Composition in landscape photography is of utmost importance for creating amazing photos. It is basically the way we put the objects in our frame to carve out meaningful images.
Landscape photography is about perception, it is about how we can depict nature in our own way. Obviously following the rules will give us good images but breaking them will give interesting and different images. Other than rules, I have experienced a lot in composition while shooting landscapes.
Here are my top 10 most important tips for landscape photography composition.
#1. Survey: Give Some Time to the Frame Without the Camera
Give some time to the frame without the camera. Whenever I arrive at a shoot location, I always take out my phone and scan the whole area with its camera. I check for various elements that I can frame and spend quite some time behind it.
In this example from Tumling in the Singalila Range, there were these horses that were having their morning time and the mountains in the background provided good complimentary framing along with the morning haze. The first photo is taken with my Redmi Note 5 smartphone, which I took during preps for the final photo.
#2. Visual Flow: Create Lines (or Curves) That Will Lead to the Focal Point or Towards the Image
Leading lines, as they are called, help in visualizing the way the photo is telling the story. They create a visual flow that leads us either to the main subject, also known as the focal point, or towards the image and not away from it. This helps in keeping the viewers engaged in our images and creates interest in their minds.
Here in the first photo from my hike to Tonglu, the darker branches of the tree and the broken ones on the ground leads our eyes to the tree itself which is the focal point here. In the second example from the Neora Vallery National Park hike, the path itself makes an S-curve and dwindles inside the frame, creating a sense of ambiguity and an interest to know what is there where the path ends.
#3. Layers: Find Layers to Separate Foreground, Midground and Background
Layers are a very useful way of creating stunning compositions. They work the best in mountains but we can use layers in any kind of environment where there are repetitions of similar objects leading to some focal points in the image.
The first photo is taken at Rishyap, where the two layers of mountains are leading us to the peak at the center of the frame. The second example shows another example of mountain layers where sunrays are falling and the mountains will lead the viewer into the image. Notice how in both images the clouds have worked as adding another layer to the composition.
#4. Depth: Create Depth in the Images With Movement
It is a very good way to illustrate long exposure photography where a sense of depth can be created in the moving elements. The direction of flow can be used to create beautiful images with a lot of depth in them.
In both these images, the first one from Rock Gardens Waterfalls in Darjeeling and the second one from Tabakoshi River in Mirik, one can find from where the water flow has started in the frame, thus including the depth factor into it.
#5. Golden Ratio: Make Use of This Concept to Create Unique Images
The golden ratio is a ratio of approximately 1.618 to 1. Read more about the golden ratio and its use in art here. Artists have used the golden ratio and the golden spiral to create stunning artworks for centuries. For photography as well, this is very handy, and in landscape photography, it can help in guiding the viewer’s eyes into the focal point of the image via the supporting elements. I do not use this as much as the other techniques but this is helpful and using this technique has given me one of my favorite images.
This is an image in which I had used the concept of the golden ratio. The rocks in the foreground act as the supporting elements, and the statue in the background is the focal point that is near the narrower end of the spiral.
#6. Balance: Make Sure the Frame Does Not Look Tilted on Any Side
This is one of the most important tips for getting the photos right. We cannot misplace the objects in our frame and put all the objects on one side, it tilts the frame and that does not help in creating visual interest in the image. Balance can be achieved in terms of objects, light as well as color in the image.
In the first image, the boat in the Teesta river is balancing the textures in the shore and the smooth water by creating a focal point by itself. In the second example, the two trees in the Gopaldhara Tea Garden are balancing each other, imagine the frame without either of them, it would look tilted, right? Also, try to imagine the frame without the trees, how would that look like?
#7. Symmetry: Look for Natural Symmetry Like Reflections
This is a unique find if it is found and it creates beautiful landscapes. Such landscapes cannot be even a percent closer to being them without the symmetry. Symmetry in nature can be found in the reflection of natural objects in still water. Can you think of any other areas which give perfect symmetry in nature?
In this image from Talberiya Dam, the horizon, the clouds, and the sky organize perfect symmetry in the dam’s water, creating a completely different image than it would have been without it.
#8. Foreground: Pay Very Close Attention to the Foreground
We need to pay very close attention to the foreground. Foreground objects can create interesting frames and uplift our composition by a huge amount. There can be literally anything in our foreground, but as long as it is compelling, we need to pay proper attention to it and justify its existence in our photo.
Here, in the first photo from Tumling, the bush in the foreground accentuates the image on a whole new level. In the second one from Rishikhola, the rocks in the river and the water flowing through them is creating an interesting foreground for the river in itself and the hills behind.
#9. Scale: Put Humans in the Frame to Create a Sense of Scale
To demonstrate the size and majesty of huge mountains and oceans, we can always put humans (often ourselves with the camera on a tripod) and convey the scale of the composition. It is a compelling method and it creates absolute stunners in minimalistic landscapes.
In both these images, it is me standing on the cliff edges with the camera self-timing the shots on the tripod, and just imagine how the photos would have been without the human elements in them. This minimalistic approach is one of my favorites in landscape photography composition.
#10. Point of View: Change Your Point of View (POV) to Create Interesting Frames
Lastly, we should always focus on changing the way we look at the world through our lenses. Maybe, a frame would have been better if the camera was a bit up in the air or lower at ground level. Changing the point of view increases the chances of creating unknown and uncommon frames which will obviously drag the attention of the viewers much more.
In this last example from Maidan, Kolkata, I had put my camera down on the ground and shot the white Kans Grass in the fall season here; It creates an absolutely different viewpoint right?
So that was it for this blog where I have discussed my top 10 tips for composing great landscape photos anytime, anywhere. I hope you like the blog and will implement at least one of them in your upcoming photo trips.
About the author: Subham Shome is a landscape and travel photographer based in Agarpara Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Shome’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.