There’s just something about the beauty of a mountain range that can’t be matched.
Whether you’re hiking through the Rockies or the hidden corners of the Alps, you’ll know that mountain ranges offer some of nature’s most beautiful views.
Unfortunately, many amateur photographers need help to express the sheer beauty of these sights through their own pictures.
So, if you’ve ever taken a photograph of a beautiful backdrop, only for it to look pretty underwhelming in your picture… you’re not alone. But what’s the solution?
Today, we’ll be walking you through some of our most essential mountain photography (see also: The Best Mountain Photography Locations)tips for beginners to help you immortalize your visit, and capture the wonder of these impressive natural beauties in your own images.
1.Research, Research, Research
Before you head off to the mountains, don’t forget to do your research. Knowing how to use your camera is just a small part of the process.
You’ll also need to know what the weather is going to be like, what wildflowers are growing, what animals frequent the area, and what time the sun rises and sunsets.
When you’re researching these conditions, think about what you want your images to look like. Do you want a sunset or a sunrise shot? Do you want to capture the mountains in foggy or clear conditions?
Do you want other natural elements like lakes or trails to feature in your shot, and where will you need to stand to capture them?
One of the most important considerations of all is lighting. This is why determining sunrise and sunset times is essential, as it’ll also help you figure out when the sun is going to hit the mountains, which can make or break your picture.
You should also download some offline maps before you go in case you lose signal, and make use of features in Google Earth and Maps to help you determine things like elevations and extra features like meadows and streams.
If you’re planning to climb to the summit, we’d recommend doing a practice hike a few weeks beforehand. This will also help your body prepare for the climb, and ensure you can reach the peak to capture those once-in-a-lifetime shots.
2.Use The Right Tripod
The right tripod can make or break your shots. You’ll need a strong, stable tripod with a good height to help you take those long-exposure shots.
Although it can be tempting to opt for a smaller tripod (especially if you’re going to be hiking for a while), it’s well worth choosing a larger, taller trip that can help you capture the right angles.
Don’t worry, tall tripods can still be just as transportable but be prepared to shop around to find the right model.
Shorter tripods usually sit below eye level, which can deliver less-than-optimal shots. Taller tripods may be a little more weighty, but in our opinion, they’re worth it – especially if you’re going to be shooting from a slope or uneven terrain, where a short tripod can mess with the angles you’re trying to capture.
3.Find Different Perspectives
No matter what mountains you’re going to shoot, chances are, it’s already been photographed a thousand times.
So, if you really want your pictures to stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need to find some unique perspectives to shoot it from.
If you’re trying to get your pictures noticed, replicating the most famous shots of your mountain ranges may be setting you up for failure.
Although it can be tempting, it’s best to explore different perspectives if you want to capture some truly unique shots.
Take some time to explore the areas around your mountains, and scope them out for any great shooting points. For example, are there any roads or meadows nearby that offer a view that others have yet to capture?
How do your mountains contrast with the buildings below them (if any), and can you see potential for this to work in your images?
If possible, avoid crowded places and be prepared to venture on the roads less travelled by to find the best locations.
We’d also recommend visiting your mountains off-season or choosing lesser-known parks and meadows to shoot from.
4.The Rule Of Thirds
Practicing the rule of thirds is a must for any photographer. This trick is used in photography, fashion and even architecture, and in photography, it acts as a guideline that will place your subject to the left or the right of an image, leaving the other two-thirds more open.
Your image will be broken down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically), giving you nine small sections and four gridlines.
If you can place the key features of your image along these gridlines, you’ll have a much stronger composition.
Using the rule of thirds can help you capture the best mountain photographs out there. If the subject of your photo is a mountain peak, keep it at the intersection of your grid, rather than in the center.
You’ll also need to take a close look at your surroundings and see if you can find any pleasing points that can help draw your viewer’s attention toward the main subject of your photo, such as a rock face that slants in the direction of your subject, or even a river or a road.
You should also try and keep your composition as simple and unobtrusive as possible – in most cases, the less you’ve got going on the better!
5.Use The Right Aperture
The right aperture is essential for capturing the best shots. No matter what lens you’re using, you’ll need to keep everything in focus. Using the right aperture is how you’re going to achieve this.
You’ll usually need to use a narrow aperture (f-number) on your camera, and as a general rule, the bigger the number, the more narrow your aperture will be.
Ideally, you’ll be working between f/8 and f/11, but depending on your lens, you may sit even higher.
If you want to be a little lazier (we’ve all been there), why not take advantage of the shortcuts you have on offer?
Your camera’s aperture priority mode will take care of the shutter speed for you so you don’t have to, which can take some extra weight off your shoulders, and help you get the best shots.
The shutter speed can vary depending on your lens, but if you’re using anything less than 1/50th of a second, you’ll need to use a tripod.
You should also be prepared to experiment a little with the f-stop settings on your camera. Lighting can vary dramatically from one angle to the other, so play around with your settings until you find the sweet spot.
Just bear in mind that if you exceed f/11, your pictures may not be as clear. If you’re taking pictures between sunrise and sunset, you’ll also want to widen your aperture as much as possible to allow as much exposure as possible.
6.Keep Tabs On The Edges Of Your Frame
When you’re taking pictures of the mountains, you’ll also want to keep a close eye on the edges of your frame. What’s the focal point of your image, and what other aspects are you using around it to create a scene?
Ensure you’re keeping the most important parts of your image within the frame, and avoid cutting any sections off unless you absolutely have to.
You’ll also need to consider how much space you keep free above the mountain and the frame. This can be a little tricky, but it usually depends on how much cloud coverage you’ve got going on.
If there’s a cloudy sky, you can leave a little more free space to showcase the clouds. However, if you’ve got nothing but blue sky, try keeping the space above the mountains as short as possible.
This will avoid drawing too much attention away from your mountains, and help you get the best shots.
If you’re capturing a night sky, try and keep the sky at around a third of the frame. You’ll also want to take note of the direction of the mountain slopes and look for features that will draw the eye towards the inside of the frame, not out of it.
This isn’t always possible, but if you’re lucky enough to spot these features, take advantage of them!
The Bottom Line
Although there’s more to capturing the perfect mountain shot than just grabbing your camera and hoping for the best, mountain photography probably isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Even if you’re a complete beginner, these tips and tricks can help you produce some of the best shots possible, regardless of weather conditions, or even your equipment!
Just remember: to get the best mountain shots, you’ll often have to put in a lot of work before you even start shooting.
Researching your surroundings and searching for the best spots is essential, so be prepared to put in the work to reap the rewards!