Take great landscape photos on your phone with these pro tips – CNET

Today’s top phones, like the iPhone 15 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, come with amazing cameras that can take the stunning photos you’d normally expect from professional DSLR cameras. Even older or cheaper phones like the 2021 iPhone 13 Pro or the new Google Pixel 8 can take beautiful photos worth printing and displaying on your wall.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to take landscape photos with your phone, whether you’re heading out to the countryside or deep into the mountains. While some of the tips apply to the latest phones with multiple lens options, many of them apply whether your device is 3 months or 3 years old, Apple or Android.

read more: The best camera phone to buy right now

Sort your phone’s camera settings

Your phone is probably capable of taking an amazing landscape photo in its default automatic mode, but let’s look at it a little further.

If your phone has a “pro” mode that allows you to manually control settings, switch to this mode. If this isn’t the case, an app like Moment, Lightroom, or MuseCam lets you take control of settings like ISO, shutter speed, and white balance.


By turning on ProRaw on my iPhone 12 Pro Max, I was able to get much more detail in the highlights and shadows when editing this image.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Most importantly, these apps also allow you to record in raw format. Many of the automatic camera settings that your phone normally applies to a JPEG image, such as white balance and sharpening, are not saved in raw images. The result is an image that allows you to change white balance, change color tones, and bring out detail in highlights and shadows much more easily – and with less image degradation – than with a regular JPEG file. I’ll come back to this more in the edit section below.

The last few generations of Apple’s iPhone Pro can use the company’s ProRaw format, which uses some computational photography techniques like HDR blending but still produces an easy-to-edit DNG file. Tapping the Raw button on the camera screen will enable Raw shooting. Google has a similar, raw feature built into its Pixel line.

For landscapes, changing the white balance is often crucial because automatic white balance may see a scene with a lot of warm tones (such as autumn leaves on trees) and try to use a cool white balance to even it out, but in this case it loses all its natural warmth . Being able to tone down some of the highlights in a bright sky or bring out shadows in the foreground is important, and being able to change the white balance after you’ve taken the photo gives you much more flexibility in editing, rather than having colors blended into the image as you take it.

The downside to taking your photos in Raw is that they will likely require some work in an editing app like Lightroom or Snapseed before you can share them. Landscape photography is often a slower and more methodical process, and spending time editing is part of creating a beautiful photo.

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The time of day is most important in landscape photography. By setting my alarm for 3am, I managed to reach this stunning spot on time and capture this beautiful sunrise light with my iPhone 14 Pro.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Shoot early, stay late

In landscape photography, the time of day is crucial because the lighting changes completely as the sun passes overhead. The best time of day to catch dramatic light is at sunrise or sunset. At both times of the day, the sun is low in the sky, causing directional light and long shadows to be cast on the scene.

Midday is usually the worst time to shoot because overhead light doesn’t create much detail in the shadows, which can make scenes appear flat and lifeless.

If you have a specific location in mind, it’s worth setting an alarm and going out early to see what you can capture as the sun rises. If time allows, try re-shooting the same scene at different times of the day and see when it looks best.

Watch the weather

Weather plays a huge role in any outdoor photography, but none more so than with landscapes. Different weather conditions will change your scene, completely changing its mood, lighting and colors. But don’t assume that bad weather means bad photos.

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The atmospheric weather adds a beautiful, ethereal haze to this scene overlooking Edinburgh.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Personally, I love the evil, moody atmosphere of a landscape with dark storm clouds hovering over it. Often, the light that appears after a storm can look especially dramatic. So, even though the trek to your chosen destination may be an ordeal in the pouring rain, keep your spirits up by imagining the beautiful photo you might receive at the end.

The worst weather for landscapes is plain, miserable, gray skies where there is no cloud texture, no interesting light on the land, and no contrast with the scene in front of you.

Keep an eye on your favorite weather app and make decisions based on the predictions. If you pack the right clothes you can brave the worst of the weather, and if it gets really bad, Google Maps to the nearest pub to sit out with a good drink.

Experiment with wide-angle and zoom lenses

If your phone has a wide angle mode, now is the time to try it out. If your phone doesn’t come with a wide mode as standard, you can use additional lenses to achieve the same effect.

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By switching to the ultra-wide lens on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I was able to keep the small fishing boat on the left and the mooring post on the right in the frame, making it a much more attractive composition.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Super-wide landscapes can be especially dramatic because they capture so much of the scene in one image. Mountain peaks that would otherwise be out of frame are suddenly captured in all their majesty, while beautiful rivers can now be seen in their entirety, blending into the scene.

But once you feel the excitement of seeing the whole scene, try using your phone’s telephoto zoom lens to focus on some of the details. Look for interesting rock formations, patterns in the landscape, or unusual shapes in the scene – all of which can stand out when you enlarge or cut out other distracting elements.

Focus on composition

It’s easy to think that using as wide an angle as possible will guarantee a nice landscape photo, but that’s not the case. In fact, to get the most out of wide shots, you need to think even more about composition.

Primary interest

Look for interest at the forefront of your scenes. Tree stumps, moss-covered rocks, and even beautiful flowers can be used to draw the viewer’s eye to the scene. When you’re at the top of a hill taking a photo, spend a few minutes looking around for something you can include in your shot to help compose the entire scene.

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I placed the subject (actually myself) in the right third of the frame and the lake in the left third of the frame. It naturally draws the viewer’s eye across the scene.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Leading lines

Leading lines are also a great element of a brilliant landscape composition. Notice the paths, pretty walls, and other long features that wind further into the scene – it’s this winding perspective that allows the viewer’s eye to follow the lines and into the image.

Simple horizons

If you have grid lines or a leveling tool on your phone screen, use this to make sure the horizon line is straight. Then double-check that you’re not accidentally cutting off the top of your subject, whether it’s a mountain, a building, or a tree. Remember that you can do a lot to improve an average image with editing, but you can’t do anything to save a bad composition.

Edit your photos

The image is not ready when you press the shutter button; With just a few tweaks in your editing app, you can turn a simple photo into a beautiful work of art.

My favorite editing app is Adobe Lightroom Mobile, but I also get great results with Google’s Snapseed app, which is a free download for Android and iOS devices. You can check mine a list of the best editing appswhich include a variety of options for those of you who like to get a little crazy with your editing.

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This photo of Solomon’s Temple in Buxton, England, taken with the Galaxy S10 Plus, is nice but uninspiring, and the rusty drain pipe on the outside of the tower doesn’t look good.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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With a little work in Lightroom and adjusting the color balance, darkening the sky and foreground, and removing the downspout, a photo taken on a phone that came out in 2019 has a much greater impact.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I usually start by tweaking the white balance to make the colors look true, or to add warmth to a beautiful sunset. This is where shooting in raw mode becomes especially beneficial. I’ll adjust the exposure levels, especially the highlights and shadows, to control the bright sky a bit better or enhance the shadows in the foreground. A bit of extra contrast can also add some dynamics to a scene.

My advice is: make a cup of coffee, sit back and play with the sliders in your chosen application to your heart’s content. Try different filters and experiment with layering different effects by saving and re-importing the image. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to edit an image, so have fun – you can always go back to the original image if you don’t like what you came up with.


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