How to take better travel photos on your phone


Phone cameras are extremely powerful these days. They generally take very sharp, evenly lit photos, but if you’re still not quite sure how all of these insta-photogs take jaw dropping photos on their phones, keep reading. Here are 4 things you should know about phone photography and how to get it right.


Brightness and Focus

Most people already do this, but for some (looking at you mum) who don't, this will make a world of difference. Whatever you want to be in focus, whether it's a person for a portrait or a particular object in a landscape, tap the screen on that spot. This will do two things.

First it will adjust the light reading to that subject. If the scene behind a person is brighter than them, without tapping on their face in the camera screen, there's a good chance they will be a dark shadow and the scene behind them will be perfectly lit. If you tap on the person however, the light will adjust to suit them, and the scene behind them will blow out. This can be an issue when trying to capture travel photos in front of monuments and sites that are far away and in full sun. Keep reading to find out how to combat this with composition.

Secondly, tapping on a subject will automatically put that subject into focus. This is always important, but especially if the subject you want to focus on is at the front of your frame or very far away. Anywhere but in the centre really. When your subject is in focus but surrounded by object closer or further away, you will get a nice depth of field to your shot too. (Depth of field is when only one object is in focus and anything at a different distance from the camera is not).

Photo by Jacques Van As

Photo by Jacques Van As



This is arguably the most important thing when photographing, as all of the effects, sharpness or lighting in an image can't make up for poor composition.

Firstly, always make sure your horizon is straight. You may not notice it at first, but images with a wonky horizon look odd. So keep it straight.

Secondly is the rule of thirds. When you’re framing an image, think about the frame being sliced in three, horizontally or vertically. Now adjust the subject or horizon in your frame so that it sits along or within one of the thirds. This helps to balance your image overall, so it’s not too crowded or messy.

Third is leading lines. This is where you use a road, rocks, ray of light or something else to draw the eye into a particular spot in the image.

Darwin lenkshane-1.jpg

Burst Mode

Until fairly recently phone cameras haven't been very good in either low light conditions or with fast moving subjects. For fast moving subjects however, there is now a solution: burst mode. If you're trying to capture something that's moving fast, whether it's your friend jumping in front of the Eiffel Tower or a horse shaking its mane in Iceland, burst mode takes multiple photos at high speed to capture the subject frozen in time. To use burst mode, all you need to do is hold down the trigger and it should take multiple photos very quickly. It will keep taking photos until you release your finger from the trigger button.

Time Lapse

Time lapse is a really cool tool for capturing the essence of a place. From the thousands of people at the Shibuya crossing to sunrise or sunset over the New York skyline, this is a great way to capture a place with more than a single photo. The only rule you need to remember really is that the phone needs to stay completely still. You can with rest it on something or use a small phone tripod. The phone will do everything else for you.

Most phone cameras now have a time lapse option, but for those that don't you can download an app that does it for you. Framograph is my favourite. On the iPhone once you've shot the time laps you can edit in hate iMovie app and apply filters, music, cuts etc.



Flash in Broad Daylight

When photographing people in the middle of the day, use flash. It might sound silly because the sun is so bright, but midday sun creates harsh shadows, particularly on faces. By using flash, you can light up the foreground and the people, so that the brightness matches the rest of the image. 


Put People in the Scene

This one is super important for two reasons. Firstly, people give a sense of scale. If you're in a location that is seriously epic in size, whether it's a mountain, valley, city, whatever, a person will show this. Often without them the place can look flat, and not nearly as impressive because there is no way to tell how big it actually is. 

Secondly, people give a sense of life to your photo. If you're photographing a street scene, cafe, or beach, for example, including people in the shot allows someone to imagine themselves in that place, doing that activity. Be sure to keep the people facing away from the camera, as this adds to the feeling that 'it could be me'. 

Then of course there is the edit that comes afterwards. Watch this space for the next blog on the best apps for editing photos on your phone.

If you liked this post or have any other tips I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments below.