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6 Tips For Taking Pictures Of Mountains

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6 Tips For Taking Pictures Of Mountains

Mountains are gorgeous all on their own. They inspire wonder every time we’re near them. There’s nothing like being in the presence of the mountains. It makes you feel almost superhuman. The real challenge for any would-be mountain photographer is to get the mountains to appear as surreal on film as they do in real life. If you pay attention to these mountain photography tips, you’ve got a good shot at making that happen.

[Thanks to Flickr User: longhorndave for the above image]

First Things First. This is landscape photography

The same rules in all landscape photography apply to photographing mountains. If anything, mountains are one of the most interesting landscapes you could photograph. So you need to remember some of the rules of standard landscape photography. Here’s a quick refresher:

  • Always place something in the foreground. The flag in the image above sets the context. It tells you right away that these mountains are in Chile. If the photographer were to choose not to include something in the foreground, we would have no idea why these mountains are significant. With the flag, we know what the photographer is trying to say.
  • Use a smaller aperture. You want to get depth and sharpness all the way from the flag in the front to the mountains in the background. At F22, you can be guaranteed you’ll get all the sharpness you need. If you can’t set the aperture directly on your camera, choose the Landscape Mode and your camera will make sure everything is in focus.
  • Use clouds to create an ominous feeling

    Clouds always add an element of drama to any image. It’s no different when you’re up in the mountains. For some of the best mountain pictures, I like to get up above the fog and use it to frame the shot. Granted, you won’t be able to do that at every mountain range. Usually, if you’re near a lake or some other body of water, chances are pretty good. You also need to get up very early. You want to be there before the fog blows away.

    Sunset pictures of the mountains are always more interesting when there are a lot of clouds present. There’s nothing like snapping a spooky image of a storm approaching on the horizon.

    Get multiple perspectives

    Mountains look completely different at the top than they do at the bottom. Each perspective is unique, so you need to spend a lot of time exploring your options. Try to find a clearing near the bottom of the mountain, a place where the mountain shoots up from the ground. Lakes are a secret among many photographers. Not only are they a guaranteed clear spot, you can see the mountain reflected in the water.

    Shoot from above. Shoot from below. Shoot from the middle of the mountain. The most interesting images come from some rather unexpected places.

    Use people to provide a sense of scale

    Mountains are enormous. People are small. When you put people in front of mountains, it really gives you a sense of how big the mountains are. People are the ideal foreground subject for taking pictures of mountains. That’s why it’s such a good idea to bring a friend with you whenever you go on a mountain hike (I do it for safety too).


    Without this woman, you wouldn’t understand how truly big these mountains are. This is Everest, by the way.

    Calibrate your white balance for snow

    Don’t forget that mountains have a lot of snow, and it can mess with your white balance settings if you aren’t careful about it. Sometimes you get dark grey images that don’t come close to portraying snow as the white stuff it is. Snow can appear to have a bluish tint as well.

    Most digital cameras have a special setting for snow. If yours does, be sure to use it! You can tell you’ve successfully calibrated your white balance if the snow in your images looks truly white -not grey or blue.


    Can you guess where this snowy mountain picture was taken?
    The sheep are a bit of a giveaway.
    Photo By Rita Morgan

    Those of you who don’t have a special snow setting should increase your camera’s exposure compensation. By doing this, you are telling your camera that you’re photographing something very bright. Instead of trying to dial down the brightness to make a more even exposure, your camera accepts the scene in front of it. Voila! You’ve got white snow.

    Just getting to the mountains seems to be the hardest part of photographing mountains. The beauty is all around you if you can make the trip. Try out these tips and let me know what you think.

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About the Author ()

David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.

Comments (3)

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  1. Liz says:

    Do photos that have more water in them than landforms get classified as landscapes or waterscapes, or is everything that depicts natural scenery classified as landscape.

  2. Neville says:

    TAKING A PHOTO OF A MOUNTAIN IS A PORTRAIT NOT A LANDSCAPE. IT’S NO DIFFERENT FROM A BUTTERFLY OR A STREETNAME POLE. PORTRAITURE RULES APPLY. YOU FOCUS ON THE MOUNTAIN AND MAKE IT AS LARGE AS POSSIBLE. YOU CAN INCLUDE SOME PLAIN FOREGROUND AS ENVIRONMENT BUT THAT’S IT. IN A LANDSCAPE THE MOUNTAIN IS A BACKGROUND AND NOT THE MAIN FOCAL-POINT. THE NORMAL LANDSCAPE RULES THEN APPLY.

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