Whether you’re a complete beginner or just looking for a few things to help you take better landscape images, you should find something useful here.
Many items in the menus of today’s newer cameras become unnecessary when you should in RAW. While these tips can be adapted to most modern cameras, my menu settings are based off the Canon 7D.
1. Shoot RAW+Small JPEG
Shooting in RAW allows much more latitude in post-processing. While it should be kept to a minimum, any changes you make will have nearly no effect on the overall image quality. You can adjust the white balance (important), exposure, black point, brightness, and others, all without adding much (if any) additional noise or quality reduction. Adding a small JPEG speeds up the processing and displaying on the computer. Aperture 3 can use the included JPEG to display a preview instead of having to create its own preview, which takes a lot of time.
2. Use a Neutral picture style
Although the picture style is not applied to the RAW image, it is applied to the JPEG preview that you see on the LCD. Choosing neutral will ensure the JPEG preview accurately depicts the RAW image captured.
This is important to landscape photographers because RAW captures more dynamic range than what you can see in the JPEG. In post-processing, you’ll have the ability to recover a lot of highlight detail and gain another stop or two (or more) of dynamic range latitude. Tip number 5 will talk about displaying the highlight alert. You can expose your image to have a little bit of highlight clipping and be able to get this back once you process the RAW image. Check out this YouTube video on doing this –
3. Set your white balance for each new scene
White balance is another setting that is only applicable to the JPEG preview. Setting the correct white balance instead of using auto allows a more accurate LCD preview image.
4. Use Dust Delete Data
Dust delete data is available on Canon cameras (and others) as a way to cancel out dust particles on each image so they won’t show up. You do this once and it’s applied to each image. You can also just get your sensor cleaned professionally.
5. Enable Highlight alert
Highlight alert shows a blinking black area on your LCD preview of what highlights are clipping to total white. This is useful when there is a large dynamic range and you want to capture as much detail as possible. You can have a relatively small amount of clipping (10-20%?) of the image and be able to recover it in post-processing. Of course, there may be times when having total white in your scene is useful.
6. Don’t set your LCD brightness too bright or too dim
The LCD should give you a good idea of what the image looks like. You want to make sure the brightness is set so you don’t think your image is over or under exposed when it really isnt.
7. Shoot at ISO 100
In any camera, ISO 100 has the optimal noise performance, dynamic range, and color quality when compared to high ISOs. Since you can use a tripod with landscape photography and use long shutter speeds, ISO 100 is a must.
8. USE A TRIPOD
A tripod is an absolute MUST for quality landscape photography. It allows slower shutter speeds so that you can shoot at ISO 100. Not only that, it is also essential for getting shots where you want to blur the water. Of course, if it’s so bright outside that you can shoot at ISO 100 or 200 and get a good shutter speed, then shooting handheld is fine.
If you do use a tripod, make sure you turn off image stabilization so it doesn’t over correct itself.
9. Don’t bracket shots or use HDR
Bracketing shots allows you to get multiple exposures of a scene. Basically this means you are unsure what the “correct” exposure should be. Over time I’ve learned how to expose for any scene, including those with a dynamic range that exceeds my cameras limitations. Within 3 shots, I can make sure my exposure is where it should be. I’ll keep the best after that so I don’t have a ton of images to go through again later.
Using HDR is just unnecessary in my opinion. The amount of latitude you have for processing a RAW file is more than enough for almost any scene. You can still have detail in the shadows without clipping too much in the highlights. Some scenes with a huge range of light may benefit from the use of Grad ND filters. This will ensure you’re getting right in camera without having to use HDR in editing.
10. Keep post-processing to a minimum
Why change what’s already beautiful? Getting everything right in camera to make sure you’re displaying the scene naturally will let you keep processing to a minimum. Some people’s photography is about creating a new piece of art, regardless of it being natural or not. My work is about showing the true beauty in nature, how it really is. The challenge is overcoming the limits of the camera to do this in a pleasing way.