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Landscape photography checklist

Three things to keep in mind when shooting from a great spot

Jaro Kurimsky

When you’re excited to take some amazing pictures, it’s easy to forget to check that you’ve got all the components of a great shot. It only takes a couple of seconds to go through a quick checklist and it could make all the difference in quality. From my perspective, there are three basic components of a good shot:

  • Location
  • Camera setting
  • Accessories

Let’s have a look how these three parts can influence the chance to get amazing shot.


If you have already chosen a place and are prepared to start snapping pictures, look around a bit and think if you can move to better spot. Look around to see if there are any obstacles or whether there’s another spot from which you might get a better angle and view. If you look at the above photo, you will notice the grass coming into the picture from the bottom. I remember taking this from a petrol station. I could have easily taken a few steps and stood behind the grass, but it just didn’t happen because I was rushing too much.

I have found, especially in street photography, that many photographers don’t mind big, ugly rubbish and shadows from street lights or fences. On the Bournemouth seafront, I have often risked a £90/$115 USD fine by jumping behind the fence to take my photo. Not many photographers will take this risk. I have never been caught and have been able to get much nicer and more unique photos because I’m willing to do this.

Bournemouth seafront, “£90 picture” from behind the fence

Camera Setting

The camera setting you choose is another very important factor that can affect the value of your shot. You can ruin all your effort by choosing the wrong setting. If you’re honest, you’ll admit you’ve already made this mistake before. Here is the list I follow every time:

#1 – What’s ISO value and is automatic ISO on? ISO should always be as low as possible to get the least possible noise and maximum details in the shot. There’s actually a myth amongst photographers that high F, and, therefore, high ISO makes the picture sharper. You can read about this myth by clicking on the link.
I make a habit of checking whether automatic ISO is necessary and, if so, whether it is set. I always turn it off always when I am taking an HDR picture, a panoramic shot, or if I’m using a tripod.
In the following picture, I made the mistake of leaving ISO on automatic.

mountains after sunset with bit of sunshine on the peak
Wrongly exposed panoramic picture

The stitched version was absolutely rubbish. I had to spend two hours to get it right in Photoshop, and even had to create a fake sky.

mountains after sunset with bit of sunshine on the peak
National park El Teide, Tenerife, Spain

#2 – The second point in my camera setting list involves focal length. I check the focal length on the lens I’m about to use to take the picture and figure out whether my aperture F setting is in the lens’s sweet spot. Yes, it’s true that lenses perform differently with different F stops. To get the best from your lens, you should know your lens’s sweet spot.

Because I didn’t pay attention when I was taking a following panoramic picture, a few very important shots were too blurry to use because of the height of F, low ISO and the long time each shot took. Fortunately for me, I was able to finish this panorama without using a couple of shots.

big rock resembles head of a pirate on tropical island
Santa Catalina Island, Colombia
Example of blurred image

#3 – The third point in my list pertains to camera accessories. Some accessories are necessary for good photography. From my experience, the accessories you might find most useful include:

  • Lens Cleaning Kit
    I’m baffled at how many enthusiast photographers don’t mind waking up early, travelling a great distance to a very nice place, and then pull out the camera and start taking pictures without ever checking to see if their lens is clean. I see it over and over again. Taking just a little bit of extra time to clean your lens is an easy way to start getting better pictures.
  • Filters – Polariser, Neutral Density
    Have your filters ready and clean! I always check them before I go out.
  • Spare Battery
    I can’t stress enough how important it is to have at least two spare batteries. I actually have four! While my current camera takes about 1100 shots per charge, having four extra batteries on hand at all times ensures that my work doesn’t have to stop due to the inconvenience of a dead battery. What if you travel a long distance and your car converter brakes? You won’t be able to charge your batteries every night. Save yourself this vexation by being over-stocked on spare batteries.
  • Tripod/Monopod
    A good, steady tripod could be very beneficial to have depending on the conditions and environment you’re about to enter. I have a large one and a little one. Mostly I carry a little tripod because I’m not always wanting to carry a large tripod around with me. A small one is more convenient to transport.
  • Remote control
    Most people think of a remote control as a tool to take a group picture or selfies. While there’s nothing wrong with having a remote control for this purpose, it can actually be found to be useful for a variety of reasons. For example, a remote control might come in handy when you’re taking photos of the night sky, fireworks or are shooting in cold weather. For most DSLR cameras, there is IR remote that you can get for under £5. No excuses; you have to have one!

In the history of photography, many missed or screwed up shots have occurred due to just one tiny missed detail. To make sure you always get the shots you want, prepare ahead of time so that you’re ready. Get used to looking for possible errors. Little mistakes here and there can add up and end up costing you time and money.

What are your tricks for making sure your pictures are the best possible?
Comment below!

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