How to Capture a Static Landscape Image

Sep 17, 2019

A few weeks ago, I wrote about My 3 Favourite Landscape Photography Techniques. In that post, I talked about my three favourite techniques for capturing a single landscape scene. One of the methods I mentioned was static exposure. Static exposure is essentially photographing a scene as it is, and freezing it, as you see it, in time.

When I began my landscape photography journey, I had very little knowledge about how to capture a good landscape photograph. I had never photographed a landscape scene before. Also, I'm a mom photographer and was used to chasing my children around snapping images with wide-open apertures. My child subjects didn't stand still like a landscape scene. As I explored landscape photography, I quickly learned that my approach to capturing a landscape image was different than the approach I took when photographing my children.

Static, or regular exposure, of a landscape scene, is the most basic of captures when it comes to landscape photography. However, this does not mean it’s easy to execute this type of exposure. There are a few tips I want to share with you so that you can get off to a good start when out capturing static landscape images.

1. Use a small aperture

I shoot in a manual mode both as a mom photographer and as a landscape photographer. I find it gives me exceptional control over my final vision for an image in both genres. As a rule of thumb, landscape images are photographed with a small aperture (f9, f13, f22). When shooting a landscape scene, most photographers want the entire image from the foreground through the background to be in focus. Shooting closed down allows for considerable depth of field and full focus throughout a frame.

 ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 92sec

2. Use a low ISO

There are exceptions, but typically landscape scenes are photographed with a low ISO. Using a low ISO, such as ISO 100, will usually allow for higher quality images with less noise, and this is preferred in a landscape image.

 ISO 100, 30mm, f11, 1/5sec

3. Use a slow shutter speed

The use of a small aperture and low ISO is almost always going to result in a slower shutter speed than recommended for a handheld image. A tripod is a landscape photographer’s best friend. Don’t be hesitant to use as slow of a shutter speed as you need to capture a well-exposed landscape scene. As long as you use a tripod, you won't have to worry about hand-held camera shake.

I also recommend a wired or wireless shutter release for landscape photography. These releases prevent accidental camera shake when a photographer manually depresses the camera’s shutter.

 ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 1/5sec

4. Consider composition

Landscapes aren’t running around like our children. I think this is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to landscape photography! It’s the peacefulness! Since a landscape scene stays put, I’m able to scout or walk around a location before I set up my camera. When I'm walking around the environment I want to capture, I like to think about how I can best compose my image. I highly recommend you do this too. Thoughtfully composing an image will help you capture a solid landscape photograph. Don’t be afraid to try new things as well. There are always alternative compositions that are beautiful. It's good practice to try different arrangements of elements within a scene.

 ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 1sec

5. Consider light

It is the photographing of ordinary things, in extraordinary light, which results in extraordinary photographs. (David Young).

This quote shines true across all genres of photography. Light is photography and light should always be considered when capturing landscape images. It is entirely possible to photograph a beautiful landscape image at any time of day. However, the most sought out light is, typically, in the hours before, during and just following sunrise and sunset. The light during these hours of the day is spectacular, and the colours with sunrise and sunset are often breathtaking. It’s well worth it to make an effort to head out into nature to capture a landscape scene during sunrise and sunset. 

ISO 100, 17mm, f13, 1/13sec

One of the best ways you can learn a new genre or get better at a certain genre of photography is by practising and experimenting over and over again. The best lessons to be had are always the ones learnt through experience. So be sure to get out there and start photographing this beautiful world while learning along the way.

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