Camera Settings/Landscape Question


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Sep 2, 2009
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Hi all, hope you're all well.

Quick two-sided question here.

I live in a beautiful area overlooking some green fields and landscape so I decided to give it a go and shoot some of the scenery using the landscape setting on my Sony a380.

Putting my amateurish skills aside, the photos were average to say the least and as an experiment I tried the same shots on different settings (sport, portrait etc) and I saw very little difference from snap to snap, leading me to question whether the camera settings are any use at all?

My friend, who fancies himself as a bit of a camera buff, says that I should ditch the landscape setting as it is useless and go to manual. Setting the aperture at f16 or f17, adjusting the shutter speed, mounting it on a tripod and putting a flash gun on top (I have both of these items). He also says ditch JPG for RAW so I can tweak the pics.

Any comments of suggestions on the above are gratefully received. Thanks :thumbup::D
Your friend makes a good point, but he's asking you to do some relatively advanced things with your camera. I would start with the small aperture (perhaps 10 or 12 though). You can do this on aperture priority mode. The tripod is a good idea, but it still needs to be a calm, not windy, day. You can wait on the RAW adjustment for now. If you're already good with post-processing, then it's time for RAW, but you can still do a great deal in JPEG.

However, to really let you know how to improve, people on this board will want to see some sample images.
The scene modes on your camera are of, IMO, limited use. They set your camera to a predetermined exposure type which is considered generally appropriate; for instance, the Sport mode would probably select the highest shutter speed, and landscape mode will likely use a smaller aperture.

Large depth of field (such as you would get from f16) is often considered desirable in landscape, but the use of a flash is probably not going to help. Even the biggest strobes are only going to illuminate a relatively short distance. I definitely agree with the use of a tripod as well as shooting in RAW since you have a much greater latitude for adjustments than with .jpg. Bear in mind that there are many factors which will affect the way your images look:

Some of these are: Time of day; shooting early in the morning or in the evening (the golden hour) will produce nicer light. You lens will make a big difference; landscapes are generally shot with wider angles (15-20mm on an APS-C sensor) to provide a broader field of view. Filters are also very important; polarizing and graduated neutral density filters are often the things that will take images from nice to 'Wow!'.
Thanks for the responses people, much appreciated.

I'll have to get some of my shots uploaded for a better critique. Great stuff.

Just a final question. Would you recommend using flash or not? As you say it won't capture great distances so should I shoot with flash switched off?

I'm going to get up early tomorrow morning and try to shoot the lovely skyline and sunrise.

Just a final question. Would you recommend using flash or not? As you say it won't capture great distances so should I shoot with flash switched off?

I'm going to get up early tomorrow morning and try to shoot the lovely skyline and sunrise.


flash might be useful only if in your landscape there is some very close element that need to be enlightened (because darker than background).
Generally speaking, flash in a landscape is useless. As enzodm points out, the flash has limited power and usually illuminates out to no more than 10-15 feet or so, depending on the power of your flash.

Tirediron is bang-on on all the points he mentions. What hasn't been mentioned is composition. Besides the technical aspects of operating your equipment, the resulting shot should be interesting to look at. There are many ways of achieving this, but it usually helps if your scene or image has a "flow" to it that allows the eye to enter the image and explore. A common method is to include enough foreground to frame or provide context to a landscape image in the background. This also serves to make the image more three-dimensional and less "flat" which is what you get when everything you see is at the same distance (in a landscape, far away). A good landscape shot can be a play on texture or shape or colour, it can feature contrasting elements arranged in a pleasing pattern. The tripod is a useful tool partly because it allows you to compose carefully, and to exclude all the distracting elements which can diminish the quality of your shot.

A very good landscape photographer told me that he often comes to a favourite place to shoot, and sometimes it takes him several days before the condition are right for the kind of image he has in mind.
I'm not good at landscape but here's an example of flash in a landscape shot.


I turned up the flash compensation in the second one. The second shot is brighter overall not because of flash, but because I was also experimenting with the exposure compensation.
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There is nothing inherently wrong with the landscape setting on your camera. It tends to saturate the colours a little more than usual, uses wider apertures, since most landscapes shot by beginners do not have a very close foreground, and a shutterspeed that can be shot without a tripod.

You would be better off with a polarizing filter on your camera which often reduces the brightness of the sky and improves colour. Use small openings such as f16 etc. only if you have fairly close foreground objects in your scene. Tripods help steady the camera but they can be a pain to carry around, setup and take down. A lot of beginners buy tripods and then seldom use them for the above reasons. Other photographers may just brace the camera against a tree, on a rock, or something else in the area. Still others use a monopod, which is much easier and faster to adjust, can be used as a walking stick on rough trails or long hikes and still keeps the camera steady.

By the way, despite the advantages of RAW format, if you take a lot of photos and do minimal editing, it may not be worth your effort and time at this point.

I can't believe that nobody has mentioned white balance yet in this thread. Of all the things you can adjust it has the most dramatic impact on the photo.

If you shoot in RAW it is not particularly important because White balance is not "applied" to the recorded data (allthough the setting itself should be recorded). In my amateurish experience, shooting in RAW gives you a relatively tiny amount of extra leeway in terms of saving a photo that would otherwise have been unsaveable due to incorrect settings, at a fairly large cost in terms of extra work.

Let me put it differently: If your settings are perfect, then RAW just adds work. If your settings are near perfect, then you are likely going to be quite able to fix the photo in post processing regardless of whether it was taken in RAW or not.

If your settings are further off, then RAW might give you a bit more moving space, _POSSIBLY_ allowing you to save an otherwise missed shot.

If your camera settings are way off then nothing will save the photo.

In any case, that is just my take on RAW - I am sure others will disagree, some of those more knowledgeable than me.

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