How to Improve Your Landscape Composition Skills

Most of the time, taking a photo of a great location isn’t the end of the story—we need to compose the scene to make the photo more interesting. Mastering landscape composition techniques will radically improve your photos.

In this article, I share useful tips and 7 types of landscape compositions that you can easily implement in your work.

Scout Your Location

Discovering the scene is essential. Explore your area as much as possible. Research online or try different composition angles on location. I wrote an article about location scouting and I highly recommend you read it.

You can’t take great photos unless you know the conditions in the area.

Study the landscape composition structure.

When I started learning about composition, I immediately invested more energy in analyzing the photos of professional photographers. I wanted to find out what methods worked best and why their photos had a more meaningful impact.

I studied and gained more knowledge about the subject, and I began to implement these landscape composition techniques into my photography.

I started drawing lines to understand what elements in a photo make it more visually appealing. I was constantly analyzing why one photo stood out over others.

Later, it became much easier to avoid annoying elements of the site, and I began to create more substantial compositions. For example, taking a step forward could help eliminate that uninvolved tree from the frame. Or lowering a bit might help find a leading line or exciting texture.

Analyzing Paintings

Another approach is to study landscapes by painters such as Albert Bierstadt and William Turner.

We can learn a lot from them. They have collected a lot of information about the optimal structure and light behavior in landscape composition. Their photos can be very helpful for us landscape photographers to use their valuable methods in our work; and most importantly, their paintings are very inspiring. So I definitely recommend you to check them out.

Keep it simple

Don’t try to cram everything into your photo, always aim for simplicity.

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The structure of a picture has a significant impact on our thinking. It should be simple, avoid confusion, and provide clearer results.

The most basic principles are simplicity and the placement of elements that guide the eye through the photo.

You can use everything from leading lines and pointy rocks to dramatic clouds.

Simple shapes can help us create clearer landscape compositions.

Let’s see how.

Think in Shape

Think in geometric shapes. Rather than asking the viewer to process every little detail on the court, try to think of the elements of the scene as geometric shapes: triangles, S-curves, circles, straight lines.

how to improve your landscape composition skillsThink in Shape

I know this is confusing, so let me explain it with this image. As you can see, all of the foreground and midground elements play a vital role in building the landscape composition. They form triangles, which help the viewer move along the frame. Instead of just shooting the background mountains, I included these basic triangles to support the structure.

Using this technique simplifies the scene and allows us to focus on the main objects.

Eliminate distractions

When we look through the viewfinder, we need to look for elements that don’t support the composition. It could be some messy grass or a branch leaning against the edge of the frame.

Once you’ve identified an element that doesn’t add anything extra to the image, simply ignore it. Move closer or change the angle slightly. These little tweaks can make a big difference in the outcome of your photo.

Ask yourself

When you take a photo, it’s time to analyze and ask yourself what you could have done to make the composition better.

Do I need to use diagonal lines to guide the viewer’s eye or use the surrounding trees for better impact?

Where should I place the element so that it fits perfectly with my composition?

Now that we know the basics of landscape composition, it’s time to look at the 7 most expressive types.

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7 types of landscape compositions

how to improve your landscape composition skills 2Landscape composition

Like any other art form, composition has basic rules. By using common natural structures and a little practice aligning elements, you can learn how to achieve better results.

let’s start.

1. Mirror

This is probably the easiest to achieve in your work. Find a surface that reflects your subject and put the horizon line in the center.

This time I used a small lake as a reflection of this mountain in Slovakia. It was very windy this morning and the lake was sparkling. I waited half an hour for the wind to die down and then took this photo.

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The symmetry it creates and the way the whole thing unfolds is very pleasing to the eye. I always try this approach when scouting around lakes.

You can also use this technique for small puddles.

2. S-curve

The S-curve can significantly impact how you draw your viewer’s attention. It’s the perfect leading line that helps navigate the entire image – it’s an elegant and convenient shape for our eyes.

The most common uses are rivers, roads, coastlines or dunes. But really, only your imagination can set the limits. Try it and experience it.

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3. Layers

Stacking objects on top of each other creates a repeating pattern that delights the viewer and compels them to move through the picture.

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Typically, I would use a telephoto lens to create this kind of structure. It compresses the foreground, middle, and background objects together. I shot this photo at a 200mm focal length to maximize compression.

4. Framework

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of examples like this. The idea of ​​placing an optical frame in the foreground can be quite striking. In this case, the possibilities are almost endless.

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You can use different things here, such as a window, a tree, or a cave. Be careful not to let the frame stray from the focus of your main subject.

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Dolomites, Italy – Gabor Boszormenyi

5. Pointers

This is where the shaping technique really comes into play. The key is to find a foreground object that points to our protagonist. One of the most effective ways to do this is to lead the viewer’s eye.

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In the case below, I used the rock formation to point the subject up the mountain.

Do you realize how these simple elements can draw attention? Like that old tree trunk pointing toward the waterfall. It’s easy to implement and a fairly straightforward solution to grabbing attention.

6. Diagonal

The diagonal line technique is an easy way to guide the viewer’s eye.

Forest streams and waterfalls are generally difficult to photograph, and by using this composition technique, we can quickly move the viewer’s eyes across the entire screen.

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Place the starting point at one of the top corners, then adjust the camera until the outgoing portion reaches the diagonal bottom corner.

7. Prospects

If you find a striking foreground element, move closer. It can support the structure of your composition and create a better impact.

You need a wide angle lens to do this. In this case, Peter used a Nikon 16-35 f4 lens.

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Flowers are perfect for providing an interesting foreground element, although it can be anything visually appealing. I usually use rocks, flowers, or exciting textures.

It’s even better if the shape or color of the foreground element matches the background.

In this case, I used seaweed and a small pond to create an interesting foreground.

Landscape Composition: Conclusion

Go to the location and experience as much as you can. Nothing beats working on location. When you’re done shooting, come back to your computer and analyze your work.

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