Digital Photography Composition Tips: Wide-Angle Landscape Photos

by Doug Steakley

digital photography composition tips
wide-angle landscape
© Doug Steakley
All Rights Reserved

Digital Photography Composition Tips

1. Shoot in aperture priority at f16. When using a wide-angle lens, f stops greater than f16 (higher f number) will suffer from diffraction, which means that there is a falloff in focus and the background will not remain sharp. Avoid using the maximum aperture the lens has available when photographing landscapes.

2. Use a tripod. When the aperture is closed down to f16, the shutter speed will decrease, so it is very important that the camera be stable.

3. Use a cable release. A cable release allows you to remove your hands from the camera body and reduces the chance of camera shake. If you don't have a cable release, then try setting the self timer to 2 seconds, press the shutter and take your hands away from the camera.

4. If your camera has it, use mirror lock-up. The mirror lock up feature reduces the slight camera movement that might be caused by the mirror flipping up just before the shutter opens.

More Wide-Angle Photography Tips

5. Use hyperfocal focusing. Hyperfocal focusing refers to a complicated formula which basically says that you focus partway into the scene - usually about 1/3 to 1/2. I wish all lenses had the hyperfocal lengths marked on them as they use to have, but with the advent of digital photography and digital lenses, these markings have been removed. You can guess at the hyperfocal distance by focusing about 1/3 of the distance into the photograph and realizing that the foreground will appear to be out of focus when you look through the viewfinder. A better solution is to use a "cheater card" available from fotosharp. These cards cost only $5.00 and will tell you the correct hyperfocal distance for your camera and lens at the aperture setting you are using.

6. Use the lowest ISO setting for the highest resolution; this is usually ISO 100 or 200.

7. Turn off Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction. With some of the newer lenses, this is not an issue, but I still make it a practice to turn off IS or VR when the camera is on a tripod.

8. Switch to manual focus and follow the guidelines of where to focus that are on the "cheater card", or as mentioned, partway into the scene. Another possibility is to focus directly on the foreground, if it is an essential element of the image and sacrifice some softness in the distance.

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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Doug Steakley
Photography Instructor: Doug SteakleyDouglas Steakley is a widely published photographer from Carmel Valley, California. His distinct images range from the Monterey Peninsula to many international destinations where he enjoys traveling.

Two large-format books featuring his color photography have been published: Pacific Light, Images of The Monterey Peninsula, in 2000, and Big Sur and Beyond, The Legacy of The Big Sur Land Trust, in 2001. Pacific Light won an Honorable Mention from the National Outdoor Book Awards in 2001. A third book, A Photographer’s Guide To The California Coast, was published in 2005, by Countryman Press. Doug is currently working on a fourth book, A Photographer's Guide To The Big Sur Coast, which will be released in 2010.

Photographs by Doug Steakley have received awards in many photography contests including those sponsored by National Geographic Traveler magazine, Petersen’s Photographic magazine and The National Park Service. He recently won a two week safari to Africa as the Grand Prize Winner in a photography contest co-sponsored by National Geographic and Energizer batteries.

Doug supports and works closely with several land conservation groups and a variety of his images have been published in annual reports and a variety of other publications. He has worked with The Big Sur Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, The Land Trust Alliance, The Trust For Public Land, The Wilderness Coalition, The Tuolumne River Trust and The Monterey County Regional Park District. In 2003, he received the Ansel Adams Award from The Sierra Club for his conservation photography.

His images have been widely published in many local, national and international magazines including Architectural Digest, Backpacker, Outside, Better Homes and Gardens, Art and Antiques, Private Pilot, Luxury Living, The Robb Report, and Town and Country. He regularly contributes to travel catalogs published by Wilderness Travel, Mountain Travel and others.

Recent one-person exhibitions of Doug's photography include The Pacific Grove Art Center, The Fireside Gallery at the Highlands Inn, The Monterey Conference Center, The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, The Maureen Doud Gallery in The Sunset Center, and The Gallery at The Blackstone Winery in Gonzales.

Doug's stock photography is represented world-wide by Lonely Planet Images.
Doug currently serves as treasurer on the board of directors of The Center For Photographic Art in Carmel, California.

Aside from photography, Doug is an avid cyclist and recently completed his third Markleeville Death Ride in the Sierras.