Capturing photos to have as lifelong memories of your travels is crucial. And, although it seems like just about everyone owns a DSLR these days, they’re not always ideal for traveling. They’re big and hard to travel with, expensive, and learning to use these cameras to their full potential can take time. Luckily, it’s likely that you have the perfect travel camera right in your pocket—your phone.
There are tons of smart phones out there with amazing cameras that offer pretty incredible capabilities. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is commonly referred to as the best camera phone on the market—beating out the iPhone 6—but both pack a powerful punch for their size.
Being an iPhone user and a photography fanatic myself, I’ll stick to sharing some iPhone photography tips for all you fellow travelers out there.
Make sure your lens is clean
First things first—clean your lens! No amount of tips will help you capture the perfect shot if you have a dirty lens. This is especially important while traveling because as you’re moving around you’re likely throwing a lot of random things in your pocket or bag along with your phone… making it get dirty quick. So, before you go to snap the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building wipe off your lens.
Anything you use to clean your glasses also makes a great iPhone lens cleaner. It’ll be gentle enough to not leave behind scratches or residue.
Find the perfect exposure
Lighting is paramount to taking a good picture—but you can’t always control it. Especially, when traveling. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to find the best exposure when taking a picture on your iPhone.
First, the camera’s sensor is limited so try avoiding lighting extremes—bright light and dark shadows. When you encounter a situation with both of these extremes in one frame, turn on HDR at the top of your camera (or just set it to auto). When you take a photo with HDR it’ll automatically take several photos at varying exposures and blend them to find the happy medium for you. When the sun is setting or rising is a great time to turn this setting on. But note that this will not work when there’s a lot of movement of the camera or subject—the shots will blur.
You also have the option to control the exposure yourself and it’s super easy to do so. Simply by touching your screen you can adjust the photo’s exposure. Here’s the trick: to make your photo darker, touch the brightest part in frame, to make it brighter, touch the darkest part.
While traveling, you can’t always get as close as you’d like to some photo-worthy landmarks, but try to avoid zooming when taking pictures with your iPhone. As soon as you zoom you’ll see the picture will become much grainer and lower quality than before. You’re better off cropping later than zooming while shooting!
Take lots of pictures
Now, this doesn’t mean take pictures of everything—you don’t need to document that cool looking piece of garbage you saw on the street. But when you do find a moment or landmark that is photo-worthy take multiple shots to make sure you capture it well.
Play with lighting (using the tips above) and with angles. Walk around a snap at least three photos—you can decide on the best one later.
If you’re worried about running out of space for all of your documentation, invest in a Mophie Space Pack for extra storage.
Play around with the composition of your photos.
Under your camera settings you can turn on the grid. Use the grid to help you position your subject in the top, bottom, left or right third of your frame. Having your subject in the center of the photo isn’t a bad thing, but offsetting will help you spice up your photos.
Take advantage of any lines or interesting patterns in your surroundings, these elements make for awesome photos.
You might also try framing your subject with surrounding object such as arches, trees, windows or even people. This will help draw attention to your subject in an exciting way.
Take advantage of what the iPhone has to offer
Don’t limit yourself to a simple photo. The iPhone offers lots of great ways to capture the essence of your travels.
One of my favorites is the panorama option. This a perfect setting to capture things like rolling landscapes that you aren’t able to represent fully in a regular photo. Note that panoramas require a steady hand. Before you start your panorama take a deep breath in then move on the exhale, this will help you stay steady.
It’s also important to keep in mind that panorama will come out distorted if there’s much movement in the picture.
Another fun one to play around with is time lapse. This feature is perfect for capturing that sunset or bustling city scene.
Edit your photos
Once you’ve captured a great shot, take it to the next level with some editing. There are loads of great apps for the iPhone to help you do this. Two of my personal favorites are VSCO Cam and Snapseed. Or you can keep it simple and edit within Instagram before sharing.
Rather than just selecting a filter and calling it good, explore the more detailed options for editing. Play with exposure, shadows, contrast and more to really represent the beauty of your travels.