How to Take Better Hiking Photos (With Just an iPhone!)

Going on a cool outdoor adventure?

Want to remember your experience?

Don’t have an expensive camera or even the new iPhone?

Don’t worry! You can still capture some great pictures!

It just takes keeping a few more things in mind…


Since you don’t have a great lens that can capture details and frame-of-reference as well, good lighting helps A LOT.

For pictures of people with a background — try to have the subject facing the sun.


Obviously, you can’t ask mountains to face the sun, this time it just happened to work out for me at Yosemite. Thanks, Half Dome!

Bonus points if you can do it when the sun isn’t high in the sky (sundown or sunrise).

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This was during the “golden hour” on the Tioga Pass at Yosemite.. If you want a portrait-type picture, this is the best time to do it!

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So, what if you can’t face the sun, AND get that great background in the picture?

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This is when candid and action shots can be a better option. Obviously it isn’t a great shot of my face, but I’m hiking, not on a fashion shoot, so I just want something that shows proof that I’m there, and at least the mountains in the background show up better because they’re in the sunlight. This was taken at Papago Park in Phoenix while I was goofing around with my awesome friend, Kari.

So what if it’s cloudy?

Bummer. Ha. But you can still take cool pictures. This actually helps if you’re somewhere at noon, so the overhead shadows won’t be as harsh on your subject. It can also give off an eery vibe that’s kind of makes for an “alone in the wilderness” feel.


This was also taken at Papago Park in Phoenix. As you can see, I’m always wearing workout-type clothes. These pictures would probably look even better if I was actually wearing makeup and a cute dress. But there’s a reason I don’t have a fashion blog… ha!

But sometimes, the lighting situation is just going to suck. And that’s ok.

Obviously, a great backdrop trumps everything! You can usually make faces a little less shadowy with some editing.


I enjoy wearing black as much as the next person, but my pictures seem to be more eye-catching when I wear bright colors. Think for colors that make a good contrast with your background. I wear a lot of pink, if you haven’t noticed! Pinks, purples, reds, and warm colors usually pop in natural settings with brown, greens, and tan.


Action shots and candids are usually more visually interesting. A picture of you, actually hiking, or walking is good. I know the issue with this is finding someone patient enough to take these pictures for you (thanks, Instagram husband!).


Just standing and smiling can be awkward for some of us. I am not a model and usually don’t wear makeup so a head-on picture isn’t always flattering.

Use a rock to sit on, or steady yourself using a tree or fence.


I always use the Snapseed App (free) to give my pictures a little boost.

Key features to use:

Shadows – use the sliding scale to make shadows less harsh.

Ambiance – make the lighting more uniform in a picture.

Portrait – this puts more light on the subject’s face, and usually, it helps, A LOT.

Selective – if one part of your picture is dark, this can help. You select an area and make only that area brighter, so the rest of your picture isn’t blown out.

Pre-set “Looks” – if you don’t feel like taking much time to edit, Snapseed has several pre-made preferences that do a bit of editing for you.


I spent seven years as a TV sports reporter, where I had to shoot my own video and stand-ups (me talking into the camera) so these are all things I’ve learned from that, as well as just taking lots and lots of terrible pictures  before finally figuring out what helps prevent them! Hope this helps someone out there!



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