You’re on holiday and you see an amazingly lit view. You grab your phone to capture the beautiful scene in front of you, only to look down and be underwhelmed by the photo you just captured and wonder how your travel photos turned out so rubbish, looking nothing like the incredible view you saw with your eyes or from other photos of the same place.
Then you think to yourself: “If I had an expensive DSRL, my photos would be amazing, because smartphones take rubbish photos.” I have created a guide for how to choose the travel cameras and how to you can choose the best one for you.
Hold on to your hats, as I’m about to tell you the truth, it’s not your phone that takes rubbish travel photos—it’s you.
I have been teaching myself photography by watching every YouTube video on photography and practicing most weekends for the last year. And by understanding and practicing a few simple photography tips, my phone photography skills and travel photos has improved in leaps and bounds.
Also, I realised that you don’t need an expensive DSLR to take a great photo. I’ve seen people with expensive flashy DSLRs take some very unimpressive photos. There are many smartphone-only photographers on Instagram who take the most incredible photos by following these simple photography tips.
So, before you run off to drop thousands of pounds on a DSRL that is comparable to a small computer for your next holiday, why not improve your mobile phone photography skills first with the tips below.
If you're visiting London and want tips on photographing this iconic city, then you should read this guide on photographing London! It includes how to get great travel photos of famous London landmarks like London Eye and Tower Bridge.
Table of Contents
- 1 Here’s how to take better travel photos with your mobile phone!
- 2 Wipe Your Camera Lens
- 3 Turn on the Grid Feature
- 4 The Rule of Thirds
- 5 Find Natural Light
- 6 Don’t Zoom in
- 7 Shoot from Multiple Angles
- 8 Shoot in Both Landscape and Portrait Mode
- 9 Use the Portrait Mode
- 10 Never Shoot Square
- 11 Look at Your Background
- 12 Edit Your Photos
- 13 Practice Makes Prefect
Here’s how to take better travel photos with your mobile phone!
Wipe Your Camera Lens
Wipe your smartphone camera lens off before taking every photo. Yes, I know this tip seems simple and you might even think this is so obvious, but we use our phones all the time and grease from our hands gets on our smartphone camera lens. There’s nothing worse than taking greasy, hazy, smudged photos from your phone. To get a crisp, clean image, always remember to wipe your smartphone lens off before every photo.
Turn on the Grid Feature
I turn on the grid feature so that it appears every time I take a photo. These are the lines that run vertically and horizontally on your smartphone when you are taking a photo.
To access this function on a smartphone, go to settings, photo then grid. But since the new OSI 11 update on the iPhone, you now turn these features on by going to settings, then camera, grid.
You might be thinking: “Why should I enable the grid feature on my phone?” You’ll use the grid to apply the photography tips below.
The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds refers to the composition of the photo, and is one of the principles of photography. It’s all about positioning the most important elements off-centre in order to create a balanced and harmonious composition.
Basically, putting the subject in your photos off-centre makes your photo more interesting.
If you want to improve your photography, you should master this principle and then put your own spin on it. By improving your smartphone photography skills you'll be able to create your own style and showcase your best photos.
Find Natural Light
I take all my photos on my mobile phone using natural light. I try not to take photos at night on my phone when I travel as it never ends well. So, when I travel that usually means I wake up super early to get as much natural night as possible. Plus waking up early means that I catch golden in the morning and evening and miss overcrowd areas with tourist.
Don’t Zoom in
Never zoom in when taking a photo on your phone as this will cause pixel distortion in your photos which in turn, loses clarity in your photos and will reduce your image quality (i.e., it will produces a grainy ass photo). Instead, become a human zoom and move yourself closer to the subject or thing you’re trying to capture.
Shoot from Multiple Angles
Before I really got into photography I would be that person taking 100 photos of the same thing at the same angle and then wonder why my photos looked crappy, or not like what I was seeing on Instagram.
I didn’t realise that you should never just take a million photos of the same thing standing in the same position.
Now, I normally will take a few photos straight on, wide frame, close-ups and detail shoots all while changing up my angles by taking the same subject from above, from below and from the side.
This also enables you to tell a story with your photos, and photography is all about storytelling.
Again, this gives your image a varied perspective; some angles will look better than others. Changing the framing and angles in a photo can transform an image, that has been taken a million times, into something unique and interesting.
This also makes your photos distinctively “you” and individual. A lot of photographers today are well known for shooting at one angle or for framing their subjects in a particular way.
Shoot in Both Landscape and Portrait Mode
This tip I learnt from a photographer who shoots for National Geography Travel, and the idea behind this was that some images will look better in landscape or portrait, and by capturing the same subject in both views you will be able to choose the better orientation.
I shoot in both landscape and portrait for every image I capture, which gives me two different perspectives of the same subject.
Use the Portrait Mode
I brought the iPhone 7 plus for three reasons: the large memory; the two lenses; and the portrait mode. Gone are the days that you could only get a blurry background (or bokeh as the pros say) from an expensive DSLR.
Apple gives a full explanation of the ways the two cameras work to achieve this blurry effect, but let’s be honest, we are way more concerned about how good this would make us look in our selfies.
By taking photos using the portrait mode on your smartphone you can instantly transform your photos by blurring out unwanted or distracting background elements, and focusing on the subject in the photo.
Never Shoot Square
I never shoot in a square and I suggest you don’t either. It is much easier to crop from a wide angle into a square.
However, if you only shoot in a square you can never go back and adjust the framing of your photo, so don’t shoot in a square.
No one wants to be a square.
Look at Your Background
I’ve seen a lot of photos were people only focus on their subject, completely forgetting about what’s going on in their background.
The background of a photo can make or break your image. I’ve seen beautiful photos ruined by an ugly background, such as a garbage bin, parked cars and electrical wires running overhead. A distracting or busy background takes the focus off your subject.
Always take a few seconds to look at the background before taking a photo, and check for the following;
- Is the background too busy; are they're people walking around? Perhaps wait until the place is less crowded before taking the photo.
- Is there an object cutting/passing through the head or top of your subject? If so, move your subject a few feet away from what is coming out of their head or cutting across the subject.
Edit Your Photos
I edit my photos on my mobile phone, whether these are for my blog or for Instagram, using amazing apps like VSCO, A Colour Story or Snapseed. There are so many things you can do with these editing apps to up your mobile phone photography game, and to give your travel photos a professional look.
You can edit your photos by increasing/decreasing exposure, fixing your temperature, raising your highlights and sharpening them. The possibilities are endless
Practice Makes Prefect
As they say, practice makes perfect, and just as with anything in life, you must put the effort in if you really want to improve your mobile phone photography skills.
Your photos will not start off amazing to begin with, but by using the tips above, and by practicing, whether you’re on your morning run, commuting to work or out with friends, you’ll see an improvement in your phone photography skills and your travel photos.