In landscape photography you see people usually doing the same mistakes over and over. Don’t be that guy and use this short list and avoid these six common mistakes in landscape photography and outdoor/travel photography.
The most common mistakes in landscape photography
„Why is the water running out of my picture?“ – Level your horizon
In most of your landscape photography there will be a horizon. Level it as good as possible. Especially mountains are not easy to level and there is no specific rule how to do things. When there is a lake or a sea at your horizon, level it! Don’t let the water float out of your picture. This mistake is easy to avoid and avoiding it definitely helps to strengthen your landscape photography at any time. Oh, and by the way and because i have seen it before: level the picture, not your screen ;).
„I’m loving all these sliders in my editing app“ – Do’t go over the editing handlebars
It’s easy to play around with those fance sliders in your app or editing programm. Please do everyone a favor and don’t overdo it. Nothing looks more beginner than a too colourful and to overdone image. If you are unsure, let someone else check it and on a different screen (yes, screens vary, too). If you are using Lightroom: Please be careful with the clarity slider, too – it easily ads ghost artefacts where you don’t want them to be.
„The sun is so bright now at lunch“ – Shoot when the light is good
Midday is your enemy in most of landscape photography. As a digital sensor works much different than the human eye, avoid shooting at bright sunlight during midday at all costs. Shadows are harsh and colours weak. There is a reason why most landscape photographers choose sunrise and sunset times. I know it’s not the easy way, but that’s exactly why those pictures might be better than yours from your lunchbreak. If you need to shoot during the day, rather choose a day with „bad weather“ with less hard contrasts. Bonus tip: Professional photographers use the daytime to relax, edit images and explore new photo spots.
„It’s such a nice view“ – No visual interest
It’s nice to see a stunning landscape but a stunning landscape doesn’t make a good landscape image. It’s ok to make a landscape shot just to remember the view for yourself, but don’t let that shot speak for your photogaphy. Make the picture interesting by adding something that captures the interest of the viewer. Add a foreground, focus on some geometric features, add a person to show scale. Especially for photography in the mountains, do not only limit yourself to the wide angle lens when shooting a nice panoramic view. Maybe it’s exactly the tele lens or a standing picture that gives you the best image. There are various forms of making your image more interesting, use them.
„Let’s shoot straight into the sunset in automatic mode“ – Too much contrast
One of the most common mistakes i see is, when people photograph a landscape against the sun, like at a sunrise or sunset. The sensor of a camera doesn’t work like the human eye. What you get is, the sky is burned out and just a bright field or the foreground is pitchblack. There are some techniques that help you to still get a nice shot out of it (using a ND filter, working with contours, editing, a fullframe sensor… too many to talk about them for now) but you usually are better off to not trying to get this high contrast areas together in one shot. Better focus on the birght OR the darker part in separate images.
„I came here to exactly shoot this image“ – Don’t always shoot what everyone shoots
This one is my favourites, especially since Social Media went so media focussed. No matter about which topic you are interested, you can be sure that all Instagrammers in this niche doing the same shots over and over.
An image should capture the viewers interest, somehow surprise him and request an emotion. When you only photograph what everyone photographs you just don’t do what your intention was. You don’t create, you only copy the work of someone else – which is fine for some, but not if you want your images to stand out. It’s also ok to photograph the most common tourist attractions and sure, some perspectives work best at some locations. But please, do me a favour: at least try to shoot things differently. In doubt, take the road less travelled, turn around and shoot whats on the other side. Shoot that group of 200 people all taking the same photograph or whatever. At least try something different.
I hope this list of – in my view – the most common mistakes in landscape photography helps you to not fall in the pitfalls everyone else is going for