How to Capture a Landscape Photograph on Your Smartphone

Every year, tech writers marvel at the power of smartphone cameras. The latest wonder to behold was Apple’s iPhone 6, which has a camera that Wired magazine described with words like “fantastic,” “super fast” and “jaw-dropping.”

Each evolution of a smartphone puts a better camera into a consumer’s pocket. That’s good news for hikers, known for packing light on the treks, as high-quality photos of their adventures take only a finger-swipe of time.

For our money, digital SLR cameras are still worth the investment for beautiful landscape photography. Nevertheless, for those sticking to their smartphones, we tapped Steve Lagreca (@swtrekker), a commercial photographer known for his outdoors shots, for advice on how to best use smartphone cameras to capture landscape photos.

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1. Turn the smartphone sideways.

The long side of the display complements the natural horizontal orientation of the landscape, says Lagreca. “Sounds basic, but you’d be surprised to see how many folks take landscape photos with the long side upright.”

2. Zoom with your feet.

Yes, you can digitally zoom in and out with most smartphones, but “that adds a lot of noise,” says Lagreca. That “added noise” probably won’t show on your smartphone, but when the photo is viewed on your laptop or television, the image will look fuzzy. Before hitting the zoom button, move as close to your foreground subject as you can to keep your subject sharp.

3. Use the HDR feature--if you have it.

“HDR” stands for “High Dynamic Range,” and it takes two (sometimes more) images. One image optimizes the bright areas of the landscape; the other is for the dark areas. Then, the smartphone merges the two photos together, giving a richer final photo. “This is handy when your shot includes bright sky and dark shadows,” says Lagreca, but “motion blur warning: Anybody, or anything, that moves in the instant between the two photos can create ghosting.”

4. Lift your smartphone up.

A bright, sunny sky can create flares or fringing, says Lagreca. “To counter this, hold the smartphone up as high as you can. The extra elevation then allows you to tilt the smartphone downwards ever so slightly. That slight change in angle might just make the difference.