Due to the standard kit lens for the vast majority of camera bundles being a 18-55mm focal length lens, we see so many people reaching out with various questions on how they are able to best use a 18-55mm lens for the highest quality image quality possible. Due because these lenses are often used for kit lenses, does not mean that they offer poor quality photographs by any means and you are actually able to capture some excellent images if you play around with the lens.
One of the most frequently asked things that we see from people is based around improving landscape photography with a 18-55mm lens so we have decided to focus on this for today’s article. We know that many of our readers use 18-55mm lenses with their camera bodies of choice so we are hoping that these simple tips and tricks will be able to help you get the best image quality possible with the lens and let you capture some excellent landscape photographs.
Although some people do like to use a focal length wider than 18mm when capturing their landscape photographs, this is far from essential and the 18mm focal length can be ideal for landscape photography, especially if you are just getting started. This is one of the reasons that so many brands use a 18-55mm focal length lens as the kit lens included with their cameras as it is such a versatile piece of glass that can be used in a large number of popular photography niches.
Now, there is no need for you to try and implement all of these tips and tricks, some of them will depend on the scenery that you have available close to you so depending on where you live, you may not actually be able to implement them all anyway. That said though, even getting used to adding two or three of them when you are out on your landscape photography sessions can offer you a drastic improvement on the image quality that you are able to capture.
Use Water As A Mirror
This is such a simple thing to do but so many people, especially those new to photography or videography instantly overlook it. Using water features as a mirror where possible can be a quick win when it comes to improving your landscape photography and add that extra element to the photograph to really make it stand out as shown in the image above. As you can see, the reflection of the trees and the mountains in the water help to add something extra to the photograph that can really take your breath away.
Although you may not have access to mountains that are near lakes or rivers in your local area, you can usually think outside of the box and we have even seen water features as simple as a puddle after heavy rain used effectively. Depending on what you are trying to capture, water features such as a steam can be used too but ideally, you want the water to be as calm as possible for the best possible reflection of the main landscape feature.
Although you can usually use this technique to excellent effect with your 18-55mm camera lens, picking up a decent Cpl lens filter can be a solid investment in your camera accessories. This can drastically reduce any potential glare from the water from hitting your camera sensor and improve the overall image quality as well as the quality of the reflection of the main subject of your photograph too. Due to decent Cpl filters being very budget-friendly these days, they can be well worth the investment, and we would highly recommend the Gobe range of lens filters to our readers.
Capture Movement Where Possible
This next one is going to come down to your own personal preference in all fairness, some photographers like to take advantage of movement in their landscape photographs where as others really don’t like it. If you are new to photography then we would highly recommend that you get out there and you test, test, and test some more. As we touched on above, the 18-55mm lens focal range is extremely diverse and versatile and you can use it for a large number of common photography situations.
The photograph above shows how you are often able to use natural movement such as rivers, streams, or waterfalls to add that additional element to your landscape photographs. Again, not everyone is going to have access to these features for their landscape photography but if you are out in the wilderness or have a river or stream in your town or city then you can take some test photographs and see how you feel.
Amongst the photographers who do like to use movement in their landscape photography, there is another division between those who like to capture the raw photograph and those who like to leave their lens shutter open for the silky smooth water effect shown in the image at the start of this section of the article. If you are wanting that silky smooth effect of the water then you will have to invest in an ND lens filter to allow you to leave your shutter open for longer than usual for the effect to occur. Just like the Cpl lens filters we mentioned above, decent ND filters are very budget-friendly these days and as usual, we would recommend the Gobe ND range to our readers.
Try To Create Depth
Another thing that we often see entry level photographers overlook with landscape photography is to create depth in their photographs by having a foreground, a middle ground, and a main feature in the rear of their image. This is another quick and easy win and usually, no matter where you live, you will often be able to at least take advantage of two of these elements to try and create some depth and provide scale to the main feature that you are capturing with your 18-55mm lens.
Although you can sometimes make it worth with two of these elements, ideally you really do want to be trying to get all three to help bring the whole image together. Most people can usually get a main feature for the rear of their landscape photograph as well as something for the middle ground but will struggle to find something suitable for the foreground. On tip that we can offer is to look behind you, many people will just check their immediate left and right for something suitable but often, you can find things behind you.
Due to the main feature and middle ground subjects being so far away, moving back a little bit to capture something suitable in the foreground usually makes little to no difference to the main feature of the image scale wise. On the flipside of this though, finding something suitable to use as a foreground focus really can add depth and make your landscape photography come alive and offer some scale helping to improve the overall image quality.
Utilize The Rule Of Thirds
There are literally thousand os excellent guides out there on using the rule of thirds correctly for your photography so we wont be going into it in detail in this article. That said though, displaying the grid on your camera display to make it quick and easy to take advantage of the rule of thirds until you get used to it can be a solid little tip for anyone starting out in landscape photography. It allows you to maximise the space available in your photography while also letting you position everything for maximum effect too.
Play With The Available Aperture
Although all 18-55mm lenses have the same focal range, their aperture range can actually change a surprising amount depending on the lens. Play around with your focal range and aperture range combinations a little until you get a feel for when what setup will be better in what situation. Tweaking the aperture when possible can end up making or breaking a landscape photograph, especially in questionable lighting or if you are wanting to capture your photographs around twilight.
Get Better At Post Production
Although we would always recommend that our readers do everything possible to get the best initial photograph possible, there are some excellent post production tools on the market these days that can make a poor photograph look amazing. As technology gets better and better, many of the decent post production tools for photographers can often offer these effects, filters, and image tweaks at the press of a button too making them very easy to use.
Tweaking the hues or colour saturation in landscape photographs to better draw the eye to a feature in the picture can be a solid little technique to create a better overall landscape photograph with your 18-55mm lens. There are even a number of decent post production tools available for free these days so even if you are trying to keep your initial costs as low as possible for your photography, you should usually be able to get some solid post production in without having to break the bank.
Tweak Your Camera Settings
As you can probably guess, tweaking you actual camera settings is going to be on any list of tips and tricks to help you improve your landscape photography with a 18-55mm lens. That said though, due to our readers using so many different camera bodies from so many different brands it is hard to offer a starting point for your 18-55mm lens. We would recommend that you spend some time playing around the the shutter speed and ISO settings on your camera while you are out on your next photography session to see what you prefer.
The more popular camera bodies on the market often have base line settings that you are able to Google for your landscape photography that can serve as a good starting point. Quickly searching these initial settings for your particular camera body can end up saving you a bunch of time while also providing you with a nice starting point for your camera settings.
Use The Wider Focal Lengths
Although this may seem like a no brainer for landscape photography with a 18-55mm lens, we se so many people just use the 18mm focal length and never try anything else. This is a mistake and the 18-55mm focal range offers you some decent wiggle room in many landscape photography situations and you should definitely experiment with what your lens can do. Stick to the wider focal lengths but dial it up a little to see how it effects the image that you are trying to create.