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With more smartphones being able to take photos the same way traditional cameras do, it’s no surprise that a greater number of people are leaning towards using smartphones for photography. Additionally, with the portability that mobile phones offer, smartphones are also becoming a common choice for travel photography. However, using a smartphone to take photos entails a slightly different approach compared to its traditional counterparts. Listed below are 10 ways that you can take better travel photos using your mobile phone:

1. Move closer to your subject

Since mobile phones are equipped with sensors that are smaller than those in conventional cameras, you’ll have to work with greater depth of field which works best when shooting a subject in close up or in macro. So it’s best to get as close to your subject as possible. Smartphones are small and lightweight anyway so doing this with your smartphone camera should be no problem.

2. Approach the place with a fresh perspective

Once you arrive at your shoot location, approach it with fresh eyes. Although taking photos of the landmarks at the usual vantage points will serve as a good guide to get you started, it’s also good to keep your eyes peeled for other possible shots you can create from the mixture of colours in the sky or how shadows align with each other. Also, watch out for interesting objects within the location that can serve as a unique focal point of your shoot.

To provide you extra grip as you experiment with different angles, you can opt to use a camera grip accessory which allows you to control your smartphone camera the way you would a DSLR.

3. Try to capture local life

Capturing local life will make an interesting photography subject, but just make sure you don’t forget to be respectful in the process. It’s easy to spot locals going about their daily activities which most likely show a part of their culture. However, you must still ask permission before taking their pictures. This is especially important when you are in another country since you may not know if there are any laws in place protecting their rights to privacy. On the other hand, they might just not be comfortable getting their photos taken by random strangers. So know when to accept being turned down, and just look for other prospects.

4. Optimize the available lighting

Having a good grasp of how much light is available in the particular location you are in is important for you to be able to optimize it for your shoots. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Look at the light with your bare eyes
  2. Check the display screen of your mobile device
  3. See how the colours and shadows shift as the amount of light changes

Just like traditional photography, the same lighting principle applies to mobile photography. Golden hour still casts a warm and soft glow onto the scene making it an ideal time to take photos.  

Low-light can make it difficult to shoot photos since fluorescent light often gives off a blue-green cast on photos. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, cast unstable light. When shooting in dark places or at night, you might want to use a LED light specifically made to attach to your smartphone and a portable tripod to get consistently bright and sharp photos.

5. Use HDR instead of Flash

While it may be tempting to use flash to control the amount of light cast on a particular subject or setting, it can cause red-eye if you’re taking portrait shots or wash out a particular scene, object or individual. If you want to incorporate more light into your shot, use the HDR mode instead. This allows you to take several shots at various exposure, then combine them into one photo to achieve a more balanced image. 

If you must use flash for mobile photography, you can use a compact stand-alone mobile flash which allows you to get the right flash exposure no matter what the environment is.

6. Use the grid option

Most smartphones come with the grid option so make sure to utilize that when framing your image. Now if your phone doesn’t come with the feature, you may opt to just visualize it. Divide the frame into three parts, downwards and across, which should produce nine parts. Firstly, choose your subject then imagine placing it at the point where the lines intersect, but away from the centre. This is what is referred to as the rule of thirds, which typically creates a more balanced composition.

7. Learn how to work with square dimensions

Since smartphone photos are often uploaded to Instagram, you must also know how to compose photos following square dimensions. In this case, you’ll veer away from the rule of thirds slightly since images produced in this ratio often come out better when the subject is in the centre.

8. Master the controls of your smartphone

Before you leave for that trip, make sure that you know every feature of your smartphone, as this will help you maximize all its controls for taking travel photos. Know your phone’s capabilities and limitations. Educate yourself on how to use every button and what the recent updates did to your phone’s camera and photography-related software. Having these things figured out will save you a lot of time in the long run.


9. Maximize the battery life of your smartphone

You won’t always have access to a power outlet on the road so it’s important to conserve your phone’s battery. Another way to save power is to just focus on taking photos as you visit different sites and hold off until you have stable power and internet connection until you post online. This will allow you to take more photos, and curate what you’ll process and upload better later on.

10. Post-process with your app/s of choice

It can be difficult to find a place to set up your laptop and do all that post-processing when you’re travelling. Fortunately, there are post-processing apps for smartphones that allow you to edit your photos like a pro-on-the-go. Just make sure to review the description and read up on the reviews to see which ones are the most suitable for your needs. Also, try to organize them in a layout where you can use and access them easily on your phone.

Anya Beuzeval

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1 Comment

  1. Cool tips.

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