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6 Tips For Photographing Height and Depth

Whether you’re shooting with a DSLR or a smartphone, capturing the scale of a natural landscape can be difficult. There are so many inspiring and majestic elements in natural landscapes that they are truly one of the most interesting subjects to shoot…but in many cases the size, scale, height, and depth just don’t translate on camera. Many natural landscape photos come out of the camera looking flat, and (dare we say) a bit boring, when in reality the scene could be one of the most beautiful you’ve ever come across. While you may be so inspired by the scenery you end up simply pointing your camera and clicking at what you see, we’ve put together a few simple techniques for using height and depth to get the best out of your natural landscape photos. And while these tips are certainly not an exhaustive list, they are so simple to put into action they will surely help your natural landscape photos to go from the vernacular to the spectacular!

Here’s our 6 Tips for Photographing Height and Depth in Natural Landscapes:

1. Straighten Up That Horizon

This might seem like the simplest tip known to man, but it’s one of the easiest to fix so it’s coming in at the top of the list. Sure, you can almost always straighten up your horizon line in post-processing, but you do risk losing or cropping some of your photo that way so why not start off on the right foot? Use a tripod if you have one with you, or make use of a horizon line on your camera or photo app. Many mid-range DSLR’s have a horizon line feature, and many of the high-end photo apps do too…failing that you can always use an in-app grid to line up your horizon! How does this improve the depth and height of your image? When looking at a straight horizon line, the eye no longer has to translate the photo against a crooked horizon, meaning you get a better sense of the size and scale of the other elements in the image without having to “visualize” what they make look like with a straight horizon.


 

Teton Mountain Range
Photo by RH Miller


2. Shoot From A Vantage Point (And At A Distance)

It doesn’t make much sense shooting huge structures like mountain ranges and rolling hills from the bottom of said mountain…to get the best sense of height and depth you should be shooting from a distance, and if you can from a higher or equally as high vantage point. This gives a much better sense of the scale and enormity of the subject.


 

Mountain Dophu Ngatra
Photo by Reurinkjan


3. Include Foreground Elements For Perspective

Although it can sometimes be difficult to find smaller elements that occur naturally in the scene, if you can include something (or someone) in the foreground of your photo to emphasize the scale, the viewers will get a much better sense of height and depth from your photo. These elements could be anything from houses, buildings, boats, animals, people, and many more. Don’t forget that when shooting something in the far distance the foreground isn’t necessarily right in front of your camera, it may still be several (hundred) feet or yards away. The idea here is to show a familiar object in the scene so the viewer can sense the perspective you want to emphasize in the scene.

4. Include Vertical Lines For Perspective

Much like the tip above including a vertical element in your photo can also give a good sense of height and depth – this could be anything from a person standing somewhere in the scene to an interesting tree, or even an electrical pole. Something vertical not only gives a sense of the terrain, this could be rugged and rocky or completely flat, either way a vertical line in opposition to the horizon can be very effective for emphasizing the height and depth of the other elements in your image.

5. Capture Reflections

This is another really simple one, as something that appears not once but twice in your image makes it seem bigger and more important through symmetry. Although it doesn’t necessarily show the height or the depth of your main subject, it often brings new textural elements to the photo which naturally gives a better sense of depth in the composition. Also, water occasionally has other interesting elements that may provide perspective such as sand, rocks, boats, or branches. Don’t discount the effectiveness of a good reflection in nature photography!


 

Grand Teton Mountain Range
Photo by jimf_29605


6. Shoot Panoramic If You Can

Our last and final tip is one that might require a little bit of extra effort but will really earn you bang for you buck when it comes to depth. Shoot a panorama of the scene to capture as much of it as possible. There are several good iPhone apps for shooting panoramas (360 Panorama and Autostitch, to name but a few) and if you have one you could make good use of your Gymbl tripod here. If you’re shooting with a DSLR the key things to remember are to use a tripod (even better if it has a sweeeping or panning head), and to overlap your shots by at least 30% to get the best results when you merge your photos together.

 

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