Top Tips for Better Landscape Photographs with Seth K. Hughes

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BASED IN: Colorado, USA
KNOWN FOR: Lifestyle, travel and adventure photography that offers an illuminating view of life on the road
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-Pro2 Camera, X-T2 Camera, X-E3 Camera, FUJINON XF14mmF2.8 R Lens, XF27mmF2.8 Lens, XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens, XF1.4X TC WR Teleconverter


Seth K. Hughes hit the road in 2014 and never stopped moving. Living in a travel trailer with his wife and dog, Seth is location independent and now has the opportunity to hone his photography skills in an ever-changing landscape. Being exposed to a wide range of vistas and new experiences provides plenty of creative inspiration and fuels Seth in his work as a lifestyle, travel and adventure photographer. In this Technique article, Seth takes time out to share with us his seven top tips for successful landscape photography.

Seth K. Hughes give his top tips for better landscape photography
Seth K. Hughes give his top tips for better landscape photography

Seth K. Hughes

1. Just go shoot.

I know this sounds obvious, but I think this fundamental principle is the most important and the most underestimated. Speaking from personal experience, there are a slew of excuses that can prevent us from simply stepping out the door and getting to work. “I need that new lens.” “There are no interesting subjects nearby.” “The forecast is cloudy.”

Many of us have an inner monologue that leans toward comfort and complacency. I’ve learned to be conscious of that voice because it’s the underlying force that will keep me from progressing as an artist if I let it.

So, step number one is “just go shoot.” I’ve found that even when I’m feeling uninspired, if I pull out the camera and just get started by shooting anything, then the creative juices start flowing and inspiration ensues. That leads to more motivation which leads to more shooting which leads to more inspiration. The cycle repeats, resulting in growth and improvement.

2. Shoot at blue hour and golden hour.

This means roughly an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. By now most people have probably heard that these brief windows are beneficial for photography, and there’s a good reason this tip is so popular. Not only is it the cardinal rule for landscapes but also for portraits and many other photography genres as well. Due to the quality of the light, simply shooting around sunrise and/or sunset will improve any landscape photograph immensely.

Most weather apps can tell you what time to set off in order to catch the sunrise and sunset. Better yet, PhotoPills is an app that I use to determine exactly when the sun will hit the horizon and line up with specific landmarks at any given location.

3. Simplify.

In other words, don’t try to include too much in your scene. Begin by choosing one subject such as a peak, a sand dune, a pier, or an interesting tree. Use it to fill the majority of the frame. Only then should you start adding supporting elements into the composition. Do so sparingly because in most cases the busier the image, the less impact it will have.

4. Add depth.

We live in a three-dimensional world; therefore we tend to appreciate images which reflect that. Depth is achieved by emphasizing that third dimension. Using a wide angle lens to layer in foreground, middle distance, and background elements is the simplest way to get started.

Other factors such as cool vs. warm tones and lighting (see the next tip) can effectively immerse the viewer into a scene as well. A favorite technique of mine is to use perspective lines from a road, path, pier or fence to draw the eye in.

Seth K. Hughes give his top tips for better landscape photography
Seth K. Hughes give his top tips for better landscape photography

5. Consider light direction.

Sidelight and backlight are very useful for creating dramatic shadows and silhouettes. They are also good for adding depth to your shots. Overhead light and frontal light, on the other hand, tend to give the scene a flatter look.

I find that a well-placed, backlit element with the sun peeking around its edges produces interesting lens flare. To add a starburst effect when shooting into the sun like this, use a wide angle lens and a small aperture such as F16.

6. Think scale.

When looking at a photograph, it’s hard to appreciate just how vast or towering a place or landmark is if it is shot in isolation. The simplest way to illustrate that immensity is to include a person or animal juxtaposed in the scene to give it a sense of scale.

Most of the time when I shoot landscapes I am alone. So, when there doesn’t happen to be a bison or elk in the frame I sometimes get creative with self-timers, intervalometers, radio triggers, or the free FUJIFILM Camera Remote app. That way I can insert myself into the image and accentuate the grandeur. It makes a world of difference!

Seth K. Hughes give his top tips for better landscape photography
Seth K. Hughes give his top tips for better landscape photography

7. Take a tripod.

Don’t get lazy on this one. At the very least grab a small, lightweight tripod. If you always shoot handheld, you’re limiting your creative options when it comes to shutter speed and aperture. Without a tripod you can’t get low-light exposures (see tip #2) unless you crank up your ISO and degrade the image quality. Also, tripods are indispensable for capturing streaking clouds, motion-blurred water and star-filled skies.

Seth K. Hughes is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer.

To see more of Seth’s work, visit his website.

To explore the full X Series lineup visit X Gear Chooser.