Taking photos in a rural landscape offers incredible opportunities for capturing beautiful and unique images. There’s no better feeling than stepping out into the countryside with your iPhone, breathing in the fresh air, and knowing that you’re going to go home with some incredible landscape and nature photos. In this tutorial you’ll discover nine top tips for capturing breathtaking iPhone photos in rural locations.
1. Don’t Just Shoot Landscape Photos
When you’re out exploring beautiful rural locations, the obvious shot to take with your iPhone is a wide open landscape photo that captures the vast scene in front of you.
While these can make stunning pictures, there are so many other types of photography that you can practice in this kind of environment.
Why restrict yourself to wide-angle landscape shots, when you can also take incredible close-up and macro photos, atmospheric portraits, heart-warming animal pictures, and even mesmerizing abstract images?
Before you start taking pictures, take a moment to stop and really look around you. Look up… Look down… And notice the smaller details in the scene.
Make the most of what’s on offer, and you’re sure to go home with a really interesting set of images of the countryside.
2. Revisit At Different Times Of The Year
The same location will look and feel very different at different times of the year. When you find a great location, be sure to revisit it several times throughout the year to get a totally new take on an image.
With the changing seasons, you’ll enjoy changing colors and textures within the scene. And these can create very different moods and stories in your iPhone photos.
During the winter months you can capture stark, moody landscape shots. Make the most of the harshness of bare ground, dark skies, and beautiful sparkling frost.
It’s lovely to be out enjoying the fine weather, but you can’t beat a chilly misty day for atmosphere.
When shooting in cold weather, you may find that battery life is greatly reduced by the cold. Try to keep your iPhone warm by leaving it in your pocket and only taking it out when you want to take a photo.
If you shoot a lot in cold whether, you might want to invest in an external battery pack so that you can keep your iPhone charged up while you’re out shooting.
3. Make The Most Of The Light
It’s easy to get into a routine of being outdoors at the same time of day – especially if you’re fitting it in with day-to-day tasks such as walking the dog or going for a run.
But as well as visiting your favorite location at different times of the year, make sure you visit at different times of the day too.
Not only will this add variety to your shots, but it will also teach you to observe the light and recognize how it affects the final image.
Traditionally, the golden hour is a great time to be out taking photos. When the sun is close to the horizon (around the hours of sunrise and sunset) you’ll benefit from softer light which adds a lovely warm glow to your images.
Morning is also a great time of day to find mist and fog, which is perfect for adding a mysterious mood to your images.
If you’re shooting portrait photos out in a landscape, avoid harsh sunlight in the middle of the day as it can lead to dark shadows in your image. It’s better to use the softer light at the beginning or end of the day.
Bright direct sunlight can, however, be used to your advantage to create interesting photos. Lens flare is something that people often try to avoid in their photos, but you can actually use it creatively to enhance your image.
Used positively, lens flare can add drama or create an ethereal quality to your images.
Try shooting directly into the light to achieve this lens flare effect. Get down low and filter the light through a tree, hedgerow or crops to add stunning rays of light to your photo.
Another reason for shooting into the light is to create dramatic silhouettes. When the sun is low in the sky, you can create stunning silhouettes with the setting sun in the background.
For lovely sharp silhouettes, position yourself so that the sun appears behind the subject, then tap to set focus on your subject. Now swipe down on the screen to reduce exposure until the subject appears as a dark silhouette against the brighter background.
If you want your subject to be well-lit rather than a dark silhouette, you’ll need to ensure the sun is behind you so that it’s shining directly onto the front of the subject.
Warm light during golden hour is perfect for adding beautiful warm illumination to your subject.
4. Create A Strong Composition
When you spot a scene that you want to photograph, take a moment to think about the best way to compose the picture.
Composition is all about where you position the main elements within the frame. In a rural setting you’re often faced with large expanses of open space, and if you don’t create a strong composition your photo won’t have much impact.
The first thing to consider is whether the scene has a strong focal point that will give your viewer something to focus on. Typical examples of a main subject or focal point would be a tree, a flower, a rock formation, a building or a person.
Next you need to decide where to position the subject within your composition. A good place to start is with the rule of thirds.
Imagine your viewfinder to be divided into nine equal sections, then think about lining up the main elements of your image along these lines or at the places they intersect. Line up the horizon with a horizontal division, or place an object of interest at one of the line intersections.
To help you compose your shots according to the rule of thirds, you may find it helpful to make the grid visible within the iPhone’s native camera app. To do this go to Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid.
Of course, the rule of thirds is just a guideline, and you might find that a central composition will have more impact. But taking the time to think about where you position the subject and horizon is bound to result in a better composition.
Another great tip for composing landscape photos is to use leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye deep into the image.
Leading lines are usually quite easy to find in rural environments, for example, paths across open fields, farm tracks, country lanes, tree lines and fences.
If you can’t find an obvious leading line, look a bit harder for a composition that combines features of the landscape for a more gradual journey through your image.
Another easy way to add depth to your landscape photos is to include some interesting objects in the foreground of the composition. The logs in the photo above add depth, visual interest, and a wonderful sense of scale to the scene.
Making use of natural frames, such as the overhanging tree branches in the photo below, is another great way to really set off your image.
Framing the scene adds visual interest around the edges of the image and draws the eye towards the scene in the distance.
Finally, remember that if you didn’t quite get the composition right as you were taking the shot, you can often create a more aesthetically pleasing image by cropping in post-processing.
This is particularly useful for shots of people and animals as you’re forced to take shots with less planning to capture a fleeting moment.
