How to Overcome Unrealistic Expectations in Landscape Photography

I’m sure some of you have had bad experiences on photography travel. I’m talking about when you arrive at your dream place and nothing is quite like you imagined.

This has happened countless times and it’s a bad feeling. I thought something magical would happen in that spot and I’d be able to take the best photo of my life. But the truth is, this rarely happens.

So today I’m going to share some thoughts on how to deal with unexpected situations during your photography journeys.

The camera isn’t the key to taking great photos, so it doesn’t really matter what gear you use. I’ve taken amazing photos with my phone.

Therefore, the photographer behind the camera has accumulated years of experience and knows every little trick to take a great photo.

In many cases, long and difficult hikes were required to reach remote areas, and sometimes the effort was in vain: the photographs simply did not exist.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 1

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 2

They might hike all day to get to the location where the photographer took the photo. They’ll be immediately disappointed because the lighting, the composition, basically everything is different. The photographer’s photo looks much better. That’s when they might realize it was a little harder than they thought.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 3My first visit to the High Tatras

I encountered this situation many times when I started taking landscape photos. I often took one photo that was worse than the last. This made me feel bad and I wanted to give up because I couldn’t take a good photo.

Three years later, I have learned from my mistakes and gained more knowledge about location scouting, weather conditions and picture composition. We had to wait 2 hours for the fog to appear over this lake in the High Tatras. We had only a few seconds to take this photo before the fog completely covered the mountains.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 4Same location – three years later

What is the solution and how to overcome these errors?

First, I cannot stress this enough: you need to avoid expectations.

You can’t control the lighting, it’s not as simple as turning it in the right direction. You have to wait for a specific moment, sometimes even hours, for the elements to align perfectly.

90% of the time, the sky won’t turn that amazing color you want. Well, at least you should be lucky enough to have it all the time. The key here is patience and knowledge; paying attention to the light, the terrain, the weather conditions, and of course your gear.

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Why do some photographers always have great photo conditions and compositions?

Well, they’ve gained a lot of experience; they’ve failed a lot and learned from their mistakes, just like us.

Most importantly, they visit the same location multiple times, capturing and compressing every detail of that place. Waiting for everything to align perfectly to form a specific picture. They already have a good composition in mind, and nature does the rest: bring the light. That’s what makes the image profound. It could be rising fog that diffuses the light, clouds with orange hues, grass dotted with bright light, and so on.

These photographers may know the area very well and are aware of the local weather. For example, after a storm, the clouds will part and the sun will shine through some dramatic clouds, which always makes for amazing lighting conditions.

Let it be

Many times, we don’t have the ability to go to the same place and shoot more than a dozen times. But what can we do to take good photos?

Well, we should all go with the flow and not have expectations when it comes to landscape photography. Be prepared, have backup plans, and adjust new ideas based on changing circumstances.

I often go out to shoot stunning sunsets, but it was cloudy that day. I had a backup plan, and instead of waiting for the sun to rise or letting that situation ruin my mood, I went into the forest to shoot the waterfall. A cloudy day is perfect for shooting such subjects in the woods.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 5Ispekran Falls

No need to wait for that magical sunset because I knew based on the weather forecast it wasn’t going to happen.

We had been staying in the hotel all day for the first few days of a thunderstorm. I quickly realized that the best light comes before or after a storm. Whether the sun is high overhead or not, the light on a stormy day can be very pleasing because of the contrast between the dark clouds and the bright light. That’s when we need to get out and hike to take advantage of these atmospheric opportunities.

My Failure #1276 – Glowing Haze

This is a short story in which I made a mistake and I will tell you how I overcame the failure. This changed the way I think and helped me avoid unrealistic assumptions.

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This happened in the Dolomites, when we had to get up early to visit one of the famous sites, Alpe di Siusi. Unfortunately, I had not yet gathered enough information about the area, and it was our first time going there. Of course, sunrise was a bad choice for this particular location. The direction of the light was not the best, the source of light was in front of us and strongly illuminated the haze. We could not even see our subject: the mountain.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 6Sunrise illuminates the flowing mist

I’m not saying that this position is always wrong at sunrise. I’m just trying to emphasize that it may be better to shoot at sunset.

It was an unpleasant experience and I was very disappointed. I didn’t get to take the most memorable photos of my life and I was exhausted from waking up early and hiking. We needed to rest and sleep during the day to get more energy before heading to the next location to shoot.

Miracles always happen when you least expect it

On the way back to the base, we stopped at Passo di Giau to take some pictures. When we got there, the sky turned really violent and a strong hailstorm hit the pass. We were stuck in the car, patiently waiting for the hail to subside.

The rain had stopped and I knew there would probably be beautiful light breaking through the storm clouds. I went to scout the location and immediately found some composition. This rock provided a great foreground for my image. As the sun broke through the sky, it immediately warmed up the valley and quickly turned the rising haze into flowing clouds. They were the perfect element for my composition. Just as I had hoped, the light broke through the storm and the sweet sun shone over the valley. Everything was perfectly composed at that moment. If I had let the failure of the morning ruin my mood, I might never have observed and captured this moment.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 7Passo di Giau – by Gabor Boszormenyi

If you want to learn more about the Dolomites, check out my article about our landscape photography trip .

I arrived here with no hope, but I overcame my morning frustration and bad mood and suddenly Mother Nature had given me amazing conditions and I took full advantage of them.

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Five Pagodas

This is one of the most popular photo spots in the Dolomites and we visited it once. The hike was very pleasant and we walked in sunny weather. Unfortunately, when we arrived, some rough clouds appeared, shrouding the whole area in a grey.

Although there were some interesting things happening in the mountains in the distance, we were not able to take any decent photos of the Five Towers. We grabbed our gear and waited for the sky to clear above those peaks. Miracle happened again! We were not able to take photos of the famous Five Towers, but we changed our plans and waited patiently and adapted to the changing conditions.

how to overcome unrealistic expectations in landscape photography 8View from the Five Towers


Gather all the necessary information to understand all situations during our learning process.

You can have a general idea of ​​a particular location, but don’t assume the light will be perfect. Instead of dreaming about taking the most beautiful photo, try to adjust your ideas based on the current weather conditions.

Do a location scout to get a feel for the actual location you are shooting in. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on how I do a location scout before a trip.

Most importantly, relax and take as many photos as you can along the way. Enjoy the natural beauty around you instead of rushing to get to a perfect location. Arrive on time, take a break, and explore the area in peace.

Be sure to experiment with different compositions and look for leading lines and memorable foreground objects and shapes. This way, you can avoid over-expecting yourself in landscape photography and truly enjoy your photography adventure.

We all have our ups and downs, and it’s not easy to stay positive all the time. The key is to enjoy the journey and be in harmony with the nature around you. Enjoy the particular place and try to make the most of what you have been given.

What was your most difficult photography moment? How did you solve the problem? Tell your story in the comments.

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