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Tech

10 tips for taking better travel photos with your iPhone

Ditch the bulky DSLR camera and snap happy with nothing but your iPhone and these tips.

by Vanessa Gibbs

1
Pick a subject

Especially when traveling, there is so much going on around you it’s impossible to get it all in the shot. So, zero in on a subject. Be that a building, a person, a meal, or something else entirely. Make your subject the focus of the shot and opt for something that emulates the culture or feel of the destination. Try placing something in the foreground to show depth and scale, like a person walking through the streets of New York. Or shoot the close-up details to transport the viewer to the destination, like the intricate patterns of Bangkok’s temples.

Pick a subject
2
Use the rule of thirds

The classic rule of composition is the rule of thirds. Turn on your grid lines, you can find them in settings, to divide your shot into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Now, aim to place your subject at either the intersection of two lines. This leaves an unequal amount of space on either side and naturally draws the eye to your subject. It makes for a more interesting photo than the standard centered shot.

Use the rule of thirds
3
Learn the rulebook

Besides from the rule of thirds, there a few other composition tips that are worth bearing in mind. First, the rule of lines. Keep an eye out for any lines which could lead to your subject. Favorites are roads, paths, or railroad tracks but anything can work if you use your imagination. Position your shot so these lines pull the eye through the frame and focus on your subject. Another rule? The rule of diagonals. If you’re placing two subjects in the frame, try and line them up diagonally for interest and balance.

Learn the rulebook
4
Rules were made to be broken

There are all sorts of photography rules; the rule of thirds (see no. 2), the rule of lines (see no. 3), the rule of put your selfie-stick away (okay, I just made that one up). But sometimes rules are made to be broken. Once you’ve got to grips with the basic rulebook, rip it up! Play with positioning; slightly out of the frame, in the center, or perfect horizontals. Run wild. Photography is a creative pursuit after all and travel is the perfect opportunity to break out and try something new.

Rules were made to be broken
5
Get the light right

The iPhone flash tends to wash out photos so always aim to get the best natural light when shooting. Place your subject in front of the sun to find that angelic halo effect and seek out natural sun-drenched corners when exploring. Try catching the golden hours, the time around sunrise and sunset, for a softer light. Bonus: when the sun is low it’s the perfect time to bring long shadows and silhouettes into your shot for added interest.

Get the light right
6
Angles

Venture away from the Instagram favorite flat lay and begin bringing creative angles into your shots. Get down low for a fresh perspective on overdone attractions or even up high for a bird’s eye view of city life. Sometimes, simply breaking away from the conventional angle can reveal a whole new side to well-worn paths. And, of course, a flat lay meal is always a winner.

Angles
7
Play with settings

It may not have all the buttons of a DSLR, but the iPhone still has a few tricks hidden in the settings menu. Instead of a simple point and shoot, use the grid lines to align your subject or get the horizon perfectly straight. Use burst mode by holding down the shoot button to take rapid fire shots so you can capture any fleeting moments. Tap on your screen where you want the camera to focus to automatically adjust the light. Use the volume button to shoot to reduce shake or set a timer. One setting not to use? The zoom. Zooming in on an iPhone decreases the quality of your photo. Instead, when you can, get closer to your subject. You can always crop afterwards to get the image you’re looking for.

Play with settings
8
Portraits are powerful

Don’t be afraid to photograph people, especially when you’re trying to capture the culture of a place. You’d be surprise how far a smile and asking for permission can get you. Use close-up shots to capture emotion or take a more distant stance to place people in the hustle and bustle of their city’s streets. People can also add scale to landmarks and landscape shots. And this doesn’t always have to be locals. Try placing yourself, or whoever you’re traveling with, in the frame. It not only makes for a great shot to show the grandparents, but it helps the viewer imagine themselves in those destinations.

Portraits are powerful
9
Get snap appy

Of course, there’s Instagram to add a pre-set filter and share your travel photos, but there are plenty more apps to get the most out of your shots. VSCO is great for subtle filters that enhance your photos without making them look over edited. A Colour Story uses bright colors and pre-set filters to make your photos pop. Snapseed is a go-to favorite of professional photographers for detailed editing and SKRWT helps correct perspective and lens distortion as well as other editing tools. And there’s more to Instagram too. Try the adjust feature to fix a wonky horizon or play with the rule of thirds and use filters sparingly to enhance your snaps without losing the natural look. If you’re looking to up your iPhoneography game, consider some accessories. Ranging from budget to professional, you can find everything from wide-angle lenses to tripods, external battery packs to waterproof cases, all of which will help you get that perfect shot.

Get snap appy
10
Experiment

Especially when traveling to a popular destination, it can feel impossible to take a new photo. There’s only so many times we can see a shot of the Eiffel Tower, right? But there’s always a new angle, a different light, depth, person, or subject to play with and a way to present the old favorites in a new and personal way. Aim to tell your own story of your travels and infuse your photos with personality. And if you’re really stuck, snap a quick selfie – because there’s only one of you.

Experiment
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