Taking landscape pictures can be hard enough, never mind doing it on film. Luckily, over the years I’ve learned the ins and outs of how to make sure you get great landscape shots on film!
If you want to smash your landscape shots and stop making silly mistakes then read on!
1) Choose The Right Kind Of Camera Film
In landscape photography, it’s really important to choose the right type of film. Usually, low ISO film is the best bet however there are some exceptions.
So what do you want from a film stock when it comes to shooting landscapes? Less grain, good exposure latitude and great colour, that’s pretty much it. When it comes to taking really great landscape shots, there should be no expense spared, you might as well get the best film for the job.
If you’re shooting colour then you’ll want Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 160 or Kodak Portra 400. I wouldn’t usually suggest 400 ISO film for landscapes but in my experience, Portra 400 has such fine grain and great exposure latitude that it should still do a great job.
Otherwise, if you’re shooting black and white film then I’d suggest Kodak Tri-X, or a very low ISO film.
2) Consider A Larger Format
If you’re just shooting on 35mm then you can still get some great pictures, but you won’t be able to get as high-quality shots as if you use medium format (or even large format).
Medium format cameras have the potential for far more information when negatives are scanned because the frame is so much bigger than 35mm. Also, some of the lenses available for these cameras can be phenomenal.
If you’re really serious about taking landscape shots on film then something like the Pentax 67 is a great option or even possibly the Mamiya RB67. I’ve used both and I think they’re fantastic cameras.
3) Use A Tripod
Using a tripod in landscape photography is so important, especially when we’re shooting on low ISO film.
To get complete clarity and sharpness a tripod is an absolute must, especially if you’re shooting on a big medium format camera.
Tripods don’t need to break the bank, they just need to do the job and ensure that your camera is nice and stable. This will allow you to shoot at lower shutter speeds but keep the shot clean and clear!
4) Shoot At F/22 If You Can
Okay okay, you don’t need to shoot at a small aperture all the time but using F.16/ F.22 can be really important in landscape photography.
Using F/1.8 in landscape photography will provide you with a lack of detail which isn’t want you want if you’re trying to take a picture of a wide-open expanse.
Of course, there will be instances where you might want to shoot wide open, especially if you’re focusing in on one small aspect or you specifically want a shallow depth of field for something.
But using a higher aperture like F/10+ will ensure that you get really sharp, crisp images with the most detail possible.
5) Always Have More Film
This is a hard-learned lesson by myself, you always want more film when you don’t have it. Just because you bought a bunch of rolls doesn’t mean you have to use them all, but having them there for those one-off moments will absolutely save your shoot.
There’s nothing worse than realising you’re completely out of film and suddenly you’re missing one of the best shots possible. Always be prepared, always have more!
6) Use Soft Light
This is a rule for all photographers all of the time. Use soft light.
This is not an absolute must, variety of light is really important but using soft light to make beautiful landscape photographs is a great rule of thumb.
Choosing to make your pictures around dusk or dawn can help you to find some beautiful light and make really soft pictures.
7) Use A Prime Lens (Most Of The Time)
Usually, you’ll want to use a prime lens since most landscape photography is shot on a wide lens. Most zoom lenses for film cameras can be pretty bad unless they’re more recent and more expensive.
A top-quality prime lens is really worth investing in but of course, it’s also worth experimenting with some 80-300mm type lens if you want to go for a tighter shot.
Prime lenses tend to have much sharper images and that is super important in landscape photography.
8) Use A Lens Filter
It’s well worth investing in a UV filter, an ND or a CND filter if you can. This can be especially important in film photography when you’re trying to take a landscape shot where the sky might be a bit blown out and the foreground may be in the shadows a little.
You don’t have to use a filter but they are helpful and they also provide a bit of protection for your all-important lens.
9) Use A Lens Hood
Using a lens hood is as important in film as it is in digital photography. When you shoot without a hood you can get a hazy image as stray light finds its way into your lens.
Using a lens hood will stop this stray light and give your pictures more contrast.
I’m guilty of being hoodless but we should all be a little bit more careful.
10) Get Your Pictures Processed And Scanned At The Highest Standard
There can be a dramatic difference between development labs and you need to find the best place if you’re trying to take super high-quality landscape pictures.
Personally, I use Filmdev, I’m not sponsored by them or anything, but I’ve used them for years and the quality of their scans is unmatched.
My advice would be to check use Reddit to find out what the best place is in your area or use you can post your film to a well-known lab.
Most labs offer a range of services (if they don’t then that could be bad) and I’ll always ask for the highest quality scans if what I’m shooting is really important.
11) Edit Your Pictures
I don’t know why but many people think that film photographs don’t need editing. This is wrong, film photographs have been edited for years and years in one way or another.
Just because Lightroom didn’t exist before doesn’t mean people weren’t finding ways to increase contrast or accentuate certain aspects of an image.
Now, you may not want to make big changes to an image but just making small corrections to exposure, highlights and shadows can completely change your shots.
Don’t be stubborn, edit your film pictures.
12) Print Your Pictures
Photographs are meant to be viewed as prints, you’ll get so much value out of being able to see your picture as a proper print.
Getting your favourite shots printed is so valuable and it’ll help you to view the composition differently and to find unique details that you hadn’t noticed before.
You can find places to get your photographs printed all over the place.