There are so many different landscape photography categories. You might think landscape photography is beautiful landscapes, seascapes or mountains. But landscape photography is so much more.
You can specialize in a given landscape photography category and get really good at one or more of them. A few categories within landscape photography are so specialized that some photographers will call them a photography genre on its own.
I look at landscape photography as a very broad field of photography. As long people or wildlife is not the main subject in a scene it will come under my definition of landscape photography. You can read more about what landscape photography is in this article.
I love photographing around the time of “Blue hour” and later. Night photography is something I have been doing for many years as I find it fascinating. But I also do most of the other landscape photography categories.
Below is a list of the most common ones which I hope will inspire you to go out to test them. I have divided them in two.
Four landscape photography categories
- Time of year
- Time of day
- Photography techniques or software
Sea and land
1. Seascape photography
Photographing sea and water is one of the most popular landscape photography categories. It is easy to understand why so many photographers love this type of photography as the possibilities are endless.
You can photograph reflections, or you can photograph the waves in different ways. Most often with seascape images they will be shot at longer shutter times, so the water is blurred. Only your creativity is the limit.
2. Mountain landscape photography
Photographing in mountains is a different challenge as you might need to hike for quite a bit to get there. Mountains can be fascinating and depending on where you go you can photograph both mountain peaks and lakes at the same time.
What is more beautiful than a majestic mountain reflecting in a mountain lake? If the sun is hitting the peak at the same time, you have nailed a great subject.
3. Forest landscape photography
The forest landscape photography category is not as common as the two previous mentioned categories above. For many photographers, the forest might not be an obvious place to photograph - simply because there are too many trees in the way.
Forest photography can be difficult as it can be challenging to make good compositions. There is often too much going on. On the other hand when you understand how to photograph forest you have a lot of possibilities.
The forest itself with the vertical lines makes for great composition on its own. Photographing the sun and sun flare through trees can make great photos. What about a forest in fog - fascinating, right?
4. Cloudscape photography
The category cloudscape photography is a little special as it mainly means photographing the sky and clouds. As you know, the sky can take a lot of different colors dependent on the weather situation. It can be really beautiful sometimes and worth a picture on its own.
Some photographers are collecting cloudscapes simply to use them when doing composites. I also have my collection of clouds, but I rarely use then to replace the sky in a photo where the sky is boring.
5. Cityscape photography
Some photographers will claim cityscape is not one of the landscape photography categories. I disagree in that. Cityscapes are often a part of the bigger landscape. If you move into the streets, the people will be the main focus - that is street photography and definitely not landscape photography.
Photographing skylines at night is a popular genre of cityscape photography. Bur cityscapes can also be photographed during daytime.
6. Urban landscape photography
The definition of urban landscape is a little vaguer. It is a variation of cityscape photography, but it focuses more on details within the city. These details are not the people but the architectural aspects. With a little doubt, I include urban landscapes into my landscape photography categories.
A category similar to urban landscape photography is rural landscape photography.
Time of the year
7. Winter landscape photography
Winter landscapes are fascinating and at the same time challenging. A lot of photographers around the world have never experienced snow simply because they live in an area where it never or rarely fall any snow.
Winter photography is challenging because of the weather conditions, it is often very cold. This requires planning on how to protect both yourself and your gear.
Also technically photographing snow is a challenge. You will always need to compensate your exposure from what the camera tells you. If you don't use exposure compensation, your photos will be too dark.
8. Fall landscape photography
One of the most popular landscape photography categories is fall landscapes. The beautiful colors this time of the year is the reason. It is impossible not to be attracted by this beauty.
What many photographers don’t know is the best time to photograph fall folios is when it is overcast. On an overcast day, you will get vibrant and saturated colors.
Time of day
9. Night photography
Night photography is another popular and landscape photography category and as I have mentioned already, my favorite time to shoot.
You can shoot a lot of different things at night, but the most obvious is the moon and the stars. Light trails from cars are also popular photographing at night.
10. Aurora Borealis photography
Photographing the “Northern Lights” is something that has gained a lot of popularity the last few years. Many people never have of obvious reasons seen the Aurora Borealis. You can only see this phenomenon far up north or far down south on our earth.
In the Southern hemisphere, the phenomena is called Aurora Australis. In this part of the world, it can be seen from the southern tip of South America and in Antarctica.
