16 Varieties of Landscape Photography

Although I have severely practiced the art of landscape pictures for additional than two a long time, I have in no way questioned the definition of the phrase. It’s rather noticeable, is not it? If I am getting most of my photos outdoor – in the landscape – then I must be a landscape photographer.

But is this normally the case?

In this short article, I will delve deeper into what landscape photography can be deemed to be – and, perhaps additional importantly, what it should not be.

Wikipedia defines the style as pictures that “shows the areas within just the globe, often vast and endless, but other moments microscopic. Landscape photographers generally capture the presence of character, but can also concentrate on male-built features or disturbances of landscapes.”

This does not sound like a quite definitive definition to me, nevertheless: it could often be this, but at other situations it could possibly also be that? For me, there are far too numerous variables in these types of a definition, and this is what I’d like to examine in this posting.

Pure Landscapes

Some images go away us in no question. All shots of grand natural vistas undisturbed by any signs of human presence are indisputably ‘landscape photographs.’ When these scenes are bathed in the proper light-weight, they generally evoke solid emotional responses. Typically they make us would like we were there to encounter the natural beauty for ourselves: in my possess daily life, they definitely have impressed me to travel to areas I might normally under no circumstances have frequented.

This is why this kind of photographs appeal to the travel field. They encourage us to investigate and to experience and seize our personal astounding times. It is also why so numerous landscape photographers who think about themselves purists want to photograph only pristine landscapes, devoid of all human affect.

I stick to the do the job of numerous amazingly gifted photographers of all genres, primarily mainly because their shots encourage me to see their entire world by their eyes. A lot of of them could be referred to as purists, but most are ready to make exceptions to the no-human-impact rule. Some choose pics only at the coastline, when others like discovering the mountains.

Having a temporary appear at some of the other satisfactory (and not-so satisfactory) sub-genres of landscape pictures, it’s fascinating to inquire how many sub-genres essentially exist, and also when can a non-purist landscape photo no longer be known as a landscape image?

Landscapes with People

There are generally very excellent reasons for together with people in a landscape photograph. Considering that we all know the size of the ordinary person, including people in our photographs typically helps us to imagine the relative measurement of the other capabilities in the landscape, therefore adding a feeling of depth and scale to the scene.

Any time we see human figures in landscape images, we can also consider ourselves to be 1 of those people folks, suffering from all that splendor ourselves.

But this is also the place factors begin to get a bit murky. Our brains are instinctively hardwired to figure out the human shape (in particular the deal with) amongst all the other visual muddle that constantly surrounds us. Each time we see people in a landscape image, we cannot support focusing on them. This signifies that any noticeable human beings will generally conclusion up as the main topics in our pictures – no matter how small they are in the scene.

It is not only a dilemma of how major the people are in our shots: it is also about the type of landscape they’re in, and how significantly of our visual attention is diverted away from the landscape and towards the persons. If the lone beach walker in the picture earlier mentioned was replaced by a recently-wed few, could this nonetheless be considered a landscape image? Or would it then immediately be labeled as a marriage photo? This will generally be debatable.

Landscapes with Animals

And what if we decide to involve animals in our landscape shots?

We can use our normal information about the measurement of featured animals to decide the scale of the landscape, but if people animals grow to be much too visually prominent in our compositions, we may possibly relatively be referred to as a wildlife photographer.

In the image of the penguins and the landscape under, was I intentionally hoping to capture a biologically-comprehensive impression of the birds, or was my intention to depict them in their purely natural landscape or ecosystem?

You be the choose.

By the way – sharing this beach with these penguins at sunrise that morning was one of the highlights of my lifestyle. I went deliberately to photograph the penguins – and they could possibly be modest in the body, but they do seize all of our visual awareness.

This is the major explanation why the distinction concerning wildlife and landscape photography is one particular of the most contested debates in our area.

Who would argue that a image of a grand mountain landscape scene together with an eagle in flight was a wildlife photo, or that a photograph of a lion, an elephant, or a giraffe in the African bush could be anything at all but wildlife photography?

So while (to some purists) which include persons or animals in your landscapes really should quickly disqualify you from the landscape images club – get cozy with becoming excluded, since there is very little stopping you from such as both people today and animals in the similar photograph.

City Landscapes

Even when we do not include things like any folks or animals in our landscape pics, the dilemma gets to be much more fraught when the signals of human affect increase.