5. Try A Different Perspective
The problem with landscape photography is that your photos can end up looking similar to everyone else’s. For something more unique, think about how you can capture the scene in a different way.
Don’t be afraid to get yourself into some interesting positions to get a more unique shot. Photographing flowers from low down on the ground will capture the scene from an angle that people don’t usually see.
It’s also the perfect solution for getting a lovely background of plain sky behind your subject.
Another way to show the scene from a different perspective is to use a shallow depth of field, so that the camera only focuses on a small part of the scene, throwing the rest of it out of focus.
iPhones generally produce images that have a large depth of field, meaning that when you take a shot you have good sharp focus throughout your image.
But with one simple technique it’s possible to bring different parts of an image into and out of focus. This will definitely add interest to your rural images.
All you need to do is place your iPhone close to an object of interest. Now tap on the close-up foreground object to ensure it’s in sharp focus. The background should now appear blurred.
Creating a shallow depth of field allows you to make a certain detail stand out in your image, while still maintaining that rural feel with the countryside partially visible in the background.
6. Photograph Animals In The Landscape
Animals are a big part of rural life – whether it’s wildlife, farm animals or your own four-legged friend accompanying you.
Try making animals the focal point of your image, or use them to add a sense of movement or scale to the scene.
See if you can capture the character of farm animals like sheep and cows. Some are shy and will keep their distance, but others are as curious as you are.
Be sure to take plenty of shots as you go in closer as you never know when they’ll move away!
Be careful how close you get to some animals though. As nice as it is to get a detailed close-up shot, a fence between you and a group of inquisitive and unpredictable animals isn’t always a bad thing!
The end result needn’t betray your line of safety. If in doubt, keep your distance and capture them as part of the wider landscape.
For a bit of creativity, look out for ways that you could capture animals in a slightly more abstract way, such as the hair caught in barbed wire in the photo below.
7. Include People In Your Shots
Another fun option is to use a person as the main subject in your rural landscape photos. A person adds a strong focal point, as well as a wonderful storytelling element.
While you might get lucky and capture a stranger wandering through the scene, a better option is to take a friend or family member along with you.
Try experimenting with different kinds of shot to create different stories in your photos.
For example, do you want to shoot a posed portrait or capture a natural candid shot where the subject is unaware that you’re photographing them?
Do you want to shoot a close-up portrait of the subject’s face with the landscape in the background, or would it have more impact if you photographed a lone figure in the distance?
Do you want to show the subject’s face so that the viewer can see who they are, or would you rather create an air of mystery by photographing them from behind?
Watch your subject, or subjects, as they move through the landscape. Look for interactions or interesting moments that would make a great photo, then snap away using burst mode to ensure you have plenty of shots to choose from.
As well as taking photos of people with a beautiful landscape behind them, don’t forget to make use of the ground as a backdrop.
A thick layer of autumn leaves or a meadow full of flowers will make a gorgeous backdrop for a creative outdoor portrait.
8. Look For Small Details
Enjoying the great open spaces of the rural environment is one of its biggest appeals, but don’t forget to stop and appreciate the smaller details too.
There are so many small objects out in nature that make incredible photography subjects. Try getting up close to flowers, leaves and crops to capture their unique detail.
Whether you like them or not, spiders are your friends when it comes to creating opportunities for beautiful intricate images.
Look for webs spun between branches or draped over a wire fence. They’ll be beautifully frozen on cold mornings, strung with droplets following rain, or glinting in the sunlight when the weather is fine.
You can get pretty good close-up shots with the iPhone’s built-in lens, but if you’re craving more detail, try an add-on macro lens such as an olloclip.
These lenses simply clip on and off your iPhone as you need them, and they come in a range of magnifications.
Once you start looking for the tiny details in nature, you’ll begin to appreciate the beauty of the rural environment all the more. And you never know – you might just find something really unusual to create a truly unique image.
9. Capture The Mood
Capturing or creating mood and atmosphere in your photos will go a long way to making them more beautiful and appealing.
Sometimes all you need to bring out the mood in an image is the weather. Try shooting on a foggy day for wonderful gloomy moodiness.
Or make use of glowing sunshine and lens flare for a feeling of warmth and happiness. Take advantage of changing weather and enjoy the differing end results.
To create an image full of calmness and serenity, try photographing still bodies of water such as the lake in the photo below.
These apps have pre-set formulas that you can quickly click through to completely change the look and feel of your image. As you get more confident with these apps you can start to create your own unique edits.
However you decide to edit your photos, always ensure that your adjustments enhance the mood of the original image and help you to convey the story you want to tell.
Rural Landscape Photography: Conclusion
When it comes to photographing rural landscapes, there’s one thing for certain – you’ll never be short of subjects for your photos.
The less certain factors include the weather and the light. But if you make the effort to get outdoors in all kinds of weather and at different times of the day, you’ll learn a lot about how these elements affect your images.
As long as you use good composition and shoot from interesting perspectives, you’re sure to come home with some really great shots.
Ensure you look around for a main subject to include in your landscape photos. Trees, old buildings, animals and people all make great focal points.
And don’t forget to look for the smaller details too. Flowers, leaves, insects, cobwebs and textures are great nature photography subjects – especially if you use a macro lens to get extra close.
Finally, no matter what you’re photographing, try to use light, weather and subject matter to create mood and atmosphere in your photos. This mood can be further enhanced using a range of editing apps.
Above all, enjoy being out in nature, and take advantage of the many wonderful sights presented as the seasons, weather and time of day change.