5 Tips for Better Travel Photos with your Phone

Photography is my go-to creative outlet. It’s a hobby that enhances my life on a daily basis. Buuut, I must confess that I’ve almost exclusively used a smart phone camera for the past three years. This coming from a girl who took photography in college for my art degree. I even own a basic DSLR and a regular point and shoot, but rarely snap photos with them.

Why? Convenience and frugality mostly. The thought of lugging around a camera and all that equipment, plus spending money on the latest gadgets just doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather keep it simple – so basically, I’m lazy, but in a less-is-more sort of way. The increasingly decent quality of phone cameras also works in my favor here! (All that said, I do have tremendously great respect for those of you who are professional photographers, or hobbyists who use real cameras. Mad props!)

As a traveler, shooting with my phone is especially handy. Since I don’t plan to sell my photos or print them large scale, the low res camera on my Galaxy S7 is adequate for capturing memories and posting to social media. And, I’ve learned to improve upon the quality of my photos in other ways – and I’m not talking editing. Here are five easy ways to up your travel photography game when your camera of choice is a phone.


  1. Look for unique angles. There’s nothing wrong with taking a straight-on, basic photo of the scene before you – for the memories. But, going beyond basic requires an original perspective. Try looking up. Or crouching down. Maybe even lay down. (Doing this in the middle of a street is seriously fun – but safety first, folks!) Need more ideas? Shoot through an opening, like a fence. Play with focus points so either the foreground or background are blurred. Find a reflective surface and go nuts! Or, snap an action shot. Bonus points if you do ALL of the above. But really, it all depends on your subject matter. Be creative!
    City Hall, Savannah, GA

    Left this in Paris for my future love

  2. Play up textures and patterns. Sometimes, it makes more sense to go abstract. Take a closeup of a funky tile floor. Showcase the uneven textures of a stone wall. Highlight colors and shapes. Even shadow patterns can totally transform a shot!
    Castle Montjuic, Barcelona

    La Boqueria Market, Barcelona

    Kensington Palace, London
  3. Wait for people to move. This one requires patience – especially if you’re visiting a touristy area. But, patience has its rewards when you capture that perfectly unobstructed view of whatever it is you’re looking at. The focus stays on the desired subject, and the photo remains timeless – with no clothing styles to date it.
    Park Guell, Barcelona
  4. Take advantage of strangers. Sometimes it’s just inevitable. People will be in your shot no matter how long you’re willing to wait. And when that happens, work with them, not around them. Utilize any backlighting to transform these strangers into silhouette shapes. Or, go all paparazzi and snap cool candids. With a little timing and creativity, you can even “hide” a person behind an object (or another person you might actually want in your shot).
  5. Use props. Now, I don’t mean photo booth props. I’m talking staging your shot for a more aesthetic look. Reposition objects already in view. Or, add items – food, flowers, souvenirs you bought, even your own feet (however cliché). Don’t be afraid to make it your own.
    Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona
Lido Beach, Sarasota, FL

Are you a phone photographer like me? How do you elevate your travel cell phone shots?

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