Composition is one of the most important elements of the photographic art. In order to give your images real impact, you must frame them carefully, and ensure that the right elements are inside the frame. It’s an art that can take a lifetime to learn – but the only place to get started is at the beginning. These tips will give you a foundation in framing, elevating your photographs instantly and helping you to embark on the journey to mastery.
Composition includes all elements that are seen in the photograph, whether foreground or background, and whether contained in the frame, cut off, or used as a border. The terms border and frame are often interchangeable, at least in the sense of something being around the outer edges of a photograph.
Usually, the bottom edge of the photograph contains the ground. Of course, there are lots of ways in which this rule can be broken, but in normal circumstances that will be your starting point.
This still leaves three sides of the photograph which you can consider in many ways. Leaving them open, without a visual frame inside the photograph, is certainly one option. This can create a feeling of space, and freedom, in many cases. It can also leave the photograph undefined, however, and can mean that the eye of the viewer wanders aimlessly. In case where you want to make a certain point, direct their eye to a certain place, or create a different feeling, a frame can help.
There are different ways to use a frame, also. Your frame does not have to cover all four edges of the photograph – and it does not have to be the same thing that frames all sides. A clear example of this would be to frame a photograph with the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made world. A tree growing at one side of the image, and a brick wall at the other, will give a strong context to whatever you photograph in the middle of the image. This composition could include the branches of the tree at the top of the image to box it all in, or leave the sky open to create an impression of height.
When you are taking an image, if you are not yet used to framing, it helps to steady yourself and simply glance around. What is on the far left? What is on the far right? You can change the angle of the camera or the position in which you stand to create your frame. Don’t be afraid to walk around and consider your landscape from different viewpoints, rather than taking the shot as soon as you see it.
When you come to the point of creating your frame, it’s important to place your camera very carefully. This is easier with a tripod. If you are holding the camera in your hands, try to steady yourself with your elbows tucked in against your body. This will reduce the chances of the camera shaking as you press the trigger and moving your frame.
If you are struggling with this, you can consider taking a step back or zooming out. When you get your photograph uploaded to your computer, you can always crop it down to a better frame.
Photo by Marc Andre
What kind of things can you use from the natural world to frame your image? Trees are a very obvious example, because they have both height and breadth – creating the exact kind of shape you need to cover both the side and the top of an image.
You can also use trees that form natural archways as an easy way to frame your landscape. You may have to change your angle if the trees are tall: make yourself as tall as possible so that you can shoot downwards, capturing both the landscape and the top of the arch in the same image.
Trees are not the only natural formation you can use. Tall rocks are great for the side of your frame, and you can even use rocky outcrops to form a frame along the bottom of your image. Hills and cliffs can be fantastic for framing the sides of your image as well.
Photo by Casey Horner / CC0
Whatever you can see that is either tall, wide and low, or wide and high, can be used as a frame. You can even look through things – get close to a tree and shoot through the branches, so that they form a twisted frame along all sides.
Photo by Simon Migaj / CC0
Natural frames are a great way to really get into a landscape and create a sense of depth. If there are no man-made objects in frame, they can also create a sense of wildness and majesty.
You can also use man-made items as frames for your landscapes, giving a very different feel and story indeed to your photographs. A window or archway is usually the perfect option, as you can look through them in order to photograph a landscape that lies beyond.
Photo by Dawid Zawila / CC0
Don’t feel limited by this idea, however. You can also use walls, poles, posts, and fences as frames to the side. Road signs, any part of a building, and even vehicles can make great frames. Even in areas which have been dedicated to nature, you can often find signs, a visitor’s centre, a car parking area, and so on which contain man-made elements for you to use. Then there are people themselves, who can stand in strategic places!
Photo by Georgi Nikolov / CC0
A man-made frame gives us the story of man versus nature, and can make a point about our impact on the landscape. A crumbling, ruined castle window could tell of the longevity of nature, and the impermanence of man. A tower block window can tell of our dominance of the landscape, and the loss of natural habitats.
Photo by Paul Hermann / CC0
Choose your frame carefully, and you can tell any story you like. This is a great way to change the meaning of your photograph, or give it a more interesting aspect for viewers to admire.
Today we have a set of 5 free presets that you can use with your own photos. The presets are a sample from our much larger set of 140+ landscape presets for ON1 Photo RAW 2018. This free pack includes 3 color effects and two presets for black & white conversions (installation instructions are included). If you like these presets, be sure to check out the full set.
What’s an epic location? For this article, it’s any spot that’s naturally photogenic. A stunning mountain is the most obvious example — it’s hard to take a bad photograph of Mount Fuji or Rainier. Another epic location might be the striking skyline of Hong Kong or the beaches of the Maldives.
The thing about epic locations is that sometimes they’re too easy! A photo of the Grand Tetons or the Himalayas is so striking by nature it’s almost cheating. Anyone can point a cell phone at a place like this and get a stunning image. So how does one actually get a GOOD photo, and one that will stand out, when your subject is already amazing? Here are a few tips.
Get Out the Map!
If your epic landscape location is a city or near a highway, start looking at maps. Scenic overlooks are aptly named and if you can find one they are great places to do all sorts of photography. Cityscapes are still a form of landscape photography. Skylines are often as scenic as mountains, or better yet, combine them both in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles.
