Why Is Landscape Photography So Intimidating?

Why Is Landscape Photography So Intimidating?

Landscape photography is definitely one of the most loved genres of photography around the world but it’s undeniable that it can also be intimidating to many. 

For the same reasons why many photographers love landscape photography (some to the point of obsession), it can be very intimidating. The fascination with beautiful scenery and jaw-dropping locations is pretty much universal to people but it often takes more than just that to actually start shooting and going on adventures to practice and learn landscape photography. Like most other genres, landscape photography is built on the same fundamentals but the workflow has evolved drastically through the years. Shooting landscapes has been generalized to have more complicated settings, gear, and workflows, and perhaps this is the main reason behind the intimidation. 

Different Workflow and Settings

There’s a hasty generalization about shooting landscapes that seems to assume that all landscape photographs require more complex shooting techniques. Perhaps the most common is that all landscape photos have to be shot in long exposure. Some think that all landscape photos have to be shot with filters, with a tripod, and so on. While these techniques are inarguably very popular among landscape photographers for the very simple reason that they are effective in achieving certain standards in image quality and visual design, they are not absolute requirements. The essence of landscape photography lies not in the way that an image was shot but instead in the content of the image altogether. 

While many landscape photographers say that they enjoy it most because of the creative process, it does not have to always be complicated especially not for those who are just beginning their learning process. Suffice to say, the best way to start and try landscape photography is to just go out and learn as you go. Learning the proper use of exposure techniques and other methods beyond the fundamentals of photography best happens on-location. These techniques are problem-solving methods to achieve certain results on the photographs. However, it is not an absolute prerequisite and should not be a reason to hinder one’s self from trying it out.

Unmet Expectations 

Anyone who has any curiosity about photography, in general, would probably have some expectations. Cameras are so common nowadays that the process may seem so simple to most people. It’s so easy to be inspired by amazing photographers we see online and in print and more often than not, the process and the struggles behind those images are left unseen. A person might get inspired by amazing landscape photographs they see on in-flight magazines or even on Instagram enough for them to dig into the craft but sooner or later, they will realize that the steps to get to a location, the challenges faced to even get to a vantage point, and the actual technical obstacles of taking the photograph are not as simple as the image made it seem. 

The weather, the natural environment, the light, and the implications of dynamic range on a simpler camera play key roles in the huge gap between what we initially expected to take and the results that we get. This is part of any landscape photographer’s journey and with practice and enough learning, that gap can be bridged. 

Other Photographers 

In this day and age, it is impossible for our photographic journeys to not be influenced by other photographers. Social media and various photography communities have made it so much easier to spread inspiration to one another, along with the widespread learning material that can be found online. This has left both positive and negative effects on how newer photographers may perceive the craft and their decision to try out a certain genre altogether. 

There are so many amazing landscape photographers in the world and on the internet. These people who share their talents definitely play a key role in encouraging younger and less experienced photographers to keep learning, keep traveling, and keep shooting. The amazing works that these photographers share with the world inspire many people and trigger curiosity enough for many to try the craft themselves. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that sometimes outstanding talent and their works can be so good that it intimidates someone of less experience. 

On the other end of the spectrum, people commonly referred to as “Gatekeepers” have a huge impact on this as well. “Gatekeepers” are people who seem to make an effort to close doors on people in photography communities and discourage less experienced photographers from trying it out on their own. These people aren’t necessarily good photographers themselves but somehow abuse the availability of social media to bully other photographers. They commonly impose their opinions on other people and the way they work, and often impose their own preferences in aesthetics or methods as if their way is the only way to take landscape photos. Some take it as far as to bash photographers with different methods as theirs as lazy or undeserving simply because they take a different approach.  From a wider perspective, it is very likely that they affect this perception of landscape photography in harmful ways. 

'Specialized' Gear for Landscape Photography

Perhaps the most common reason why many are intimidated by landscape photography is the perception that it requires a lot of expensive “specialized” gear. While it is true that later on, many landscape photographers invest in more expensive gear and accessories that are dedicated to better results in landscape photography, it never means that you need all of those as you are starting out. Perhaps the most unpopular tip about landscape photography is that you can actually shoot with any camera and lens, yes even with your tiny smartphone. This of course pertains again to that point of starting to learn the basics of landscape photography. It doesn’t mean that a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera will be enough for more advanced requirements of shooting outdoors but merely as a good starting point for anyone. 

Ultimately the most common source of intimidation for many photographers who have not yet tried or learned landscape photography is the use of filters. Many photographers assume that filters are an absolute need in landscape photography and that every image requires the use of one. However, the reality is that one can absolutely be successful in photographing landscapes without the use of a single ND filter.

