Your plane tickets and hotel rooms are booked.
Meanwhile, your camera is packed away and ready for a new adventure in China.
It’s eagerly anticipating the warmth of exotic light on its image sensor, and it desperately wants to impress you with its travel savviness.
Your camera might be charged and ready, but are you?
To make the most of your photographic journey through China, we’ve prepared a list of landscape photography tips that will help bring your adventure back home.
Landscape photography tips
Landscape photography isn’t as simple as aiming your viewfinder at the horizon and capturing the beauty.
Capturing nature requires a certain level of finesse and technical know how.
For the best results, the following landscape photography tips are best implemented using a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (commonly referred to as a DSLR).
Using a DSLR camera allows for more control of focus, aperture, and shutter speed, as well as a suite of other features.
Furthermore, when using a DSLR camera and looking through the viewfinder, the image is being reflected from a single mirror.
This means that what you see in the viewfinder is what the camera will capture (unlike other digital cameras).
But no matter what type of camera you decide to use, these landscape photography tips will help you make the most of your excursion to China.
These tips are meant to be a general guide to help improve your shots, so don’t feel like you need to strictly abide by the “rules.”
Get to know your camera and its capabilities, as well as its limitations.
By first becoming well acquainted with your equipment, you will increase your chances of capturing that perfect shot with every shutter click.
Use RAW image format
You will want to pack extra memory cards for this tip.
If you haven’t used the RAW image format before, it’s time to familiarize yourself and move away from the limitations of JPEG formats.
While the JPEG file format requires less storage space, it places strict limits on the visual information your camera is able to capture.
When compared to RAW format, JPEG files lack depth and sometimes appear flat.
The RAW file format, alternatively, captures the richness of a scene by saving the totality of what the camera sensor detects.
As the name implies, RAW files are, well, raw. The images will require postprocessing, but don’t let that scare you away from the depth and quality offered by RAW file formats.
Manual camera settings
It’s time to ditch the auto setting if you haven’t already.
In terms of landscape photography tips, this one is HUGE.
Familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings.
Doing so will open new compositional doors you’ve only seen in photographs (taken by other people).
With the proper settings, you can create clarity as far as your camera can see.
Or, you can try adjusting focus (as a function of aperture) to make a photo subject really pop.
The possibilities are endless.
Utilize your equipment
First and foremost, DO NOT forget to pack your tripod!
Camera shake is one of the quickest ways to ruin an otherwise beautiful shot.
Take your time and set up your composition. If you’re trying to capture a night scene, or if you’re using a higher ISO setting, consider using a remote controlled shutter to further reduce unsightly vibrations.
Also, don’t forget your ultra-violet (UV) lens filter!
UV filters enrich the hues seen in the blue sky during daylight.
However, these aren’t ideal for every situation and can sometimes cause lens flares.
Other items to pack for your travels include spare batteries and lens cleaning supplies.
It might seem obvious, but double check your pack so you’re not left stranded with a dead battery when the sun sets.
Try different lens combinations
Just like how using different camera settings will create new possibilities, using different lenses will offer more creative control.
Is there something in the foreground you want to appear compressed toward the background? Try using a longer focal length.
Or, do you want the clarity of an image to extend to the horizon line? Try using a smaller focal length combined with a large aperture to increase the depth of field.
But, to capture the true scope of a landscape, consider using a wide angle lens.
Scout locations ahead of time
China is a big place which is filled to the brim with rich and diverse landscapes.
As such, you should begin scouting locations before you even arrive.
Identify the areas you will be staying and traveling in and dig for any nearby attractions.
Coming prepared will allow you to plan your shots ahead of time and will ensure you use the right settings and equipment.
Once you arrive at your destination, ask the locals for any hidden gems away from the typical tourist-beaten paths.
Use your legs!
In regards to landscape photography tips, the most important might be remembering to use your legs.
If you spot a subject in the distance that can’t be incorporated into your composition easily, move to a better location.
Trust your photographic eye and dare to hop a fence or two in order to get that perfect shot.
Elements of composition
No list of landscape photography tips would be complete without a refresher course on the elements of composition.
The rule of thirds is every photographer’s best friend when it comes to creating a balanced image.
Use this equally spaced grid to help create images which are more visually striking than a centered subject.
The golden ratio and the golden spiral are also excellent guidelines to follow when creating a balanced composition.
Don’t forget about black and white
Take a moment to look at the work American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams.
His works are still world renowned. He captured absolutely stunning landscape photographs of the American West, all in plain old black and white.
By removing color from the equation, the elements of a composition take prominence and depict a different type of drama.
When on location, try shooting your subjects in both color and black and white. Compare the two in post processing, you might just surprise yourself.
There is no comprehensive guide of landscape photography tips that will ensure your photographs are beautifully exposed.
Become well acquainted with the features on your camera and take your time when setting up a shot.
China is an ancient nation with a robust culture, so come prepared to capture its immense beauty.