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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

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The coastline at Lagos, Algarve in Portugal is famous for its stunning cliffs. But somehow the water seems to be floating out of the frame. What do you thing how long it takes until there is no water left in the Mediterranean? ;)

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The coastline at Lagos, Algarve in Portugal is famous for its stunning cliffs. Even more when the horizon is leveled.

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

 

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A colourful sunset at the southern coast of Portugal near Lagos, but there definitely is too much colour in this image. It looks unatural, overdone, beginner-like. Well, some might like this violett human beings and water ;)

 

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A colourful sunset image taken at the Algarve coast in southern Portugal. Colourful, but definitely not over the top and with a much more natural feel.

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 beautifully bright now at lunch“ – Shoot when the light is good

 

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„It’s so bright now at lunch time“ was never the reason for a good photograph. The bright parts of the image are too bright, the dark parts almost black and the colours are harsh and not appealing. Even the most beautiful beaches at Lagos/Algarve just don’t look good on a „lunchtime“ picture.

 

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The same location at sunrise. Much more details and warm colours even in the shadows.

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.

From eleven to three, photographers have free

This is a more or less basic view as reminder for photography beginners. And, sure, it’s more engrish than english, but we germans love tp spread our proverbs – even if they sound stupid ;).

„It’s such a nice view“ – No visual interest

 

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The Gap of Dunloe in western Ireland is a stunning piece of landscape. This image is not a necessarily bad one, but it lacks something. The colours are nice, there is some atmosphere and the mountains and clouds have an interesting form. But there definitely is missing something. Something to make this image „special“ and interesting.

 

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Same spot than the previous image, take just 3 meters to the left. The river in the front and the mountains in the background form an interesting path for the viewers eye. Shot at Gap of Dunloe, Ireland.

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

 

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What happens if you shoot straight in the sunset? Either the sky is visible and the foreground is pitchblack or the sky is burnt. If you want to get that amazing sunset colours set your camera to catch all highlights and choose some interesting black silhouettes for the foreground.

 

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The same spot, a few meters further. A sunset image where there the photographer captured the beautiful colours in the sky. The foreground is black and in silhouttes only. Use this feature of your sensor wisely and you can photograph some amazing sunset-silhouettes.

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 bright OR the darker part in separate images.

If you struggle with general camera settings, we will cover this topic in the blog soon and more extinctive in our workshops. You can also go and read this blog at Photographytalk, which covers the most important settings for landscape photography.

 

„I came here to exactly shoot this image“ – Don’t always shoot what everyone shoots

 

This one is my favourite, especially since Social Media went so click 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.

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The old city of Heidelberg is one of the most beautiful and romantic places in Germany. And it’s one of the most visited and photographed. I bet there are tens of thousands of people having shot a pretty similar picture. Is it beautiful? Yes, quite likely. Is it unique or special? Likely not at all.

 

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Another view from the same evening in Heidelberg at a similarly well known spot. This time the photographer was bored by shooting the same wide angle frame with the epic sunset. He instead opted for the tele lens and got something much more unique than the standard shot.

 

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.

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One tip for the road: Why not shoot onions?

 

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

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  3. […] Avoid these six common mistakes in Landscape Photography […]

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