Landscapes are one of the most popular subjects for photographers of all stripes, whether that’s a professional who makes his or her living off their photos or the casual photographer that snaps an image now and again with their point-and-shoot camera. It’s also a popular genre for photographers that use their mobile phones.
Although mobile phones won’t get you the same results as, say, a Hasselblad or a top-of-the-line Nikon DSLR, your phone is nevertheless capable of taking breathtaking photos of the landscapes you see, especially when you utilize the apps and tools we reviewed in the previous lesson. Now that you’ve got your mobile photography gear all lined up, it’s time to learn how to use that gear and your phone to take spectacular landscape images.
Shoot From Different Angles
Little else can have as significant of an impact on your landscape photos as simply changing the perspective from which you shoot. All too often, we hop out of our cars and take a few of the “tourist shots” without ever venturing off to find a viewpoint that might be much better. But by using your feet and exploring the surroundings even just a little bit, you automatically position yourself to take better landscapes with your mobile phone.
This is an especially important practice to undertake because your mobile phone has some limitations, like a lack of a good zoom, that will necessitate you getting closer to your subject. But moving around is also a compositional ploy; by moving up or down, left or right, you might be able to include more of the scene, thus adding interest to the shot, or you might be able to crop out an unsightly element that would otherwise detract from the image.
Look for Foreground Interest
Just like you should do if you’re shooting with a DSLR or other traditional camera, you need to look for areas of visual interest in the foreground to give your mobile photos added punch. Objects like buildings, trees, fences, rocks, or streams give much more definition to your photo, while also providing some context to the landscape. You can also use colors to draw attention to the foreground - the yellow grasses and vibrant trees in the foreground of the image above draws the viewer’s eye deeper into the shot.
Additionally, foreground objects are often needed in landscape shots because they bring an element of size to the photo. A far-off mountain that looks pretty small in real life will look even smaller in your photo, so you need something to add height or weight to the image. This also allows you to create an image in which there are areas of interest on multiple planes - in the foreground, middleground, and background. This kind of layering technique, which was used in the image above, results in a highly dynamic photo.
Don’t Be Afraid to Include People
By and large, photographers tend to photograph landscapes without the inclusion of people. And while this is often the best idea, there are times when including people in the frame can add a bit of interest to the shot.
As discussed above, foreground interest is paramount, and in the absence of anything else, having a person stand in the foreground of the shot can get you the visual interest you need. Doing so also gives you a measuring stick, if you will, providing some scale to the scene. The familiar size and shape of the human body is immediately recognizable, and viewers will have a mark to judge how large or small the landscape elements are in relation to the person in the photograph.
There’s also something to be said about the mood and emotion that people bring to photos. Including a person in the midst of a gorgeous landscape will elevate your photo in a way that other elements cannot.
Look for Lines, Shapes, and Textures
Just like if you were shooting with a DSLR, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for elements like lines, shapes, and textures when photographing landscapes with your mobile phone. Roadways, fence lines, and rivers are just a few elements that have strong lines that add visual interest and make for a much more immersive scene. Interesting shapes, such as a winding roadway on a mountainside, also give depth to an landscape shot that otherwise might fall flat. Textures bring an almost 3-D element to landscape photos, which again, gives them much more visual appeal.
Play With Space
Landscape photos benefit from unique compositions, and one way to do that is to play with space in the photo. Rather than placing your primary subject in the middle of the frame, try shifting it up or down, left or right. See what incorporating more sky in the shot does for its look and feel compared to a shot of the same scene that focuses more on the landscape itself. Also look for opportunities to incorporate negative space into the photo. Doing so results in a rather minimalistic photo that, despite not having much in the way of subject matter, will still be highly impactful.
Use Apps and Tools to Enhance Your Shots
There are an abundance of ways that you can enhance your landscape photos by using the apps and tools we explored in the previous lesson. Use an editing app to punch up the color in a bland landscape or add grit and grain for a very graphic photo representation of the landscape. Use a tripod and a slow shutter app to blur the movement of waterfalls. Improve your ability to capture more of the landscape by using a wide-angle lens, or head into the world of macro photography and use a macro lens to photograph small elements of the environment.
And, if you need inspiration for your photos, look no further than the LightBox Photography Cards Mobile Edition. With dozens of different ideas for subject matter, insightful photography tips and tricks, and beautiful example images, there is no shortage of fodder for your landscape photography. What’s more, once you complete the assignment on a card, you can share your photos on social media and get feedback from other LightBox users. So, not only will you get inspired, but you will also get to interact with and learn from other members of the LightBox community.
At the end of the day, whether it’s putting your apps to good use, using your feet to find a different perspective from which to shoot, or finding foreground interest or leading lines, these tips will make you a better mobile photographer. But just like any other type of photography, you will need to practice these tips and put in the time and effort to improve. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you might just find that mobile photography becomes your passion and that your DSLR spends more and more time at home!
In the next lesson in this series, we’ll explore some fun tips and tricks for taking better portraits with your mobile phone.