How to Shoot Legendary Landscape Photography on a Phone
Landscape photography is more than a hobby; it’s a way of life. Doing it on mobile phone cameras is just doing it as sensibly as possible.
It’s a lifestyle that indulges in grit, adventure, and a passion for natural beauty.
The best landscape photographers spend their lives chasing the light in remote areas, capturing scenes devoid of human intervention. The hard work of these mobile photographers often gets rewarded with some of the most stunning images and incredible stories!
The possibility of thousands of followers on social media certainly isn’t a deterrent either. It’s no wonder so many people choose landscape photography as their passion.
The Keys to Great Landscape Shots on a Smartphone
So, this industry isn’t that hard if you’re willing to do what it takes to get to those dramatic locations.
It’s worth noting, however, that that’s much easier said than done. Landscape photography tips only go so far; a desire to succeed is required to take your work the rest of the way
If you’re not phased by the challenge, though, read on and learn what it takes to be a top-notch cell phone photographer focusing on landscapes.
Tip #1 – Get Inspired
There are so many examples of wonderful photographers that have dedicated their lives to landscapes! Chris Burkard is one of my personal favorites.
Find a photographer that inspires you and examine their work. What is it about their unique style that captivates you? Perhaps they are using some techniques that you can learn from and elaborate on.
Identify your unique style and run with it. Your own style will boost the quality of your work and your relevancy.
Tip #2 – Get Out There
Explore and discover! Be on the lookout for interesting vantage points of fascinating places. The best nature photographers spend months planning exhibitions to explore some of the most remote locations.
Mobile photography, however, has the benefit of being an option all the time. Why? Well, your smartphone is always in your pocket, isn’t it?
As a result, you can start your landscape love story today! If you are a beginner, start somewhere close by. Explore locations near you until you build up your experience and desire to do more.
Tip #3 – Plan Ahead (but don’t get hung up on the details)
Here are some questions to consider:
- Where do you want to go?
- Do you have the optimal weather conditions? Can you make it happen?
- Is it the optimal time of the year?
- Does the gold or blue hour work best for your shot?
- What essentials will you bring?
- How do you get there?
With nature photography, there can be so much to think about, and we’ve explained some of it before!
Create a plan, but don’t get hung up on the details. You may plan to shoot your scene on a sunny day, and instead, you’re met with rain. At least that’s what usually happens to me.
Don’t throw in the towel just because your ideal conditions haven’t been met! After all, you are an artist, and a true artist always finds a way to create.
You may surprise yourself and find that you are happier with your results, even if you got blown off course to get them.
Tip #4 – Get in Touch with Your Feelings
When you are shooting, slow down occasionally, and connect with your surroundings. How do you feel? What effect does the landscape have on the way you are feeling?
Chances are, you’re feeling a lot of things in the shadow of such spectacular beauty. These natural wonders are the perfect place to contemplate life and appreciate the beauty of the landscape. Or, to get in touch with your feelings. In this case, I went with “When death’s dark stream I ferry o’er/ A time that surely shall come/ In Heaven itself, I’ll ask no more/ Than just a Highland welcome.” – Robby Burns
Let’s assume you are standing on a beach, and you feel calm and relaxed. What is it about the beach that relaxes you?
Is it the way the palm trees gently sway in the wind?
Could it be the warm sunshine? Or, maybe the soft sand between your toes?
Perhaps it’s the repetition of one tumbling wave after another that relaxes you.
Identify the elements within a landscape that resonate with you. Then, try to make these parts of the scene the focal points of your photo. Ascribing an emotion to your landscape photos adds visual impact by connecting to your audience in a more profound, more intimate way.
In short, it makes the photo a legendary landscape as opposed to just a regular one.
This concept is challenging to master and often requires lots of practice, so don’t worry if this doesn’t come to you right away!
Tip #5 – Get to Kow Your Camera
Mastering your camera settings will give you greater creative control over your images (note, so does shooting in RAW!).
Think about your final image and how you want it to look. Perhaps you want your image to be slightly underexposed to accentuate the clouds and add drama to your landscape? Or maybe you want a long exposure of a nearby stream to create a silky motion blur that will intensify the relaxed mood you’re capturing?