Photo by 12019 / CC0
Photos with car trails are another interesting type of epic landscape. You’ll need time to find the right combination of low shutter speed, neutral density filters, ISO, and a sturdy tripod. But the results are striking when done well.
Not every natural landscape photograph needs to be free of human artifacts. A road, boat, or even a vacationer’s sunglasses and hat add a sense of context to an image that would otherwise simply be about the scenery. What story are you trying to tell with your photography?
Photo by Quangle / CC0
Think About Astrophotography
The sky is a great place to add depth to an image.Long exposure astrophotography can show wonders like the Milky Way blazing across the sky so long as you can find skies free of city light pollution. The rocky sculptures of the deserts and mountains are beautiful in of themselves during the day. But they often show up nicely in long exposure nighttime images as well. And in extremely dark environments photographers may opt to add light with flashlights or other light sources.
Star trails are another way to add beauty to an epic scene. It requires the photographer to find focus on Polaris, the North Star. As long as the camera is pointed there, by switching to Bulb mode and creating extra long exposure images, you can create a swirl of stars streaking across your image. Already epic locations can become even more epic after dark!
Photo by free-photos / CC0
Try Using a More Specialized Lens
Hear me out, here. Carrying a 24-70mm f/2.8 is the standard choice for walk around photography for good reason. The focal length and aperture are all very well suited for a wide variety of images. But what if you instead took a walk around with a 10-18mm f/4 or 12mm f/4 prime instead? How would that affect the way you view a scene? Instead of looking for macro, landscapes, portraits, and whatever else catches your attention (i.e. “let’s take pictures of everything!”) it would encourage you to look specifically for landscapes and natural scenery. By focusing your artistic vision a bit you’ll find it that much easier to get into a flow that will generate better images.
Another nice thing about specialist lenses is that your image quality tends to be better. Sharpness, clarity, and chromatic aberration are far less of an issue with these lenses. This is because compromises have to be made with the optics of more generalist lenses in order to cover wider focal lengths with constant apertures. That’s why prime lenses tend to have incredible image quality compared to a zoom lens that can cover the same aperture and focal length.
Photo by Free-Photos / CC0
Drones are in right now and photography drones are some of the best toys on the market. Instead of having to rent a helicopter for an expensive photo shoot you can put that money towards getting a drone to capture the exact images you want from above. RAW imaging capacity is also built into many drone cameras, ensuring high-quality workflow no matter the source.
Drones come in all levels of tiers and price ranges just like digital cameras. Basic drones can run under $200 and come with very limited functionality and photography/video ability. Intermediate level drones like the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Pro+ can be had for under $2000 each. They use 20-megapixel 1″ sensors (sized 12.80 x 9.60mm) to capture high-resolution images and 4K video from a bird’s eye view. The cropped field of view isn’t quite as impressive as the expansive full frame sensors we may be used to shooting handheld with. But when you can compose the shot from hundreds of feet in the air you’ll be getting views that most photographers can only dream of.
Photo by igormattio / CC0
Epic locations are fun for photographers. For one, just a standard snap gives a stellar image. But it’s also fun to see how we can tease out even more extraordinary images despite the beautiful view. It’s a challenge that really allows a photographer to showcase their unique style and way of viewing the world. Are you up for it?
We’ve all experienced that moment when everything feels stuck. It feels like everything you do either turns out bad, or just turns out the same as everything else. You feel like your creativity has vanished, and you’re completely stuck in a rut. When this happens, there are some things that you can do to break out of it – besides just waiting for it to go away!
1. Admire the Masters
Who are the photographers from history that you admire the most? There are plenty of old masters out there who everyone knows. Ansel Adams and many other masters can provide an amazing source of inspiration. All you have to do is look at their work to understand something more profound about the landscapes they photographed.
Study the style of one particular master who you are drawn to the most. Look at how they shot, what equipment they used, and how they framed their compositions. Try a few exercises of attempting to emulate their style. While you should return to your own style after this exercise, you may find that it gives you the inspiration to try something new and develop the way you photograph.
2. Study Yourself
Photo by 12019 / CC0
If studying someone else doesn’t work, how about turning the lens inwards? Gather as much of your own work as you can, and print some notable works if possible. Try picking at least one shot from every year that you have photographed, or every month if you can.
Look at the images that you are most proud of, the ones that mean the most to you. Why do they mean so much? What were you thinking about when you took them? What inspired you to pick up the camera in the first place? Find that inspiration again, and you might be off to a great start.
3. Follow Prompts
If you can’t find creativity within yourself, then look to someone else to provide the inspiration. There are plenty of lists of prompts on the internet, from monthly themed compositions through to random collections. You can choose prompts which are designed for landscape photography, or you can pick any prompt list and try to make your landscapes fit in some way.
The challenge is to interpret each prompt fully, so don’t skimp on any entries: try your hardest to make them all work, even if they don’t make sense for your current location. If you had a prompt about the sea, for example, but you are in a landlocked country, you can try finding a smaller body of water and shooting from down low as if to pretend it is a vast ocean. After you try all of these prompts, your imagination will be filled with a new lease of life.
4. Shoot Something Else
Photo by Kaique Rocha / CC0
If you are in a rut with your landscape photography, maybe there is something else you can try. How about doing some portraiture, or photographing a local event? Whatever it is, pick something that you don’t normally do. Really interesting results can happen when photographers cross genres.
