Please don’t think that I am trying to be a “know it all” here by writing this article...I’m far from it. I have only been here at ipernity for a short time but from the many landscape images that I have seen on this site, I feel somewhat compelled to offer some suggestions that may hopefully help some of you improve your landscape images. Perhaps you may already know of these suggestions and perhaps some of you are still on the learning curve, but I think you will find something of interest here.

I’m writing this as an article rather than making individual comments under your images that has to do with exposure or composition or some of the many things that I have noticed here. I seem to be the only one on this site to do so. I found this very same thing a Flickr. It seems as though most people don’t want to hear anything constructive on improving their image and often seem offended that someone would do such in the comments box. Instead people gibe polite comments to keep the harmony flowing. We all like to hear good things about our images otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but it is also good to hear constructive words from a different point of view. We should not get offended by good critiquing...we should learn from it or just dismiss it.

So if you wish, you can read this article and perhaps you might just find something that you didn’t know about the landscape image. I’m sure some of you will find this is old hand stuff and quite boring, while others...well...

I am not going to say what my credentials for writing this article are but suffice it to say that after nearly 40 years of photography, I have picked up on what makes or brakes a photographic image.You can read my Bio if your wish to better understand my knowledge base.

One of the greatest compositional tools that you should give creedence to is the “Rule of Thirds.” Some will say that rules are made to be broken, and that is true at times, but the fact is that this rule works 98% of the time...especially when it applies to the landscape image. Unfortunately this is the area that I have observed here to be the most problematic here...in my honest opinion I’m not sure if some of what I see may be a difference in presentation from other countries, and if this is the case then please send me an email so that I can better understand this. Here is the US we generally read and or view a painting or photographic image from lower left to upper right. Below are some of the major guidelines that I feel are the most important and the ones that I personally use for my photographic images. As I mentioned, sometimes these guidelines just will not generally apply.
  • Horizon lines must be straight...that is unless the lay of the land suggests a sloping terrain.Use of the grid lines in the camera’s viewfinder (see 3 below) will be your greatest aid in keeping those horizon lines perfectly and straight.
  • Horizon lies generally should fall above or below the exact center of the image from top to bottom. The major interest, whether it be the clouds in the sky or the foreground (FG) elements of interest, generally dictates where the horizon line should be placed. When a condition exists where there is equal interesting compositional elements in both the sky and the FG, then you as the creator of the image must make that final decision as to where to place the horizon line, but centering creates 2 images and divides the viewers interests
  • The main subject or dominant compositional element generally is placed in the upper or lower right hand thirds of the frame, with upper right being generally the preferred location...once again as in the US. This is the “Rule of Thirds.” Many of todays modern digital cameras offer these rule of thirds guidelines as visual grids in the viewfinder and is accessed in the camera’s set up menu. These divisional lines that you see in the viewfinder also aid in keeping the horizon level.
  • Here is a good way to test your landscape image with the horizon line centered top to bottom. Take a piece of paper and cover each section of the image at the horizon line and see if the top and bottom sections by themselves is a desirable image. If your main element is centered left to right, do the same thing. Of course none of the 4 sections by themselves would be a stand alone image, but you should be able to see what can be eliminated and where to place the subject of interest. Subjects of interest obviously vary but think of the sun / moon or a person / group of people, or an unusual looking tree / mountain peak that is the smaller element of the overall image. By placing them somewhat off center it offers the viewer more space to wonder into the image before actually meeting up with them. The next time you out shooting hopefully you will remember and try some of these suggestions that I have outlined here, but don’t timid about judicious cropping the image to obtain the desired compositional effect.
  • Using a small f stop (f 16 or f 22) will ensure tremendous depth of field (DOF) in the landscape image, ensuring that the FG element is just as sharp as the background (BG). However, focusing with today’s do everything digital cameras, miss-focusing is a common problem. By this I mean the best way to maintain good DOF is to pick a point that is approximately 1/3 the distance into the image. Focus and confirm by depressing the shutter part way down...release the shutter and turn the auto focus at the lens. This method locks the focus point and allows for precise exposure metering. Some cameras offer a focus lock button that you can depress but requires more finger dexterity. My suggested method works just as well for single frame shooting or auto-bracketing exposures. BTW, when shooting in auto-bracketing mode be sure to use either manual or shutter priority mode and not aperture mode. Aperture mode changes the focusing of the image, which is not desirable.
  • One of the most important part of a landscape image is what I call ‘Image Management’, particularly around the perimeter of the image framing. By that what I mean is that very bright parts of the image attracts the viewers eye nearly immediately. This obviously takes away what your intending to show in your landscape. So carefully look at the edges of your compositions trying (must) to eliminate all bright areas no matter how small they be. Now we all know that this is sometimes impossible to do and that is where a few Photoshop (PS) skill comes into play. It is very easy to just clone in additional leaves from the trees to fill in those bright areas, not only around the outside edges but also within the composition. If your PS skill level allows, copying / pasting and blending would be better...just don’t copy or clone too close to the area that you are filling in as it will show repetitive patterns. Just as the edges of your composition needs to be considered, large bright detail-less areas within your image will take the viewers eye directly to that location. This can be eliminated in much the same manner as copying or cloning or by auto-bracketing your image when you see these areas in the intended composition. You then can just copy the detail from one image and paste it into place and blend it in, or just ‘photo merge’, in PS, the 2 images together and let PS do the blending for you.
  • I know that if you consider these suggestions, that your landscape images will improve greatly. If some of you would like further email help in any of what I have suggested, I would be more than glad to help. This is not new territory for me, believe me. Again, I do not want to come across as the all knowing being here and some of the things that I have mentioned may be very different in other parts of the world. I would love to know this, so please send me an email of such. Most of my new contacts here at ipernity seem to be those of you that are overseas.
  • If by chance you find this article helpful, please let me know by commenting under it or by sending me an email. I appreciate your feed back...positive or negative alike. My email address is JMWNaturesImages@comcast.net