If you’re looking to capture beautiful landscape photos with just an iPhone, then you’ve come to the right place.
You see, instead of heavy, expensive camera bodies and a backpack full of lenses, sometimes all you need to capture the beauty of the great outdoors is a simple mobile phone. It’s an ideal approach for short hikes, weekend excursions, extended camping expeditions, or any situation where you want to create stunning shots of trees, lakes, mountains, and more.
In this article, I share my top 11 tips for stunning iPhone landscape photography – so that, by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be able to capture iPhone photos like a pro!
Let’s dive right in, starting with my first tip:
1. Use foreground objects for impactful images
Landscapes are all about beautiful vistas and expansive horizons – but if you add in a foreground object, your photos will become far more dramatic and give your viewers a sense of context.
Foreground objects can be as simple as trees, rocks, animals, or anything else that helps complement the rest of the image. Adding a foreground element isn’t difficult, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a complicated, drawn-out process. You can often include a nice foreground object by adjusting your iPhone angle or by aiming your camera in a slightly different direction.
When looking for foreground elements, try to use natural formations as opposed to artificial objects like signs, buildings, or vehicles. Sure, artificial objects can work, but they tend to detract from the natural look of the scene.
The goal is to make impactful images with brilliant clouds, trees, hills, fields, lakes, and other landscape elements – while also giving your viewers a little something extra to anchor the picture!
2. Adjust your height
When I see people taking landscape shots with their iPhones, the process is almost always the same: They see a beautiful scene, so they stand up, hold out their phone, and take a picture.
That approach works fine, but you can get dramatically different results just by making one simple change:
When doing iPhone landscape photography, don’t stand up. Instead, seek out different perspectives by adjusting your height.
Find something to stand on to get higher up, or better yet, just sit down so you are closer to the ground. The latter method also gives you easy access to foreground elements like flowers, leaves, or even critters that can jazz up even the most boring landscape shot.
Sometimes, I just set my phone on the ground and aim it up and down until I get the picture I want. A simple change in height really can work wonders:
3. Use the Grid setting to improve composition
On an iPhone, you can just go to Settings>Camera and enable the Grid option. This puts an overlay over your camera screen that you can see while you compose your shots, and it’s a great way to help you get everything properly aligned.
While tricks like the rule of thirds are not immutable laws of photography, they are a great place to start if you just want a simple and effective way to compose good pictures. Try putting the horizon on either the top or the bottom gridline, or play around with positioning the foreground and background elements on the gridlines.
These gridlines are also a good way to help make sure your iPhone landscape photos are straight, which means you get to spend less time editing and more time enjoying the moment!
4. Put a person in the foreground
Have you ever looked through your landscape photos, only to realize that they didn’t quite capture the feeling of what it was like to actually be there?
It’s difficult to convey the sheer size, scale, and emotion of a beautiful landscape, but there is a simple solution: add a person. I don’t mean that you should add a person artificially, in Photoshop; instead, simply ask someone to stand in the frame while you take your shot.
They don’t have to do anything special or even look at the camera. Just including someone else in the frame is often enough to help your viewers feel like they are experiencing the scene.
I took the above image from the top of Mount Scott in southern Oklahoma, but it doesn’t even come close to conveying the sense of scale and majesty that I felt when my family and I were standing on these rocks. It’s tough to understand the size of the rocks and other elements in the frame.
However, once I added a few people, the scene became a lot more compelling and dramatic:
5. Use the Straighten setting to fix the horizon
One of the trickiest elements of iPhone landscape photography is getting the horizon straight. It seems like such a simple thing to do, and yet the smallest tilt of your phone can result in crooked and uneven horizons that ruin otherwise great shots.
Thankfully, the iPhone Straighten tool makes this incredibly simple to fix.
To edit an awkwardly angled horizon, open the image in your Photos app, then tap the Straighten option. You can use the slider on the side to adjust the rotation of the photo:
You will lose some pixels in the process, but smartphone files include plenty of resolution – so even after adjusting for a crooked horizon, your final picture will have more than enough information for sharing, posting, and even printing.
6. Shoot right after sunrise or just before sunset
One of the easiest ways to enhance your iPhone landscape photography is to simply pay attention to the time of day. While it’s always fun to take beautiful outdoor shots with bright blue skies, shooting in the morning or evening can give you results that are positively breathtaking.
One of the best parts about taking landscape photos in the morning or evening is the beautiful color cast. The low sun results in a rich, deep yellow or golden tone that makes landscapes shine. You also get long shadows that’ll make your shots feel epic, and if the atmosphere is thick with fog or haze, you can take stunning shots of the rising or setting sun.
There’s also the added bonus of being out in nature when things are at their most peaceful; sometimes, when I’m out at dawn or dusk, I just put my phone away and just bask in a moment of calm and quiet.
7. Crop your photos for maximum impact
Cropping a picture used to require advanced software and lots of patience, but on an iPhone, it can hardly be more straightforward! Cropping can dramatically improve your landscape photos, but it’s not an adjustment that many people think about.
