Updated: Nov 8, 2022
Landscape photography might often be assimilated to one type of photography, the wide vistas. This is a really amazing type of photography, and this is likely to be the most seen on social medias nowadays.
This is most probably the reason that motivated most landscape photographers to start taking photographs seriously. It should definitely be a skill to master to truly appreciate landscape photography.
Wide vistas are cool and important ,but can't we actually have fun doing different type of photographs?
Of course, we can, it would be too bad to be stuck with only one type of photographs. Imagine yourself in a region of the world with no reliefs or mountains, barely some trees, only wheat fields... then you have no other choice than to reinvent yourself to enjoy practicing landscape photography.
That's what I want to discuss in this article. I am going to try to focus on all the various photography styles falling under the landscape photography umbrella. I will not judge if any is better than other as this is subjective, and like everything, tastes and colors are very personal. What I am aiming at here, is raising awareness so that everyone can try different things in each and every situation and especially enjoy shooting even if the place doesn't look appealing at first.
The honest truth is that mastering every kind of photography style is a real challenge. All photographers will gain attraction to different styles and usually come back to it as it's favourite. Discovering and trying new styles can also be an open door to a new favorite.
In case you also want to improve your composition in any of these photography styles, take a look at the Top 12 photography tips article I wrote.
Alright, let's dive in!
Vistas, you understood it, is a very common way of creating great landscape photography. Probably one of the most interesting too.
But beyond this word, we can find everything and nothing, that's why defining this style can be helpful. It can generally be classified as photographs of wide and open landscape gathering several elements such as valley, forest, lake, mountains, fields and so on. The views would be endless on the horizon and would plunge your viewers into the feeling of being part of this place. Vistas could also be all the other pictures that do not enter the other categories. The difficult part is to identify it and recreate it as your eyes see it with the right focal length and the right balance.
I am guessing that some example will save thousands of words, therefore I included some examples below.
It is another very popular photography style that is usually motivating many hikers and nature lovers to start doing landscape photography more seriously. The truth is that there can be a thin line between mountains cape and vistas. As opposed to the previous vistas style and without any surprise, mountains will be the main subject in the photographs taken. No matter if the picture is taken with a wide angle lens with various type of foregrounds or made with a telephoto lens to catch some details of a mountain, these will be some mountainscape. Here are some example that can be compared to vistas.
The famous long exposure that everyone enjoy seeing as well as the wider catch on sea shores will all fall in this category. This is a style that I personally admire a lot. I do not really practice it, as I prefer spending time in the mountains rather than on the seashore. The technique remains rather straight forward, but there are still some rules to know and, as for other type of photography, a need for a lot of practice as well as try and miss. That being said, wide landscape, wave or sea textures can also be included in this category. I am sharing below some of my capture for a better understanding of what can be included in this category.
Woodland is a landscape photography style that includes all photographs relating to trees and forest where these are the main subjects in a photograph. This is a style that I truly love and wish I could practice more. The very cool thing about this style is that you can practice it right next to your door, as forest can be found pretty much anywhere. What is more complicated here, besides techniques and composition, is finding the amazing forest or tree where your shot will create the "wow effect" from the viewers of your photographs. Forests are also great to photograph from fall to spring as they can be seen in various atmospheres. Some trees give really incredible results in while being photographed, such as the silver birch, which to me is a one of a kind type of tree that really renders well.
Desert are among the most impressive and beautiful places to do landscape photography. Regular and elegant shapes drawn by the flying sand rarely disappoint and are perfect subjects for your camera. Whether a wide angle or a telephoto lens is used, great outcome are likely to show up. Some of the most famous deserts can be found in Namibia, in the US or in Chile. However, there are hundreds of deserts around the world that offer great opportunities for stunning catch. Look for them, they might also be closer than you think. As usual, sunset and sunrise times are great to capture them, but actually most of the day is interesting as shadows unveils and changes shapes around the sand.
