Landscape photography can be a challenging genre to begin with, but having a general blueprint can help newcomers ease into it.
Trips, travel, and early morning shoots. These are the basic things you can expect when you enter the field of landscape photography. It may seem fun on paper, but it is not without its challenges. It can also be tiring and daunting, especially for beginners, but knowing what to expect and how to prepare can greatly help you cut down your learning curve and begin enjoying it for what it is. Shooting landscapes can be exciting with the right type of mindset, even if you still lack the skill to do so.
I also had my fair share of moments when I was starting out, and I found that these pieces of advice are what I wish I knew beforehand:
1. Do Your Research
If you’re planning for a shoot, do some research about the place, how to get there, what to expect, what gear you need, what the weather conditions are during your visit, what spots to shoot from, etc. If it’s a certain style you’ve been wanting to try, do some research. There are countless sources online that can help guide you in executing the style you want to try. Interested to try black and white long exposures? Do the research. With the emergence of online videos and online learning platforms, your sources are endless. All you need to do is put in some time to get the information you need and apply it.
2. Gear Matters
At its core, cultivating your skills should still be the primary purpose of your constant excursions, but having access to the right gear and mastering it is essential to creating good images. Say, for example, you want to create a minimalist image with the subject in the dead center of your frame, but the conditions, however, are not in your favor: the sun is up high, and you only have 30 minutes to shoot and you only have a three-stop filter. Chances are a three-stop filter won’t be enough and you’ll have to compensate with your aperture, and even then, it may never be enough to accomplish the image you have envisioned. This can also be true with lenses. In my experience, having access to focal lengths from 16mm to 200m is a must when traveling to a place you haven’t been to because this lowers the chance of not capturing a scene from not having a certain focal length in hand.
3. Practice and Experiment
No matter how much knowledge or how much gear you have, without practical application, these all mean nothing in the field of photography. If you want to grow your skills by learning a certain style or genre, you have to be able to practice — practice the way of shooting, handling the gear, how long to expose, what time to shoot, etc. Mastering these skills comes into play when you practice. Not only does the practice help you form your own style, but it also helps with muscle memory. The more you do it, the faster you do it.
4. Ask Questions
Photography requires constant learning and practice. What better way to learn than to reach out to experienced photographers and start asking questions. Whether they are in your circle or not, the knowledge that an experienced photographer can give you is invaluable. They will likely have years of experience more, and their workflow will be much more polished. Therefore, any information they can provide you can be something you can use to grow your current skill set. This also opens the door to that photographer’s mind, and knowing what compels them to take certain shots in different compositions can only be answered by the person who took the photo. If you want to know, ask them.
This means you have to go out and meet people! Meeting new people means learning new things. Join clubs, meets, events, and tours to widen your network. Exploring photography by meeting people from different genres and sporting different styles is the best way to find yours. You’ll learn what you like and don’t like and also get the opportunity to ask anyone you meet. Joint trips or tours, which is very common locally, is one of the best ways to ask and practice with fellow photographers. More recently, online one-to-one sessions and group sessions have surfaced and are also a great opportunity to learn at your own pace and at your own time. The more you meet, the more knowledge you get, the more experience you gain, the faster you evolve as a photographer.
6. Find a Good Support System
To me, photography is more than just taking photos and posting them online or printing them. It’s a mixture of personal accomplishment and good company. I’m largely introverted and prefer the company of my couch and being left with my devices most times, so when I started photography, it was merely to just capture moments for myself — more like a visual diary of sorts where I could take photos and post them online along with some dramatic caption. But as I started networking and joining tours, I found great people to shoot with, and they eventually became my friends. They kept me interested when I was starting to burn out, and they helped me enjoy photography not just as a career or a passion, but as something that I enjoy. It’s tough to find the right bunch, but when you do, trust me, it will make your exhausting 3:00 AM wake-up calls and 12-hour travel shoots much more bearable.