Tips and Tricks for Taking Better Outdoor Photos on Your Smartphone

For some, a smartphone will never replace a professional setup. But as phone cameras grow increasingly smart, the issue is becoming more one of preference, not necessarily camera proficiency.


Know the rule of thirds, then break the rule of thirds. Once you find your subject, the rule of thirds — the technique of dividing a shot into thirds and placing the subject into one of those sections instead of dead center — is a great compositional tool, but it isn’t your only tool. Allow natural leading lines in your field of vision — a road, mountains, trees — or brightness/darkness contrast lead the eyes to your subject.

Get low. Most people photograph at eye level. When you’re in the outdoors, you likely have an expanse before you — whether it’s water, hills, ground, a winding road or something else. Get low to the ground and put your camera right to the ground to capture the scene from a unique point of view.

Choose your frame by choosing your subject. Don’t worry about over-composing your frame; start with your subject, and build your frame around it.

Use focus and blurring to your advantage. Play with large expanses of space — blur out large foregrounds and backgrounds and focus on your subject instead. The iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode allows you to do this well.

Always over-capture. Take as many photos as you can, and worry about sifting through them later. When wildlife or a moving subject is in frame, don’t get too close; zoom in to avoid disturbing your subject, and if you have an iPhone, use Burst Mode to take as many photos as you can with the click of one button.

Be your own creativity. Try harder than everyone else. Drive in the opposite direction that others are. Wherever everyone else is, go farther. Stay an extra ten minutes waiting for the right cloud or for the moon to rise. Spend an hour looking for the right puddle with the right reflection.


Helpful Apps

Pixelmator ($4.99)

Pixelmator is a powerful, full-featured, layer-based image editor that lets you touch up and enhance images, sketch and paint, as well as create advanced image compositions on iPad and iPhone alike.

Pro Camera ($4.99)

The gold standard for professional iOS photography, provides a highly intuitive interface for beginners as well as an impressive array of DSLR-like controls for experts. Leveraging the capabilities of the iPhone, ProCamera is easy to use yet deep when needed.

Snapseed (Free)

Google’s very own photo editor is not for the faint of heart. With 26 different editing tools and filters (from things like Healing and Glamour Glow to HDR and Pose), there’s no shortage of what you can accomplish once you set your need-a-new-profile-picture mind to it.

Adobe Photoshop Fix (Free)

Enables powerful, yet easy image retouching and restoration on your iPad or iPhone. Heal, smooth, liquify, lighten and make other edits and adjustments that give you the precise look you’re after. Access edited photos within other Adobe mobile and desktop apps by signing in to Adobe Creative Cloud to further refine them or use them in other creative projects

Polarr Photo Editor (Free)

Used by the world’s most professional portrait and landscape photographers, Polarr offers advanced auto-enhance tools and sophisticated filters to edit every detail of your photo.

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