One of the questions we get most frequently is “How do I get started in Landscape Photography?” That’s a pretty broad question, but today, I’m going to take a stab at answering that.
First – and obviously – you will need a camera to take picture with.
“What kind of camera do I need?”
Before you go out and spend tons of money on equipment, ask yourself what kind of photographer you are. Are you just hoping to take some good photos on your next vacation? Or are you looking to pursue photography as a serious hobby? Maybe you even want to go pro someday. If you are just looking to take some good snapshots on your next vacation, an inexpensive consumer-grade DSLR or a small “Point-n-Shoot” would be just fine. If the conditions are right, and you know what you’re doing, you can even take pretty decent shots with a smart phone camera.
On the other hand, if you are going to get up at ungodly hours, put up with nasty weather, drive long distances, fight grizzly bears, and rescue the Princess just to get the next great landscape photo… you’ll probably want a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). So, what camera should you get? If you are truly a beginner and can’t tell the difference between shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, any DSLR camera will work for you. Choose a company you feel you can trust, and look for positive reviews online. If you want something a little better than the basics, you can consider investing in a mid-level DSLR (Canon sells the 50D and 60D in this range – and we’ve used those, so we feel comfortable telling you they are excellent cameras. Other companies have similar options in a range of prices.) These cameras will be bit more rugged than your average consumer level camera, and will fare better in harsh outdoor weather. Take good care of them, and they should last for years, too.
What lens should I purchase?
You can spend more money on fancy lenses than on your camera body. If you are just getting started in landscape photography, we recommend purchasing a normal zoom lens. A focal range of about 28mm – 70mm on a full frame camera should work well for you. If you have a 1.5 or 1.6 crop factor camera (if you don’t know what that means, just check the camera specs or ask the seller) a 17mm – 40mm lens will cover that range. A lens that covers a wider range will work just fine, too. Oftentimes, camera manufactures will sell a camera “kit” that includes the camera body and a lens that covers that basic zoom range.
A basic zoom lens will have some limitations. You’ll want something longer and faster for wildlife photography, or something with close-focus capabilities for macro photography. A zoom lens will allow you to explore concepts like depth of field and hyper focal distance – while getting some really nice shots. It will work well for landscape photography and as a general purpose lens.
What other equipment do I need?
For landscape photography, you’ll also need a tripod and a ball head. Light conditions vary dramatically throughout the day – and if you are shooting early in the morning or late in the evening, low-light conditions will make it necessary to keep your camera steady for long shutter speeds.
Because you will be photographing the great outdoors(of course), we recommend you get a metal or carbon fiber tripod whose legs move independently of one another. These tripods are more rugged and will hold the camera more securely than a plastic tripods. A ball-head with a quick-release latch will allow you to easily take your camera off your tripod to make adjustments, or to preview an image. Both these pieces of equipment will have to be cleaned regularly to keep them working properly.
What about all those fancy filters and other stuff?
It’s true that we do carry a few filters (GND, ND, Circular Polarizer) but you don’t need them to get started in landscape photography. We also carry a remote release, a back-up camera, and a variety of special lenses (macro, telephoto, etc.), but you should get to know your camera – and learn to use it in manual mode – before you start using this equipment.
The more equipment you start with, the more confusing it will be to decide which pieces to use when you are shooting. Having just one camera and one lens will allow you to concentrate on understanding how to use your new equipment effectively.
Of course, the next step is to learn how to take photos…Continued to Beginner Landscape Photography: Learn to Shoot