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What Makes Good Landscape Photography

Images must create an emotional response in the viewer. The first step of any workshop is to ask the question, “What makes good landscape photography”; so we know what we aim to achieve. Creating an emotional response, is to create a connection with the image on a human level that goes beyond good photographic technique. In our mind, we travel into the photograph, walk around, searching and exploring; momentarily lost ‘somewhere else’. Viewing becomes an experience. Old master painters for over 600 years have searched for their own solutions; solutions we can apply to our photographs. Workshops teach you the aesthetic qualities and technical skills to achieve them.

The Critical Qualities We Aim To Achieve.

Photography Tutorial, What makes good landscape photography. Photo from Cumbria. David Osborn Photography
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Aesthetic Quality 01

1. Emotional Response

What makes good landscape photography above all else, is the ability to evoke an emotional response in the viewer, a feeling, a reaction, an opinion. Images that we respond emotionally to, we connect with and form a bond. We are grabbed by them and want to study them. An emotional response is an instant sub-conscious response without logical thought. They communicate. On a physical level the subject content, on an emotional level the mood. Without that emotional response we glance and walk by, forgetting we had seen the image. An image that fails to create an emotional response, fails totally. Emotional response is the ultimate end goal of all good landscape photography.

2. Captivate the Viewer

The photograph with light, form, mood and depth, even a feeling of time, creates an image you mentally walk into, around and explore. Good landscape photography really captivates the viewer. They hold the viewers’ attention, taking you on a personal journey, creating an experience in your imagination. They offer enough to grab our attention, but not enough to tell us everything. They ‘imply’, making us fill in the gaps and make the viewer work, engage and explore. They leave something for our imagination to fill in. A good test, is that you should be able to very easily write a short narrative on paper about what the image evokes in your mind. If all it inspires is ‘castle on hill’, it probably failed!

3. Clear Idea

Would you write a book without an idea? How much time do you spend doing things without any idea of why you are doing them! So, why take a Photograph without any idea of why you are doing it! All you end up with is an image that has nothing to say. What I call a product shot or a, ‘so what’ picture. What makes good landscape photography is communicating an idea and a story to tell. A purpose. The most effective way is to have a ‘one picture, one idea’ rule. This avoids confusing mix messages and a single idea with clarity of thought, is most likely to communicate fast. Communicating fast and with a clearly defined purpose, is a photograph well on the way to being successful.

What Makes Good Landscape Photography. Image of Sheep, Cumbria, England. David Osborn Photography
Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria, England

Aesthetic Quality 02

4. Geographic Signature

Good landscape photography should capture the feel and soul of the location, its geographic signature. A photograph taken in America should ‘look’ American. An image taken in France should ‘look’ French. Geographic signatures capture unique physical objects whose style are clues to the photos location. Ask “What does this location have, that you will not find anywhere else?”. This can be the feel of the hills, style of mountains, architectural design of the buildings even the weather that is ‘typical’ to that part of the world. When we first look at the photograph we must have edited down its location from ‘the world’ to Norway, Dubai, Qatar, Germany. All different countries with different style signatures.

5. Story of light

Light is the aesthetic language of good landscape photography. Light communicates the life and soul of the landscape, the mood, the emotion. The objects are the physical description, the light is the story. What makes good landscape photography is mood, a story of how the light interacts with the landscape and creates mood. Taking inspiration from the old master painters like Rembrandt, the landscape photography workshops teach Photoshop editing techniques taken from the principles of old master painting where light was such an important quality. A photograph without a sense of light will be have no soul. Portraying light is the heart of good landscape photography.

6. Clean Composition

Composition is simply deciding what content is relevant to communicate your idea, then placing those elements in harmony both with each other and as a complete image so your idea is communicated well. There is no neutral content, everything in the photograph works either for the idea or against the idea. The aim is to keep only the most minimal yet relevant content. One object is a fact, two objects make a story because we want to understand the relationship between the two. More than two, means more complexity to analyze and therefore less speed, The more minimal the content, the clearer and faster the message. Simple and clean compositions, make strong landscape photographs.

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What Makes Good Landscape Photography. Image of Fly Fishing, England. David Osborn Photography
Fly Fishing, Cumbria, England

Technical Quality

7. Optical Illusion

Technically, what makes good landscape photography is creating an optical illusion on paper, fooling our brains into thinking that what we are looking at has depth, form and light, the three-dimensional quality. Technical craftsmanship gives us the means to create this illusion. If the technique is of a poor standard, our brain is unable to go beyond seeing the literal ink on paper, no convincing illusion is created. Psychologically we always remain disconnected from the scene. Create the illusion and we enter a whole new world psychologically. Combine this with aesthetic mood, we create the two critical elements required for an emotional response. Optical illusions with mood.