Is the urban panorama below a landscape image?

It is if you’re an urban landscape photographer – a further sub-genre of landscape pictures, where by the photographer intentionally includes one particular or much more human influences in their landscapes, usually to inform specific stories.

But there are limits here, as well. The story requirements to be about how the buildings alter or greatly enhance the landscape. When you give far too a great deal prominence to an unique constructing or construction, the impression arrives nearer to getting classed as an architectural photograph.

As constantly, even inside of the urban landscape images sub-style, a range of sub-sub-genres show up. Many city landscape photographers are now specializing in roof-topping (shots from the best of skyscrapers) or exploring deserted properties, to title but two. All of their illustrations or photos may also be thought of to be genuine landscape photographs – but this depends on the subjective impression of the observer.


Considering that most folks all-around the entire world reside near to the coastline, it makes sense that several landscape photographers would devote a lot of their imaginative time looking for compositions alongside the seashores and amongst the rocks.

This is seascape images – wherever the shape, texture, and shade of the waves and the ocean become the main focus of our pictures. Other components of the scene – rocks, mountains, and so forth. – will undoubtedly increase to the visible effects of our compositions, but seascape pictures will usually be about the ocean and its moods, and about capturing them in the greatest possible way.

Most folks would promptly recognize Desk Mountain in the impression over, and quite a few would be forgiven for pondering that it was the principal issue in this composition. The principal subject matter in this article is evidently the motion of the ocean, although: the mountain and the pink sky are good additions – but for me, this photograph was all about capturing the h2o in the most fascinating way feasible.


The bigger we climb in the mountains, the clearer the air will become. Superior-altitude landscapes are usually totally devoid of human influence, so lots of of these pictures would also easily in shape into the (extremely prestigious) class of ‘purist landscapes.’

Mountain photographers try to go where by no person has at any time been right before, to capture special images of issues that nobody has at any time found ahead of.


But what if we really don’t are living any where near the coastline or mountains? Definitely passionate landscape photographers aren’t ever discouraged by a lack of a thing. As a substitute they investigate what they do have, and then they test to seize the best probable compositions of these particular geographic options.

Deserts and dunes may possibly look bleak and featureless or even uninteresting to some people today, but they do offer you an infinite wide range of photographic options for purist landscape photographers.

We really should under no circumstances forget about that each and every human being who views our landscapes photos will have their very own interpretation of that scene. For instance, a stunning sunset photograph of a wave breaking about the rocks (a seascape) could possibly have a considerably more powerful psychological affect on an individual who has never ever witnessed the ocean prior to, than on anyone living on the coastline.


Anything can seem incredible with just the right gentle. A single of the most generally-requested inquiries among the landscape images local community is: “If you experienced to pick out in between taking pictures an awesome issue in monotonous gentle, or a tedious topic in remarkable light-weight, which would it be?”

I have constantly picked the latter, normally believing that something can glimpse remarkable with a solid composition and the proper gentle. There is no denying that comfortable, warm, golden-hour light-weight will usually make improvements to the visual appeal of geographical or other attributes. Also, no photo would be attainable without having light-weight, so it follows that the high-quality of the mild should really be the most significant factor of our landscape photographs. Nicely, certainly and no.

Every superior image is composed of 3 main features an attention-grabbing matter, a well balanced composition, and good light-weight. If you can seize all three of those in just one photograph, you typically have a winner.

But good gentle doesn’t necessarily suggest golden light (this was 1 lesson that took me numerous yrs to master). The mild should only at any time emphasize the key aspects of our landscapes, and really should preferably by no means become the primary subject of our shots. The light at dawn and sunset normally does make items glance better than the light at midday, but in some sub-genres of landscape images, the light-weight may possibly be finest at other situations – and certainly, from time to time even at noon.

I consider that it’s normally a lot additional important to explain to plausible stories with our landscape shots than it is to chase after impressive light. We have all viewed incredible sunrises and sunsets, and as landscape photographers, we’re inevitably drawn to capturing them. But it does not issue how technically fantastic a image of a sunrise or sunset could be, except if the impression tells a tale, it will just be however a different photo of a dawn or a sunset.

