How to avoid being lazy in your landscape photography
A lot of laziness in landscape photography these days
If there is one statement that I can make based on the crazy amount of landscape images that are available online these days on sites like Flickr, Facebook and Instagram is that many landscape photographers are lazy. They are lazy in the sense that they choose to neglect some of the fundamentals of landscape photography.
They avoid performing many tasks because the tasks either require too much effort or too much time.
This laziness and lack of effort becomes very obvious when looking at their images.
What are some of the signs of laziness within landscape photography?
There are loads of signs really but the obvious ones are as follows:
- Bent horizons
- Dirt within the image
- Poor Composition
- Blurry / soft images
- Under or over-exposed images
- Poorly processed images
The list does really go on.
A lot of the time, a lack of education on the part of the photographer is given as the excuse for the above signs within their imagery. While this is true and valid with respect to photographers starting off on their photography journey, the excuse does not carry over to the countless amount of "so called" photographers who have been in possession of a camera for several years yet they still still continue to produce very poor quality images.
So for these individuals it is not really a lack of education that can be blamed but rather their own laziness. They are simply too lazy and not bothered enough to go away and educate themselves so that they can produce higher quality images.
There is a plethora of photography education freely available online and all around us. People just need to be willing to go search it out and put in the necessary work in order to improve and progress their own photography.
How to avoid being lazy in your own landscape photography
There are many things that you can do but below are some things that every landscape photography ought to be doing. Here in this article, I will touch briefly on the above points and in later articles I will dive deeper into each.
- Shoot in the best light
- Scout out locations
- Apply some Rules of Composition
- Remove unwanted dirt from your images
- Ensure that horizons are level in your images
The importance of light
Light plays a huge part in all forms of photography but even more so in landscape photography. There are various aspects of light that either help to make or break an image. Direction and intensity of the light, the temperature of the light, the harshness or softness of the light, etc..
The time of day that you shoot at is typically what dictates and controls the quality of light that you will be working with. The hours around sunrise and sunset, traditionally referred to as the "magic hours" are really the best times of the day to be out shooting landscapes. The quality of light that is available during these times is simply something that is very special and not available during the rest of the day.
The colour temperature of the light found around dawn and dusk/twilight is bluish in tone and feels "cool". The colour temperature of the light found sunrise and sunset is then often filled with various shades of pink, orange, yellow and red and is feels a lot more "warm". These colour tones simply look a lot more interesting and more appealing than the standard "daytime" tones.
Also, the low angle of the sun around sunrise and sunset can introduce angled shadows which add a great sense of depth and atmosphere to an image.
The only real way that a landscape photographer will truly learn and appreciate the benefits of the light that is available during the magic hours is to simply force themselves out during those special times of day.
Scouting locations is important!
A lot of landscape photographers simply head out to locations and expect to come away with great results. How can great images ever be captured when the photographer has not ventured to that location before in order to identify the best compositions, the best time of day to shoot that location in, the best angles of the light, the desired weather conditions for that scene and observing tide tables if looking to do coastal seascapes.
All of the factors mentioned above can have a big impact on the overall presentation of the scene in front of you. The right conditions can make an image of an average scene come to life, whereas the wrong conditions can make even the greatest of locations appear to be dull, boring and lifeless in an image.
This is the reason why many established landscape photographers return and revisit the same locations multiples times throughout the year, during different seasons and in different conditions. The scene always changes based on these variables and so the photographer needs to visit these locations on several occasions in order to learn what the best conditions are for that specific scene.
Pay attention to your Composition
One of the biggest fundamentals within photography is Composition. Composing an image involves the photographer making conscious decisions as to what elements should or should not be included within the frame and where those elements will be placed within the frame.
There are plenty of composition rules and guidelines available for the photographer to apply when composing the image. The Rule of Thirds, The Rule of Odds, Leading Lines, Symmetry and Balance to name but a few.
The Rule of Thirds is one example of a basic compositional rule that when applied is almost always guaranteed to produce great results.
Examine your own images and see if they are adhering to any compositional rule. By simply applying some of the basic rules of composition when you are composing, your images will almost instantly start to become more appealing and interesting to yourself and other viewers.
Check your images for dirt
As an avid landscape photographer, I know all too well about the annoyance of discovering dirt that is present within my images when I am reviewing and processing them on my computer.
This is simply just a part of the whole landscape photography process. It cannot be avoided 100% of the time and simply needs to be dealt with accordingly when needed. There is no getting around it!
Dirt that was present on the camera sensor, lens or filter at the time of capture will all show up in your image. Some dirt will be more visible and will stand out more than others. Dirt can be particularly noticeable in the sky portions of your images as there is no other elements for the dirt to blend in with, unlike the foreground which often has elements and objects where the dirt can disappear or become hidden.
The amount of photographers who post images online without first checking for and removing unwanted dirt is actually quite high, even within the professional scene. This actually is one of my "pet peeves" because it is something that is so easy to correct when needed. Simply get your camera sensor cleaned periodically and if needed clone out any dirt from your image when post-processing.
In a later post I will provide some tips & tricks regarding dirt removal during post-processing.
Straighten those horizons
This is definitely another pet peeve of mine. Seeing images that clearly have bent horizons. It is simply beyond me how photographers who photograph the coast frequently still continue to produce images that have horizons that are not level.
Again this is something that is very easy to get right when taking the picture or correct if needed when post-processing. Most tripods these days come with some form of spirit/bubble levels. They can also be purchased inexpensively for your camera. In fact some cameras even come with a built-in level, so there is absolutely no excuse for photographers to be producing and posting images online that contain horizons that are obviously not level.
Naturally it is just better and quicker all round if you force yourself to get this right when out and about with your camera. Use whatever leveling tools are available to you at the time. If you still manage to come home with an image where the horizon is a little bent, then simply correct it using your photo processing software.
In a future article, I will go through how you can straighten horizons using software applications such as Adobe Lightroom.