How to become a better landscape photographer without spending money
Sooner or later all of us plateau. Our photos start looking the same. They’re bland and boring. Why?
Often times it’s because we get into a rut of how we see and how we do things. We frame the same. Compose the same. Shoot the same subject matter. Like struggling in deep mud, we try really hard without going anywhere. You can remedy that.
I usually shoot close to home. After a time, things get boring. I see the same scenery and shoot the same places. I see great shots of the rockies or the Pacific northwest. Should I go there to change things up? Hardly!
I love the challenge of shooting seemingly normal and boring places and making them mine. There is no mystery to how I do it and it isn’t difficult. Let me share with you how I get my inspiration, my ideas and my motivation. I never want to stand still. Being creative is moving forward.
The internet is one of the greatest resources a beginner and an old, long in the tooth photographer can have.
There are many photographers much better than I and I seek them out. Their work inspires me.
Maybe I’m not shooting some exotic waterfall in Iceland or a glaciers in Antarctica like they are but that’s no reason that I can’t aspire to create beauty in my small corner of the world.
Truly, most of the magical landscapes that you see on the internet don’t exist the way that they are portrayed. Oh sure, all the elements, the trees and the frost and the snow and the mountains and whatever else you see exist somewhere on earth but they don’t look like that or at least not for 99.9% of the day.
Those magical places existed in the mind of the photographer and they brought their vision to the screen.
My most favorite of all landscape photographers manipulates his images heavily. Very seldom are they ever straight shots. With him spending over three hundred days of the year outdoors and shooting, he still needs to add color to skies, darken them, etc. It’s one morning or evening in a few dozen that occur where no additional processing is needed to deliver the vision. By studying other’s photos you can also gain insight into how they process their landscapes. You take a little from this person, a little from that person and put it together in your own unique way. It’s like finding a great chile recipe and by modifying it, making it both better and making it yours.
Seek out who you consider to be the very best landscape photographers today and pore through their websites. Bookmark them and revisit them every few months. Some of the better websites are 500px.com and Flickr. There’s millions of photos on Flickr so if you go there instead of just browsing willy nilly, do a search for landscape groups. When you get to one, browse the galleries. Click on the photographs that catch your eye. Look at their gallery. It doesn’t stop there. Go to their profile and look at their favorites, that is, favorite photos from other photographers. Those places are usually gold mines for hundreds and thousands of excellent images.
It’s by browsing these hundreds and thousands of photos that you like that you’ll broaden your artistic sensibilities. Things will start to click with you. Rule of thirds. Eye going to the light area of the photo, etc. You don’t need to know those rules but by being exposed hundreds of times to them they will start to resonate with you. You’ll find that when you compose images in your viewfinder that what you’ve seen will influence how you frame your photos. By seeing all the different ways good light presents itself in a landscape you’ll be more open to when you can and can’t shoot.
With the advent of digital photography it’s now affordable to expose two hundred frames, cull out the bad ones and keep the one or two or three that have potential. You have to shoot and shoot and shoot some more. You then have to ruthlessly edit your images. I never keep everything I shoot. Oft times, half of what I shoot in the morning is deleted in the camera before I even start my way home and then I edit again when the images are on the computer, deleting the images that have either bad light or bad composition.
You are always learning when you’re shooting. Always. I hope to keep improving to the point that my work in a few years looks completely different than it does now.
I don’t believe that you need to take art lessons or classes. We’re not talking nuclear physics here. We’re talking about organizing things in a viewfinder and recognizing it when you’ve got it. It’s definitely not rocket science.