Banff Photography Workshops

The Two Easiest Landscape Photography Settings

Oct 18, 2022

Landscape photography is both a science and an art. The science half of landscape photography is something that can be learned and put into practice. The art side is creating images that speak to who you are as a photographer. As a photography educator, I aim to teach you the science and art you need to know to create your photos through the in-person and online landscape photography workshops I offer. Today, inside this photography tip, we'll be talking a bit about the science of landscape photography. 

A large part of the science behind landscape photography is the technique needed to operate your camera to its full potential as you aim to create images that speak to your visual appeal. So, unsurprisingly, I recommend a manual exposure mode for landscape photography. Why? Well, manual exposure mode gives a photographer complete control over the outcome of an image both in science and in art. 

The exposure settings a landscape photographer will want to set when capturing a landscape photo don't have to be complicated. Two very easy landscape photography settings can, in the majority of landscape locations, be inputted with only minimal thought. These two settings are ISO and Aperture. 

When using a manual exposure mode, set your camera's ISO to the lowest native ISO, especially when using a tripod, a piece of equipment I highly recommend for landscape photography. This is very often ISO 100. A low ISO usually produces a high-quality image, meaning better prints for sharing and selling. 

Are there exceptions to this setting? You bet. As with all things, photography exceptions do exist. For example, there will be times when a higher ISO is needed to balance out more appropriate exposure triangle settings, such as when movement needs freezing and when handholding a camera. 

ISO 100, 200mm, f6.3, 1/250 SS

Let's move on to aperture. Aperture controls how much light enters your camera through the lens, the depth of field or area of focus in an image, and the sharpness of an image. In landscape photography, a photographer often wants to choose a mid-range aperture. These apertures are usually somewhere between f8 through f11. The depth of fields associated with these apertures is typically significant enough to reach an acceptable front through the back of the frame focus for a photo. If you are ever in doubt about the depth of field, I recommend using the PhotoPills. Furthermore, these apertures usually minimize lens diffraction, which helps create sharper images with more fine details. An instant uptick in the overall quality of your photos! 

Are there exceptions to the mid-range aperture rule for landscape photography? Yes, of course. A wider aperture will produce more artistic images, while smaller apertures are an excellent choice for creating sunbursts.  

ISO 400 125mm, f10, 1/25 SS

The third setting necessary for a correctly exposed landscape image is shutter speed. As for shutter speed, well, that's a much more complicated setting in the exposure triangle. You may enjoy this photo tip if you want to learn more about shutter speed. 

If you struggle with correctly exposing landscape images or creating images with full dynamic range, that means high-quality highlights like skies and details in the shadows. Check out my Super Simple Exposure Formula. Using my step-by-step formula for correct exposure, you'll discover how easy it is to create images with perfect exposure in every landscape scene you photograph.  

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