My number one Camera Setting for Landscape Photography

camera settings Jun 19, 2023

Capturing the beauty of landscapes through photography is an art form that requires careful consideration of camera settings. Like any type of photography, choosing the correct settings can make the difference between a mediocre shot and a breathtaking masterpiece.

In this blog post, I will shed light on the significance of selecting the appropriate camera settings. Specifically, I am going to focus on my favourite camera setting, aperture priority. There will always be some controversy around whether or not you use manual mode when doing landscape photography.

For me, after paying thousands of dollars for my camera, I’m going to let the technology do some of the work so I can focus on making a great image. For this reason, I have learnt to use a semi-automatic mode, this way the camera will make some of the decisions for me. Don’t worry, I still have a lot of manual control over the final exposure using exposure compensation. more on this later.

Importance of Choosing the Right Camera Settings for Landscape Photography:

When it comes to landscape photography, every little thing counts. It's up to us, as photographers, to wield our cameras in a way that truly captures the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. Whether it's nailing the perfect composition or dialling in the right exposure, each element plays a vital role in capturing those stunning landscape shots that make people go, "Wow!" It's all about evoking emotions and leaving a lasting impression on anyone who lays eyes on our work.

The Power of Aperture Priority:

When it comes to your landscape photography images, a major factor is the depth of field. You’ll also find that certain lenses will be sharper at particular aperture ranges. For example, my 14-24 mm Nikon wide-angle lens is amazing at between F8 and F13. So I try and keep it within that range when I’m shooting.
Using Aperture priority allows me to select the best f-stop for the situation. And to me, Aperture has to be prioritised over shutter speed and ISO for my final image.

Let’s talk about some of the benefits of Aperture Priority in Landscape Photography:

Composition: With Aperture Priority, you can place greater emphasis on composing your shots, experimenting with different angles, and utilizing creative techniques to create visually captivating landscapes. By letting the camera handle the other settings, you can fully immerse yourself in the artistic process.
Composition is often the one thing that will make the biggest difference to your photography. It was the biggest game changer for me, and that’s why I created my online course that guarantees you’ll take better landscape photos in under 30 days. In this course, I take you through everything you need to know to compose your images in a way that creates a wow factor. You can learn more about the course by clicking here

Depth of Field Control: The aperture is one of the primary controls for determining the depth of field in a photograph. Aperture Priority empowers you to strike a balance between foreground and background sharpness, ensuring that the entire image remains crisp and focused. This capability enables the preservation of intricate details, from the delicate petals of a flower in the foreground to the distant mountain peaks in the background.

Taming Exposure: Landscape photography often presents challenges in balancing highlights and shadows. When Using Aperture Priority mode, I use matrix metering. I then make overall exposure adjustments through exposure compensation, preventing overexposed highlights or underexposed shadows.
I check my histogram and then use exposure compensation to fine-tune the exposure settings, this way I can capture a well-balanced image with a wide dynamic range, preserving details in both bright and shadowed areas.
Keep in mind that if you have your ISO set, and you are shooting an aperture priority your camera will have to make changes to your shutter speed as you adjust your exposure compensation.
Understanding how different shutter speeds will affect your overall final image is important. As a slow shutter speed will create motion blur in things like water or moving objects, this includes foliage of trees and shrubs if the wind is blowing.
Sometimes you will need to increase your ISO to keep your shutter speed high enough if you want to make sure things in your image remain sharp.

My camera settings
If you just want to set your camera up here are the things that I make sure I have sorted on my camera when I go out to shoot landscape photography.
You can download a copy of my landscape photography camera set-up checklist if you want something to take with you out in the field.

I use the following acronym to remind me of what I need to adjust before each shoot. The word I use is FIRMWARE and each letter reminds me to check the settings on my camera.

F - Focus Auto, Single AF, or manual as desired
I - ISO Set to the BASE ISO or higher if needed
R - RAW Are you saving in the RAW file format
M- Metering Mode Set to Matrix/Evaluative
W - White Balance Auto white balance
A - Aperture Priority Selected and set for Depth of Field
R - Remote Release Connected/charged
E - Exposure Comp Set to Zero EV

Setting Focus
Your camera will have several Auto Focus modes, and also the ability to select Manual Focus allows you to manually set the focus. For landscape photography, I find the Single Point AF is sufficient as I can place the focus point anywhere I need to within my frame. Each camera is different in how you move the focus point.

Setting your ISO
Typically for landscape photography, we need to keep the ISO as low as we can, this will prevent ‘noise’ from appearing in our images. The base ISO for your camera is the lowest ISO you can use without going to a Lo setting. On my Nikon D850, the Base ISO is 64. On some cameras, this will be 100 or even 200. Make sure you are not using AUTO ISO. The only time I find myself increasing ISO is when shooting at night.

I always shoot in RAW. Saving in the RAW file format will make it easier for you to make adjustments to your images after downloading them onto your computer. RAW images are the standard most photographers will use as it allows you to make non-destructive changes to your images with software such as Adobe Lightroom and has almost negated the need for the use of filters out in the field.

Metering Mode
Metering is how the camera measures light across the frame to determine the exposure value. Matrix/Evaluative takes an average across the entire frame. I always set my metering mode to Matrix/Evaluative as I find this gives me a good starting point when shooting landscape photography.

White Balance
Shooting in RAW file format means I can make changes to my white balance later when I transfer my images to the computer. I almost always select auto-white balance and make changes later. If you are saving in RAW + JPEG then it is important to change your white balance before you take your shot.

Aperture Priority
In 95% of landscape photography, I will use Aperture Priority (AV or Aperture Value). This allows me to make sure I am maximising the depth of field of my image, the depth of field represents the amount of my image that is in focus (sharp). Unless I am going for a specific look, then maximising depth of field is my priority, typically I will set the camera between f/8 and f/13.

Remote Release
Using a tripod is great, but you will defeat the purpose if you introduce camera shake by touching the camera to take your photo. A remote release will allow you to press the shutter button without touching the camera. These can be wired or wireless. I prefer wireless as it allows me to trigger my camera without the risk of camera shake. A wireless remote release will need batteries to be checked prior to each outing.

Exposure Comp
Make sure you have set your exposure compensation to zero before starting your shoot. You may be wondering why your photos are over or underexposed otherwise. Once you have checked your histogram and/or flashing highlights on your image preview, you can use the exposure compensation to make small adjustments to get the perfect exposure.

In conclusion, selecting the right camera settings is crucial in landscape photography, and Aperture Priority mode emerges as a valuable tool. You can focus on composing captivating shots while harnessing the power of depth of field control, ensuring sharpness throughout the image, and effectively managing exposure with exposure compensation. Embrace the versatility of Aperture Priority and elevate your landscape photography to new levels.

Download your free copy of my Landscape Photography Camera Setup Checklist

Even the most experienced photographers can ruin a photo with one small mistake. You spend all that time setting up your tripod and camera, but forget to check one thing and the photo is ruined.

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