Long exposure photography seems hard, but it’s not. This style, and others like it, are done by effectively manipulating your camera’s settings.
Pro Tip: Practice shooting in manual mode until you understand how to properly manipulate your ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and depth of field. These controls are of the most importance when shooting in nature.
Once you know how to manipulate your settings, you will have the capacity to select the ideal settings for your legendary landscape manually.
Essential Gear for Mobile Landscape Photography
Landscape photographers as a whole pack lightly because we’re often trekking around for long periods with all our gear.
Those of us that photographer the world’s most dramatic landscapes with just our phone require even less gear. Even still, it’s vital to pack just the essentials.
The Top Cameras
With a legendary landscape, you are usually trying to cram an incredible amount of detail into a single frame, so you want a camera that’s up to the task.
If you are serious and passionate about landscape photography, you may want to consider springing for a full-frame camera. These full-frame cameras are admittedly pricey; however, they pack a larger sensor that is better equipped for getting the most detail.
If you are more of a hobbyist, then stick to your intermediate level crop sensor DSLR as it will do just fine. Sony is great for hobbyists and serious landscape photographers because they make compact, high-quality cameras that are versatile and great for packing.
The Top Lenses
Wide-angle lenses are ideal for legendary landscape photography because they allow you to squeeze a lot of your scene onto your frame. A wide-angle lens typically gets classified as being 35mm or shorter.
If you plan on incorporating astrophotography with your landscapes, you’ll probably want your wide-angle lens also to have a wide F-stop of F/2 or less. The smaller your F-stop, the wider your aperture, which is ideal for low light conditions like astrophotography because it enables more light to pass through to your camera. As far as landscapes go, a small aperture to start with is the way to go.
The Top Filter(s)
No, we are not talking about Instagram filters.
Instead, we are talking about the types of filters you attach to the end of your lens. I’ve never seen a difference in my images when using UV filters, however, they are the cheapest insurance you’ll ever buy for your lens. If you drop your camera and something breaks, you’d much rather it be your $15 UV filter than your $900 lens.
Polarized filters are great because they reduce unwanted glare and increase contrast in your images. Neutral Density filters are for the hard-core landscape enthusiasts. These filters reduce the amount of light that comes through the lens, allowing you to shoot those sexy motion blur landscapes while the sun is out.
So, the ND filters are supposed to be grey; however, in my experience, I have learned that cheap ND filters usually cast a significant blue hue over my images. There are ways of getting around this phenomenon by adjusting your camera’s white balance, or post-processing, however, if you are like me and you find this blue hue annoying, you may want to consider spending around $50 to get a higher quality ND filter.
If you are serious about your landscapes, buy filters made with optical quality glass because you don’t want to put a cheap filter that reduces clarity over your 42.2-megapixel camera. A cheap filter would defeat the purpose of owning an expensive camera.
The Top Tripods
What good is a killer camera with a top of the line lens, if you don’t have a tripod to stabilize everything for your long exposures?
Invest in a tripod that is lightweight, versatile, and durable. Aluminum and carbon fiber tripods are ideal lightweight and sturdy options. Carbon fiber tripods are usually more expensive; however, they will be the lightest, and you won’t have to worry as much about corrosion if you plan on getting your tripod anywhere near the ocean.
You don’t want a tripod that limits your potential, so pick one that will enable you to capture those interesting high and low angles. Ten minutes is too long for those fleeting moments, which is why you also want your tripod to be quick and easy to assemble.
Read reviews and see what people are saying. I love my Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH tripod because it meets all the criteria I have just described, and its pistol grip ball head makes it super quick and easy for me to compose my shot.
The Top Camera Bags
The typical crossbody camera bag isn’t ideal for the landscape photographer. You and your shoulders are going to want a backpack that can more evenly distribute the weight for those long hikes.
Walking around your tripod for any length of time can get annoying, so do yourself a favor and find a backpack that will hold onto all your gear, including your tripod.
Ideally, your camera bag will be waterproof or at least have some sort of rain sleeve. If not, grab a garbage bag and protect your gear in those unprecedented rainstorms.
You now know what it takes to shoot legendary landscapes like a pro! Tell us what you think and share your legendary landscape experiences with us on Instagram!