Updated: Aug 19, 2022
Everyone needs a bit of help from time to time and sometimes just a little reminder goes a long way to improve your pictures so here's 5 tips to get your images looking better.
1. Light, light, light
This is the main frame (pun intended) of any photograph, without good light your image will appear flat and not really that interesting. So what is good light ? How do you get it ? what do you do with it ? All questions you need to understand before you can get the best out of it. Most of you will have already discovered that your pictures look extra special when taken during The Golden Hour, this is when the light is at its best usually and when the colours and landscapes are most flattering.
An hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset are the key times to shoot if you want the best light, but its not a fixed rule, i often shoot for 30 minutes after the sun has set for the pretty colours in the sky, BUT that doesn't get your subject matter well lit, for that you require a good light source falling on the object.
Beautiful golden low light bouncing off rocks is always a pleasure to see and shoot, look for these times when its really illuminating your subject matter from the side, or for a break in the clouds allowing a beam to fall on your subject.
Light behaves in different ways on different surfaces, bright light falling on rocks will look fantastic when its low in the sky but when its directly on the water it can cause you exposure issues so pick the direction of where your light is coming from in order to maximise the potential of any shot.
This brings me nicely to point number 2.
2. Look Behind You
More often than not the temptation to point your camera at the sun is all too strong to resist, while this can give you dramatic contrasting image it can also be costing you a good shot, how often have you been so focused on that moment that you have paid no attention to whats going on behind you only to turn round too late and see beautiful colours just dropping out of the sky.
By looking behind you just before sunset you will have a fairly good idea of how the sky in front of you will behave at the critical point as the sun goes behind the horizon.
The clouds behind will light up before the clouds in front as the axis of the sun falling behind the horizon pushes the light up and clouds give their colourful displays. As the clouds behind start to fade the clouds in front will light up if the sky is fairly even so you can get bonus shots.
Often i have seen the clouds behind light up with great displays while the sun setting on the horizon has yielded very little, so keep an eye on these especially during sunny & rainy conditions as you might be lucky and get a rainbow, but won't be seen if your looking towards the sun.
Making use of good foreground items adds real depth and interest to your pictures and this should be something you think about in every picture.
I always try and look for interesting foregrounds so they lead the eye into the image, it can be anything form a rock to flowers to a natural line, but without foreground interest the image will be lacking in some cases.
It really can add scale to the image and i really recommend you try it out.
4. Don't Just Shoot Wide Angle
Whilst wide angle shots are the very essence of landscape photography you may be missing out on some great detail in an image because you are simply making it too small by shooting at 16 mm for example.
Without doubt my Canon 16-35 F4 lens is by far my favourite to shoot landscapes with and for a long time it didn't leave the 16mm end, this was a big mistake on my part and i soon learned that i was missing out on shots by doing so. I now take out the 16-35mm a 24-105mm and a 70-200mm and its this lens which has earned me so many bonus shots that just wouldn't have been achievable with the 16-35mm even with a very healthy crop of the image.
5. Get It Right In Camera
There have been some amazing advances in post processing with programs like lightroom and photoshop leading the way, but they don't make a poor shot good.
The best pictures i see are the ones that have the least editing done on them, they look more natural and realistic and just far more pleasing to the eye.
The temptation to add all these fantastic colours and saturation to an image is a big one but you can end up making a good image look terrible.
Getting it right in the first place is the best way too do things, if the shot isn't there then don't try and force it out in post processing as it won't do you any favours, instead look for a shot that can be taken well in the first place.
Post processing in reality should be a very simple affair, maybe a tweak of curves for contrast, a small bit of saturation and some sharpening for example. While a lot of people say they don't process their images, in reality the majority of digital shooters will tweak them slightly and in some cases, heavily and badly. Don't make that mistake, get it right in camera.
I hope you have found this helpful, i tried to make the list of things a little different from the standard basics, tripod, shutter release etc....while all good advice most lists seem to have told you the basics already.
Happy shooting, Daniel.