Tips on Shooting Landscapes from a Wedding Photographer

I have a confession to make: I believe that I can’t shoot a landscape to save my life. It’s just not my strength. I’m a weddings, event, engagement, portrait and street photographer. Plus, I live in NYC and we don’t have wonderful rolling hills the way other states do. However, on my recent trip to Toronto, Canada, I stepped outside of my hotel room at the magic hour of the day and snapped what I believed to be the best landscape images I’ve ever shot. The way I did it though was by imagining a bride and groom in the scene. So how can you combine the two art forms to create something beautiful?

Oh, before you go on ranting that these images are terrible, I’m not saying that they’re amazing. I’m saying they’re the best I’ve done so far using my particular method.

Gear Used

Canon 5D Mk II

Canon 35mm f1.4 L

Apple Macbook

Adobe Lightroom 3

However, consider the Sigma DP2x that we reviewed.

Think of What a Bride Might Want

The typical landscape photos usually portray deep depth of field. Consider some of the work that Social Media Coordinator Gevon Servo has on his 500px. Notice how a lot is in focus? That’s important to a landscape because you want to see everything.

Now think about what brides love:

– Shallow depth of field

– Saturated colors

– They love the film look that is all the rave right now

– Golden and warm light bathing skin and the land

– Colors that pop

Now how do we get these?

– Shallow depth of field: Open the aperture up. But since you’re shooting probably during the golden hour, you’re best off using a lower ISO setting and a fast shutter speed.

– Saturated colors: Increase the saturation in your custom menus and settings. You can also do this in post-production.

– Film look: Cross process it or give it a Polaroid look.

– Golden and warm light: wait for the magic hour. You’ll know it when you see it.

– Colors that pop: to begin, get the right white balance.

For extra help, consider what I did on a shoot once in natural light.

Compose With the Idea That You’re Shooting an Environmental Portrait

In photojournalism, the idea of an environmental portrait is to photograph someone in an area that defines who they are. For example, a Carpenter in his workshop or with all of his tools hung up behind him.

Now, stick with me.

The idea of an environmental portrait is applied to wedding photography by using the landscape to help define who they are. Are they in beautiful grass? Then they often love to be happy together and running in fields. Do they prefer the desert? Then they’re probably adventerous. Are you photographing them on the streets of NYC? Then they love to go out and play.

See where I’m going?

Still with me?

Okay, good.

So if I were to put the Bride and Groom in this photo, I’d probably actually put them just off center to the right. I’d also use a shallow depth of field to show that they’re surrounded by beauty but the moment is still all about them and only them. And that nothing else matters at that time.

With all this in mind, consider creating the scene first. Think of it as showing a potential wedding client where you may go to photograph their engagement photos.

By the way, you may want to check out our wedding checklist.

Overexpose Just a Bit

Metering a landscape is super tough! That’s why so many photographers shoot HDR images to capture the details of everything.

Stop worry about all the technical stuff that photographers will worry about: instead worry about what a normal person who knows nothing about photography will care about. They won’t care about the minute details of the sky.

Embrace the Flaws, Don’t Fight Them

As stated earlier, don’t worry about the technical details that photographers will try to rip you apart for. Instead, embrace those flaws and accentuate them. For example:

– Add vignetting.

– Use Lightroom filters for more creative effects.

– Tweak the colors to look wacky

– Who cares about absolute critical sharpness when the moment is there? Blur that photo a bit perhaps. It will add to the creamy bokeh if anything.

– Add more film grain to that high ISO image.

Turn Your Images Into Art

With all this in mind, you should always consider that each photo can be turned into its own piece of art. See the image above? Watch how just a bit of fill light, saturation, and vibrance will transform it to look almost like an HDR.

It seems like an almost totally different image, right? And sure, it still isn’t perfect, but it’s the closest that you’ll get to the scene without overprocessing the way most HDRs look. Indeed, wedding photography is about making things look organic.

Does this all sound like crazy talk to you? Let us know in the comments. We’d like to hear from you.

Please Support The Phoblographer

We love to bring you guys the latest and greatest news and gear related stuff. However, we can’t keep doing that unless we have your continued support. If you would like to purchase any of the items mentioned, please do so by clicking our links first and then purchasing the items as we then get a small portion of the sale to help run the website.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.