Simple Photo Tips

Best Camera Settings for Landscapes

Camera settings for landscapes cover

The right combination of settings can make all the different between getting an ok shot and an amazing shot.  It’s fine balance of exposure, focus depth of field, focal length, sensitivity settings, and so forth.  It you want the opportunity to get the very best images possible, read on.  This is about the best camera settings for landscapes.  It’s the perfect guide to make sure you get amazing landscape images!

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

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Best camera settings for landscapes

Point, shoot and pray

Dull, lifeless, uninspiring landscape photography is easy to accomplish.  Just put your camera in auto mode, dial your focal length down to it widest setting, point and press the shutter.  I see photos taken this way all the time.

Sometimes you get lucky, and the stars align just right, and you get fairly good shot.  But more often you get something kind of flat.  Fixing that is as easy as understating the challenges, and the solution to those challenges.  Then dialing in the right balance of settings to implement the solutions.

Getting into the right shooting mode

In order to set the best values required for landscapes, you are going to need to put the camera into manual shooting mode.  This is where you will be controlling and setting every parameter of the shot.   If you are not familiar with manual mode, or if you’ve tried it and gotten poor results, don’t fear it.  Following all the settings in this post will put you in a good place.

Photography and the magic of exploration

The challenges of landscape photography

Environmental influences

Landscape photography is by definition, outdoors.  Therefore, the environment has a huge impact on the scene.  Even light wind can move leaves around.  Depending on the time of day, water vapor reflects sunlight causing haze. 

Depth of the landscape scene

Landscape scenes tend to be very deep.  There will usually be objects close, not close and really far away.  This can present a challenge of keeping everything in the scene in focus.  It also provides a lot of space for the above environmental challenges to come into play.

High contrast in outdoor photography

Depending on the sun and time of day, very bright light can blow out highlights and cause super dark shadows.  This can be a bad thing if you let it, or you can work with it and make it a feature of your photos.

Problems that cannot be fixed with editing

These challenges mentioned above can cause problems that simply cannot be adjusted while editing.  Nearly impossible to remove unwanted motion blur.  You cannot fix blown out highlights or completely under exposed shadows.

Its always best to make sure you are getting the very best images at the time of capture.  It can mean the difference between something usable and something you delete.  It can also mean the difference between a marginal image and an amazing image.

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Best camera settings for landscapes – Exposure

Shutter speed

In order to freeze movement in the scene, you need fairly fast shutter speed.  This will help with things like moving leaves, waving flags, crashing waves, etc.  Setting a fast shutter speed will require balancing other settings to match as listed below.

The best shutter speed for static landscape shots is 1/750 to 1/1000

If you want to capture moving water, that requires a slower shutter speed.  This includes things such as waterfalls or flowing streams and get the creamy blur in the water.  For those situations see the following post:  How to photograph a waterfall

Don’t fear the ISO

When your shutter speed is higher, you will need a higher ISO setting to compensate.  Right now, you are probably thinking higher ISO means higher noise.  Not completely true.   ISO and shutter speed are relational.  Faster shutter speed doesn’t allow enough time for the sensor to generate noise at higher ISO settings.

The best ISO setting for higher shutter speed is Auto ISO with the upper limit set to 6400

Max-Auto-ISO

Best camera settings for landscapes – Focus

Depth of field

Because of the depth of most landscape scenes, a larger aperture value is required.  This is to increase depth of field and ensure that most objects are in sharp focus.   Most lenses have a sweet spot in their aperture range that is the sharpest zone.  Luckily those ranges tend to overlap around F/8

Therefore, the best camera settings for landscapes includes using an aperture value of F/8.  You can also use F/11, but do not go above that unless you have to for some reason.  Higher aperture values start to reduce sharpness above F/11

You may be interested in this post:  Best Canon lens for landscape photography

Maximize auto focus

Another one of the best camera settings for landscapes is to implement back button focus.  This will allow you to set and lock focus on any point within your scene.  Then you can recompose and shoot without changing the point of focus.

There is reason for doing this in very deep scenes. It is because, you want to pick an object that’s approx. 30% into the scene to focus on.  This helps to ensure that objects close up are in acceptable focus and everything else is in sharp focus.

You may be interested in this post:  Back Button Focus – You should be using it

Camera settings for landscapes twilight

Best camera settings for landscapes – Color Balance

White Balance

When considering the best camera settings for landscapes, don’t overlook white balance.  You are likely going to be taking photos on sunny or partly cloudy days.  For that situation set your white balance to: “Daylight”.   On the other hand, if the cloud cover goes to 60% or greater, you’ll need to set it to: “Cloudy”.  If it’s completely overcast with very little or no sun, choose “Shade”

Picture Style Settings

Some cameras have the ability to set a picture style.  Examples include standard, neutral, portrait, landscape, etc.  If you chose the “landscape” picture style, this has the effect of prioritizing the greens and blues over other colors.

It also adds extra edge sharpening so that objects are more separated.  This keeps trees, rocks, mountains, etc. from sort of blending together and looking flat.  This only matters if you are saving your images in JPG format.  If shooting in RAW this setting doesn’t affect the image output.

Best camera settings for landscapes table

Below is a handy table of the settings you can use as a quick reference

SettingBest Value or Alternate Value(s)
Shutter Speed1/1000 or 1/750
ApertureF/8 or F/11
ISO (sensor sensitivity)Auto with 6400 upper limit
Focus TriggerBack Button Focus
Focus Depth30% into the scene
White BalanceDaylight or Cloudy (if overcast Shade)
Picture StyleLandscape

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Best Camera settings for landscapes summary

Use these settings and you will have greater success in getting amazing landscape photography.  So, the next task is to get out there and put these to use.  You’ll be happy with the results.  Until next time, take care and have fun!

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