8 Tips I Wish I Knew Before I Started my Landscape Photography Journey

Upturned Earth

A large rock formation on the edge of Escalante Canyon with the rising sun.

There was an individual the other day that asked a local photography group the following question- "What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of you photography journey." So I answered his question and after thinking it through I decided to bring those bits of details to you and expand on them.

Let's dive into this because I hate wishy washy long drawn out introductions.

I am going to break this down into file management, editing, and then field techniques.

File Management

I know this is sexy but here are my tips I whish I knew back then and will save you a huge headache, especially if you are a landscape photographer.

Tip 1 -Get an external hard drive early.

Import your photos onto the external hard drive, not your internal hard drive on your computer. This saves space and allows for easy duplication, movement, and file management. Infact simply read this article from Jeff Harmon from Photo Taco. It is the best advice I can give on managing your images.

Read Photo Taco Article Here

Tip 2- Organize your files by location, file type, and purpose

How I do things now. In my pictures folder I have a file dedicated to my photography. In that file, I have a few separate folders. First folder is for all my RAW images. These raw images are not simply dumped into one folder, but each location I go has a separate folder so if I ever want to find something from Zion I can simply click on the Zion folder and boom I have all my Zion images. If I set up my camera to the proper date as well, they are also set up by date with meta data from the camera that can be accessed by Lightroom. Second is a folder for internet images, a.k.a low resolution versions of my images that frequently have a watermark and are easy to share around online. Finally I have a folder dedicated to files that can be used for printing. I usually use high resolution jpgs, but I am beginning to shift to a new method so stay tuned for how that works.

In addition, after I edit images I have a folder dedicated to the final master file that I can go back and work on.

Editing Images

Tip 3 When you finish editing your image in Lightroom send it to Photoshop as a smart object.

When you edit an image in Lightroom, the file you are editing is something called a DNG. It's like the best version of a file to edit and it is the gold standard. But what if you want to do something more with your image that you cannot do in Lightroom; or if you did multiple exposures and you need to blend the images? At this point you need to edit your image/images in Photoshop.

To do this simply right click on your image, find 'edit in Photoshop' and then select open as a smart object. Photoshop will open and then your file will open as a smart object. Smart objects are kind of magical. If you double click on your smart object image you sent from Lightroom, photoshop opens it up in Adobe Camera RAW editor with all your original edits. This allows you to go back and tweak things and work again on the original DNG file if you have to.

This is a life saver!

Tip 4- Shoot RAW but save in TIFF, don't bother with PSD's unless you have too.

Cameras can record images as jpgs or RAW files. RAW files record all available data and store that for a RAW editor to read. Once I bring the photo in, edit it and do my work, I now have to save the image in a new way. I can choose the default saving method in photoshop which is PSD. But the better more universal system is TIFF. Only Photoshop can read PSD's. Just about everything can read TIFF files. They can be very large as well so photoshop won't grump at you if the file gets too big.

Tip 5- Edit on a white background. It will result in better edits.

This is almost universal. I edit all images on white now. This is most useful if you plan on printing your images, but it will also result in brighter and more colorful images. This tip is from another famous photographer Mark Metternich. I think he is a bit crazy sometimes but I admire his dedication to the craft of photography and printing in particular.

Tip 6- Print a photo once you think it is done and then compare that to your screen, adjust screen brightness until it matches photo then edit it again so its bright.

The first time you edit an image print it at a local print shop, 8x12 or 12x18 in size, luster paper print and take a look at it and compare it to your screen. Adjust your computer screen brightness to match this. This is the poor mans screen calibrator, but it works pretty darn well. Edit on this level of brightness. This will result in brighter images in both print, on your screen and other peoples screen.

Field Technique

Tip 7- Wait a bit longer when photographing sunsets and get there a bit earlier if photographing sunrises. Be willing to go out in the dark.

I use to miss sunsets and sunrises because I was not out late enough or early enough. There are magic moment sometimes 45 minutes before and after sunrise and sunset. Don't miss these because you thought things were done. Be willing to walk to and from a location in the dark. I guess with that in mind, always have a head lamp.

The above image was my lesson learned moment. I photographed the sand dunes and after what I thought was the sunset I went back to my car. As I sat down I looked up an noticed red bands of light crossing the sky, so I rushed back out tried to scramble together a photo and ended up with a few blurry images that I couldn't use anyways. If I had simply stayed out I could have gotten a really cool shot.

Lesson learned.

Tip 8- Do 3 bracketed exposures on most images particularly if you are not using a high end camera.

This might seem like an odd idea, but I have an army of well composed images from the past that I can't save because I over exposed some part of the image. I thought it was good back in the day, but with more experience I see the issues. I can't save them now because I didn't get the full dynamic range.

Even if you don't use all the bracketed images, it's nice to be able to come back to those images with better skills. You will get better with time, but you cannot go back in time. Set up your system so future self can utilize past self's work. You are future proofing your work flow by doing this.

Sunset Arch in escalante at sunrise with the sun rising through the arch
Sunset Arch

I so far am the only person to photograph this arch like this. I like it when that happens.

The above image is an example of being able to go back and re-visit an image years after taking it. I luckily had collected enough exposures (data) for me to edit the image again and remaster the blend. If I hadn't had done that I would have been left with a sub par result.

Posted in Education and tagged Education, beginning.