Why One Great Shot Is Better Than Hundreds in Landscape Photography

In landscape photography, there's often a misconception that success is measured by the number of great shots captured in a single outing. However, this mindset can be limiting and lead to burnout for many. Sometimes, the true reward comes from capturing just one exceptional shot. Focusing on quality over quantity not only enhances your craft but also deepens your connection with the landscape. Here’s why and how to embrace this approach.

The Pressure of Multiple Shots

Modern digital photography makes it easy to take numerous photos in one session, potentially leading to:

  • Burnout: Constantly striving for multiple perfect shots can be exhausting.
  • Shallow Engagement: Rapid shooting can prevent a deep understanding of the landscape.
  • Overwhelmed in Post-Processing: Sorting through many images is time-consuming and can detract from the creative process.

The Joy of One Good Shot

Focusing on capturing one exceptional image can change your approach to photography today and long into the future:

  • Increased Focus and Patience: When aiming for just one good shot, you become more focused and patient. You spend more time observing the landscape, studying the light, and considering your composition, leading to more thoughtful and stronger images.

  • Mindful Observation: Instead of rushing to capture every potential scene, you slow down and observe more mindfully. You notice subtle changes in light, weather, and atmosphere that might have gone unnoticed in a hurried shoot.

  • Creative Fulfillment: There’s a unique satisfaction from knowing you have captured a moment perfectly. One well-executed shot that tells a story or evokes a strong emotion can be more rewarding than a hundred mediocre ones.

Case Study: Old Walls and Trees on a Hillside

Imagine exploring an undulating hillside with old stone walls intersecting at various points, creating a natural grid. At one such intersection, you spot two trees, perfectly placed to create a balanced composition. You decide to focus on capturing this scene.

You set up your tripod and compose your shot. The light is constantly changing as clouds move across the sky, casting shadows and beams of sunlight intermittently. Instead of trying to capture every variation, you choose to wait for the perfect moment when the light will highlight the trees and the walls, adding depth and contrast to the scene. This exact thing happened to me recently, and I was glad I was able to switch gears and focus on getting just one shot from the outing.

Techniques for Capturing One Good Shot

  1. Scout and Plan: Spend time scouting your location. Understand the best vantage points and plan your shoot around optimal lighting conditions. Arrive early and stay late for unique lighting opportunities.

  2. Use a Tripod: A tripod stabilizes your camera, allowing for precise compositions and long exposures. It also forces you to slow down and consider your shot more carefully. Once you have your composition locked in, you know you won't have to reframe it again until that precise moment happens.

  3. Observe the Light: Light is the most critical element in landscape photography. Watch how it changes and interacts with the landscape. Be ready to capture the moment when the light is just right. There will no doubt be many near misses, and this is something you need to consider, but I suggest even taking these near-miss shots, as you never know if the light will return after all.

  4. Compose Thoughtfully: Pay attention to the composition. Use the rule of thirds, leading lines, and natural frames to create a balanced and engaging image. Once you have this done, it's time to fine-tune and look for any elements that are intersecting or need to be removed from the scene.

  5. Be Patient: Patience is key. Good light and perfect moments don’t happen on demand. Be willing to wait and observe. At times, you may feel like giving up on your mission, but with practice, you will get the rewards.

  6. Shoot in raw: Shooting in raw format provides more flexibility in post-processing, allowing you to recover details from shadows and highlights and adjust the image without loss of quality. So check those settings are in place as you don't want to get home and realize that you shot in JPEG.

  7. High-Speed Continuous Mode: For dynamic scenes where the light changes rapidly, using high-speed continuous mode can help you capture the perfect moment without missing it.

The Reward of Waiting

In our example, you patiently wait for the right moment when a beam of sunlight breaks through the clouds, illuminating the two trees and casting shadows that highlight the texture of the stone walls. This moment transforms the scene, adding depth and contrast that weren’t there before. You capture the shot, knowing you’ve created something special.

At its core, landscape photography is about capturing the essence of the natural world. It’s about being present, observing, and connecting with the environment. When you focus on getting one good shot, you’re forced to engage more deeply with the landscape, becoming attuned to its rhythms, light, and mood.

This approach not only leads to better photographs but also enriches your experience as a photographer. It reminds you why you fell in love with landscape photography in the first place – the joy of being in nature, the thrill of chasing the perfect shot, and the satisfaction of capturing a moment that resonates.


In landscape photography, sometimes less is more. Focusing on capturing one good shot can be more rewarding than trying to take multiple average ones. It encourages patience, mindful observation, and a deeper connection with the landscape. By embracing this approach, you’ll not only improve the quality of your photographs but also find greater fulfillment in your photography journey.

Remember, the goal is not to fill your memory card with countless images but to capture a moment that tells a story, evokes emotion, and showcases the beauty of the natural world. So next time you head out with your camera, slow down, observe, and aim for that one perfect shot. It might just be the most rewarding image you ever capture.

Have you tried this approach, and it failed or worked? Or perhaps you are a run-and-gun photographer who can't be bothered with this waiting game? Let's continue the conversation in the comments below.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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These are useful tips. Glad to see someone is providing balanced and useful instruction to "budding photographers." These days everyone seems to think that, since cameras are ubiquitous, "anyone & everyone" IS a photographer!
But, that's just not true.
I see so many crappy photos on ppl's phones. I mean, they're really bad!
Some people can't even get a properly focused & framed headshot of their dog, who will gladly pose for them forever.
So of course they think a landscape is simple.
My dad, who was a pro photographer as well as an enthusiast, taught me by example. Rarely did he teach me any techniques. But somehow I picked it up from an early age.
And I've always had a knack for capturing the essence of a scene. I have done it my whole life, and I took it for granted, too. At least, until I started getting them printed & saving them in an album. Then I had so many people ask, "How do you take such good photos?"
I do it quickly, too. I see something I want to capture, and I know right where to stand, what vantage point/angle to use, etc.
I even did it while serving as Incident Commander at a disaster exercise, which everyone sai would be completely impossible, because your can't "divide your attention." But I did both, and nobody knew until I said, "See the photos I got...."
But because I took it for granted, I have no clue how to teach it! But I'm learning, thanks to articles like this.

I'm not a great landscape photographer but I can manage a pretty good composition and end photo. However, the main irritation for me is when people say - wow you must have a great camera..... . The result couldn't possible be good because the photographer knows what he or she is doing....

I enjoy the outdoors, I have heard other photographers telling me to take more photos of a scene. But I love finding a place, reconnig the area, what elements are there, and determining how it will look at sun rise or set. Then returning to the spot with my equipment. I love the sunrise because I sit and listen to the world wake up, birds singing. Nocturnal animals heading to sleep while the others start. But truly my best was this sunset, Wolcott Beach NY, looking towards Toronto Canada.

I have become more careful and selective with my shots as I get older. I'm happy with one good shot and find wading through lots of 'also-rans' almost depressing.

Hundreds of photos are only good if you want to create a lifelong smartshow 3d slideshow with them. Otherwise, not so much.

Great article, thank you for these tips. I always try to check if my pictures are good enough right after I snap them, and if they aren't I delete the flawed stuff and re-do immediately. That takes time but it also saves time spent on culling later.