remain dynamic? My tip: Always use the manual mode on the tripod. This is the only way to get photos that are exactly what you want.
During the day in simple lighting situations without a tripod, I usually use aperture priority (A or AV). This is where you specify the aperture (like f/8 for handheld photos). It’s not for nothing that there’s a photography adage: “When the sun is shining, use f/8.”
In aperture priority mode, the camera automatically sets the correct exposure time and ISO value for you (make sure to activate the ISO automatically). You can now concentrate fully on the image composition.
Use the manual mode on the tripod. During the day – for example on hikes – you can usually set the aperture priority (A, AV) with the ISO automatic.
5. The right aperture for landscape photography
Landscape photos are usually supposed to be sharp from front to back (here I tell you why your pictures get blurry). To achieve this, you should close the aperture relatively wide. Aperture values between 8 and 13 have proven themselves.
On the tripod, I usually work with f/11 or f/13. Thanks to the relatively wide closed aperture, you achieve a large depth of field – so (almost) everything is sharp from front to back.
F/11 or f/13 are ideal in many situations in landscape photography. Good to know: Small image sensors have an advantage when it comes to the great depth of field (and disadvantages when it comes to cropping objects). That’s why smartphone images, for example, are consistently sharp from the very front.
But be careful: If you close the aperture much further (like f/22), this leads to the dreaded diffraction blur. This occurs when the aperture is closed too far. This effect varies depending on the camera sensor.
Large image sensors (full-frame) with a low resolution (megapixel number) have an advantage. With an APS-C camera with a high megapixel number, diffraction blur occurs earlier and more strongly than with a full-frame camera with a low megapixel number.
With my Sony Alpha 7 III, for example (full-frame with “only” 24 megapixels), I can set f/18 without any problems. With the aperture wide closed, I bring the sharpness a few centimeters further forward. But this is only relevant for landscape photos with the ultra-wide angle lens.
6. The ISO value
Beginners often make the mistake of working with high ISO values. There is usually no reason for this in landscape photography. If you work with a tripod, you should set the ISO value as low as possible. This is usually ISO 64, ISO 100, or – for cameras with a small image sensor – ISO 200.
For nighttime star gazing, on the other hand, you usually have to turn the ISO well into the four-digit range. The reason is simple: if you expose your star image for too long, the stars will no longer be displayed as points.
ISO 100 is usually the ideal ISO value for landscape photography. For star images, however, you have to increase the ISO value significantly.
7. The exposure time
The exposure time is calculated from the available light, the set aperture, and the set ISO value. In manual mode, the exposure scale of the camera or the histogram helps to determine the correct exposure time.
The perfect exposure time does not exist. If you work with a tripod, you can expose it for several minutes or even hours – if you like.
In the twilight, the exposure time is often already a few seconds. In landscape photos where there is no movement, it is usually irrelevant whether you expose for two, five, or 30 seconds.
At the seaside, for example, where the water is moving, the exposure time plays a much greater role. With exposure times of less than one second, you capture the dynamics of the water. With exposure times of several seconds or minutes, however, the water appears soft like fog.
For long exposures during the day or of several seconds or minutes, it is best to use a gray filter.
To shorten or lengthen the exposure time without adjusting the aperture value, you should adjust the ISO value (double ISO value = half exposure time and vice versa).
8. Focus & hyperfocal distance
Without proper focus, your photo or the main subject may be out of focus. In most cases, you will do well by simply aiming at your main subject and focusing on it (with a relatively wide aperture). Alternatively, you can focus on an object that lies in the first third of the image.
When you’re in a hurry: Use autofocus to lock on to your main subject.
Another (sometimes cumbersome and error-prone) option is to manually set the focus to the hyperfocal distance (also called hyperfocal distance or hyperfocal distance).
This is the distance you need to focus at a given aperture/focal length combination to achieve the maximum depth of field (DOF). If you focus on the hyperfocal distance, the depth of field ranges from half the hyperfocal distance (close-up point) to infinity.
