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. Professional photographer Cole Rise, whose has been featured in National Geographic and consulted with Instagram on the launch of its iconic camera graphic, is an expert at capturing gorgeous outdoor photographs, many of which he shoots on his iPhone 7 Plus. See his tips for capturing better photos below.
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.
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.
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.
Put yourself out there. 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.