Without a doubt, landscapes are one of the most popular subjects for photographers of all ability levels. From professional photographers whose photos help pay the mortgage to brand new photographers that simply use their mobile phone, landscapes offer all kinds of interesting subject matter to highlight in a photograph.
With phone cameras becoming increasingly powerful and feature-rich, there has never been a better time to use your phone for photographing landscapes. Sure, they still can’t match a top-end Nikon full frame camera, but that doesn’t mean that your phone isn’t capable of taking stunning images. Of course, how you approach photographing the landscape will heavily influence the quality of the shots.
Let’s examine a few essential pointers for getting the best landscape photos with your phone.
Include Foreground Interest
Having areas of foreground interest in your landscape shot not only draws the viewer’s eye deeper into the scene, but it also gives your images added visual punch. Trees, rocks, fences, buildings, and reflections in water are just a few examples of landscape elements that can be used to make the foreground of the shot more interesting to view. A lesser used element to create foreground interest is color. Adding color from flowers, autumn leaves, and the like to the foreground of the shot will grab the viewer’s attention just as well as any of the other factors listed above.
What’s more, foreground interest provides viewers with a better understanding of the scale of the scene. In the image above, the hills in the background might not look all that large on their own, but including the fenceline in the foreground offers the viewer a better understanding of just how large those hills are and how far away they are in relation to the fenceline. Note as well how the fenceline acts to drive your eye deeper into the shot toward the farmhouse in the middleground. In this case, the foreground interest accomplishes many tasks that together help create a much more dynamic and engaging image.
Have a Strong Subject
A critical element of landscape photography regardless of the type of camera you use is having a strong subject that makes the image compelling. Without a strong subject, viewers aren’t sure where their eyes should go in the scene - they might be left gazing around the image haphazardly without engaging with it on a deeper level.
The question is, what makes for a strong landscape subject?
There are several things you can do that will help your primary subject stand out in the scene. One is to ensure it differs from the rest of the scene in terms of color. The mountain in the image above immediately catches the eye, in part, because it’s snow-capped peak is the only area of bright white in the photo. Another reason why the mountain stands out as the primary subject is its size in the frame. Larger objects tend to draw more attention, but in this case, the size of the mountain is also emphasized by its placement in the frame. Traditionally, placing the subject in the dead middle isn’t recommended, but in this case, doing so serves to highlight the sheer size of the mountain.
How you use foreground interest can also help make your primary subject stronger. Leading lines, for example, can direct the viewer’s eye to the subject. In the image above, though the flowers in the foreground add some color and texture to the scene, they aren’t so eye-catching that they compete with the primary subject. Finding that kind of balance when shooting landscapes with your mobile phone is critical.
Get Some Perspective
One of the greatest benefits of shooting with a mobile phone is the mobility it affords you in terms of where you shoot. There’s no carrying around tons of heavy photography gear to slow you down, so you’re more easily able to find interesting perspectives from which to take your photos.
The perspective from which you shoot is a powerful tool in creating a more interesting shot. All too often, mobile phone photographers simply get out of the car (or maybe even photograph landscapes with the window down) rather than exploring the area to find a better scene to photograph. Using your feet to gain a little elevation to take a shot from above, or conversely, finding a spot to get down low to highlight landscape elements like foreground interest, will help you get much more dynamic photos.
Moving around and finding a better vantage point is especially critical because of the limitations that mobile phone cameras have. Without a good zoom, you might need to “zoom with your feet” to get closer to your subject. By the same token, moving left or right, up or down allows you to find the ideal angle that takes advantage of the best elements of the landscape before you.
Equip Yourself With a Wide-Angle Lens
One of the best ways to improve your landscape photography with your mobile phone is to not rely on your phone’s built-in lens to do all the heavy lifting. There are tons of add-on lenses that you can choose from, but one of our favorites is the wide-angle mobile phone lens by Sirui.
Landscapes often benefit from using a wide-angle lens because you’re able to include more of the scene in the shot. And because the Sirui wide-angle lens has six high-precision glass substrates, a SCHOTT spherical lens, and multi-layer AR coating, you know that your images will be sharp, crisp, and bring out even the smallest details in the landscape you’re photographing. With that kind of superior optical performance, which produces high-resolution images with low optical distortion, the landscape images you take with your phone will look more like landscape images taken with a DSLR and less like they were taken with a phone!
Getting high-quality landscape photos with your phone requires much more work than simply holding your phone out the window of the car and clicking the shutter. Instead, you need to include foreground interest that helps the viewer identify and engage with a strong, central subject. Vary your perspective as well, taking images from above and below your normal eye level. Also consider adding a lens to your phone, like Sirui’s wide-angle lens, to help you take shots that capture more of the scene and do so in a way that makes your images look their absolute best.