Photographing mountains correctly

Mountain photography is regarded as a particularly fascinating form of photography. Hiking and photography complement each other perfectly. A photo trip to the mountains combines effort and relaxation.

No matter if Himalaya, Alps, Andes, Rocky Mountains or Carpathians – every mountain range has its special impressions ready. For an excursion into the mountains, a combination of alpine equipment and physical fitness is required. Afterwards, you will be compensated for your efforts with a unique view and impressive photo motifs.

In addition, you can develop your full creativity with mountain photography. So that you do not miss the ideal picture, you should already be well acquainted with the tools of a photographer, such as aperture, exposure time and iso-sensitivity, as well as their effects and connections and be able to use these purposefully.

Preparation and camera equipment for a trip to the mountains

If you have planned a photo trip to the mountains, you should reduce your equipment to the minimum. Sort out what you don’t need. Instead of a shoulder bag, you should use a proper camera backpack to evenly distribute the weight on your shoulders. The hiking equipment includes food and drinks, a tripod, camera accessories (batteries, memory cards), various selected lenses and of course the camera. On bad weather days you should not forget the rain cover.

(image credit panoramaleinwand)

When choosing your camera, make sure it is solid, waterproof and dustproof. In addition to the digital SLR camera, compact cameras with a proper zoom range or the so-called bridge cameras (super zoom cameras) are ideal for setting mountains in the right light. To save weight, it is best to leave fixed focal lengths at home and limit yourself to as few lenses as possible. The wide-angle lens (10 to 18 mm) and the standard zoom lens (18 to 105 mm) are recommended.

You can also take various filters with you. The polarization filter, for example, ensures that the colors are displayed better and reduces the influence of haze, while the gray scale filter reduces the difference in brightness between the ground and the sky. In the high mountains, the UV filter can be used.

Avoid the midday sun when planning your day. If necessary, it is advisable to adjust the hiking direction. Before you start your hike, you should check the functionality of your equipment. The batteries should be charged and checked carefully. In addition to replacement batteries, additional memory cards should not be missing.

Tips for the perfect mountain photo

  • Less is often more. Even if nature is overwhelming in all directions, instead of photographing everything you should focus your attention on individual points and consciously limit yourself. Try to capture emotions.
  • Change the position from which you shoot more often. Climb rocks, lie on the ground or squat. But of course you have to pay attention to your safety!
  • Make pictures more interesting through many layers. Use foreground, middle and background.
  • Preferably use the manual focus. Don’t just take wide-angle pictures. Detail shots can also be enchanting.
  • Take pictures with a tripod for a change. Create exposure series from which you can later create HDR images.

Light, lighting conditions, exposure

Work with the three well-known light controls aperture, exposure time and ISO setting.

The aperture regulates the amount of incident light. The larger the f-number, the smaller the aperture and the less light is incident. This affects the depth of field. A small aperture will make some parts of the subject sharper, while others will blur in the background or foreground.

  1. The exposure time, on the other hand, indicates how long light falls on the image sensor. A long exposure time can cause camera shake or subject movement. If you want to freeze a movement, you should use fast shutter speeds.
  2. The ISO value indicates the sensitivity of the image sensor. In low-light conditions, you can increase the ISO to avoid long exposure times. However, you should be careful with the ISO value as too high an ISO value can cause image noise.

When photographing in the mountains, note the “giant softbox” in the shape of the sky. To avoid getting eroded lights, you should always expose to the lights. With digital cameras and snow, you should not expose to the depths. On grey days, use a grey card for white balance. You should also avoid backlighting. It is better to have the sun in your back. You can also use a lens hood. You can also eliminate overexposure by using the snow or beach mode of your camera.

The third rule

The golden section provides a certain division ratio of a distance or surface, which is perceived as pleasant and natural when viewed. The third rule ensures a harmonious distribution of images with tension and movement. For this purpose, the picture is divided horizontally and vertically into equal thirds.

Weight the continent more strongly. For example, place the horizon on the upper horizontal third line. In addition, the sky should not occupy more than one third of the image. Important picture elements are moved from the center and placed at the line intersections. Experiment with the arrangement of the main motif. For example, you should not place actors in the center of the image. In addition, make sure that they move into the image and look into it.

Leading Lines Benefits

Look for diagonal lines. It’s an easy-to-use trick that has a powerful effect. By using distinctive lines, you give the photo a certain dynamism. Since reading from left to right is preferred, it makes sense to start leading lines from the upper or lower left corner of the image. The lines influence the viewer’s gaze and where it ends. Fences or hiking trails are suitable as such lines. If you want to compensate for minor errors such as overexposure or underexposure afterwards, you should take your photos in RAW format. In contrast to JPEG format shots, RAW offers a lot of post-processing potential. You can extract dynamics, contrast and colors from RAW files afterwards. Note that RAW files are larger and you need more storage space.

The mountain tour is already planned, but bad weather is approaching? Don’t let it spoil your mood. Bad weather brings interesting piling cloud formations around mountain massifs.

If the colors come over only weakly due to bad light conditions, you can save the pictures by taking black-and-white pictures from colored pictures. To do this, increase the contrast, reduce the exposure, and raise the white tones.


The high mountains of this world offer incredible photo backdrops at different times of the day and year. Use the Golden Hour for special photos. The time before sunset and after sunrise offers beautiful light shows. As soon as you choose longer exposure times, you should use the tripod.

Different weather conditions create different photo atmospheres. Bad weather brings a certain drama with threatening clouds and striking peaks, while warm afternoon light conjures up harmonious mountain panoramas. Mysterious motifs can be seen on cloudy days. Fog adds to the mysticism.

The most important thing is that you master your camera and the individual tools inside and out. However, this does not only apply to mountain photography. This is the only way to capture atmospheric moments of short duration. Exposure, focusing and image build-up are three factors that have a decisive influence on the photographs. There are no limits to your creativity when photographing mountains. Play with the various parameters and perspectives, but think of your own safety. No photo is worth taking a risk.