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THE EXPERT Colin Prior

January 23, 2017

Photo above Buachaille Etive Mòr, known as ‘The Buachaille’, one of the most famous mountains in the Scottish Highlands

For the past 30 years, Colin Prior – one of the world’s leading landscape photographers – has travelled the globe capturing striking images in some of the most remote and dramatic locations known to man, including the Scottish Highlands. Ahead of his upcoming Leica Akademie Masterclass at Gleneagles this April, he shares his expert tips on taking great pictures

Photo above Beinn an Lochain, a small mountain or ‘corbett’ near the western edge of Loch Lomond

Colin Prior’s Tips for taking great Landscape Photographs


Less is more. Try to identify the elements that capture the essence of a location and then subtract areas of the composition that don’t add value. Ask yourself: is this really worth including, or would the image be stronger without it?


Standardise on one camera system – using two brands can make life more complicated – and think carefully about what you plan to photograph and what kit you’ll need. Having too much equipment is often detrimental – take as little with you as possible.


Look beyond the literal: try to single out things that others don’t see in order to produce more conceptual images. Think of it as a process of distillation – it’s as much about you and what story you’re trying to tell as it is about your camera.


Knowing where to shoot, and at what time of day, is key. Look carefully at the landscape and keep searching until you find somewhere spectacular to shoot – what we’re doing is tapping into the same skills our ancestors used when they were hunter-gatherers. Except, of course, we’re hunting for the perfect shot.


If you’re inspired by a particular location, try to tune into what it is about the place that’s speaking to you most profoundly. It could be the colour, light, texture or perhaps the contrast or interplay of adjacent colours. Start from this point and try to build a composition around it.


Try to recognise the difference between what your eyes see in the three-dimensional world and what the camera sees in the two-dimensional world of photography. Keep checking your screen to see how your image is translating.


Learn to work with what you have. If you’re on location and there’s no light, there’s little point in trying to shoot “big” pictures. A high-diffused overcast sun is perfect for shooting intimate landscapes – thanks to the absence of shadows and the
soft luminance.


Don’t be frightened to experiment. With digital cameras there’s no cost implication in taking more photographs, so it’s a good idea, if time permits, to shoot some extra frames. Varying apertures or shutter speeds might, for example, have different effects on moving water.


Try to develop your own style. While we’re all inspired by the work of other photographers, it’s important to identify and create your own voice. Avoid clichés and have confidence in your own images – it’s better to produce something a bit unusual than to follow the crowd.


Study your results. Identify those images that failed to fulfil your own visualisation and try to understand why they didn’t work. If you’re unsure, find someone who can explain where you went wrong. Remember: if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning.


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