Notice my phrases in the prior paragraph: “we’ve all noticed astounding sunrises and sunsets”. Even though it does make a great deal of feeling to hold out for the most effective light, it does not make any perception to dismiss the landscape and its story even though earning the sun and gentle the most important subjects of our pictures. Why not? Well, mostly for the reason that we all expertise a person dawn and 1 sunset every single working day of our lives, and while some of them could be extra attractive than many others, without any interesting landscape features, individuals images are generally unexciting.


Forests and woodlands give landscape photographers a bottomless bucket of photographic options, but they also supply us a amount of really serious issues. Aside from some of the additional evident technological constraints – like capturing all the aspects in both of those the highlights and shadows – a single of the greatest problems is discovering something that’s far more attention-grabbing than every thing else, and then composing that thing in the most attention-grabbing feasible way, with out any apparent visual interruptions.

It was in the Knysna forest that I uncovered some really hard truths about landscape photography. While the excellent of the light-weight will usually be 1 of the vital components in each and every photo, forest pictures is largely about subject matter and composition, with the light-weight only playing a small aspect. We could be fortunate more than enough to come across some misty situations, but the mild in the forest is ordinarily only either on or off. It’s by no means orange or pink.


The Snowscape is yet another sub-style of landscape images exactly where light-weight does not essentially participate in a main purpose. In this article it’s typically the bleakest and gloomiest light-weight which is very best capable to convey the stark and featureless mood of a harsh, sub-zero landscape.

If you live in the extraordinary northern or southern latitudes where snow and ice are popular, then remember to do proceed taking images like the one particular earlier mentioned. Even without the need of a single trace of orange or pink, pics like these will normally inspire men and women like me to investigate parts of the earth that we could otherwise never ever see. (This image was shot on 1 of the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I grew up in balmy South Africa, so I can honestly say that even with the lots of thermal layers I wore on that day, I have in no way been so chilly. But I was there to seize snow scenes precisely like this one particular, so that was what I did. No agony, no acquire.)


If you dwell any place in the vicinity of the coast, you’re likely to expertise a few storms in your life span – although they aren’t restricted to the shoreline. Violent thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornados, and many others., manifest routinely in numerous pieces of the world. As the skies switch darkly ominous, so the air gets electric powered.

Some landscape photographers devote most of their time finding out weather conditions patterns and chasing after storms. But while storms often come about outdoors higher than the landscape, storm photography is ordinarily only about the sky, usually with the landscape barely seen in the severe decrease section of the photo. Our landscape pics ought to constantly to start with tell stories about interesting landscapes, and only then about the light-weight and/or the temperature.

If you shot an amazing thunderstorm and obtained some wonderful sharp photographs of lightning strikes but excluded any of the landscape, should those also qualify as landscape pics?

When the key issue of our shots is only at any time the temperature, then we’re no longer landscape photographers. Instead, we have turn out to be weather conditions photographers.


But why limit our landscape photography to earthly characteristics? The landscape does not abruptly close in which the sky begins – which is why it is not possible to often exclude the weather from our landscape pictures.

I unquestionably do not have all the solutions, but I have come to the summary that it all boils down to our principal subjects: what are we photographing, and what concept are we trying to convey by each and every picture?

If the major subjects of our photos are not existing characteristics (purely natural or artifical) of the earthly landscape, then I do not feel that all those pics must be classed as landscape photos.

The panorama higher than was meticulously composed and uncovered to include as substantially of the Milky Way as probable. This picture is clearly all about the stars, and but stars are not a portion of the earthly landscape. So in accordance to the logic previously expressed, this photo shouldn’t be classified as a landscape photograph. Nevertheless it is.

This is because the stars aren’t the most important subject matter in this article. The radio-telescope is, and the story (in circumstance you did not get it) tells of how the human species has developed to the place where by we’re now searching for signs of intelligent everyday living on other planets.

If our pics of the stars do not have any link to the earth (if the principal subjects are only at any time planetary), then we almost certainly really should be categorised as astrophotographers, not landscape photographers.

Aerial Landscapes

The fact that the major topics of our landscape photographs need to normally be earth-sure doesn’t automatically imply that we really should constantly be standing on the earth when we capture those people subjects.

Some landscape photographers are lucky more than enough to have effortless obtain to the air. As with mountainscapes, this sub-style of landscape images allows all those photographers to go to areas where number of other people today ever go, letting them to capture distinctive and unusual compositions of recognizable earthly functions.

Aerial landscape pictures provides a couple complex difficulties that we will not find with other sub-genres. We can’t, for case in point, use a tripod, given that the vibrations of the plane would be transmitted to our digital camera and our pictures would all be blurry. Window reflections can frequently also existing a massive issue.

