Everyone with a smartphone can take landscape pictures, but not everyone can do it properly. If you want to make your images stand out from the rest, we’ll show you a few tricks you’ll find useful once you’re out on the field.
Equipment for Amazing Landscape Smartphone Photos
In most situations, your phone is all you need when taking landscape photos. But it doesn’t hurt to bring a few accessories with you to help you get the best shot possible in any situation.
Smartphones don’t have screws for tripods so don’t forget to get a mount for your device.
When you touch the screen to take a photo, you could still get motion blur even if your phone is on a tripod. To avoid this issue, you can get a phone remote. It’ll allow you to trigger the shutter without touching your device.
When you use it to shoot landscape photos, you’ll end up with images that appear vast and dramatic.
Smartphone Settings for Landscape Photos
Your smartphone has a variety of features you can use for different shooting conditions. How do you know which settings to use when shooting landscape images?
First, you’ll need to turn on your camera grid. The lines help you see whether your frame is straight or not. A simple way to ensure your phone is not tilted is to look for the horizon and use that as a reference to level your device.
Next, tap your screen to activate your camera’s focus. Look for an area in your frame which you want to be your main point of interest. Select it and make sure it turns green before you take a picture.
To keep your exposure uniform, consider using the Auto Exposure (AE) lock. In normal situations, your camera continuously adjusts the exposure as the lighting conditions change. And the AE lock is what you use to prevent this from happening.
It’s useful for creating silhouettes or photographing backlit landscapes.
If you want to create silhouettes, tap on the brightest area of your frame then tap AE lock. Meanwhile, if you want a backlit area to look brighter, tap that section, activate AE lock and take a photo.
For complicated lighting conditions with deep contrasts, it would help a lot to use High Dynamic Range (HDR). Once you activate it, your camera would take several photos of the scene automatically once you press the shutter.
Your phone will then combine these images into one photo that best represents the lighting and the colors of the landscape.
How to Find the Best Location for Smartphone Photography
Just because you’re in a beautiful place doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll get nice pictures. The secret is to know where to find good angles for the best compositions.
Look for an area that’s not too busy. The best landscape photos convey space as much as they convey beautiful sceneries.
To give your image a feeling of three-dimensionality, consider including a point of interest in the foreground. It could be a tree or even a lone person in front of the scenery.
Include a vanishing point to help drive home the three-dimensional look of your image. Place a road or a river in your frame that runs from the foreground to the background.
And finally, integrate shapes and lines in your composition. You can consider them as guides that drive your audience’s eyes to your main subject.
Shoot at Sunrise or Sunset for the Best Light
Apart from the views, landscape photography is also all about lighting. If you’re not careful, good scenery can easily look crappy in bad lighting.
On the flip side, you could also turn an average place into a beautiful photo with the perfect lighting.
Although not a hard and fast rule, it’s always a good idea to wait for the sunrise or sunset when shooting landscapes.
The best time is often twenty minutes after sunrise or before sunset. It’s the perfect opportunity to capture beautiful colors and shadows since the sun is low on the horizon during this period. You can also capture sunrise or sunsets with iPhone timelapse videos.
And if you want even more dramatic photos, you can also try shooting before sunrise or after sunset. Also called the blue hour, this is the time when the sun is barely above the horizon and casts deep blue hues.
Consider getting a sun tracking app such as Sun Seeker on your phone. That way you can predict where the sun is going to rise or set.
Knowing its trajectory will help you better plan your shots, especially if you want to include the sun rising or setting in your image.
How to Compose Landscape Shots on Your Smartphone
Some think that all you need in landscape photography is look for a nice location and snap a casual photo. But excellent photographers know that it takes a lot more than that. We’ll show you a few guidelines to make sure your composition is perfect.
First, turn your grid and use it as your guideline for the Rule of Thirds. All you have to do is look for an area which you wish to highlight in your photo. It could be anything from a tree to a mountain peak.
Next, adjust your framing until your main subject hits a point where the lines in the grid intersect. Now all you have to do at this point is press the shutter and you’ll have a well-composed image.
You should also create a balance between the scenery and the sky. Just because the sky looks beautiful doesn’t mean you should let it dominate the frame. Remember, you’re doing landscape photography, not cloud photography.
You can break the rule if you think the sky would help elevate the quality of your image.
Should You Use HDR for Landscape Photos on Your Smartphone
We mentioned High Dynamic Range or HDR earlier. But let’s discuss it in detail. This way you’ll know what it really does and how to use it.
Cameras have their limitations when it comes to how they capture the darkest and brightest areas of a beautiful landscape.
Even the most high-tech options aren’t capable of documenting the truest hues of landscapes. And this is where HDR comes in.
By capturing several pictures with different exposure levels, HDR creates a more accurate depiction of a scene. It does this by using the information from the different shots to reconstruct the colors of the places you shoot.
Remember that HDR isn’t always necessary for every landscape picture. In fact, it could actually ruin your images if you use it in every situation.
So how would you know if you need to use HDR? Generally when the lighting looks uneven. For instance, you can activate it when the sky is too bright that it produces silhouettes and blows out the horizon.
Once you turn on this neat feature, you’ll end up with a photo that shows a more balanced exposure.
To use HDR for smartphone photography, all you have to do is tap HDR on your screen. Once you activate it, your phone will take the sequence shots for you and stitch them together into one image.
Just remember to keep your phone stable while the camera is taking a succession of photos. In most situations, your device does a good job keeping the frames straight.
But to avoid risking blurry shots, consider using a tripod instead.
How to Edit Landscape Photos on Your Smartphone
If you did everything according to our landscape tutorial, then we guarantee you’ll have nice images. But you can make them even better once you retouch them.
They all function the same for the most part. Feel free to apply what you learn here on any platform you choose.
The first thing you need to do is adjust your image’s white balance. You’ll have several options to choose from, but you can start with Auto WB. If it still looks off, then try the other choices such as Daylight or Shady.
If the tones of your image still appear inaccurate, then use Custom WB and adjust the setting yourself.
Next, tweak the basic settings such as Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows. It’s easy to go overboard with these adjustments. But the trick is to make sure your scenery pictures stay as realistic as possible.
Finally, use presets to bring out the drama and colors of your landscape photo. Choosing a filter is a matter of personal preference. But whatever option you choose, make sure that the colors stay true to life.
Also, consider adjusting Vibrance and Saturation to make the colors look more punchy. Like the other settings, use these features in moderation.
Landscape photography is so easy to do with your smartphone. Now that you have more techniques up your sleeve, you can create even more beautiful landscape pictures.
At this point, all you have to do is go out there and train your eyes to see the beauty in every place you visit. You can find the coolest sceneries in even the most unexpected locations. Keep exploring and keep your eyes peeled.
For more smartphone tips, check out our new post about the best camera phone next!