It is often said that the best camera to have is the one you have with you. And with so many of us toting our smartphones everywhere we go, that is often the only camera we will have with us. Fortunately, the cameras on cellphones today rivals many of the low end DSLRs on the market – so there is no reason you can’t take killer images using only the phone you are carrying.
With the weather getting warmer, many of us are looking to get outdoors again after being shut in all winter. So grab you phone and follow these tips to take some great nature photos.
1. Use Your Light
Photography is often referred to as painting with light. When taking images of nature, look at creatively using the available light to create eye-popping images. Turn the sun peaking through the trees into a dramatic star burst by setting your f/stop to f/22 or above. Look for ways light and shadows create interesting patterns across your scene. Get up close and capture the way sunlight sparkles over rippling water. Use light in the way a painter uses paint.
2. Pick your Time of day
Choosing the time of day you shoot in creates some of the most interesting light options. The golden hour is the hour just after sunrise or just before sunset – and is aptly called for the yellow hue cast by sun, which warms the scene. Or try the blue hour, which is the hour just before sunrise or just after sunset to see a cool tone across your subject.
3. Think about Composition
If you hang around stock photographers long enough, you will be convinced that the only correct composition comes by using the Rule of 3rds (dividing your frame into thirds vertically and horizontally and using the intersecting lines as focal points). But using creative composition techniques – framing the subject with elements like branches, using reflection, following leading lines, making your subject relatively large in a scene – can create images that really pop.
4. Lens options
Depending on the type of phone you carry, you may have the ability to use more than one type of lens. Try using your wide-angle or ultra wide-angle lenses to capture stunning landscapes and broader scenes. Look into your camera panel to create panoramas, time-lapse, or macro images.
Try to avoid using the optical zoom (the old pinch and squeeze enlargements). All this does is reduce the number of pixels you are capturing in the image. It is better to shoot with the best quality lens you have at 100% – and then use the post processing apps to crop in later.
5. Change your perspective
Don’t limit yourself to what you see in front of you. Look up, look down, and look behind you to see what you may be missing. Get higher or get lower to see your subject in a new way.
6. Depth of Field
Many cameras allow you to play with the depth of field in an image– which means controlling how much of the background is in focus behind the main subject. Setting a very shallow depth of field will make the main subject really pop while a deeper field will capture more of the context for the shot.
7. Long exposure
Shooting with a long exposure can lead to some dramatic images. Look for subjects with natural motion (a waterfall, a stream, stars in the skies), and then set your shutter speeds to 20 seconds or more to create a painterly blur effect. It is important to have a small tripod or other secure support to ensure the camera is not moving during the shot. Play with the length of exposure to create different looks.
8. Photo editing apps
There is no reason to limit yourself to what you are able to capture SOOC (straight out of camera). One of the benefits of shooting with a smartphone is being able to use creative apps on your shots. Look at the built-in filters that come with your system or download a free (or inexpensive) photo editing app to spice up your masterpieces.
In short, it is possible to take great pictures of nature using just your phone. Remember, THE CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER, except when it does. Get to know the functionality of your phone (panorama, time-lapse and slo-mo, lens options, settings, focus control, etc.) – and use some of these guiding principles to capture the beauty of nature on your next excursion.