5 Best Tips for Taking 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. But, I must confess that I’ve almost exclusively used a smart phone camera for 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. Plus, the incredible quality of newer 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 cameras on all my Samsung Galaxy phones have been adequate for capturing memories and posting to social media. So, instead of using a higher quality camera, I’ve learned to improve the quality of my photos in other ways—and I’m not talking editing. Here are five easy ways to improve your travel photography when your camera of choice is a phone.

1. Find unique camera angles

There’s nothing wrong with taking a straight-on, simple photo of the scene before you. It will absolutely capture the memories. But, if you want a shot that’s beyond basic, find original perspectives. 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 like water or a window 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!

Two yellow road lines pointed toward City Hall in Savannah Georgia
City Hall, Savannah, GA
Love lock with the words "me & you" on a fence near the Eiffel Tower
Left this in Paris for my future love
London Tower Bridge peeking between two buildings with people walking on the street

2. Focus on textures and patterns

Sometimes, it’s fun to go abstract. Take a closeup of a funky tile floor or the uneven textures of a stone wall. Highlight colors and shapes. Even shadow patterns can completely transform a shot!

Wooden bench and shadow of the bench on a stone patterned walkway
Castle Montjuic, Barcelona
Various types of candy at a market stall in Barcelona
La Boqueria Market, Barcelona
Ceiling of Kensington Palace in London
Kensington Palace, London

3. Wait for people to move out of a shot

This requires patience—especially if you’re visiting a very touristy spot. But, your patience may be rewarded when you capture that perfectly unobstructed view. No distractions. No strangers. Just clean and timeless photos.

Stone cross statue in Park Guell overlooking the city of Barcelona Spain
Park Guell, Barcelona

4. Be strategic when you can’t avoid people in your shots

Sometimes, it’s inevitable. People will be in your shot no matter how long you wait. When that happens, work with those people, not around them. Utilize any backlighting to transform strangers into silhouettes. Or, embrace your inner paparazzi and snap cool candid shots. You can even hide a person behind an object (or another person you might want in your shot) with good timing and creativity.

5. Use props in your photos

You might be thinking photo booth props right now. That’s not what I mean. Instead, think of staging your shot for a more aesthetic look. Reposition objects in view. Or, add items—food, flowers, souvenirs you bought, even your own feet (however cliché). Don’t be afraid to change things a bit to make it your own.

Plate of seafood paella with silverware and a cup of water on a table on Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona
Repositioned my silverware, plate, and cup before taking this shot in Barcelona
Close up of a shell on a cement wall with the Gulf of Mexico and a shoreline of hotels in the background
Found this shell and put it on the cement wall on Lido Beach, Sarasota, FL

Are you a phone photographer like me? I’d love to hear your tips for taking better travel cell phone shots!

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