If you photograph a person like you would a place, what will it look like? These exercises can help you to break out of your rut by forcing you to ignore it for a while. Once you have a go at a different genre, you’ll be refreshed when you return to landscapes. Think of it like a palette cleanser.
5. Put the Camera Down
If you aren’t on a tight schedule, or you aren’t employed full-time as a landscape photographer, then you can always take the option of taking a break. This is a great way to let yourself recharge. It could be that you are stuck in a rut simply because you haven’t given yourself time to breathe, relax, and unwind.
Your brain works in funny ways, and sometimes it’s taking the time to stop and do something else that allows new thoughts to work their way in. If you’ve ever had a “eureka” moment when laying in bed or having a shower, you’ll know what this is like! Put your camera down for a week and see how you feel about it when you pick it back up.
6. Try a Different Medium
Why not switch things up by trying a different kind of art? You could get some charcoals, sit down in front of a beautiful view, and try sketching what you see. Or you could print out some of your own photographs and try painting directly onto them. You could either cover them up with matching paint colours, or transform them into something new.
How about taking up sewing, or playing a musical instrument, or sculpting clay? Whatever you try in a different creative field, it could have the desired effect of putting your mind onto a different track. When you return to photography, you are likely to find that you have new ideas.
7. Take a Course
Photo by Ales Krivec / CC0
Whether online or in person, photography courses are a great way for you to develop your skills (or attend a workshop). They will help you to learn the parts of your craft that you don’t already know. If you think you already have the basics down, then try a course which is set up for more experienced photographers.
There is always going to be someone who has more expertise than you, so don’t be afraid to learn from them! There’s so much to be gained from education, and the course could help unlock a new technique or way of seeing that will help change things up in your photographs. Your creative rut could just be your brain’s way of telling you that you need to learn more if you want to progress.
All things come to an end, and that includes things like creative ruts. Whether you wait for it to pass you by, or take action with these tips, you will be out of it one day. It’s not the end of the world when it happens to you.
Last summer I was interested in buying the Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM lens, but I didn’t really want to spend $600 for it. I kept an eye on several different sites for a while to see if I could catch it on sale, but didn’t have any luck with that.
Eventually, I decided to look into buying a used lens to save some money. After looking at a few different sites I ultimately wound up getting a great deal at mpb.com. I’ll share all of the details of my personal experience in a moment, but first let’s take an overview of mpb.com.
Please note, this article has been sponsored by mpb.com. However, the details of the review are based on my own personal experience buying and selling through their site a year ago, just like any other customer. The details and opinions shared in this article are my own, and have not been impacted by their sponsorship.
What is mpb.com?
mpb.com buys, sells, and trades used camera equipment, and they focus on making the process simple and painless (they also sell new accessories). They have offices in Brighton (UK) and New York, and their marketplace is available to customers throughout the US and Europe.
Photography equipment can be quite expensive, and buying used gear is a great way to make it more affordable. mpb.com offers an excellent selection, so you’re likely to find the exact item that you’re looking for. All items that are sold on their marketplace have been personally and carefully inspected for quality. When you’re looking at items available to purchase, each one will have a rating for the condition, along with a detailed description of any wear or damage. It also tells what is included, such as front and rear lens caps.
When you buy from mpb.com you’ll benefit from a 6-month warranty, which helps to ease concerns that you may have about buying a used camera or lens. You also have 7 days from the time you receive an item to initiate a return (return shipping is at your cost) if you decide you don’t want the item. If the item is faulty you won’t need to pay for the return shipping.
Selling Your Used Gear to mpb.com
If you have some gear that you’re looking to sell, mpb.com is a great resource as well. The process of selling is pretty simple and straightforward. You can get a quote for your gear without making any commitment, and then you can decide if you want to move forward. All you have to do is go to their sell or trade page, enter some basic info (name, email, location), then list the item that you want to sell and select the condition that it’s in. That’s it. You’ll get the quote by email very quickly.
If you’re happy with the quote and you want to sell the item to mpb.com you can move forward with the process. All you need to do is pack it securely and use the shipping label that mpb.com will give you. When they receive the item they’ll confirm the condition and pay you or send the item that you’re trading for.
mpb.com buys most types of photo and video equipment, although they specialize in cameras and lenses. They also have accessories like tripods, bags, filters, memory cards, and more. mpb.com does not buy film cameras unless they are Leicas or certain medium-format cameras.
They offer very competitive prices for both buying and selling.
My Experience with mpb.com
Getting back to my own experience, I found a used Canon 70-200mm F/4L USM lens available at mpb.com for what I felt was a pretty good price.
At the same time I also had a 15mm Sigma fisheye lens that I almost never used. I liked the lens. It was good quality, I just found that I rarely opted to go with the fisheye instead of a regular wide angle lens. A lot of times I wouldn’t even take the lens with me. Rather than let it sit on my shelf, I thought maybe I should sell it and use that money towards the 70-200mm lens, which I knew I would use more often.
I considered listing it on sites like Ebay or Craigslist and trying to sell it myself. There were a bunch of Ebay listings for this lens at the time. None of them had much activity, so I thought it would be hard to sell that way.