Shooting waterfalls is an art in itself, and the final results, when well done, are usually amazing. Waterfalls can be found in many places, in many shapes, and with many different composition opportunities. Waterfalls photography requires mastering various techniques such as long exposure, use of a polarizer filter, focus stacking and finally very good post-processing skills. Although it might appear easy to catch a nice picture of a waterfall, catching a stunning photograph will require a lot of efforts. Once again, a lot of practice and a lot of hit and miss will support the production of amazing photographs. Keep in mind that some location such as Iceland are paradise for waterfalls, therefore if this what you want to do, try to organize your trip there as soon as you can.
Astrophotography is a wide photography style regrouping several sub styles. But here we're focusing on those astro pictures that are tilted towards landscape photography. Whether they display mountains, rivers, canyons, trees in the foreground with some great milkyways, the result is likely to be astonishing. This remains a highly technical photography style. From the equipment used with adequate lenses to the actual capture of the photograph, and the post processing some knowledge and practice will need to be acquired for great end result. But one these are mastered, the satisfaction will be near unbeatable.
Aerial is obviously a well known type of photography, and until a couple of years ago it was only feasible through photographers flying in helicopters or aircraft. However, with the emergence of commercial drones, this tendency has evolved exponentially whether to create footage or capture photographs. The real truth with these, is that making a flat and boring land look great has become so easy. But of course some photography rules still needs to be learned to make the shots look outstanding. For the best rendering, working on compositions with diagonals will provide strong results. Coming from a relatively boring landscape location, using a drone has helped me take advantage of such a situation.
9. Wildlife and landscape
This category can be controversial, but let's make thing straight right away. This is not purely wildlife. Here it includes wildlife in their natural environment. In general, a broader landscape can be expected where the animals will only be part of the bigger picture emphasizing either the amplitude of the landscape or because they are completing the image making it interesting to the viewer's eyes. However, superposing animals and interesting parts of a landscape can make up for a great wildlife + landscape shots. Let's take a look at some shots.
10. Architecture and Landscape
In some places, landscapes happen to be beautified by human made structures. It is not frequent, through. When well done, the shapes or the whole atmosphere created by these structures brings the photographs to another level. There are some famous examples, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Ponte Vasco de Gama in Lisbon or the castle of Neuschwanstein in Germany.
Macrophotography is clearly a multidisciplinary photographic style, but it applies perfectly well to landscape photography. With macrophotography, you'll be able to catch either very small pieces of nature such as leaves, grass, wood cracks, mushrooms and so on. All this will get into being able to see fine details of your subject. It also requires the use of either a dedicated macro lens or a macro ring added to your existing lens. As this is a technical photography style, mastering focus blend will be needed to get a perfectly sharp image of your subject from front to back. However, nothing prevents you to be creative and play with the focus on your subject.
Abstract photography allows you to get interesting shapes and/or colors out of a broader landscape. Using a long lens is usually the way to go to get a piece of a far away landscape or a close up of a closer subject. These would usually come in various forms, whether these are small sand shapes created by water on the beach, shapes in the desert, colors layers on a rock, an interestingly shaped wave, etc. the possibilities are unlimited. It is certainly something different and less usual, and combining these with a thoughtful post-processing can provide stunning images.
13. Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)
ICM can also be considered as an abstract photography style. It is a technique that requires to include a movement at the time the photograph is taken. It is usually done with a slow shutter speed of up to 1/60 seconds that helps create a painterly effect on the photograph. Combined with some adequate post-processing, the result can be stunning. This style requires a lot of practice to be mastered, and I admire photographers dedicated to such landscape photography style. Below are a set of photographs I shot using the ICM.
This list of landscape photography styles covers most of the styles photographers will be able to encounter. Every photographer should be aware that mastering all of these styles is probably a work of a lifetime, and even then, not all of them are likely to be mastered.
I personally love Vistas, Mountainscape, Astrophotography and Waterfalls, but I am still keen on practicing new styles regularly. More recently, I have been more interested in improving my Macrophotography and Aerial styles.
Let me know which one you prefer, if I missed one, or if you have any questions related to this article in the comment section below.
About the Author
I am Rémi Bergougnoux, a French travel and landscape photographer currently based in Zurich, Switzerland. My most influential destinations include Latin America, where I spent about a year, Namibia, Iceland, Lofoten and certainly many others.
Aside from photography, hiking, cooking, enjoying good wines and socializing are my main hobbies.