16 Kinds of Landscape Pictures

Barbara Merkley

Whilst I have significantly practiced the artwork of landscape pictures for much more than two decades, I’ve never questioned the definition of the expression. It is reasonably apparent, isn’t it? If I am getting most of my pictures outdoor – in the landscape – then I must be a landscape photographer.

But is this generally the circumstance?

In this short article, I will delve deeper into what landscape pictures can be regarded to be – and, maybe a lot more importantly, what it shouldn’t be.

Wikipedia defines the style as images that “shows the spaces within just the globe, at times vast and unending, but other periods microscopic. Landscape photographers commonly seize the existence of nature, but can also target on gentleman-manufactured functions or disturbances of landscapes.”

This does not sound like a very definitive definition to me, while: it could in some cases be this, but at other situations it may well also be that? For me, there are far too lots of variables in these kinds of a definition, and this is what I’d like to investigate in this report.

Pure Landscapes

Some images leave us in no question. All shots of grand purely natural vistas undisturbed by any indications of human existence are indisputably ‘landscape pictures.’ When these scenes are bathed in the proper gentle, they frequently evoke robust psychological responses. Primarily they make us wish we were being there to encounter the splendor for ourselves: in my individual everyday living, they absolutely have motivated me to travel to destinations I could possibly if not under no circumstances have frequented.

This is why such photographs attraction to the journey field. They encourage us to discover and to knowledge and seize our individual remarkable times. It is also why so lots of landscape photographers who take into account them selves purists choose to photograph only pristine landscapes, devoid of all human influence.

I stick to the function of many extremely proficient photographers of all genres, generally because their pics inspire me to see their planet through their eyes. A lot of of them could be referred to as purists, but most are well prepared to make exceptions to the no-human-influence rule. Some acquire pics only at the coast, while other individuals really like checking out the mountains.

Taking a temporary seem at some of the other satisfactory (and not-so acceptable) sub-genres of landscape photography, it’s fascinating to talk to how several sub-genres basically exist, and also when can a non-purist landscape picture no longer be known as a landscape photograph?

Landscapes with Individuals

There are normally extremely very good good reasons for together with men and women in a landscape photograph. Because we all know the dimension of the common person, which include folks in our photos usually allows us to imagine the relative dimensions of the other attributes in the landscape, thus introducing a feeling of depth and scale to the scene.

When we see human figures in landscape photos, we can also picture ourselves to be 1 of these people today, going through all that splendor ourselves.

But this is also in which matters begin to get a little bit murky. Our brains are instinctively hardwired to realize the human condition (specially the confront) among all the other visual muddle that continually surrounds us. Anytime we see individuals in a landscape image, we can not help concentrating on them. This means that any obvious people will commonly finish up as the main topics in our images – no make a difference how tiny they are in the scene.

It’s not only a query of how massive the persons are in our shots: it is also about the type of landscape they are in, and how considerably of our visible attention is diverted away from the landscape and towards the people. If the lone beach front walker in the photo over was replaced by a newly-wed couple, could this continue to be regarded a landscape photo? Or would it then immediately be categorised as a marriage photograph? This will usually be debatable.

Landscapes with Animals

And what if we come to a decision to include animals in our landscape pics?

We can use our standard expertise about the sizing of showcased animals to identify the scale of the landscape, but if all those animals turn into much too visually outstanding in our compositions, we could possibly rather be referred to as a wildlife photographer.

In the image of the penguins and the landscape underneath, was I deliberately seeking to seize a biologically-in-depth picture of the birds, or was my intention to depict them in their purely natural landscape or setting?

You be the decide.

By the way – sharing this seaside with these penguins at dawn that early morning was one of the highlights of my lifestyle. I went deliberately to photograph the penguins – and they might be tiny in the body, but they do seize all of our visual consideration.

This is the major reason why the variance amongst wildlife and landscape pictures is a single of the most contested debates in our subject.

Who would argue that a picture of a grand mountain landscape scene which includes an eagle in flight was a wildlife picture, or that a image of a lion, an elephant, or a giraffe in the African bush could be anything but wildlife photography?

So though (to some purists) which includes people or animals in your landscapes ought to right away disqualify you from the landscape photography club – get comfy with staying excluded, since there is practically nothing stopping you from such as equally individuals and animals in the same photograph.

