How to get amazing travel photos with just your phone

Passage & Passport

We don't always use our phones for our pictures, but sometimes we find it is a lot easier to just have our phone on us. It's lightweight and fits in your pocket. The benefits go beyond the size; phones have come a long way and now have incredible capabilities! It also can make it super easy to edit. You can snap, edit, and post all from your phone without having to spend time uploading.  

There are some tips and tricks to getting an amazing travel photo using your phone, and we’re excited to share what has worked well for us.

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Hold the camera still

It can be really tricky to hold your camera still when holding your arms up to take a picture, but it makes a big difference in the image's quality. If you can, rest your arm on something to keep your hand still. There are also very small phone tripods that can easily fit in your bag. Using one of these will ensure your camera is still. If you are taking a video, a phone stabilizer will make it look much more professional and take the shakiness out if you are walking around. 

Choose a focus point 

For a sharp photo, you need to choose your focus point. And for a photo that really WOWs, you should have only one focus point. To do so, tap your focus point on your screen. This will focus the camera on this area. Some phone cases may get in the way of your camera and prevent you from getting the crisp shot you are after. In this case, remove the case. 

If your phone has the option of portrait mode, this will soften the background while making the focus area sharp. This is a great option if you want a person to be the focus of the photo, but if you are taking a travel shot and want some of the landscape and scenery, then you want that area to be visible, and it won’t be a good option. 

Set your exposure

Another phone camera pro-tip is to set your exposure manually. For most phones, all you have to do is tap your phone screen while your camera app is open. It will automatically adjust the exposure. You may find that it is still either too dark or too light, so you will need to adjust it manually to get it just right. Beside the focus box (when you touch the screen), you will see a small sun icon and vertical scale appear. With your finger, slide the sun up to make it lighter or down to make it darker. 

For landscape photos - shoot on wide mode 

Many phones now have the option to shoot in wide mode, which is great for shooting dramatic landscapes and capturing the entire scene in just one image. The way you access this will depend on your phone. There are also additional lenses you can purchase for your phone if you don’t have it. On an iPhone, tap 0.5 just above the shutter button to turn on the ultra-wide camera.

Timelapse videos

Timelapse videos are interesting ways to create content and videos that capture a moment in a short period of time. A timelapse video is great for filming a sunrise or sunset and gives you a greater appreciation for the beauty of these natural events as you watch the world move in just a few minutes. For most cameras, it’s just a matter of sliding to the timelapse option and then start filming. You will need a tripod or somewhere to prop your phone as it will be there for a while!

Long-exposure shots 

These are amazing for shooting waterfalls! Long exposure is when the shutter is held open longer than usual and can create some really stunning effects. For android phones, you will need to set your camera app to manual and look for the ISO and shutter speed settings. Shutter speed settings usually appear as an S. Click on this, and you will get a range of speeds from 1/3200 of a second to 30 seconds. The longer the shutter speed, the longer the exposure. With more exposure, there is more light, so you need to adjust your ISO as well. For long exposure shots, it’s best to keep the ISO low. 

Enable grid in camera settings 

You need to get your composition right, and the best way to do this is by enabling the grid. Once you enable the grid, you will see a series of boxes appear. Follow the rule of thirds, and divide the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, then plot your focal point accordingly. You can place it in the center or use negative space for creative photos. Play around with it and see what works best for the picture. 

Always clean the lens

Get into the habit of cleaning your lens before you go to take a photo. Considering its multiuse purpose, our lens can get dirty quickly, and there is nothing worse than capturing an awesome spontaneous moment to find the picture is blurry because of a dirty lens. Wiping is on your cotton shirt will give you much better pictures!  

Post-production editing

One of the biggest difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is the post-production. Effectively editing your photos after can make a HUGE difference. Using an editing app like Adobe Lightroom will help get the colors and feel for the photo just right! Doing it manually can take hours, but thankfully there are plenty of presets created by experienced travel bloggers so you can edit your travel photos with a click of a button.

Each year a new phone is released, there are upgrades to the camera, and many of these newer phones have features that older ones do not. If your phone doesn’t give you some of the options mentioned here, you can download another camera app with more advanced features that will allow you to take stunning photographs!

When you are traveling, do you prefer your phone, camera or both?  

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We are a couple that travels the world and owns a successful business. We write blogs of all kinds, with a primary focus in the travel, photography, lifestyle and business fields.

New York City, NY
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