But passenger plane aren’t the only platforms for aerial landscapes: if you can not afford to constitution an aircraft to fly you to your wished-for aerial spot, you might be ready to seize very similar compositions with a drone.

There is no superior way to seize large and endless landscape pics than from considerably above the earth. But couple of of us are capable to pay for helicopter charters – so unless of course we can afford a excellent drone, we’re almost certainly going to have to stick to photographing the earth from the earth.

As extensive as we’re photographing anything on Planet Earth, the end result should really be found as a valid landscape image.

Personal Landscapes

The good thing is there is far more than more than enough fascinating things down below on earth. We only have to open our eyes a bit wider to the purely natural environment all-around us, to understand to quit and pause and to glance up… and then down. There’s one thing attention-grabbing in all places. Landscape photographers who concentrate only on capturing extensive and endless scenes usually skip out on several (usually extra fascinating) intimate landscape chances that are correct beneath our toes.

You can get as intimate as you’d like in this sub-genre. Acquiring shut to your topics normally reveals aspects that we would not typically see – and the nearer we get (as in each macro- and micro-pictures), the a lot more we see.

It doesn’t subject how significant or smaller they are, as prolonged as our most important subjects are all-natural characteristics connected to the earth, then our images will most probably qualify as landscape pictures.

Abstract Landscapes

All-natural functions connected to the earth never even have to be instantly recognizable for our pics to qualify as landscape pics.

Abstract images is all about the shapes, textures, and hues of matters, fairly than the issues on their own. But listed here our definitions get started to grow to be murky all over again due to the fact there is a variance concerning summary photographs and abstract landscape images. If we simply cannot usually be confident what it is that we’re on the lookout at, then how could we know for guaranteed that it is a natural attribute connected to the earth?

It is for this reason that some photographers sense that summary photography must only at any time be its own genre, and never a sub-genre of landscape photography.

Even so, the image higher than certainly falls into both the abstract and the landscape categories, so in my view it shouldn’t be disqualified from both. There are more than enough visual clues in this article for most of us to work out what this picture depicts. It could possibly be an abstract study of shapes, colours, and textures, but it is also obviously connected to the all-natural, earthly landscape.

Altered Landscapes

A person last (seemingly appropriate) sub-genre of landscape images for discussion here is the industry of altered landscapes.

In reality, an altered landscape is simply a composite (pretend) picture in which quite a few photographs are put together to develop a wholly unique landscape photo.

When I diligently mixed the two images higher than in Photoshop (a reasonably tedious system involving loads of masking and colour corrections, etcetera.), I was equipped to build a single graphic of my own own fantasy landscape:

Why Any of This Matters

Numerous viewers will by now have believed of a number of sub-genres of landscape photography that I haven’t coated right here: underwater shots, for illustration. Absolutely they could possibly qualify as landscape images? (By the way, I have not provided that one merely for the reason that I’ve in no way taken any underwater images).

But why would any of this make any difference to anyone?

Real truth be instructed, it commonly does not (and shouldn’t) make a difference. The correct essence of a attractive photograph will often continue to be extremely hard to define. Elegance is in the eye of the subjective beholder, and nit-finding about regardless of whether a image matches into a distinct class genuinely shouldn’t make any difference to anybody at all.

Even now, I hope this short article will charm to any newbie or superior photographers who enter their do the job into image competitions, which usually require illustrations or photos to explore sure themes or established topics. Whilst most levels of competition judges are usually relatively lenient, a lot of judges (me bundled) would right away disqualify a photo from the levels of competition if it didn’t in shape the mentioned requirements.

And now, after all these terms, I nonetheless have not managed to occur any nearer to acquiring a crisp, clear, a single-paragraph definition of the style of landscape pictures.

About the creator: Paul Bruins is a semi-retired South Africa-primarily based qualified landscape photographer. The thoughts expressed in this post are entirely those people of the creator. For the past 20 years, Bruins has labored to examine and photograph each corner of his hometown and nation. He has arranged and hosted a selection of photographic exhibitions, workshops, and excursions close to the environment. His pictures have also gained quite a few competitions and awards and have been revealed in calendars, magazines, and publications. You can discover extra of his work on his Flickr and Fb.

Graphic credits: Header photograph from Depositphotos