Urban Landscapes

Even when we don’t consist of any people today or animals in our landscape pics, the question becomes far more fraught when the symptoms of human affect enhance.

Is the city panorama below a landscape photograph?

It is if you’re an city landscape photographer – a different sub-genre of landscape images, in which the photographer intentionally consists of one or additional human influences in their landscapes, typically to tell distinct stories.

But there are limitations here, way too. The tale demands to be about how the structures change or boost the landscape. When you give as well substantially prominence to an particular person building or framework, the image will come nearer to remaining classed as an architectural photograph.

As generally, even inside of the urban landscape images sub-style, a number of sub-sub-genres show up. Several city landscape photographers are now specializing in roof-topping (pictures from the prime of skyscrapers) or discovering deserted buildings, to identify but two. All of their pictures may also be deemed to be legit landscape photographs – but this depends on the subjective viewpoint of the observer.


Due to the fact most men and women close to the earth live near to the coastline, it would make sense that lots of landscape photographers would shell out much of their artistic time exploring for compositions together the shorelines and among the rocks.

This is seascape photography – exactly where the form, texture, and shade of the waves and the ocean turn into the most important focus of our photos. Other aspects of the scene – rocks, mountains, and so forth. – will certainly incorporate to the visible effect of our compositions, but seascape photography will constantly be about the ocean and its moods, and about capturing them in the greatest achievable way.

Most people today would instantaneously recognize Desk Mountain in the graphic over, and lots of would be forgiven for pondering that it was the major issue in this composition. The key subject right here is evidently the motion of the ocean, nevertheless: the mountain and the pink sky are pleasant additions – but for me, this picture was all about capturing the h2o in the most appealing way achievable.


The larger we climb in the mountains, the clearer the air gets to be. Substantial-altitude landscapes are frequently wholly devoid of human influence, so lots of of these images would also comfortably healthy into the (extremely prestigious) category of ‘purist landscapes.’

Mountain photographers try to go where by no person has ever been ahead of, to capture unique pictures of things that nobody has at any time viewed before.


But what if we really don’t live anyplace in the vicinity of the coast or mountains? Definitely passionate landscape photographers are not ever discouraged by a lack of one thing. Instead they discover what they do have, and then they try out to seize the ideal possible compositions of people distinct geographic features.

Deserts and dunes may look bleak and featureless or even boring to some men and women, but they do offer you an limitless wide range of photographic alternatives for purist landscape photographers.

We really should never forget that each individual particular person who sights our landscapes pics will have their own interpretation of that scene. For instance, a wonderful sunset picture of a wave breaking around the rocks (a seascape) could have a a lot more robust psychological effects on someone who has by no means observed the ocean just before, than on another person residing on the coast.


Anything at all can search remarkable with just the suitable light-weight. A single of the most normally-asked queries amongst the landscape photography group is: “If you had to choose amongst shooting an amazing subject matter in tedious gentle, or a uninteresting matter in awesome light, which would it be?”

I have usually preferred the latter, generally believing that nearly anything can appear remarkable with a solid composition and the right mild. There’s no denying that delicate, warm, golden-hour mild will generally boost the look of geographical or other features. Also, no picture would be attainable devoid of light, so it follows that the high-quality of the mild really should be the most crucial component of our landscape pictures. Perfectly, indeed and no.

Every fantastic photo is composed of 3 primary features an exciting subject, a well balanced composition, and fantastic gentle. If you can seize all a few of those people in 1 photograph, you normally have a winner.

But excellent light-weight doesn’t necessarily mean golden gentle (this was just one lesson that took me quite a few yrs to find out). The gentle should really only ever emphasize the key components of our landscapes, and should preferably in no way grow to be the most important subject matter of our photos. The mild at dawn and sunset generally does make items appear superior than the gentle at noon, but in some sub-genres of landscape photography, the gentle could be best at other moments – and of course, in some cases even at noon.

I think that it’s constantly considerably a lot more important to tell believable tales with our landscape photographs than it is to chase following stunning light-weight. We have all viewed wonderful sunrises and sunsets, and as landscape photographers, we’re inevitably drawn to capturing them. But it doesn’t make any difference how technically outstanding a image of a dawn or sunset may well be, except the impression tells a tale, it will just be nonetheless a further photograph of a dawn or a sunset.

