While many people believe that the trick to getting great landscape photographs is having the right lens or the proper setup, there are few successful images that don’t benefit more directly from composition than anything else. A landscape photograph can have remarkable clarity and sharpness and ideal lighting, but utterly fail due to a lack of adequate composition and content.
Composition is not all about rules and guidelines, but there are some reliable tips and techniques for making memorable landscape pictures through composition choices. It all begins with lines. If you envision a “standard” landscape concept there will be the horizon, the foreground, and the area containing the “subject”. These all lay along very distinct lines in the image. Once a photographer understands the balance between the lines of their landscapes they can use them to much greater effect.
Photo by hbuschme
Let’s first look at the old “rule of thirds” which asks a photographer to divide their composition into three vertical and three horizontal rows to create a nine square grid. There are intersecting points in this grid, and the rule of thirds asks the photographer to aim at positioning any points of interest on these various regions. This is supposed to create a great deal of balance in the scene and give the viewer a clear guide to the focal point of the entire photograph.
Does this work in landscapes? This is a great way to help a photographer capture the attention of the viewer, but only if it is used properly. For instance, setting the subject in the dead center of the grid is a failure to use the opportunity for counterbalancing it with other elements.
Photo by Harshad Sharma
Another tip for composing a landscape effectively is to use elements within the scene to frame the subject. Consider the landscape paintings of artist Maxfield Parrish – he often framed a mountain view by using the overhanging branches of trees and the rocky forest floors below. This same effect can be used for remarkable landscape photography too.
For example, a photographer might opt to take an image of an old barn set against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. The structure could be framed between the trunks of two old trees with some of their foliage draping down into the top border and the grassy plain framing the bottom of the scene.
The rule of thirds and framing are two reliable ways to begin to compose a photograph, but if the photographer returns to the concept of lines in their landscapes they can also add diagonals as well as horizontal and verticals. For example, a river might beautifully divide a landscape photograph in a diagonal line through the major scenic area of the image too.
Show Off Your Best Landscapes
If you would like to share your landscape photography please feel free to join our flickr group and add your images to the pool. Make sure and tag your images with “TPA_Landscape”. From the pool of images we will be selecting the best examples and showcasing them in a future article.
Top image by luigi