Spacious Thoughts: Landscape Photography Composition

Camera Nikon D90 Exposure 0.017 sec (1/60) Aperture f/5.6 Focal Length 24 mm ISO Speed 200

In Landscape Photography, composition is one of your most essential decisions. It is how you decide what you want in the frame. Every time you bring your camera to your eye, you are composing a shot. Taking time to think about your landscape photography can turn a snapshot into a great photograph. Using Rule of thirds, lead lines, foreground interest and your background, can make your images truly engaging.

Before you read this posting, perhaps you should read about gear, light and location.


Camera Canon PowerShot S3 IS Exposure 0.002 sec (1/640) Aperture f/8.0 Focal Length 7.9 mm Exposure Bias 0 EV

Looking at other images, if any, of a particular area can help you come up with ideas. These images can show you how others chose to compose their image and help you to create a unique image. Google the place, look for it in Flickr and/or in Wikipedia. Looking at other images is a great strategy. Get out in the area you are shooting, explore, and understand your shot as much as you can. It will reflect in your image. Have fun with it. Landscape photography should not be work. Landscape photography should be an adventure. Take your time, and have fun. Remember never be content with what you first see. When looking at a vista, move around and get that unique shot.

Now, we’re not saying that you should copy ideas, but instead use them for inspiration to create your own work.

Yes, the Rule of Thirds Again.

Camera SIGMA DP2 Exposure 15 Aperture f/14.0 Focal Length 24.2 mm ISO Speed 50 Exposure Bias +0.3 EV

The rule of thirds is so very important to landscape photography. It helps you to organize the visual features of your scene. Look through your viewfinder and picture a tic tac toe grid. Some cameras like my Nikon D90have this as an option on the LCD screen and in the viewfinder. The points of the grid lines are great spots to place your subject. The grid lines can help you place your horizon. They are also good to help you keep your image level. If you have a strong point of focus point, like a tree or a structure, you can place one of your grid points there. The subject of your image should not be centered. Try to take images with your focal point on different grid points so you know the differences, this can really change the image.

Lead Lines

Camera SIGMA DP2 Exposure 0.4 Aperture f/14.0 Focal Length 24.2 mm ISO Speed 100 Exposure Bias -0.7 EV

Having lines in a landscape image can help give it depth and lead the viewer’s eye in the image. When composing your image, leading lines can be paths, sidewalks or coast lines. The lines can go towards your subject or away from it. It took me a little time to learn. I used train tracks as a learning tool, because it is  my major mode of transportation. In landscape photography, a major line to use is the horizon. They can divide the image between the ground and sky and provide an anchor for the image. Vertical lines can convey height and growth helping give the landscape scale. Vertical lines can also frame out a subject in an image, making the landscape the background.

Layers and Planes

Camera SIGMA SD14 Exposure 0.008 sec (1/125) Aperture f/18.0 Focal Length 43 mm ISO Speed 100

If you have large overlapping shapes (like rolling hills and mountains) in your landscape image, it can look layered. If you pay attention to your lighting, you can show different shades of color through the image.

This is also done through depth of field control.

In the Foreground

Camera Nikon D90 Exposure 0.003 sec (1/400) Aperture f/8.0 Focal Length 24 mm ISO Speed 200

A strong foreground helps to create depth. Something as simple as a flower with contrasting colors or something else that is eye catching. This, in conjunction with lead lines, will pull the viewer’s eye to one part of the photo, giving them a start point. Creating strong foreground interest is easier to do using a wide-angle lens and a small aperture like F/16 and below. The smaller apertures will provide a good depth of field.

Play with your Viewpoints

Camera Nikon D90 Exposure 1/4000 sec Aperture f/1.4 Focal Length 24 mm ISO Speed 200

Try not to shoot from the same point of view. Try to get down low and see how the shot will appear. Try to get higher. Angle your camera up a little and down a little. Take the time to look at as many vantage points as possible. Over time, it will become instinct and you will be able to see the best position for a shot right away.  This will help your landscapes be as unique as possible.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.