How To Compose An Effective Landscape Image

by William Lulow

Landscape images are great for learning about composition because you can really take your time with them. Nothing is moving. There are no expressions to worry about. All the elements you are dealing with are within your total control as a photographer.

The first thing I do when I shoot a scene is to find the physical spot that affords me the best view of what I am shooting. I follow a couple of rules for this:

  • Try to choose an unusual viewpoint or angle
  • Try to include a fair amount of foreground
  • Use a wide-angle lens to emphasize foreground

The second thing I do is try to decide what it is I want to say about the location.

  • Should the light be dramatic?
  • Do I want to include an extreme panoramic view?
  • Do I want to highlight any particular part of the scene

With almost any scenic photograph, you want to attract the viewer’s eye to the scene as a whole as well as certain aspects of it. Therefore, most strong compositions have lines that will lead the viewer’s eye into the shot. This can be accomplished with foreground elements as well as focus. If you are shooting with a wide angle lens to include a lot of the scene, objects toward the rear will be too small to be rendered with much detail. Therefore, the focus should be on the foreground rather than the background. I try to choose a vantage point that will emphasize the foreground and let the background just be a part of the scene.

 ColdSpringHarborSingleWEB

In this scene, note how the viewer’s eye is led into the scene by the river bed. The background is hardly visible at all. The foreground is the most important element.

BklynBr_0013WEB

In this scene, it’s the angle of the bridge span that draws one’s eye into the frame.

AppomatoxVA_Barn&FieldWEB

In this image the viewer’s eye is led in to the scene by the fence.

These are just some examples of  how composition can be strengthened.