They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and more often than not while travelling, that’s your smartphone. A smartphone camera is as simple as it gets: one camera with a fixed focal length. While they’ve put great cameras in phones these days, they also have their limitations, so you might find shooting on them a challenge you’ll enjoy.
Here are a few travel photography tips for beginners that have helped me get more from my smartphone.
1. Find your focus
You may find that you have to redo the shot you wanted to take multiple times, especially when you’re shooting a planned action (eg: a shot of someone jumping, fireworks going off, a splash of water). Finding a point to focus on, and locking focus beforehand solves that issue. Instead of having to search for the focus and shooting the picture at the moment, the photo happens instantly and the results are beautiful.
2. Blur it out
Given the small sensors on phones, getting a shallow depth of field is hard but not impossible. Keep your subject at the minimum focusing distance of your phone, so when you focus on it you’ll see that nice blur that will separate your subject from the background.
Alternately, if you have something very close to your phone and focus on a subject in the background, you’ll add the blur to the foreground, as you can see here.
3. Where the bigger cameras can’t go
One of the bigger advantages with a smartphone is that it can fit in very tight spaces, where you wouldn’t usually be able to put your bigger cameras. So make use of the advantage that the size provides to see some very interesting perspectives. This was shot through a rolled up metal framework where my camera just wouldn’t have fit.
4. Approaching people
Some people tend to get conscious around big cameras, and that’s where smartphones come in handy. It usually goes unnoticed and you end up getting some rather candid shots.
5. Go Manual
The point of shooting on the phone is to obviously keep it simple, but when you have extra options, you might as well take advantage! A lot of newer smartphones let you control the shutter speed or ISO manually (though most phones have fixed apertures). By using these options you can sometimes take images that would previously have been possible only with a more advanced compact camera.
These images were made by keeping the shutter open for longer than the auto option would allow, thereby capturing trails of light. To keep the phone steady for the first image I held it up against the airplane window, which did the trick. For the second image I also had a little tripod that I used with the phone to keep it steady for the 10 second exposure.
6. Image processing.
Some of the more advanced smartphones also shoot RAW images and let you take advantage of the dynamic range of the sensor. Previously you had to move them to your computer to process them, but now there are mobile photography apps to do this on the phone! I for one was glad when the apps that I used on my computers were also available on mobile. The following image was processed on Adobe Photoshop Express.