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Freehand landscape photography techniques

By August 14, 2015 Photography No Comments

The best landscapes are almost always shot with the camera on a tripod so you can best control camera stability, composition, depth of field, and bracketing for HDR. However, digital technology and stabilised lenses have made it easier to shoot freehand, and this increased freedom opens up shooting options than film cameras couldn’t offer.

freehand shooting

Using a tripod on a canoe? Probably not the easiest option!

Traditionally, the lowest suggested shutter speed for freehand shooting was 1/focal length, so with a 100mm focal length the lowest freehand shutter speed should be 1/100 second. However, modern camera and lens stabilisation technology offers anywhere from a 2–5-stop shooting advantage. This means that a 5-stop stabilisation system would allow you to shoot freehand with a camera and 100mm lens at 1/4 second, rather than 1/100 second, and maintain the same image quality. It still takes a steady hand to take a great shot, but stabilisation helps reduce camera motion issues considerably.

freehand shooting

Shooting freehand gives you the freedom to adjust to changing conditions and try alternate compositions.

To help hold the camera steady while shooting freehand, hold the camera and lens with the combined weight balanced in the centre of your hand. Tuck your elbow in against your chest to stabilise your arm with your upper body and help steady the camera in your hand. For extra support, lean against a tree, post, or building. Alternatively, sit down and prop your elbow near your knee, wrap the camera strap around your hand, hold the camera tightly against your face, and then aim, exhale, and gently press the shutter release.

freehand shooting

Freehand is the only way to shoot when up in a plane. Sometimes depth of field is as important as shutter speed, which makes all the settings more critical.

In addition to steadying the camera, be sure to shoot multiples of the same image. Even when you’ve done everything possible to make sure the camera is steady, the slightest movement made while taking a shot can cause motion blur in parts or all of a photo. With the camera set to its continuous shooting mode, I’ll shoot a minimum of three, and as many as eight to ten consecutive photos. With marginal shutter speeds, perhaps half of your shots will be acceptable, while hopefully a couple will be perfectly sharp everywhere throughout the photo.

Freehand shooting

Freehand shooting is fine as long as there’s enough light to give you the aperture and depth of field needed while maintaining a fast enough shutter speed.

101 Top Tips for Landscape Photography is where professional landscape guru Carl Heilman II gives the benefit of a lifetime spent shooting spectacular wilderness and mountain shots, offering a host of targeted tips and tricks that will allow photographers of all abilities to lift their landscape work to the next level. The reader will learn how to harness natural drama, use difficult lighting situations to your advantage and capture unusual perspectives, all the while benefiting from Carl’s clear instruction and beautiful landscape work.

101 Top Tips for Landscape Photography, Carl Heilmann II101 Top Tips for Landscape Photography
Carl Heilman II

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