I went to a few marketplaces that buy used gear. The first one I tried (I don’t remember which one it was) wasn’t buying that particular lens at the time. But when I tried mpb.com I entered my information and within a few minutes I got a quote of $280 for the Sigma fisheye lens. I thought that was pretty fair, and at that price I’d only need to pay $164 to get the Canon 70-200m f/4 (they offer free shipping on trades).
I was a little hesitant because I had never bought or sold used gear, and honestly I was a little skeptical of sending off my lens to someone else. I listed it in excellent condition because it hadn’t been used much, and it was in great shape. Although I was a little skeptical I decided to go ahead. I reserved the 70-200mm lens that I wanted and the next step was to send them my old lens. Not long after I sent it, I got an email saying that it had been inspected and everything checked out.
At that time I paid the difference of $164 and they immediately shipped out the lens that I was buying. That lens arrived pretty quickly. I tested it out and everything worked fine. The lens had some wear and marks on the outside, but that was accurately disclosed in the listing. Despite a few minor marks, it seemed to be well cared for, and everything internally works great. The end result is I got a quality L series lens for a great price, and I gave up a lens that I really didn’t use anyway.
Although I was hesitant to buy and sell used gear, it wound up being a great experience. It took very little of my time, and the item I got was exactly as it was described.
Based on my experience I would definitely recommend buying, selling, or trading through mpb.com. I thought the pricing for both buying and selling was very good. The process was fast and easy, and there was good communication throughout the process. In the future when I’m looking for gear, especially if I want to save some money, I’ll definitely check mpb.com.
If you have some gear that you don’t use very much, why not visit the sell and trade page on mpb.com and see what you could get for it?
If you’re like me and a little hesitant to buy or sell used gear online, here is a recap of things that mpb.com does to ease your concerns:
For sellers, you can get a quote before deciding if you want to sell the item.
The condition of items for sale is rated, and a description gives the details of any marks or flaws on the item.
You have 7 days to initiate a return if you decide you don’t want the item.
You don’t have to pay return shipping on faulty items.
Each purchase comes with a 6-month warranty.
Their phone number is listed on their site, so you can reach them if needed.
When you’re planning to photograph a location, how do you plan your day? It’s important to know when the best times are to photograph any given subject. If you don’t know what the weather and lighting situations are going to be like, there’s a good chance that you will hit exactly the wrong time.
Follow these guidelines to get better photographs simply by choosing what to shoot at what time.
The Golden Hour
Photo by skeeze / CC0
Let’s start right at the beginning, with the golden hour. This is the time early in the morning when the sun is just beginning to rise, flooding the landscape with a soft, golden light. The term can also be applied to a similar form of lighting which arises at sunset, just as the sun is going down. Although the window of time is a short one, the light is spectacular, and can really transform any photograph.
Just about any landscape will suit the golden hour, but it is better used in places where the soft colors will bring something out. For example, a snowy peak, where the white expanses will be transformed into shades of peach. The Grand Canyon is a popular spot for golden hour shoots, as the layers of rock turn different shades while the sun moves. In hilly or mountainous landscapes, the slopes will create areas of shadow to contrast with the soft light. These are all things to consider when setting up a golden hour shoot.
If you’re not confident in your abilities, it’s recommended that you try for the sunrise rather than the sunset. After the golden hour is over, there is still daylight when you shoot in the morning. If you miss the shot during the sunset, you will have to go home empty-handed.
During the day, and especially during midday, the sun can cast a strong light over the landscape. Particularly if you are out in the open, with no tall buildings to cast shadows, this can have a very interesting effect.
When you find a day without a cloud in the sky, head for dramatic locations which will benefit from sharp shadows. Again, a hilly or mountainous region would be perfect. The harsh lighting will cast deep, black shadows across parts of the landscape, creating a dramatic effect. It can really change the character of a scene. Try to avoid areas with reflective surfaces, such as a snowy peak or a white chalk cliff: these will easily become overexposed in harsh sunlight, and may tip the balance of your photograph into too high a contrast.
Just before a storm hits, the dark clouds brew in the sky, causing a dramatic scenery that just can’t be matched. It can really add a lot of character to a landscape, and can even send a political message, depending on the location you choose.
When using storm clouds, try to find a landscape which has an open horizon. The wider the part of the photograph can be that contains the dark skies, the more dramatic the impact will be. It’s also very suitable for locations which have a lone focal point – think a lonely tree, or a structure perched high on a hill, for example. It will appear as though all of these clouds are bearing down on that one spot.
If you see a storm brewing but you aren’t in a suitable location, try getting high up and taking the shot anyway. You can save this as part of your repertoire for use in photomanipulation. Create a composite by placing this stormy sky on top of a landscape that was taken with a bland or boring sky. Once you have blended them in properly, the effect will be very striking.
However, always put safety first when shooting those storms. If you start to see lightning strikes, it’s definitely time to get out of the area and find some cover – and we don’t mean under the nearest tree! Keep an eye on weather warnings, too, just in case your ominous clouds are promising something more severe than you expected.
Snowstorms can be a great chance to get out and shoot, either when the snow is falling or immediately afterwards, thanks to the fact that they create fantastic lighting conditions. The light from the sky is reflected off every available surface thanks to the coating of white powder, and everything has that sparkle to it when the light bounces off.
However, not all landscapes turn out looking as stunning as you would expect them to in the snow. Wide and flat landscapes, where there are not real features to break the white, tend to appear bland once the snow has fallen. In fact, with the exception of snow mountain scenes, there are few snowy vistas which look particularly interesting when viewed from afar.