I grew up in Northern Norway and saw the Aurora Borealis often without even thinking about it. I did not attempt to photograph it then. Now I do, and it is fantastic when you are out on a clear night with a great Aurora Borealis display in the sky.
11. Moon photography
A lot of beginner photographers try to photograph the moon. Many are very disappointed with the results. To get good pictures of the moon you need to take control over your camera. No cameras are capable of making a good exposure of the moon in auto mode.
12. Golden hour photography
The golden hour is probably the most important among the many landscape photography categories. For many beginner photographers, the golden hour is a secret only the professional photographers take advantage of. When you discover this little secret, your landscape photos will be taken to a new level.
13. Sunset/sunrise photography
The landscape photography category sunset/sunrises might be seen as the same as the golden hour category. It is not exactly so. The golden hour period is longer right before sunrise and sunset. You don’t necessarily photograph the sun during the golden hour.
When photographing the sunrise and sunset the sun is the main subject in the photo. The colors at sunrise and sunset can be amazing and attract many photographers to photograph this beautiful scene.
Due to the high contrast between the bright sun and the rest of the scene it is challenging getting a good exposes sunrise/sunset unless you take control of your camera.
14. Panorama photography
One popular category in landscape photography is panoramas. Panorama photography is a technique used to get a wider scene in one picture. Some will call it wide format photography.
The principle is you take several photos after each other of a scene and stitch the photos together in a dedicated software. The challenging part is to get the photographs right in camera.
The post processing is quite simple if you have good photos to work with. A great panorama photo printed and hung on a wall is simply eye catching.
15. Time-lapse photography
Time lapse is also increasing in popularity. Time laps is this short videos you see of fast moving clouds or other moving objects. It is very fun to do but is technically challenging. As you photograph a scene over a long time, you also have to be very patient.
16. Long exposure photography
The long exposure photography category has many different approaches. The most typical long exposure images in landscape photography are moving water. Another example is moving clouds.
A not so obvious use of long exposure is when you photograph static object, but you move your camera during the exposure. With this method, you can create a lot of interesting and artistic photos.
Long exposure photography is easy to do as soon you understand the concept behind it. The good thing is in most situations you don’t need any special equipment except for a tripod and occasionally a Neutral Density filter (ND).
With an ND filter, you can use long shutter times even at daytime. Shooting long exposure at daytime you can create some interesting effects.
17. Star trail photography
Star trail is another cool category in landscape photography. You have probably seen the amazing photos taken at night where the stars form into a circle on the sky.
Photographing the stars is quite a challenging category of landscape photography. It requires a good camera and special software to process the images after the shot.
It is a time-consuming type of photography, so you need to be of the patient kind. Often the results you get cannot even be seen with your bare eyes. That is fascinating on its own.
If you are interested in star trail photography this is a good resource to learn more.
18. Light painting photography
The last example in the technical group of landscape photography categories is light painting. Painting with light is a cool way to create special effects when shooting landscapes.
It is one of the few situations you use artificial light as a landscape photographer. Light painting is simply using a flash or a flashlight to illuminate parts of a scene, like a rock in the foreground of a seascape shot at night.
The technique requires some practice, but as soon you get it you will have a lot of fun with light painting landscapes.
Post processing techniques
19. Creative use of software
It can be so much fun to create something more than just a landscape image out of your photography. If you enjoy computers and imaging software you have a wealth of possibilities.
There are numerous presets and plugins you can install into Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Using these tools does not require any artistic skills. It is a little hit and miss sometimes because you have little control on the effect created. But that said, you can get some great effects this way.
20. Photo-realistic art
To really stand out from the crowd you should look into photography compositing. Creating photo art requires more advanced Photoshop skills, but it can certainly be learned.
You can create real art by combining several of you photos or parts of some of the photos into one art piece. Often these techniques require use of mixed media like textures, vectors, typography and other elements.
As soon you master these techniques you will create your own interpretation of a scene. The best part – no one else will have the same image, not even close. Some of today's contemporary landscape photographers use these techniques.
Thank you Kim!
It is very informative.
I think I found my categories.
Thank you, Sibi. I’m glad you found the post useful. There is a lot of interesting things you can do in landscape photography.