Displaying articles for: 06-14-2009 - 06-20-2009
I have collected a few tips and tricks for landscape photography. I use them myself, and they do help increase my chances of going home with some good-looking, tack-sharp images.
1. Choose your spot and time of day with care. In many cases, you may have the right spot, but the wrong time of day, or even the wrong season. Think about how the image will look in different light, and consider making another visit. Some photographers will re-visit a site several times until they find the perfect conditions for shooting.
2. Bring a sturdy tripod with a good quality tripod head. I'll take steady and heavy, over light and wobbly any day. The best reason to buy carbon fiber gear is vibration dampening and steadiness, not weight. (Once the tripod head is mounted, the thing gets a bit heavy regardless.) If cost is an issue, try buying used equipment.
3. Scout the area a bit to find the best place to set up the tripod. Before you mount your camera on the tripod, walk around with the camera alone. It is a lot easier to plan the shot without dragging the tripod around! Look through the viewfinder, perhaps find a higher spot, or get lower to the ground. Change the angle a bit. Move in closer, or farther away.
Be sure to check your foreground and background for beer cans and other debris. It’s also important to make sure the tripod is set up on a firm surface. Sites on a bridge or close to a roadway will often vibrate with wind or traffic. These vibrations will affect image quality. Once you think you have the perfect spot, then set up the tripod and mount the camera
4. Do not leave you leave your tripod/camera unattended. I've had passersby, dogs, and wind try to knock the whole thing over. (Who needs that kind of stress?
5. Use a prime lens rather than a zoom. Prime lenses are generally sharper than zooms. Also, you can get some killer landscape shots with a medium telephoto such as a 200mm. This lets you isolate elements in a scene.
6. Shoot in Aperture priority. This means that you pick the aperture, and the camera picks the shutter speed. In 35mm, the sweet spot for most lenses is two stops above max aperture. Additionally, most 35mm lenses suffer a falloff in image quality when aperture values beyond f/11 - f/16 are used.
7. If you are shooting in low light, try using the "mirror up" feature on the camera. At slower shutter speeds, the mirror movement in a DSLR will shake the camera and blur your image. Use a remote shutter release. In other words, if you can, keep your hands off the camera and keep it steady during the shot!
8. Use the lowest ISO setting that is native to the camera sensor. Some cameras, such as the Nikon D3, have a native ISO setting of 200 - and also provide for even lower ISO settings, such as 100. However, at 100 ISO on the D3 you may see a small decrease in contrast, and perhaps color saturation. Stick with native ISO if you can.
9. Always use a lens shade, and protect the lens from unwanted light. Bouncing light can degrade contrast and color. This includes light bouncing off the inside of the lens shade. If you look over the top of the camera, and you have to squint, or you see light bouncing off the inside of the shade, protect the lens. Use a piece of cardboard, a hat, a newspaper, whatever comes to hand - just make a shadow over the end of the lens - and make sure your newfound accessory doesn’t appear in the frame!
10. Focus at the hyperfocal point, and then, if necessary, reframe the shot and make the image. If "hyperfocal" makes no sense to you, a similar option is to focus about 1/3 into the scene, between the camera and the farthest point of interest. At f/8 or f/11, you'll find that the image is reasonably sharp.
11. Stick with the camera manufacturer’s lenses. Generally, I get best results with the camera manufacturer's lenses. If you want to buy off-brand, rent one first and try it out. (Now that I think of it, this isn’t a bad idea for other types of photography gear.)
12. Even with digital photography, bracket your images. Go at least one stop up, and one down. You'll be glad you did.
13. Use the histogram to judge exposure, not the LCD. If you get the urge to use the LCD and skip the histogram, lie down till the urge passes. Then, once you get the histogram (the mountain) in the middle, bracket anyway.
Making good images can be hard. But taking the time to optimize image quality in the camera makes it much more likely that you'll be pleased with the finished product. Get it right in the camera, and when you get home you’ll be able to make a great, sellable print!