Instead, use snowfall as a chance to focus on smaller scenes. Use trees and structures as frames to create a sense of dynamism within the photograph. In essence, you want to break the monotony of the white carpet. It’s particularly useful to find a location where snow has fallen from only one direction – this can leave the opposite side of trees, structures, and other landmarks bare of snow, which creates an interesting contrast.
Finally, what kind of landscapes might you photograph at night? You may want to lower your shutter speed and capture stars moving overhead, or even reflecting off the water of a stream. This is great for locations that are wide open, allowing more room for the sky – as with stormy weather scenes.
It’s also a great option for landmarks which you can put into silhouette. For example, a long exposure of a castle on a hill will leave the castle black against a streaked sky. It’s even better if the location happens to have its own lighting, picking out the details of that landmark!
What separates your photography, your artistry from other photographers? How can you differentiate your images and give them your unique perspective? There are times we reach periods in our photography where we have more questions than answers on amping up our creativity.
This is true for beginners, advanced and pros.
In today’s photographic world, we are plagued or gifted with images every single day. If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other content sites, images in your news feed fly across your screen within seconds. Some go without notice. Many start to look similar to other photographers. Others make you pause and gaze.
What inspires you to photograph a given subject? When you’re photographing your subject, are you shooting to capture what you’re seeing as-is? Or, are you capturing an image with creative post-processing in mind?
Your artistry is threaded throughout the photographic process. As a photographer, you’re already an artist. Like all artists, we need to to feed the creative gene. We’ll highlight some expected and unexpected places to find and create inspiration.
The Master Artists
I can’t draw a straight line. Other than working with color for interior design, I can’t paint or sketch. I didn’t realize that I had an ‘inner artist’ until I picked up the camera. We decide to photograph a subject when it catches our eye. It may be personal preference, something unique that draws our eye or an internal push outside of our comfort zone.
An easy-on-the-eyes approach is to invest time perusing the works of the masters. How did they use color? How did they use light and dark? How did they use texture? What made their perspective, their approach unique?
Who are the “Masters?”
In fine art the term ‘Old Master’ refers to great European painters from the 1300-1830 era. Other ‘Master’ artists cross centuries and countries. ‘Masters’ refers to those amazing artists across mediums who have demonstrated great achievement and ability.
Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Chagall, O’Keefe, Wolfe, Adams, Doisneau are just a few artists whose works reached and brought joy to many.
If we study the masters to copy their work, we’ll never be successful. If we study the work of the masters to learn, to appreciate their perspective, we’ll grow and expand our eye.
Visiting art galleries and fine art exhibits to observe and study, may influence you to try something completely new. Coffee table books (yes, they still exist), art history books, paperbacks, online searches provide glimpses into their world view.
Mighty Mackinac Bridge by Sheen Watkins
Taking the Shot: Near Perfect or Creative Composition
What is the difference between a good image and a great image? If one of your answers is “composition” you are partially correct. Applying the compositional guidelines below will contribute to the strength of your overall image.
Rule of thirds
Leading Lines – take you from front to back
Patterns & Symmetry
Depth of Field
Creative composition may set your image apart more than a photograph that uses standard or the near-perfect compositional guidelines listed above.
How can we use and bend the guidelines?
Instead of tack sharp, go for blurred. Center your subject. Shoot your landscape tilted and crop in unusual places. Use leading lines with a distorted perspective.
When bending the rules, there are no rules.
Going for the Gusto
We invest time and money in our camera(s), lens(es) and gear. How often do we find ourselves diversifying our subjects, time of day and locations? If nature photography is our forte, why not take a time out and tackle street and architecture images. Conversely, if you’re an architecture or street photographer, try spending time in a gardener’s paradise.
Our artistry expands when we push our eye to photograph different subjects, different times of day and even with different lenses.
Blue Ice House by Sheen Watkins
“Just Go Solo”
It’s a Saturday morning. Your significant other is busy. Your photography buddies have other non-photography commitments. You’re thinking of spending the day cleaning, getting caught up on some post processing.
Stop the madness!
Just grab your camera, gear and go. It may be to a zoo, a museum, a walk in the city. Or, there may be an event or natural occurring phenomenon within driving distance.
Infuse your creativity by seeking out the unusual, out of your comfort zone or a new area.
Last weekend I was in Mackinaw City, Michigan to see the blue ice. During spring, the ice breakers go to work resulting in blocks, shards and formations of “blue” ice. Many travel to get photos of the “Mighty Mackinac Bridge aka Mighty Mac.” Like the other photographers I had to get a photo of the big bridge as seen above.
The real story though was about two miles away where I was able to traverse and photograph aqua blue blocks and caverns. There was only a couple of other photographers versus the many at the bridge.
Join the Band
Traveling with groups, attending workshops encourages learning, trying new techniques while having camaraderie of fellow photographers adds a little extra spark. The down side? Returning back with all photographers having almost the same composition.
A few tips when shooting with others: 1) Take the time to explore a bit on your own 2) When shooting a subject, turn around and face a different direction than others. As the light changes, so does the view behind you 3) If you shooting while standing, try getting lower or moving to higher ground and 4) Go for the iconic shots and move on – you don’t need 100 images just like the ones of the other shooters.
