“From film EOS3 to digital 20D, 5D, 5D Mark III, I’ve upgraded my camera and lenses every few years, but I still don’t know how to shoot.” A student participating in my photography class told me recently. In fact, I heard similar stories many times.
I also know quite a number of others who, despite using the same DSLR for some time, have no clue what the major modes and buttons are for. It’s obvious to me there are two distinct types of amateur photographers:
- People who are all about the technology, science and features of new equipment but barely pay attention to “seeing” and “feeling” the moment
- People who enjoy feeling the moment and clicking the shutter without paying attention to technical details
No matter which route you take on first, you have to converge the two before mastering photography. In fact, for landscape photography, the above convergence is only one component of my long advocated 3P creation process.
1st P: Planning
When it comes to landscape photography, being in the right place at the right time is of paramount importance. You can count on your luck once in a while. But to make sure to take quality photos on a continuous basis, you must plan ahead. This involves good planning on:
- Which subject to photograph based on the season, weather, geography and the time you have
- What time of the day has the best possible light condition for your subject
- How you can get to the vantage point before this time
- Where you should and could stand relative to your subject
- Which direction your camera should point to given the direction of the light
Fortunately none of the planning tools are difficult to learn. By mastering the 1st P alone – knowing the right time and place to photograph under different circumstances – you can already significantly enhance your photos.
I travel extensively. Instead of shooting non-stop for the entire day, I do plenty of non-photo activities from mid morning to late afternoon, and often focus on the best possible time window during sunrise, sunset or at night to do landscape photography. That way, I don’t feel burnt out lugging around heavy gear all the time, and allow myself plenty of time to plan for quality shooting.
Check out more on Planning & Logistics Tips in the 1st P.
2nd P: Photo taking
How to select the right equipment and camera settings to capture a beautiful photo requires solid understanding of your gear. Don’t blindly invest in new gear assuming that other photographers take better photos because they have better gear. Instead, learn what your existing gear’s advantages and limitations. For example, I find great enjoyment only using one lens for an extended period of time. You get a stronger sense of what kind of images you can create from your existing lens. You avoid complications and time wasted in changing lenses when light and colors change fast during sunrise or sunset.
Of course, if you want to improve landscape photography, but don’t want to carry anything beyond a camera and a lens, it will be problematic as well. At the least, get yourself a good tripod.
Here are some articles on equipment choices and recommendations, and my Free eBook – Ultimate Buying Guide For Your Iceland Landscape Photography Trip. Hope they will give you an overview of what you might need for landscape photography.
Check out more on Photo Taking Tips in the 2nd P.
3rd P: Post processing
How efficiently you organize, screen and retouch your photos before sharing them with family, friends or clients requires a new set of skills and workflow. There are lots of programs, each with specific advantages. But if you don’t have a powerful computer that can handle running or even opening multiple photo software simultaneously, do not waste your time learning all the programs.
Simplify your workflow by using one program. Adobe Lightroom is the best possible tool that combines photo management and retouching. On average I spend only 5-10 seconds to retouch each photo in Adobe Lightroom. It’s totally possible for you as well.
Check out more Post Processing Tips in the 3rd P, and my favorite tools:
- The Fast Track of Adobe Lightroom Workflow Video Tutorial – the essential workflow to help you efficiently organize and retouch photos
- Magic Light Landscape Lightroom Presets – the exact tools I use to retouch each of my landscape photos within 5 seconds