Seven Landscape Photography Tips I Wish I Knew in the Beginning

When I started landscape photography many years ago I thought my images were great, but looking back at them now I can easily see the many errors I made. Over time I improved but it was a slow and organic process. Check out these seven tips and don't make the same mistakes I did.

When I was recently going back through some images for a video I was producing for my YouTube channel, I thought to myself how good it would have been to know what I now know. Most of the things that improved my photography were simple, but it took me over 15 years to develop.

So I came up with seven things that I wish I had known back when I started. A lot of these are done for simplicity. Ultimately it is about getting the best image. If you spend 10 minutes setting up your camera you are likely to miss the light. Understanding some simple things will make you more efficient and improve your photography.

Here are two of the seven key tips that I found made the biggest difference.

1. Simplify Your Images

I had this light bulb moment about 10 years ago when I was looking through a landscape book by Joe Cornish (a British landscape photographer shooting in large format). I was trying to understand why his images were so powerful and beautiful. I was looking for that element that his images had that mine didn't. Then it clicked: it was the opposite way around. My images were always too cluttered, they had too much in them.  As soon as I realized this and tried to remove elements that didn't add to a composition, my photography improved drastically.

Take these two images of the a beach in Whitby, England below. I saw the two walkers and the first image is what I would have usually taken. I quickly now realized that removing all the distracting elements in the frame by using a long lens would make a more powerful image.

Or these images below when I was skiing in the Alps. You can see that by removing the distracting elements and zooming in on the mountains, it creates a significantly more powerful image.

2. Stand to the Right a Bit (or Left, or Up, or Down)

I can't stress just how important this is. Until you actually see the difference 6 inches up, down, left, or right can make it is difficult to grasp. Composition is everything in a photo and even if you have a stunning subject and glorious light you can't get a great final image without all the pieces gelling together.

Small changes in positioning make huge changes in composition. Even tilting a camera down with a wide-angle lens on can be the difference between a killer shot and an average shot. This image shows this really well. You can see the difference moving 6 inches down and removing the distracting path made.

Check out the other five tips in my video above including the number one element in all landscape photographs.

Nigel Danson's picture

Nigel Danson started photography when he was 11 years old and fell in love with black and white images and the darkroom process. He turned professional in 2017 and now has a succesful YouTube channel that inspires and teaches landscape photography. Nigel lives in Cheshire, England and frequently runs workshops around the world.

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Thanks for the tips! I have loved taking travel shots for years, but I have recently wanted to up the quality of my shots. So the best tip I have so far is to get on sites like this and watch good videos such as yours! One tip I really haven't seen mentioned in any videos is to just slow down. I am typically walking around and enjoying the places we travel to, so to really get better pics, you have slow down and be much more deliberate. In order to do that I had to make a deal with my wife to spend some time taking pics, but then to have separate time without the camera.

Thanks for this, i particularly enjoyed the tip to focus on what you can 'take out' of an image.

Thanks a lot. I think what you leave out is probably one of the most important tools in photographic composition

He probably makes more money from a youtube video than a written article. Gotta pay the bills! :-)

Actually don’t make much money from either direct sources... I thought it would be good to highlight what I thought would be best two tips 👍

I would reverse the comment regarding metering. Of course you can get a good picture with Aperture Priority but why not take full control of your photos? You can still use your camera's meter as a reference in manual mode. You make it sound like you're just guessing. Further, it takes me a scant few seconds to adjust to the meter or compensate, compared to using exposure compensation. Maybe I'm just more familiar with my camera's controls!? ;-) Then, having depended upon the meter, you suggest I take the time to check my histogram and adjust accordingly. :-o What happened to all the time I saved by not relying on my decades of experience, adjusting settings manually? :-)
Sorry, I couldn't get past the focusing section. I believe you Brits have a word for it? Oh yeah... Rubbish!

You missed the point completely - but understand what you are saying.

Okay. Please explain. Really!

The thing is why do a lot of work when a setting can do it for you? We all have to choose what matters in our photography and what doesn't matter. If using aperture priority allows you to focus more on composition and other aspects, then why not? Sometimes, doing the guesswork isn't worth doing.

In any case, if doing it all in manual works for you, then do that. Those who want to use aperture priority can do that, too. What matters most is that we are taking great photos.

I agree. I just didn't understand him seeming to suggest aperture priority is better. Certainly, it's different and a different mind set but better?

Hey Nigel,
An 18 min video for 7 tips that you can show in under 2 min. So yeah, but no thanks. I rather go out and shoot instead of watching...

There was a creative live stream with Art Wolfe a while back. One of the biggest things that has stuck with me and, has changed my photography was. At the end he was critiquing the viewers photos and they had a photo like your first example. He mentioned that the sky is just repeating in the photo and that, it would be much more interesting to just crop a bit of that out as the foreground is much more interesting/dynamic. In your article you showed off this example perfectly. I sometimes forget this great piece of information from time to time. Thanks for the reminder!