Note my words and phrases in the prior paragraph: “we’ve all found awesome sunrises and sunsets”. Even though it does make a lot of perception to wait for the very best light, it doesn’t make any perception to ignore the landscape and its story whilst producing the sun and light the key topics of our pictures. Why not? Effectively, mostly for the reason that we all experience a person dawn and a person sunset each solitary day of our lives, and while some of them may possibly be more gorgeous than others, without having any exciting landscape options, all those photographs are usually uninteresting.


Forests and woodlands offer you landscape photographers a bottomless bucket of photographic chances, but they also present us a quantity of significant worries. Apart from some of the extra clear technological constraints – like capturing all the particulars in both the highlights and shadows – a single of the biggest issues is discovering a little something that’s much more attention-grabbing than almost everything else, and then composing that point in the most attention-grabbing feasible way, without any obvious visual distractions.

It was in the Knysna forest that I realized some difficult truths about landscape pictures. While the top quality of the light-weight will always be 1 of the vital factors in each photograph, forest photography is typically about matter and composition, with the light only actively playing a slight portion. We may be fortunate adequate to find some misty conditions, but the gentle in the forest is ordinarily only either on or off. It’s in no way orange or pink.


The Snowscape is yet another sub-style of landscape photography exactly where mild does not necessarily perform a key role. In this article it’s normally the bleakest and gloomiest light that’s finest ready to express the stark and featureless mood of a severe, sub-zero landscape.

If you stay in the serious northern or southern latitudes in which snow and ice are typical, then please do keep on using shots like the a single above. Even without the need of a solitary hint of orange or pink, pics like these will often inspire people today like me to investigate areas of the planet that we could or else under no circumstances see. (This photograph was shot on one particular of the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I grew up in balmy South Africa, so I can truthfully say that in spite of the lots of thermal levels I wore on that working day, I have under no circumstances been so chilly. But I was there to capture snow scenes just like this a person, so that was what I did. No suffering, no obtain.)


If you live anyplace near the coast, you’re heading to working experience a handful of storms in your lifetime – while they aren’t restricted to the coastline. Violent thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornados, and many others., take place routinely in a lot of areas of the entire world. As the skies flip darkly ominous, so the air results in being electric.

Some landscape photographers devote most of their time finding out climate styles and chasing just after storms. But though storms often transpire outside previously mentioned the landscape, storm images is ordinarily only about the sky, generally with the landscape scarcely visible in the intense decreased portion of the photo. Our landscape photographs ought to always initially notify tales about interesting landscapes, and only then about the light-weight and/or the weather conditions.

If you shot an awesome thunderstorm and received some nice sharp photographs of lightning strikes but excluded any of the landscape, ought to people also qualify as landscape photographs?

When the major issue of our pictures is only ever the weather, then we’re no for a longer time landscape photographers. In its place, we have become weather photographers.


But why limit our landscape images to earthly attributes? The landscape does not abruptly close in which the sky begins – which is why it’s extremely hard to normally exclude the temperature from our landscape photographs.

I unquestionably really don’t have all the solutions, but I’ve occur to the conclusion that it all boils down to our most important subjects: what are we photographing, and what concept are we hoping to express as a result of each and every picture?

If the most important subjects of our photos are not current capabilities (normal or artifical) of the earthly landscape, then I really do not feel that these shots should be classed as landscape images.

The panorama earlier mentioned was carefully composed and uncovered to include things like as a lot of the Milky Way as possible. This picture is plainly all about the stars, and however stars are not a portion of the earthly landscape. So in accordance to the logic by now expressed, this photograph should not be categorized as a landscape photograph. However it is.

This is for the reason that the stars aren’t the most important topic listed here. The radio-telescope is, and the tale (in scenario you didn’t get it) tells of how the human species has progressed to the stage where by we’re now searching for symptoms of smart existence on other planets.

If our photographs of the stars do not have any relationship to the earth (if the principal subjects are only ever planetary), then we likely must be categorised as astrophotographers, not landscape photographers.

Aerial Landscapes

The actuality that the primary topics of our landscape pictures really should constantly be earth-certain does not essentially necessarily mean that we should really generally be standing on the earth when we seize these subjects.

Some landscape photographers are lucky enough to have straightforward access to the air. As with mountainscapes, this sub-genre of landscape pictures permits these photographers to go to areas the place several other individuals at any time go, allowing them to capture exceptional and unconventional compositions of recognizable earthly functions.

