Photography tips

By: Liz Light, Photography by: Liz Light

Photography tips Photography tips
Photography tips Photography tips
Photography tips The best time is always in the first half hour or last half hour of the day Photography tips
Photography tips Lifting fog or clouds make interesting landscapes Photography tips
Photography tips Photography tips
Photography tips Be aware of foreground, middle ground and background Photography tips
Photography tips Photography tips

Liz Light, award-winning travel photographer and regular contributor to MCD, shares her techniques for taking beautiful landscape photographs

It’s all about light

Light is most beautiful in the golden half-hour. This is the first half hour of sunlight in the morning and the last half hour at night. Landscapes are usually best in this glowing, soft light as it defuses through the Earth’s atmosphere. You can stretch the golden half-hour to an almost golden hour. 

Winter light is often better than summer light, as the sun is neither high nor harsh and shadows are softer.

The middle of the day, in summer, is the most difficult time to photograph; the sun is overhead, glary, and makes severe shadows.

Fog can sometimes be interesting, especially as it lifts. It removes backgrounds and softens layers in landscapes.

While shooting in the sun, remember colour is brighter shooting away from the sun. On the other hand, silhouettes are better shooting towards it.

Beware of the flare reflected on the lens and shade the lens in order to avoid it.

Use clouds to your advantage. Some areas look better without shadows, so wait for a cloud to come over the sun for bright ambient light but no shadows. But if you want brighter colour, wait for the clouds to pass.

Care with composition

The golden ratio

The divine proportion—1/3, 1/3, 1/3 or 1/3, 2/3—applies to both vertical and horizontal photographs. This is about visual harmony and proportion. Once you understand it, you will see it applies to so many things: the shape of books, television screens, movies, paintings, and postcards. 

So often, a photograph with these proportions looks better. Always consider the divine proportion, though, sometimes, it is not appropriate.

Verticals and horizontals

People tend to be more horizontally fixated, especially with landscapes, but verticals can be terrific. 

Leading lines

Watch where they begin and where they finish. Don’t cut the picture in half or indicate that the real interest is off the edge. Try to keep them within the 1/3 ratio. The leading lines don’t need to be horizontal or vertical. It can be more interesting if the leading line enters at a bottom 1/3 and exits at a top 1/3 or vice versa.

Viewpoint and different angles

Never assume that the place that you happen to be standing is the best angle. Move around the subject, move back, move closer, move to the side, and drop down and look at it from low and then high.

It is often good to scope the scene, find what you want, and then wait for the right moment to perfect the composition.

I often wait for the sun to go behind a cloud to reduce shadows and contrast, or for the sun to come out from behind a cloud to increase colour and depth.

Wait for whatever is needed to add the final touch: the person to walk into the scene, or the bird to fly in, or the horse that is walking down the road to pass through. Or organise what you need to happen, for instance, getting a person to be in a place that suits the composition.


Consider foreground, middle ground, and background.

Framing and silhouettes

Trees, leaves, archways, and windows in the foreground can give a picture depth and add another dimension. Silhouettes can be used as framing, or they can be the point of the composition.

We are blessed with a visually diverse and splendid country for landscape photography. New Zealand, we love you.   

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