Filters are best learned by understanding the indications and effects of each filter to various lighting scenarios. Ultimately, the choice of which filter to use should be dictated by the effect that the photographer has in mind. As one photographer is exposed to a multitude of shooting experiences, they would realize that many shooting scenarios don’t actually require any filters, and that the most important aspect of any shoot needed to attain the best-balanced exposures and vibrant colors is proper timing. It’s always best to be prepared with all the filters you might need during a shoot but given proper timing and creative vision, one can definitely dish out amazing photographs even without them.

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15 Comments
Tim van der Leeuw's picture

Do you really think, that landscape photography is more intimidating than studio photography? With specialised studio lights, colour gels, light modifiers, etc etc?
Working with models, stylists whom you have to find and possibly pay for your photography?

To me that's a lot more intimidating than going out and shooting landscapes where you can learn things at your own pace and add equipment slowly, piece by piece, if you want things like filters for slower shutterspeed!

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

One can be more intimidating to someone over the other. One person can be intimidated by landscape photography and be totally comfortable in the studio. It can also be the other way around for another person. I wasn't saying it's more intimidating than any other genre but it is undoubtedly intimidating for some people.

Stuart C's picture

Come with me to the North East coast of England where a simple seascape can end up with you and your gear underwater, then we will see what’s intimidating 😉

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I'd love to come with you when I can manage to make the time for that in my schedule. ;-)

But that is a whole different level of "intimidating" than what the article is talking about of course! 😅

My local coastline at IJ lake is a lot more quiet and peaceful. A good place to practice composition. :-)

Stuart C's picture

Haha yeah very different, we do have calm nights too but the North Sea is notoriously lethal, especially in the winter months.

I only said it because my friend had messaged me literally 30 mins before i read your post to say he had been caught by the rogue wave (i think its every 7th wave is much larger) and only just managed to pull his camera out of the way but he wasnt so lucky.

David Pavlich's picture

Or, you could be in the Rockies and have a mama grizzly tap you on the shoulder to check to see if you're going to get a model release for photographing her cubs. :-)

Stuart C's picture

That too:) luckily we only have large deer to avoid in the U.K., and they are generally harmless.

Timothy Roper's picture

I think it's venturing out into nature and the backcountry that intimidates many people--not just photographers. They seem to want the landscape pictures, but don't seem to like hiking for miles, camping out, etc. And that's a problem.

Thomas Villadsen's picture

and the early mornings, getting up waaaay before sunrise to get to your location. Perhaps the wait. waiting around for hours, just so light is right..

charles hoffman's picture

Landscape photography is "intimidating" for those who are unfamiliar with the "great outdoors"

if you spent your life in an apartment in the city, you might never grasp the vastness of nature or the subtleties of the building blocks of the world

if you're familiar with the woods - shoot the woods; if you're just familiar with a slice of pizza, be a food photog

Mike Shwarts's picture

Getting out there may be the most intimidating for some if it means getting far from your vehicle. Gear and editing should not be intimidating. Great landscape photos have been made before many of us were born. People used film cameras with few settings. Mostly exposure settings. You really don't need an expensive camera. Just a camera with enough dynamic range and resolution to meet your needs. Since many landscapes are not shot with the aperture wide open very often, you rarely need a fast lens. There are reasonable priced lenses today that work for landscapes. Or buy a used copy of a high end lens.

The darkroom was more work than a digital editor. Also more expensive as you often had to make multiple prints till you got it the way you want it. For example, you may want dodge to an area of shadow. First, you had, by trial and error, to figure out the exposure time for the print. Some of that could be shortened with experience. Made more difficult with an enlarger that did not have a built in timer to cut off exposure. That could take two or more prints to get it the way you like it.

Then you you had to figure out the amount of time to dodge, and work within the constraint of the amount of time for the rest of the print. You needed the correct size tool. If the shadow area had a complicated shape, you might have to cut your on dodge tool. Maybe from the same area in one of your test prints. Often you waved the tool around during the dodge to avoid a hard edge to the dodged area.

And we still haven't touched on filters, if making a color print, to get the right color balance. Add in choice of paper, chemicals, chemicals temperature etc. All this and more could be achieved it your digital editor with less time and cost. If you could do it before the digital age, it should not be intimidating now.

Deleted Account's picture

It's not.

Landscape is the most popular genre, in the most common hobby in the world.

anthony marsh's picture

In my view the third photograph the tree obscures the main element the waterfall. Others have no vanishing point or primary element and are ho hum, yes landscapes.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

Tastes differ. I actually like that image quite a lot! The waterfall is like a light and the tree a silhouette against that light.

There's some other photos in the article that don't really appeal to me, but that one does. 😁

Tom Reichner's picture

The title of this article surprised me. Then I read it and continued to be surprised. I have never thought that landscape photography was intimidating; neither to me nor to others. That's a new one for me.