8. Rich Tonality

Rich tonality is the technical language of all good landscape photography. On a technical level, landscape photography workshops spend a great deal of time teaching Photoshop editing techniques to control tone and contrast, to create correct tonal relationships that convey mood, atmosphere, object form, spatial form, texture and distance. Rich tonality and having tonal control is essential because in a landscape photograph we only have tone and color as our language to use in creating the image, the optical illusion. Heavy tones create the pictures structure, its foundation, the subtle silvery tones the life and sparkle. The more tonal range we have and use, the more the photograph comes alive.

9. Sharpness

We see the world sharp, so we need to make our optical illusion sharp. The more we remove all signatures of the photographic technique like noise, grain and keeping the image sharp, the more we enhance the optical illusion. We have less to remind us, that what we are looking at is not real, but a photograph. Signatures of the photography technique create a psychological barrier, preventing us from getting into and exploring the photograph in our mind. Have you ever embarrassingly walked into a glass door? You did that because the glass door was so clean, that it had no signatures to remind you of the door; psychologically you had already entered the room when you hit it.

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What Makes Good Landscape Photography. Image of Edinburgh, Scotland. David Osborn Photography
Edinburgh, Scotland

Why Images Fail

What is the most common reasons images fail to make good landscape photography? Two reasons. A lack of thought and over emphasis on technical quality alone. The common approach to photography, is to shoot hundreds of frames from all different angles, then choose the best frame after the shoot at home. There is only one problem with this approach. If you take an image without an idea, the picture ‘communicates’ a lack of idea to the viewer. If we shoot hundreds of frames, then we end up with hundreds of frames – that ‘communicates’ a lack of idea to the viewer. How can it communicate something it never had? Volume will never replace ideas, thought and planning.

On the landscape photography workshop, I place enormous emphasis on transferring the questions you ask yourself when editing your images at home, to being THE questions to ask yourself – before shooting. Asking “What makes good landscape photography?” – at the camera while you have the chance to make changes. The theory that by pure chance, you will find one you ‘like’ is flawed. What happens if you ‘like’ the angle in one, the light in another, the people in a third? The number of variables is enormous. Without an idea, you will never get all the elements you ‘like’ together. Remove luck by thinking first, shooting second! Photography is also very intellectual.

The second failure, over emphasis on technical quality alone is a big mistake because technique is only the language of photography. Like a foreign language, the more fluent we can speak it, the better we can express our ideas, but it is only of value when we have an idea to express. Language on its own is pointless. What we want to communicate is our ideas, not well good we speak. Good landscape photography communicates, uses a location as a prop for an opinion and a mood. Compose the subject, shoot the light, print the mood; create a personal artistic statement that evokes an emotional response through aesthetic quality and technical craftsmanship together in harmony.

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The Photography Workshops

Workshop for Black and White photography in Spain. Photograph of Valencia architecture. David Osborn Photography.

Black & White Photography

Black and White workshop in Valencia, Spain shooting modern architecture.

Norway image for standard photography workshops. David Osborn Photography.

Landscape Photography Workshops

Standard workshop here in UK, your home overseas or travel with you to a third location.

Photograph of Buckingham Palace for Photoshop course London. David Osborn Photography.

Photoshop London

Adobe Photoshop training in London. Booked on a per day basis or extended course.

Photograph of Pisa, Italy for Italy photography workshop. David Osborn Photography.

Italy Workshop

Short break, group photography workshop in Pisa, Italy lasting three days creating this image.

Get in Touch …

Feel free to email David Osborn in person.

Additional Tutorial Reading

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Landscape Photography Workshops with Photoshop | David Osborn

One-week landscape photography workshops brought to your home overseas or here in Great Britain. Three subjects combined into one workshop: Visualization, Photography and Photoshop. You learn the complete workflow to create the photographs shown here and leave the workshop with all the techniques used, fully documented and Photoshop files to create the images yourself. One to one tuition worldwide, all booked on demand with no preset dates, being held all year-round. You choose the location of your choice and your convenient date. Simply send me an email and we plan your photography workshop.

Contact David Osborn Photography
69 Grange Gardens, Southgate,
London N14 6QN, England, UK

T: UK +44 (0) 771 204 5126
E: David@PhotoshopWorkshops.Com

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