Last Updated on January 10, 2023
If you are like me, you probably take more photos on your phone than on your ‘real’ camera these days. I’ve noticed it when I was traveling with friends in recent weeks too: even though they still carry a clunky dSLR camera with them, more often than not I saw them pull out their smartphone for a quick snap instead of setting up a proper shot on their camera.
Some of my fellow travelers don’t even travel with a camera anymore, but only with a smartphone! And I can’t blame them: dSLR cameras are bulky and heavy, especially if you’re, like me, traveling with an additional lens, and mirror-less cameras, while light and small, are pretty expensive.
And considering how drastically image quality and camera functions on smartphones have improved over the past few years, I am not surprised that many travelers rely on their iPhone or Samsung Galaxy as their only device to take pictures.
Can you believe that this photo was taken on a smartphone?
Since iPhone photos are becoming people’s only vacation memories more and more, finding their way in photo books and on canvasses, it’s important to make them look as good as possible. Even if you’re not a pro photographer, you can get stunning shots with your phone, and you can easily up your game even more with a few simple tips and tricks.
Today I am sharing five tips with you that will help you improve your smartphone photos – and while you may already be following some of them, I hope you’ll find a few things in this list that you haven’t incorporated into your iPhoneography (as the cool kids call this form of photography) yet.
From my iPhone onto a canvas. Who doesn’t love decorating their home with their own pictures?
1 Familiarize Yourself With the Camera Functions on your Phone
I know this is self-explanatory for some, but most smartphone users aren’t very tech-savvy and never explore all of the functions of their phone beyond the ones they’re using on a daily basis (myself included!). With every new model of smartphone there are new, improved camera functions – make sure you know what’s new and how to use it.
The iPhone 7’s camera got a major update for example, with a DSRL-like, depth-in-field function that makes for stunning portraits, and a 4-LED flash thanks to which night photos are turning out much better, and much less pixely. Then there are functions like HDR, the various preset filters you can shoot in, how to adjust exposure manually, and the different formats you can shoot in: panoramic, square, etc. Make sure to play around with the camera on your phone to uncover all of its functions.
2 Invest in a Few Camera Accessories
If your smartphone is the only camera you’re using, it is well worth investing in some additional gear. This doesn’t have to be expensive – sturdy guerilla tripods start at only $20, and if you want to take some pictures of yourself in front of landmarks, i.e. not a close-up selfie, buy a bluetooth wireless remote control camera shutter button for smartphones – they are only $5 at Walmart and around $7 on Amazon. That way, you can place your phone on the tripod and be in your own travel photos without having to ask a stranger to take your picture (if you are traveling by yourself).
To improve your travel photos, buy a professional add-on lens for your camera. Pixter seems to have the widest range of lenses, including a macro lens, a wide angle lens, a fisheye lens and a telephoto lens. If you take a lot of close up photos of flowers and insects, you’ll love the macro lens, and I have enjoyed using the Pixter wide angle lens – look what a difference it makes to use a lens:
As you can see, the lenses are small and easily fit into your purse without weighing you down or taking up a lot of space.
The lenses are compatible with all smartphone brands and work on both the front and back cameras, which makes an insane difference when taking a selfie, speaking of which:
3 Work on your Selfie Game
Aaah, selfies. I still don’t love them, but there’s just no way to escape them anymore.. selfies have become an integral part of most millennials’ lives. Why don’t I like selfies? Because most of the time, they are very unflattering, to be frank. Seeing my face close-up, and in an unflattering angle? Not really a self-esteem booster! The other problem with selfies is the fact that it is really hard to get both you and a famous landmark in a picture if you take the photo from an arm’s length away. That’s why I always have either my selfie stick with me (Tip: buy one with a shutter button), or my remote shutter button with me as well as the wide angle lens, which makes a huge difference. You can also use the timer button on your smartphone, of course, but I like that the remote shutter gives me a little bit more flexibility.
Thanks to my selfie stick I was able to get the stunning chocolate hills in the picture as well, instead of only my face
To get an in-depth guide to taking good selfies, check out my friend and fellow blogger Kristin’s epic post on how to take better travel selfies – you’ll find some great tips in there on angles and how to set up the shot, and some other great smartphone camera accessories, such as a magnetic smartphone mount which I think I’ll have to get for myself.
4 Think of a Different Angle to Make the Photo More Interesting
Most of the world’s famous landmarks have been photographed a gazillion times, and instead of adding the millionth picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, think about how you can add something unique to it. Try a different angle – from the ground, or from above – depending on where you are, play with reflections, or add a little accessory that you carry with you. If you take pictures only for your personal use, you might not care about this so much, but why not try to take a photo that you know would look amazing printed on a canvas in your living room?
5 Use Photo Editing Apps
I never publish an unedited photo on any of my social media platforms or on here, and in my opinion, also an already great photo can be helped to look even more amazing. Be careful with over-editing though: too much can quickly ruin a picture. But a little enhancement of contrast and color, increasing the structure and fixing the exposure can go a long way. I am not a big fan of filters, which are an easy way to give an image a certain look, but I can appreciate them from an artistic standpoint. No matter if your preference is for filters or simple editing tools, you should have at least a couple of photo editing apps on your phone.
Luckily, most of them are free, and among my favorites are:
…but the list of photo editing apps are endless! This article mentions several other photo editing apps for Android phones which you might want to check out, and here are 26 camera apps for iPhones. The way I narrowed down my favorites was by downloading a whole bunch of editing apps, playing around with all of them to test them and see how they work, and afterwards deleting those that I found hard to navigate or that were just not very good.
And don’t be afraid to use various apps to edit a photo – you may prefer the editing features on Snapseed but still add your favorite pre-set filter on VSCO.
I personally love the Camerabag filters
And Last But Not Least… Share Your Pics!
And this also goes in line with the above point: most people don’t just photograph for their private photo album anymore, but share every single photo they take on vacation on Facebook (Note: It doesn’t hurt to be selective, guys.. why not try choosing the very best shots instead of posting them all?), posting them on Instagram or other photo sharing websites, and I’m all for it!
I know a lot of people who take amazing photos and don’t share them on any platforms – but why not share with the world the amazing images you created, instead of letting them rot on your hard drive?
I personally enjoy the engagement on picture sharing platforms like Instagram and Flickr tremendously, and more professional platforms like 500px are also a good way to get feedback and criticism from pro photographers, which will help you to further improve your skills. And having your photo chosen by a National Geographic editor to be featured in the National Geographic Your Shot section is a huge ego boost.