Six Travel Photography Tips With A Smartphone

StefanieDegner / iStock / thinkstock.com

StefanieDegner / iStock / thinkstock.com

The advent of the camera-phone may have not yet completely replaced the DSLR, however a camera-phone can capture images the way a bigger camera can’t. Besides being portable, camera-phones can capture detail with simpler one-touch control over focus and aperture. The best images are the ones that are captured simply, without the need of a toolkit of editing apps. Here are six tips to get the best out of a smartphone camera.

Turn On The Grid
All photographers have heard of the rule of thirds. It’s the idea that a single photograph should be composed of nine equal smaller photos. Every camera application is equipped with a grid feature. Leaving it on aids in creating a better composition. The horizontal lines align the horizon to divide the lower and upper thirds. Instead of taking a photo with the subject directly in the middle, line it up with the vertical axis and find a point to divide it into two. Have multiple layers in front and behind to add a sense of dimensionality.

Hold The Phone Like A Typical Camera
It’s tempting to snap photos using the touchscreen, but holding and taking pictures using the phone’s alternative modes will give greater freedom, stability and control. Most phones, such as the iPhone, have their shutter button connected with the scroll or volume buttons. Holding the phone with two hands keeps it stable and avoids fumbling with the screen. The touchscreen also allows for selective or macro focus. It has the same feel and sensation of holding an actual camera.

Set Layers
Smartphones don’t have the lens capability for captivating landscape shots. Mountains don’t appear towering and backdrops appear to be much farther and smaller than may seem. Instead of taking a shot of a range in the distance, focus on the foreground and use items that lead the viewer’s eye to the background. If taking a photo of a lake, use rocks or boulders that highlight a tree-lined backdrop or a wide mountain range.  If by an ocean or a bay, find a dock and have the ships waiting in the foreground with the ocean behind them. Putting more subjects in front of each other makes for a more interesting shot.

lzf / iStock / thinkstock.com

lzf / iStock / thinkstock.com

Meter For Relevant Light
When taking daytime portraits, the background and objects can be perfectly exposed, but the subject will be cast in shadow. As with the macro focus, touching the screen will meter for the relevant light source. If taking a photo next to a window or a light, have the camera look for different settings until finding the desired effect. It’ll avoid the need to use flash.

Don’t Use Flash or Zoom
While the cameras on smartphones are quickly advancing, many of their features are still too generic to be taken seriously. The flash is little more than an LED that lights up the immediate area and blankets faces and tones in a blinding light. Use phones in ideal light situations but avoid using them in low light and night scenes. The lack of control over the flash causes either a grainy blurry photo, or one that’s ghastly lit. The same problem affects the zoom, which only enlarges an area of the photo but without the optical zoom, adds graininess, while sacrificing resolution. Get up close and use the macro focus instead.

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
The size of the phone and its portability makes it perfect for experimentation. Take shots where a typical camera can’t reach, get up close and focus on details, and think about ideas such as repeating patterns and objects or layering. When posting on social media, setting into square mode looks better than the full ratio. Use simple editing tools such as contrast and minor fixes but avoid over-editing the photo or else it ends up looking overly manufactured. Smartphones are great to carry because they are small and easy to use. Travel photography shouldn’t be complicated. The simpler the photo looks, the better the reception it receives.

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