There’s a quote that I’ve seen floating around on Pinterest that goes, “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone,” and I think we can all agree that vacation moments are worthy of snapping a few pics of so you can relive them later.
A few years ago, I took a nice Canon on my Europe trip and since I have no idea how to use it to capture those perfect images, I ended up using my iPhone more often. Luckily, smartphones take pretty decent photos these days and with just a few tips and tricks, you can start taking more amazing travel photos with your phone!
So, if you’re like me and want to take better travel pics with your iPhone or Android, here are some smartphone travel photography tips I’ve picked up along the way!
Light: The best light is natural light, and the best natural light is found in the golden hours – sunrise and sunset. Not only is this light best, but if you opt to shoot at sunrise, you can often enjoy quieter moments with what you want to photograph and not have to wait for crowds of people to pass so you can snap a people-free photo.
Don’t use flash: Turn off your phone camera’s flash unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Focus: Tap your screen where you want the focus to be. Your camera’s face recognition might kick on if you’re trying to focus on people’s faces.
Create depth: Use nature to add depth to your photo, like photographing roads, railroad tracks, rivers, etc. The line should lead off into the distance to pull the viewer into the photo. You could also create depth with colorful or small details in the foreground to showcase size.
Frame the scene: I love using natural elements like trees or flowers to frame photos, but you can also use arches or other structures to frame your subject and add an interesting element to your photos.
Zoom in on details: Another way to change up your travel photos is to take up-close photos of details. Perhaps you’re indulging in a delicious chocolate-covered waffle in Belgium, zoom in on that oozing chocolate or focus on the texture of the strawberries you put on top.
HDR: Use the HDR setting if the lighting is bad to better capture details. HDR essentially creates a composite photo to combine the best parts of three different shots: Overexposed, underexposed, and balanced.
Rule of thirds: Make your photographs more interesting by using the rule of thirds rather than trying to center the most important element of your photo. Image your screen is split into nine blocks or thirds. Your subject should be aligned with those grids at about a third of the way in from the sides of your photo.
Perspective: Don’t be afraid to play around with different angles or taking a photo of a famous landmark from a different perspective. Think of the stereotypical dad trying to snap a photo of his family; he’s squatting down or not afraid to look weird while trying to capture the right photograph. Sit down, get as close to the ground as you can, or step back and snap a photo from a different angle to get a unique photo of your subject.
Add-on lenses: If you really want to take your smartphone photography skills to the next level, get some basic lenses you can snap on your phone. Try playing around with a wide angle or fisheye lens, or get a lens that’s well-equipped for better zoom. I’ve seen some really cool shots recently with the aid of a Lensball if you want to add a fun new element to your photos.
Subject: Play around with your subject, while it’s easy to want to just photograph the beautiful landscapes and landmarks, a great part of travel is understanding the day-to-day lifestyle and immersing yourself in the culture. Snap everyday shots of the people that live in this area, the food of the region, and the squares or piazzas that everyone congregates in. I’ve seen quite a few other travel bloggers starting to take portraits (similar to Humans of New York) to share people’s stories from around the world.
While photographing your travels can be fun and helps you preserve the trip, don’t forget to put the camera down for a few minutes and just enjoy the experience while you’re in the moment.