Post Processing Artistry: Play Time
One of the fastest roads to a rut is to apply the same or similar post processing techniques. When working with post processing software, try pushing the limits of the sliders. Apply clarity, contrast, hue, lights and darks, and other areas subtly or dramatically.
Michigan Barn by Sheen Watkins
Stretching with Plug-Ins
With today’s plug-ins, there are more apps, recipes, tools than you can imagine. With Lightroom, Photoshop, Topaz, and others, images can be taken to extremes that no longer look like a photograph. Instead, they are processed and transitioned into works of art.
The majority of our best images are result of our hard work. Sometimes they are subjects that we’ve taken multiple times over until we ‘got the image we envisioned.’ We may have followed the compositional guidelines to the letter or we may have intentionally ignored them all together.
For those great shots of yours that you think happened by accident? It wasn’t. You were there, you had your camera and you pressed the shutter. You made the magic happen.
Backing up and storing your photographs is very important, no matter what kind of photography you do. For landscape and travel photographers, there is a higher level of risk involved. Not only is it likely to be very difficult for you to return to a location to reshoot, but you’ll never be able to duplicate the conditions to truly re-create your photos. So, how do you deal with backing up your images when you’re on the move?
One of the most obvious, and easiest answers, is to go into cloud storage. There are a number of providers who can offer you space here, such as DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive, Back Blaze, and Crash Plan. There are also other options targeted specifically at photographers. If you are an Amazon Prime customer you get unlimited photo backups with Prime Photos. A number of modern DSLRs are equipped with automatic cloud backup services, as well as being wi-fi enabled so you can manually send them to the cloud yourself.
The advantage of using the Cloud is that it can’t be lost or destroyed like a hard drive can be. There may be a very slim possibility of it being corrupted or lost thanks to problems with the cloud servers, but with most major providers, this possibility is so slim as to almost be fiction. One potential disadvantage is that it is possible for hackers to get access to the cloud and download your files, as has been seen a number of times with celebrity accounts. Educating yourself on online safety and making sure not to upload sensitive material should help in this case.
If you can’t upload directly from your camera, you will need to put the files onto your laptop and then up to the cloud from there. This may cause some problems when travelling, particularly if you are not able to find anywhere with free internet access to get the job done.
You’ll also want to consider pricing. With most cloud storage and backup solutions you will be paying a monthly or yearly fee based on the amount of storage space that you need. With high megapixel cameras it’s not hard to build up quite a large library of photos.
Another factor to consider is the amount of time that it will take to backup the photos you already have (if you are moving to a new backup solution). If you have many years worth of photos it can take quite a while for all of them to upload when you are first setting up the cloud storage account.
Robust External Hard Drives
Another option for backing up and storing photographs is to invest in an external hard drive – or, more sensibly, two. It can be pricey to get two at once, particularly if you go for a large storage size, but this is the best way to ensure everything is safe. If you have the photographs backed up in two places at once, and one of them fails, you at least have the other copy to fall back on.
As a landscape or travel photographer, an ordinary external hard drive likely won’t be what you need. Instead, look for a more robust solution. There are a number of reinforced or ‘rugged’ hard drives on the market which can take a few knocks – such as being dropped, getting wet, or being bumped about in your luggage. The LaCie Rugger Mini series is a good example. These are the best choice if you are backing up on the go.
If you prefer to keep your external hard drives safe at home, it will be more of a case of backing up when you return from your travels. This, however, can mean a risk of losing images before you get them backed up, which means you’ll have to be very careful in the interim.
Temporary Use of Multiple Memory Cards
A temporary solution, while you are on the go and don’t have a chance to get everything backed up, is to put everything on multiple memory cards. For each shoot you do, or perhaps for each day of your journey, put the memory card aside and label it carefully inside a protective case. Then use a new card for the next shoot or day, even if the first one isn’t full yet.
This will help you to put each set of images onto its own card, which is fantastic for backing up and quick access later. It also minimises the chances of each card getting corrupted, and if you lose or damage a memory card, at least you’ve only lost one part of your images.
Make sure to label everything properly, take enough memory cards along with you for your whole trip, and back them up properly onto your computer and external hard drives when you get home.
Finally, if you’re stuck for options, you might consider online hosting. This is not as secure or reliable as Cloud storage, and you might have to pay more to get the same amount of images hosted, but it is an option.
You can either set up your own website where you can upload images, or use a site like Flickr which is designed to showcase your images in an online community. Usually, the better option would be to only upload your best images, as both types of site are normally reserved for portfolio purposes. However, if you’re in a pinch and no other idea presents itself, this could be a way to get your images backed up online.
When using this option, it’s a good idea to keep the original files safe and back them up separately later. This is simply because you don’t know if you will be able to download the images at full resolution should you need them, or if they will be deleted – particularly in the case of potential copyright disputes, some sites will delete images first and then hear disputes later.
There are plenty of options which might work for you when you need to back up or store your photographs. While you do face some unique challenges as a landscape or travel photographer, generally speaking, these solutions will work across any form of photography.
In April of 2018 Adobe released a major update to Lightroom and Camera Raw, and one of the most noteworthy changes/additions involved Profiles. Profiles had existed in Lightroom previously, although they had been known as “Camera Profiles” in earlier versions.
