5 Unproductive Mindsets That Keep You From Becoming a Better Landscape Photographer

5 Unproductive Mindsets That Keep You From Becoming a Better Landscape Photographer

What are the things that hinder you from being a better landscape photographer?

Landscape photography requires so much more than just reading a book or attending a workshop. In fact, the most important and crucial lessons in landscape photography are mostly learned out in the field. Here are some common mindsets that we should all throw out the window to keep learning and enjoying the craft.

Landscape Photography Requires Spectacular Weather Conditions

Probably because as beginners, we would find and get inspiration from very iconic landscape photographs and the works of the most notable in the craft, that some landscape photographers have the notion that everything they shoot should have a fiery sunset or a brilliant night sky in the back. While there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to capture those spectacular phenomena, stumbling upon fair or even bad weather should not stop you from going out for a shoot. One reason for this is simply because you never really know what picturesque things can happen in-between even if just for a few minutes. One can think of it as part of the thrill of a landscape photographer. Every shoot is a gamble. Sometimes you capture something that you thought you would only see in your wildest dreams, sometimes you have to deal with dark and gloomy skies, but most of the time, the conditions in between can also give you good photographs to take home.

Landscape Photography Requires Iconic Locations

In relation to the point mentioned above, it can also be quite a hindrance if a photographer only chooses to shoot the picture-perfect locations. This mindset can be very limiting especially if such “perfect locations” are not anywhere near where you live. It’s quite beneficial to have a designated “playground” for you to visit frequently and practice your craft. Especially if one has very limited experience in dealing with the demands of the changing environment, it is important that you don’t impose this limitation on yourself and go out to shoot as often as you can even if your location is a seemingly boring riverbank or creek. There will definitely be some disappointing days but you should keep shooting anyway.

A nearby play ground I found for myself

This point has only been made stronger by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions were raised across the globe, and even if it is still possible, the prudent choice would have to be avoiding any travel-related logistics that would expose you to a lot of possible carriers. Many landscapes and travel photographers learned to find and appreciate the nearby locations to where they live even if they weren’t as spectacular as what they are used to. At the end of the day, it’s the act of creating a visually appealing image that matters and not the iconic elements at the place.

Everything Can Be Done in Post

I personally have nothing against post-processing and believe that mastering it is as instrumental to the craft as shooting itself. However, this mindset that of absolute reliance on post-processing (and/or manipulation) can be the most careless mindset for any photographer. The truth is that not everything can be replicated by post-processing, and ultimately not everything can be remedied by manipulation. Many photography purists would even argue that too much post-processing takes away the essence of landscape photography, and I personally think that it is valid in certain circumstances. This mindset can often lead to a lot of missed opportunities to create amazing images straight out of the camera that would save you a lot of time from post-processing. More importantly, knowing how to deal with certain challenges in the field, even if it can be done easily in post, will prepare you for some of the best shoots you will do as a landscape photographer.

Post-Processing Is Cheating

The polar opposite of the previous mindset can also be very destructive. While it is safe to say that most photographers would prefer to be able to capture a perfect image without the need for any enhancement, most of the time, images would require even just a slight bit of refining and retouching. In fact, even just a minor adjustment can cause such a drastic improvement of an image, especially if that factor was such an obvious but easily correctable flaw.

from an "under cooked" raw file

It’s also important to realize that landscape photography does not require you as a photographer to document or record the exact situation of the location. The act of composing and framing an image alone can be considered manipulation since it excludes less-than-appealing elements from the frame, but what matters is that the craft has quite a low threshold for authenticity. Unless it is to be used as a form of documentation or if the image is submitted to a competition that restricts certain methods of editing, the right extent of post-processing is usually healthy for any photographer’s workflow.

Landscape Photography Requires Perfection

It’s never a bad thing to aim for perfection when shooting and creating landscape images. The central theme of landscape photography is the beauty of the place and of the environment, which is why perfection is often associated with the standards of a good landscape photograph. However, being too caught up in achieving such perfection can sometimes lead to a lot of hindrances and ultimately a lot of frustration. Keeping in mind that most shooting conditions are never perfect and adhering to this mindset can lessen the limes that you actually go out to shoot. Most of the things that will make you an outstanding landscape photographer are the things that you learn as you face the challenges of less-than-perfect conditions.

At the end of the day, the thrilling essence of doing landscape photography is in going through the entire process, from the moment of getting inspired to capture a particular image, to getting yourself in front of the scene, all the way to polishing your near-perfect image. Repeatedly going through all the steps of the process is one of the most effective ways of becoming a great landscape photographer.

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15 Comments

Jens Sieckmann's picture

All valid points. But I miss the mindset: "I can't shoot that because I only have gear a, b and c and not x, y and z!".

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Absolutely right! Thank you!

anthony marsh's picture

ALL THE WAY TO "POLISHING" YOUR NEAR PERFECT IMAGE. That in effect sums up modern digital landscape photography. The "polishing" that most often takes place is extensive thereby rendering almost every landscape image suspect; Is this the actual scene or is it what the machine operator "polished" in post processing editing or manipulation? When viewing a black and white landscape made on film one can assume that it is close to or actually what the scene was. When viewing a color digital landscape one will always suspect that birds were added or removed, clouds added or removed, trees added or removed, rocks added or removed, water added or removed, etc.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

I understand your frustration with what a lot of landscape photographers choose to do with their images but its a hasty generalization to think that it represents everyone. There are still many landscape photographers who are very conservative with their post processing. And even then, none of us really have the right to keep them from doing that. A guy doing sky replacements or making composites doesnt really take away anything from you or me as photographers or as persons.

I'd rather just admire what I find beautiful and skip those that I deem "over the top" or "over processed" or whatever. No point in wasting time hating on the photos or the photographers you don't admire because first, none of them were made to please everyone, and second, this isn't a competition and neither of us are competitors or even designated judges.

Those last 2 points can probably be mindsets #6 and #7.

Chill out.

Unsubscribe Me's picture

I wonder if Van Gough faced similar criticism from amateurs?

“Skies don’t really look like that!”

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Good thing instagram wasnt around. Lol

Mark Smith's picture

"post processing is cheating" This is a good one, Nicco. This must be what is implied by those who post on Facebook and proudly proclaim "no filters". While I don't use filters, I do EDIT my photographs unashamedly :), in the same way I would never post a paragraph of writing without making sure it was right, through editing, without apology.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Unashamedly and without apology. Precisely!
Because enjoying your creativity, you don't owe that to anyone. :)

Tim Newton's picture

Also, Nicco, some lovely landscape photos!! :-)

David Pavlich's picture

It's all subjective. Some are purists, some are pixel peepers, some are HDR tone mapped lovers, and some don't really care. I process my way because it's what pleases me and/or my customers. I don't worry about purist or pixel peeper comments unless the comments are constructive, good or bad.

Trying to make everyone happy is a futile endeavor.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

On point, David! Cheers!

Rich Umfleet's picture

I used to process film, way back when. Towards the end, just before digital cameras, the Kodak and Fuji print machines allowed manipulation of photos. Mostly just color, clarity and saturation, but they had crop capabilities, too. People were amazed at the changes I could make to an average photo. I've also seen others do some amazing things in a dark room. Manipulation of photos is not new. It's just easier.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Precisely! So its crazy that a lot of people ridicule something just because its much easier to do now.

Rich Umfleet's picture

I'm one of those people who is guilty of the "I can fix it in post" mindset. Crop, rotate, make some adjustments here and there. It's all good. The trick to this is... make sure that you have something worth fixing in post.