To calculate the hyperfocal distance, there are various apps and websites such as https://www.photopills.com/calculators/dof
The hyperfocal distance is calculated from the set aperture and focal length and also depends on the camera sensor used.
Here you can find some examples of the hyperfocal distance (all data refer to full frame):
|Aperture||Focal length||Hyperfocal distance|
|8||14 mm||83 cm|
|16||14 mm||42 cm|
|8||50 mm||10.5 meters|
|16||50 mm||5.3 meters|
|8||200 mm||167 meters|
|16||200 mm||84 meters|
|8||400 mm||667 meters|
|16||400 mm||334 meters|
Tip for the wide-angle lens: If this is too complicated for you, set the focus manually to “just before infinity”. By the way, the infinity sign is horizontal figure eight. High-quality lenses usually have a distance scale that allows you to adjust the focus manually. System cameras usually show you the focus setting in manual focus mode on the display or in the viewfinder.
Of course, with the setting “just before infinity” you give away some depth of field. But you will hardly notice the difference with a relatively wide closed aperture.
With a telephoto lens it gets a bit more complicated (always depending on the subject), because here you don’t just give away a few centimeters of the depth of field, but sometimes hundreds of meters. My everyday tip: It is usually best to focus on the main subject. If the foreground disappears in the blur, this can even be a pretty exciting design tool.
9. The RAW format
With this camera setup, you’re one step closer to taking great landscape photos. Next, go to your camera menu and activate the RAW format.
The RAW format (“raw data format”) contains much more image information than the compressed JPG format. What you can get out of a RAW photo? We’ll tell you in our article “Why you should shoot in RAW format”.
For great landscape photos, you should always use the RAW format. Personally, I have also activated the JPG format (smallest setting). You always have to develop a RAW first – you can’t just send it quickly to friends via Whatsapp and Co.
10. Image processing
Once the image is in the can, it’s time to develop your RAW files. Just like film in analog times, a digital photo needs to be developed.
With programs like Adobe Lightroom* you can straighten the horizon or remove dust spots, vignetting, or distortions. Fine-tune things like contrast, sharpness or individual color channels. Presets with predefined settings are also available on the Internet. Of course, you can use them – or you can try them out a little and find your own photographic style.
11. Filters are the be-all and end-all in landscape photography
Camera filters conjure up spectacular effects in every landscape image.
With a grey filter, you extend the exposure time. Blurred clouds or water that appears like fog are the effects. There are many different filter strengths.
A light grey filter (which only darkens one aperture) doubles your exposure time. With a strong grey filter, you can even expose it for a few seconds or even minutes during the day. A grey filter with 10 aperture stops increases the exposure time by a factor of 1000. Here, for example, an exposure time of 1/60 second becomes an exposure time of 15 seconds.
A polarizing filter is used to reduce reflections on water (generally on “non-metallic surfaces”). Be careful with the polarizing filter on wide-angle lenses: Here, the polarizing effect does not extend over the entire image – unsightly spots appear in the sky.
Gray graduated filters
With a gray graduated filter, you can handle even the most difficult lighting situations. Often the sky is too bright compared to the foreground, especially in backlit shots. The gradient filter helps you to get the high contrast under control.
Modern camera sensors are characterized by a high dynamic range. Therefore, you often don’t need a gray graduated filter anymore.
Nevertheless, there are always situations that bring even the best image sensors to their limits. In addition, the gray filter also acts like a gray filter: it increases the exposure time. Often, the gray graduated filter replaces the gray filter when you only need a slightly longer exposure time.
An alternative to the grey gradient filter is the HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) or HDR image. Here you create several exposures and later compute them via software to a photo.
12. The motive
Get one thing straight: what exactly is your subject? Many beginners (and some experienced photographers) make the mistake of arriving at a beautiful location and pressing the shutter button on their camera (or smartphone) without much thought.
You know the effect for sure. “But it looked much nicer in real life,” you often hear when someone shows you their pictures. Why is that? The human brain is able to fade out unimportant parts of a beautiful scene – the camera can’t do that.