Aerial landscape images presents a couple of technological difficulties that we won’t obtain with other sub-genres. We can’t, for example, use a tripod, because the vibrations of the aircraft would be transmitted to our camera and our photos would all be blurry. Window reflections can frequently also current a massive trouble.

But passenger plane aren’t the only platforms for aerial landscapes: if you can’t afford to charter an aircraft to fly you to your desired aerial area, you might be able to capture very similar compositions with a drone.

There is no far better way to seize broad and never-ending landscape photographs than from much above the earth. But handful of of us are in a position to pay for helicopter charters – so except we can pay for a good 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 World Earth, the outcome should really be witnessed as a legitimate landscape photograph.

Personal Landscapes

Fortunately there is more than sufficient interesting things down listed here on earth. We only have to open up our eyes a bit wider to the pure globe around us, to discover to cease and pause and to appear up… and then down. There’s something exciting everywhere. Landscape photographers who focus only on capturing wide and endless scenes generally miss out on several (frequently a lot more intriguing) intimate landscape prospects that are right beneath our feet.

You can get as personal as you’d like in this sub-genre. Receiving near to your subjects frequently reveals details that we wouldn’t normally see – and the closer we get (as in the two macro- and micro-images), the extra we see.

It doesn’t make a difference how massive or modest they are, as prolonged as our main subjects are all-natural options linked to the earth, then our shots will most likely qualify as landscape pictures.

Summary Landscapes

Organic characteristics related to the earth really don’t even have to be immediately recognizable for our pictures to qualify as landscape pictures.

Summary pictures is all about the designs, textures, and hues of factors, rather than the issues on their own. But below our definitions get started to become murky once again considering that there is a variance amongst abstract images and abstract landscape images. If we can’t generally be guaranteed what it is that we’re looking at, then how could we know for sure that it is a organic feature linked to the earth?

It’s for this explanation that some photographers feel that abstract photography must only at any time be its very own genre, and by no means a sub-style of landscape pictures.

However, the picture higher than unquestionably falls into the two the abstract and the landscape categories, so in my viewpoint it shouldn’t be disqualified from possibly. There are sufficient visual clues in this article for most of us to function out what this image depicts. It may be an summary review of shapes, hues, and textures, but it is also evidently linked to the normal, earthly landscape.

Altered Landscapes

One particular final (seemingly satisfactory) sub-genre of landscape pictures for discussion here is the discipline of altered landscapes.

In actuality, an altered landscape is only a composite (faux) impression in which various photographs are put together to develop a entirely exclusive landscape photo.

When I cautiously mixed the two images over in Photoshop (a fairly laborous procedure involving plenty of masking and color corrections, and many others.), I was in a position to develop a single impression of my have individual fantasy landscape:

Why Any of This Matters

Lots of audience will by now have believed of a handful of sub-genres of landscape photography that I have not coated below: underwater pictures, for example. Definitely they could qualify as landscape photographs? (By the way, I have not integrated that one particular simply simply because I’ve never ever taken any underwater pictures).

But why would any of this make a difference to anybody?

Real truth be told, it typically does not (and shouldn’t) subject. The true essence of a wonderful picture will usually continue to be unachievable to define. Splendor is in the eye of the subjective beholder, and nit-finding about whether or not a picture matches into a specific classification really should not issue to everyone at all.

However, I hope this article will charm to any starter or advanced photographers who enter their do the job into photograph competitions, which usually demand pictures to discover particular themes or established topics. While most levels of competition judges are ordinarily pretty lenient, quite a few judges (me included) would immediately disqualify a photograph from the competitiveness if it did not in good shape the stated specifications.

And now, just after all these words and phrases, I still haven’t managed to arrive any closer to obtaining a crisp, crystal clear, a person-paragraph definition of the style of landscape photography.

About the creator: Paul Bruins is a semi-retired South Africa-based professional landscape photographer. The thoughts expressed in this report are entirely those people of the writer. For the earlier 20 several years, Bruins has worked to examine and photograph each corner of his hometown and country. He has organized and hosted a amount of photographic exhibitions, workshops, and excursions around the world. His photos have also gained many competitions and awards and have been posted in calendars, publications, and textbooks. You can obtain more of his function on his Flickr and Facebook.

Picture credits: Header image from Depositphotos

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