With this update Adobe made profiles much easier to access, and they also added to the functionality and usefulness of profiles. If you’re using Lightroom CC, Classic CC, or Camera Raw and you haven’t taken the time to get familiar with the new Profiles, this article is for you (and there is a video at the end of the article). Profiles have the potential to be quite useful if you understand how they work.
Where Can I Find the Profiles?
In older versions of Lightroom the Camera Profiles were near the bottom of the options within the Develop Module in the Camera Calibration panel. The options were limited. With limited options and being buried at the bottom, Camera Profiles were rarely touched by most Lightroom users.
Now, Profiles have been moved to the top of the Basic Panel, directly above the white balance settings.
There is a drop down that allows you to change the profile, or you can click on the icon to open the Profile Browser.
It’s important to note that the new Profile functionality is only relevant if you are using Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, or Photoshop CC 2018 (via Camera Raw). So if you are using an older version of Lightroom (like LR 6, for example), you won’t have access to this functionality.
There are several profiles that come built-in to Lightroom / Camera Raw. You can also purchase custom profiles, like our set of Creative Profiles for Landscape Photos. It is possible to create your own creative profiles, but for now the process is pretty technical and a little complicated, so it is beyond the scope of this article.
Overview of the Different Types of Profiles
Profiles can be a bit confusing, partly because there are a few different types of Profiles. Let’s take a quick look at each of the different types.
1. Raw Profiles
If you are working with a raw file, you will have the option to select one of several different Raw Profiles. The intent of Raw Profiles is to give a unified, consistent look and feel regardless of which camera you used to take the photo.
Previous versions of Lightroom used Adobe Standard as the default profile. Adobe has added a few new options, and now the default for new images that you import will be Adobe Color, which has a little bit more vibrance than Adobe Standard. The profile will not be changed on the photos in your archives unless you manually change it. But new photos that you important will have the Adobe Color profile by default.
Other options that may interest you include Adobe Landscape and Adobe Vivid. Adobe Landscape will give your colors more pop than Adobe Color, especially for skies and foliage. Adobe Vivid gives photos even more pop than Adobe Landscape.
Adobe Monochrome is the default profile for black & white conversions, but there are also several other black & white profiles that you can choose from.
Raw files need a Profile in order for Lightroom to know how they should be displayed. That is not the case for JPGs (or other non-raw file types, like TIFFs). If you’re working with a JPG you will not have options to use the Raw profiles. Instead, you’ll see Color and Monochrome as your options.
However, if you’re working with a JPG you can use other Profiles for creative purposes, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
2. Camera Matching Profiles
The Camera Matching Profiles allow you to match the options from your camera, making it a closer match to the color and tonality that you see on your camera’s LCD screen. The options you’ll see here will depend on what camera you used for the photo.
The Camera Matching Profiles are only available with raw files.
3. Creative Profiles
Creative Profiles open up a lot of new possibilities, and they can be used in several different ways. Adobe includes some packs of profiles that they classify as Artistic, Modern, Vintage, and B&W. These profiles will give your photos a certain look or style. In some ways they are similar to what you could achieve with a preset, but there are many difference (we’ll look at the differences later in this article).
One of the key things to note about Creative Profiles is that they can be used with both Raw and JPG photos (or file types like TIFFs). Creative Profiles can include a 3D Lookup Table, or LUT, which applies a color grading effect that would otherwise not be possible in Lightroom.
Another important point about Creative Profiles is that they include an “amount” slider that allows you to adjust the strength of the effect. It’s basically like an opacity setting. Slide it to the left (lower number) to reduce the strength of the effect. Slide it to the right (higher number) to increase the strength of the effect. The slider’s value ranges from 0 – 200, with 100 being the default.
How to Use Profiles in Lightroom
It’s important to know that unlike presets, Profiles do not impact the sliders in the Develop Module. The Profile you choose will have an impact on the look of the photo, but all of the sliders will remain at the default settings unless you change them.
One of the reasons to like this is that changing the profile will not override the other changes you’ve already made in the Develop Module. On the other hand, when you’re working with presets you can easily see how they impacted the photo, or how the preset achieves a certain look, by checking to see which sliders where impacted and what value they’re using. With a Profile you can visually see the result, but you don’t know what was done to get that look or effect.
One of the cool functions is the ability to mark specific Profiles as favorites. If you use Profiles in your workflow, chances are you’ll find a few that you like and use them very often. You can mark these as favorites and it will be easier to find and apply in the future.
To mark a Profile as a favorite, simply click on the star icon.
You’ll then be able to find it in your favorites.
If you want to remove a Profile from your favorites, simply click on the star icon again to toggle it off.
Using Profiles in Photoshop
One of the best features of Profiles is that they can be used in Lightroom or Photoshop. When you install Creative Profiles they will automatically be available in both. If you open a raw file in Photoshop it will automatically open in Camera Raw. If you are working with a JPG you will need to open a Camera Raw Filter (go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter). The process of using Profiles is the same as in Lightroom. Click on the icon to open the Profiles Browser and then select the Profile that you want.
Here we’re listing some questions that are frequently asked regarding Profiles, along with answers.
Can I use Profiles on an older version of Lightroom?
Not really. Previous versions include functionality for Camera Profiles, but options are much more limited than what you can do with the latest version of Lightroom. In order to take advantage of the new Profiles functionality you will need to have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
Can I use Profiles on a mobile device?