So the goal must be: The photo looks much better than reality. A good photographer, therefore, considers very carefully before each picture what motif he wants to show in the picture. Is it the vastness of the landscape in the light of the setting sun? Or is it just a small part of the landscape in the distance?
13. Change your perspective
One of the most important rules in landscape photography is: to change your perspective – as often as possible! I always see photographers who are so focused on one subject that they forget everything around them.
It is extremely important that you perceive your entire environment as a possible subject and not just the supposed main subject. Look around, what is happening behind your back? Then move away from your point of view. Often 20 meters is enough to get a completely new attitude.
Also, try it from the frog’s perspective. You can also use different focal lengths and switch between landscape and portrait. This way, you won’t just get one or two great pictures at a single photo spot, but dozens.
If you’re serious about photography and not just chasing pretty Instagram pictures (which has unfortunately become a trend in the past few years), you’re also letting your eye wander.
On the way to your main subject, there are certainly many other exciting things, aren’t there? Like the spider web sparkling in the light of the low sun? Or mushrooms on the forest floor, just waiting to be photographed.
14. The rule of thirds
A central horizon corresponds to our visual habits. In landscape pictures, however, this usually looks boring. So follow the rule of thirds, where either one-third of the sky or one-third of the foreground is visible.
The same applies to the main motif. The lighthouse on the coast in stormy seas is particularly impressive when placed using the rule of thirds, which is based on the theory of proportion of the golden section.
15. The foreground
Especially if you’re shooting with an ultra-wide angle lens, you’ll want to think about an exciting foreground. A rock that stands out, large flowers, a pattern in the rock, or the surf by the sea are all great ways to add incredible depth to your landscape photos and draw the viewer into the frame.
With a wide-angle lens, you can also get extremely close to the foreground. The foreground may then also take up a large part of the photo. It is also worth changing the perspective, for example, bending your knees and taking a photo very close to the ground.
Photos that you take with the ultra-wide-angle lens usually live from a striking foreground, which is sharply reproduced almost to the last centimeter. To achieve this, you need to close the aperture of the lens relatively wide (high f-stop).
Another exciting option in landscape photography is to deliberately blur the foreground. This works best with a normal focal length or even a (slight) telephoto focal length. The normal focal length corresponds to the field of view of the human eye. On a full-frame camera, that’s strictly speaking 43 millimeters. By normal focal length, I mean the range from 30 to 60 millimeters. I refer to focal lengths above 60 millimeters as (light) telephoto focal lengths.
Focus on your main subject in the distance and look for an exciting foreground, which you can approach with the camera up to a few centimeters. Flowers are a good example of this. The camera can no longer focus on the near foreground with the set focal length. Use this for an exciting landscape photo.
As an alternative to the foreground, you can of course also blur the background. In this case, you set the focus on the foreground, which you approach very closely with the camera. It works similarly if you only want to focus on the middle ground, for example, in order to create tension in your photo.
16. The line management
Is there a particularly striking line that draws the viewer into the image? Use lines and make them an essential building block in the composition of the picture. A footbridge at the lake, for example, draws the viewer far into the picture. Likewise, there are stone formations that lead into the picture.
Ideally, the lines lead the viewer into the picture or to the main subject. Horizontal lines stop the view and are usually counterproductive.
Line work is the be-all and end-all of landscape photography. It can turn an ordinary photo into a true masterpiece. So you should take a lot of time for this important aspect.
17. Conscious symmetry
For example, if you are standing by a body of water in which your subject is reflected in the water, it can be quite appealing to create the picture symmetrically, contrary to the rule of thirds.
Or if lines lead to your main motif, you can also place it in the middle.
18. Size comparison
Also, a size comparison with one or more people (or objects to which you have a size reference) always looks good in landscape photography and provides a real wow effect. A lone hiker in the mountains or a person in a canyon, for example, gives your photo that certain something.