You can crop to remove people or objects from the edges of a picture, adjust the framing or aspect ratio, or simply give your pictures added visual impact.
To crop a picture on an iPhone, choose Edit, then tap the icon that looks like two intersecting stair steps. Press and drag your finger on the edge of the image, which automatically displays the Crop overlay and shows you how your photo will be altered.
Cropping on an iPhone is non-destructive, so you can always revert back to the original image if you don’t like your edits. Gridlines on the Crop tool help you adjust and align your picture for maximum impact, and in the above example, you can see how I edited the image to zoom in on the buffalo. The iPhone’s camera has plenty of megapixels to spare, so even after a great deal of cropping, I came away with a perfectly usable image:
8. Use the filters to enhance and adjust the color of your landscapes
One of the best parts about landscape photography on an iPhone is the sheer amount of color adjustment options you have available. The default camera works perfectly fine, but when shooting landscapes, you might want to punch up the colors or create a specific mood. That’s when the built-in photo filters can really shine, and they are extremely easy to use.
To use your iPhone’s built-in filters, tap and drag up on the center of your screen when your camera is active. This will bring up some additional options and icons at the bottom of the interface, including one with three intersecting circles. Tap that to show the available filters, and drag your finger across them to see how they will alter your image.
While you can apply filters after you take a shot, testing filters while shooting lets you see what the final image will look like in real-time – with no guesswork on your part. It can also give you a burst of creativity and inspiration as you see your images change right before your eyes.
My favorite filters for iPhone landscape photography are Vivid Warm and Dramatic, but you can sometimes get great results when you least expect them. Shooting with a Silvertone or Mono filter can instantly transform a landscape picture into something that looks like an old western movie, and it can convey an entirely different sense of emotion and place compared to a full-color shot.
9. Put large objects on one of the vertical thirds
One of the easiest ways to create a stunning landscape shot is to put your horizon on or between the horizontal thirds. It’s a simple technique and one that lots of photographers eventually learn to break away from, but you really can’t go wrong using those one-third delineators to compose your pictures.
But while the horizontal thirds are important, the vertical thirds deserve attention, too!
Landscape photos are all about creating a sense of scale and about helping your viewers feel the same sense of awe and wonder that you did when you took the photo. Putting a large object front-and-center diminishes the visual impact of a scenic vista and often makes the composition feel awkward and uninteresting.
Fortunately, all you have to do is re-frame your shot so the large object is along the left or right vertical gridline:
When you place a large object on the left or right vertical third, you are essentially using it to complement the foreground, horizon, sky, and other elements. Shots like this invite the viewer to contemplate the entire scene, not just your main subject. Ironically, moving large objects off to the side actually makes them feel more majestic and significant and helps create a more complete composition.
10. Shoot in Panorama mode
By default, the iPhone takes photos in a 4×3 aspect ratio, which means one side of each image is always going to be slightly longer than the other side. This is great when taking landscape shots, since holding your iPhone horizontally creates a wide, expansive image that helps capture the grandeur of the scene.
However, this comes at the cost of vertical space, and a horizontal photo won’t be able to emphasize tall objects or a breathtaking sky.
And that’s where your iPhone’s Panorama mode comes in handy!
To activate Panoramic mode, scroll at the bottom of your camera interface until you see the Pano option.
Then hold your phone vertically, press the shutter button, and slowly pan your phone from left to right. An onscreen guide will prompt you to hold your iPhone level, and it’ll even move an arrow along a line as you go.
Once you’ve finished the shot, the camera software will construct a single complete image from all the data, and the final image will show plenty of vertical and horizontal detail:
If you really want to create an epic iPhone landscape photo, sweep your iPhone across a huge swath of the horizon in Pano mode. It’s like shooting with an ultra-ultra-wide lens! As long as the wind is calm and there aren’t too many moving objects in your shot, you’ll end up with a majestic image that offers an incredible sense of scale and grandeur – even on a small mobile phone.
11. Use a tripod
My final tip for beautiful iPhone landscape photos has nothing to do with software or filters and everything to do with photography gear.
You see, an iPhone tripod is a great way to create impactful landscape shots, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get one. From inexpensive GorillaPods to high-end Peak Design Travel Tripods, there are plenty of great options to fit your needs and give you lots of creative freedom.
Using a tripod lets you get creative when positioning your iPhone; it’ll also hold it steady so you can do long exposures, and it’ll even help you use techniques such as time-lapse and focus stacking.
iPhone landscape photography: final words
iPhone landscape photography is a fun, creative, exciting pursuit that doesn’t require expensive hardware, software, or other gear.
Note that all of the techniques and tips I shared in this article work great on older iPhones, so don’t feel you need the newest iPhone to get good results. All you need is an interesting subject and a mobile phone!
Now over to you:
Which of these iPhone landscape tips do you plan to use first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!