Yes, if you are using the latest version of Lightroom CC. You can select one of the pre-installed Profiles, or you can install custom Profiles that you’ve purchased. You’ll install the custom Profiles on the desktop version and it will automatically sync to your mobile device. The sync can take a little bit of time.
Are Profiles better than presets?
Neither is really better or worse, they’re just different. Although Profiles are very useful, there are some things that can be accomplished with presets that cannot be accomplished with Profiles. For example, the workflow functionality of our Landscape Legend Lightroom Presets cannot be duplicated with Profiles.
Do Profiles make presets obsolete?
No. Your presets will still work the same way they always have.
How do I install Profiles?
You’ll need to place them in the Settings folder, inside the CameraRaw folder. It’s very similar to how you would install develop presets. If you are purchasing our Creative Profiles, documentation is included in both video and text format.
I’m having trouble installing Profiles.
The most common problem is that either Lightroom or Photoshop has not been updated. Both need to be updated to the latest version.
How do I get the Profiles in Photoshop?
When you install them, they will automatically be usable in both Lightroom and Photoshop (via Camera Raw).
Why don’t I see an “amount” slider?
The “amount” slider only applies to Creative Profiles. If you’re working with a Raw Profile or Camera Matching Profile you will not have the option to adjust the amount, so the “amount” slider is not shown.
Landscape photography is just like all other forms of photography: to be a professional, you really need to build up an effective portfolio. Your portfolio website showcases the very best of your work, and demonstrates to potential customers and clients what you are capable of. For this reason, you need to work hard on making it as strong as possible – allowing you to gain more exposure and build your business (sell more prints, license more photos, fill up your photo workshops, land more assignments, etc.). Here’s how to build it from nothing to something you can be proud of.
1. Take a Lot of Photographs
Photo by Quangpraha / CC0
They say that practice makes perfect – and, of course, you know already that it’s true. The more you try something, the better you will get at it. Go out as often as you can and take photographs of landscapes, even if they are only the ones on your own doorstep. Every view is important in some way.
If you live in the city and you can’t travel often, you can still practice using the cityscape as a landscape in itself. It’s not leafy trees and green fields that make up a landscape, but quite simply, the land. You can also find parks and smaller green spaces hidden away to explore.
The point is to keep shooting as often as possible. You can even go back to the same spot time and time again, so long as you keep trying new things and working out how to take even better photographs every time.
2. Review Your Work
Photo by Quangpraha / CC0
After each photography session, come home and spend some time reviewing your photographs. This means really looking through them and coming up with some assessments of your work. Where could you have done better? Which parts of your photographs are working well? What do you need to do in order to bring the other parts up to the same standard?
If you know any other photographers, or you can find a meet-up group near you, it’s a good idea to show your images to others as well. They may be able to give you tips from a technical or compositional perspective that non-photographers wouldn’t know about. Don’t be afraid to learn from others.
You can also look at the images produced by some of the masters of landscape photography and compare your own work to them. Think about what makes their work so much better than yours. Is it the contrast? The composition? The colors, or the choice to go monochrome? Do they have a better eye for framing? Once you figure out what you are missing, it is much easier to find it.
You can also try doing a Google search for the location that you have photographed. Go through the image results and pick out your favorite five images that come up. Are they better than yours? Do they demonstrate ways in which you could have improved?
3. Learn to Edit
Photo by jplenio / CC0
Next up, it’s time to dedicate yourself to something that a lot of amateur photographers skip: post-production. Any professional photographer will be editing their photographs after taking them, simply because the camera cannot possibly see in the same way that the human eye does. It’s often necessary to adjust contrast, brightness, and colour balance just in order to get your image looking more like what you saw in front of you.
On top of this, you can also do more creative things. You can use filters or presets to create certain effects, or to bring out certain elements of the image. The important thing is to learn all of these techniques, and also to start getting a feel for when it is appropriate to use them.
Learning to edit better will help you to produce photographs at a more professional standard. This is really important for making your portfolio as impressive as possible.
Everything up until now has been an exercise in improving the photographs you have on your hard drive, over and over again. This process isn’t something that you should ever stop: there is always room for improvement, even if you feel like you are at the top of your game.
But now, you can at least start to select your photos. Choosing the images that you want in your portfolio is the most important part of the whole process. Always go for quality over quantity: three perfect images are so much better than 30 average images. In fact, even if you added those 30 to the perfect three for your book, you would be worse off – your portfolio is only as strong as the weakest image that you include.
Try also to focus on the kind of landscape photography that you enjoy. If you didn’t like taking one of the photographs, or you don’t personally think it looks good, then don’t include it in your portfolio. When looking at your book, potential clients will be thinking of hiring you to reproduce something they have seen in it, so they are likely to ask you to take on work that you actually didn’t want to do.
You also need to think about the potential clients and what they will be looking for. If you want to start working for advertising agencies to provide landscapes for travel, lifestyle, or similar companies, then you should look at what is currently used in this kind of advertising. Try to include work which will catch the eye of a buyer because it fits exactly what they are looking for.
When putting your landscape photography portfolio together, it’s important to focus always on presenting the best possible version of your work. If you view your portfolio as being “finished”, then you have the wrong attitude. Keep working on it and evolving it – and you should always be at the top of your clients’ lists as a photographer they can trust.