Not even familiarity with the model is required. Keep your eyes peeled for models in the wild that you can utilize in your photographs. Unless you know them or have their consent, you should not identify them.
In landscape photography, a natural setting is often a good choice. This can be trees or a window through which you look. Always be on the lookout for great photo opportunities like this.
I like to let the frame blur in a blur. This works best with a relatively long focal length. Focus on the main subject and move the camera as close as possible to the natural frame, which should never cover your main subject.
Sometimes it can be exciting to capture exactly one motif without any disturbing elements in a photo. This can be a tree in the fog or a rock in the sea. This reduction to one motif is called minimalism and requires some practice and a trained eye.
Not every motif is suitable for a minimalist presentation. Ideally, there are virtually no other elements in the image to distract the viewer’s gaze.
Once you have found a motif, try different compositions. How does the motif look – contrary to the rule of thirds – in the middle of the picture? Or does the motif look better in one of the intersections? Try it out!
Also, condensing a landscape with a telephoto lens is an exciting stylistic device in landscape photography and, in my opinion, is used by far too few landscape photographers.
Sometimes you’ll see a beautiful subject far away, but the foreground (which is where the wide-angle lens might come in) is anything but photogenic. Try to capture the scene with the telephoto and make it more compact.
By using the telescope, the distances between individual elements are visually shortened. This also creates breathtaking landscape images.
22. The best time & the perfect light
The most beautiful landscape photos are taken during the golden hours. During the golden hour, the period shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset, the sun casts long shadows and bathes the landscape in a golden light – hence the name “golden hour”. The colors are intense and the shadows give your images something mystical.
Equally, spectacular landscape photos are taken during the blue hour, the time shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset. The sky glows in an intense shade of blue and the long exposure times make the colors extremely intense.
Direct light, for example at midday, is very harsh – your pictures lose brilliance and color. An exception is sea pictures, for example in the Caribbean. The water glows very intensively, especially at midday.
I like to shoot against the sunrise or sunset, so I have backlight in the morning or evening. With a few clouds in the sky, this is no problem for the camera (if you implement our technique tips from above).
But the backlight is also wonderful. When the sun is low and the landscape in front of you is illuminated from behind. You have to be careful with your shadow and the shadow of the camera (on the tripod) – you don’t want them in the picture. Sometimes it helps to crouch behind a rock – or “crop” the direct foreground with a longer focal length.
Grazing light is light that comes in from the side – and of course, that offers great photo opportunities as well.
The most beautiful landscape photos are often taken during the golden hour, but the blue hour also offers wonderful photo motifs.
23. Clouds and fog make your pictures dramatic
A cloudless sky is perfect for a beach holiday. But if you want to take stunning landscape pictures, you need clouds in the sky. Clouds add an interesting texture to an otherwise boring blue surface and also serve as a diffuser for the sunlight during the golden hour.
With clouds in the sky, you’ll also get the best backlight shots. Clouds moving across the sky are also great for long exposures.
Very beautiful landscape photos you succeed especially in autumn. Besides the colorful trees, the morning fog makes your pictures unique.
24. No rule without exception
Of course, there is no rule in photography that you can’t break. However, you should know the basic rules of photography before you break them again. You will always encounter situations that force you to break one rule or another.
25. Practice makes perfect
With this guide to better landscape photos, you’re guaranteed to take better landscape pictures in the future. If you’re still at the beginning of your photography career, let me tell you: practice makes perfect. In addition to the theory, the practice should not be neglected. So grab your camera and find a nice photo subject to set it in the right scene.
Always make a conscious effort to follow the rules of landscape photography. You will not shoot the perfect pictures overnight. Learning photography is a long and sometimes tedious process that is never finished.
If a photo shoot didn’t go perfectly for once (you often only see this at home on the big screen), don’t get angry and try not to make the mistake next time.
You’re always learning. This is true for me as well. Whereas a few years ago I was obsessed with extreme wide-angle shots, today I’m focusing more and more on stunning photos with a telephoto lens.