How to Take Great Nature Photos with Your Phone

Maybe you don't have a multi-hundred (or thousand!) dollar camera at your fingertips, but that doesn't mean you can't take your own beautiful landscape photos!
When I first got back into photography, I couldn't afford a camera, so I was using my cell phone to take shots. The cameras on most phones now are incredible and with all the editing apps available, you can capture beautiful images.
It's not all the camera though - there are some easy tips to follow to help elevate your photos.
Savage Falls in Savage Gulf State Natural Area, Palmer, Tennessee
1 - The rule of thirds
Most images look better when the subject isn't in the center. Imagine a grid dividing your shot into three parts both vertically and horizontally (some phones even give you a grid option to make this easier). Create interest by moving your subject to the intersection of two of those lines, rather than right in the middle. This helps draw your eyes in, and makes for much more compelling images. This shot of Savage Falls in Savage Gulf State Natural Area uses this trick, with the subject (the waterfall) in the top and middle right third, with the sun moving across to the left. If the waterfall was in the center, I'd lose a lot of the light and shadow that make this image interesting.
Caney Fork River in Lancaster Tennessee at sunset
2 - Get low
I love to get my phone as close to the ground as possible - you can even rotate it so the camera is just above the ground. This gives a unique perspective to your photo and again, draws the eye in. For the photo above of the Caney Fork River at sunset, I was actually standing in the water before a kayak trip, so my phone was about as low as I could get it without destroying it.
Sunrise over a winter field in Cookeville Tennessee
3 - Choose the best lighting
Golden hour is called that for a reason! The light is soft and warm and the angle is perfect so you don't get harsh shadows. I personally prefer the time right around dawn, but I know most people don't want to wake up that early! An hour or so before sunset is amazing too - you'll see a lot of portraits being done around this time, and if you've ever been married, you probably got wedding photos done during golden hour.
Overcast days are also great to avoid shadows and perfect when photographing anything with water - lakes, waterfalls, etc.
Mountain views through trees at Welch Point in Sparta Tennessee
4 - Think about distance and scale when composing your shot
Do you have an amazing grand-scale background? Try finding something to use for scale against it like a tree or a person or an interesting shaped rock to show how vast it is. If the background is busy, put something in the front of your frame to focus on, like the trees in the above shot from Welch Point in Sparta, Tennessee. The mountain views there are beautiful and I love the contrast of the clouds and the hills and sky, but I love it even more with the dark shadow of the tree trunks against the brightness!
American Beech tree with sun filtering through leaves at Burgess Falls State Park in Sparta, Tennessee
5 - Take a ton of pictures
I very rarely feel confident I got the shot I want on my first capture. Take ALL the pictures. Move a little to the left. Then move a little to the right. Crouch down. Shoot straight on. Shoot from hip level. Back up a little. Tilt your camera up a bit. Try different things - experimenting is how you discover what you love and what speaks to you. Never be afraid that you're taking too many shots! I usually get home from a sunrise shoot with 500 new pictures and I narrow it down to around 10. There's nothing wrong with that! Have fun and experiment – photography is all about seeing the world in different ways!
I hope these tips help you, but if you have any questions, you can reach out through my Contact Me page and I'll be happy to help if I can!
Now go take some gorgeous photos!

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