Stop making these 3 mistakes and take your landscape photography to the next level!
1. Not reading the histogram
What is a histogram?
A histogram is a visual representation of the pixels exposed in your image and tonal values. In layman’s terms, the histogram is a visual guide that helps you expose your images correctly using the information provided. The camera LCD screen is often not an exact representation of the image captured, therefore a histogram is a great tool to know and understand.
How to read the histogram
On the left-hand side of the histogram we have the blacks and shadows. On the right, we have whites and highlights. Last of all we have mid-tones (grey) in the middle of the histogram. Now we do not want to over or under expose our images. Why? Because in doing so we are losing data or information that can be used during post processing. This is represented on the histogram when a data bar is touching the edge of either side of the histogram, also known as clipping. Clipping occurs when you over or under expose your image and therefore lose detail of your images.
Now there is no perfect or ideal histogram, because every scene varies. During sunset, it is natural to have a histogram leaning towards the right because there is a lot of whites and lights from the direct sunlight. Vice versa during night photography, the histogram will be leaning towards the left due to the large amounts of black and shadows in the image. The main goal is to balance the histogram, so there are no clippings on the left or right, equalling no lost detail.
A great way to balance your images is to use gradual neutral density filters or bracketing. Another tip is to under expose your images rather than over exposing them, if you are uncertain in a situation. This is because a lot of detail can be retained from increasing the shadows during post processing, compared to reducing the highlights for an over exposed image.
2. Shooting in poor light
A great photo can often be determined from the light in the scene. Shooting during the middle of the day with no cloud cover can often lead to harsh shadows and hard light on the subject. This can be avoided during the middle of the day with overcast weather. Shooting during the middle of the day does not mean you can not get great images. It just means you will be compromised with hard light.
What are the best times to shoot then?
I’m sure most of you know, sunrise and sunset are the best possible times to shoot for landscape photography for soft light. During this small window of time, you have two phases; golden hour and blue hour (nautical & civil). The names are self-explanatory, so I’ll leave some example images below.
3. Not using a tripod
If you want clean and crisp landscape photography images, you MUST use a tripod. This will avoid camera shake and crooked horizons. It will then allow you to have needle sharp images and shoot during low light conditions (the best conditions). Even if you start with a cheap $30 tripod from Officeworks or a cheap one from eBay, it will still get the job done.