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How to take pictures of landscapes

edited September 2016 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
Hi there!

I've been using the Nikon D5100 camera (with kit lens) for a year now. I am often taking photo's of landscapes, but also buildings and friends.

I am pretty happy with the results so far, but the results of the landscapes are rather disappointing. I have problems with the details in the forest or rocks.

I've tried a few things:
1/250 sec
zoom 20mm

My father knows a lot about photography (or he says so). We both think the results are pretty disappointing (blurry), but on the other hand, portraits are nice!

My question:
Is the lens not suitable for making landscape photos, or am I using the wrong stats? Or worse, is my lens broken?

I can send the photos with stats if someone needs it. I also used different settings taking the same picture. The setting above gave the best results.

I hope someone can help! :)


  • edited September 2016
    The kit lens should be at least moderately good for landscapes, but remember that far detail may never look super sharp if you pixel peep at 100 percent or more. A prime lens will likely be a little sharper, and have better contrast, but the kit zoom should give you decent results.

    For starters, I'd look at where you're focusing. If you're using multi-area focusing, it's possible that the camera is choosing points too close. Although the wide angle is good for depth of field, f/5.6 is worst, and might not be deep enough.

    I'd try setting the aperture at something more like f/8. Don't go above about f/11, or diffraction will begin to degrade sharpness slightly, even though DOF will be better. For most purposes, f/8 is said by many to be the "sweet spot" for the kit zoom, and likely to give the best all around results. Focus, not on the very distant horizon, but on a far point that you want to be sharp. Depth of field at a wide angle should be sufficient to go to infinity, and sufficient to get most everything in focus, but try to avoid close objects. A common error in landscape photos is to miss stray branches, grass, and the like, that will be out of focus in the foreground no matter what your settings are. If you can, use ISO 100. Although there is little discernible difference between this and 200, the lower the ISO the more edge detail you're likely to get.

    If you want to make sure your lens is not at fault, broken, off, etc., then you can test it. Find some object, which need not have meaning but must have sharp detail, on which you can focus. Road signs, vehicles with emblems, etc. are good. You can do this with various objects at various distances. If possible, use a tripod, and use the widest aperture you have, so that depth of field will not conceal any errors. On a tripod, turn off VR if you have it. Now with single servo, single point AF, and in Live View (remember the AF settings in LV are separate, so check that they're right), focus on a specific part of that object. If the resulting shot has that specific point sharp, then the lens is all right. Next, repeat the process in Viewfinder view. The images should be sharp again. If not, then your AF may be out of adjustment. If the VF view is approximately as sharp as the LV view, then your lens is good, and your camera is good too.

    I should add that this is all assuming you are shooting in Raw or the finest, and largest, JPG mode available. Remember that JPG is a compressed format, and although at its highest quality the effect on sharp edges is likely invisible, or masked by its own sharpening, at lower quality it will be obtrusive.

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