I’m excited to write this post about travel iPhoneography for you. Yes, you. You who travels, has an iPhone, and uses it to take travel photos. Photos are a big part of traveling. Pics or it didn’t happen, right?

Seriously, though. I love taking photos when I travel. The world is a massively beautiful and amazing place, and as much fun as it is to go somewhere, I  also want to bring home souvenirs. And travel photos are the best souvenirs. So why not invest some time and effort into getting good at taking travel photos? And no, you don’t need a big DSLR. You can take just as nice and arguably better photos with your iPhone.

In this post, I’m going to introduce you to the exciting world of travel iPhoneography. By the end of it, you’ll be wanting to know more about this art and how you can bring your iPhone travel photography skills to the next level. It’s gonna be a long post, but it’s valuable, so get comfy. And if you don’t have time to read this post right now, download the PDF and read it later.

What is travel iPhoneography?

First, let me say I’m pretty much in love with my iPhone as a travel camera. It’s all but replaced my DSLR when I go somewhere. It’s small, light, and easier to use. And it takes wonderful photos when you know how to use your iPhone camera to its full potential. The iPhone itself is already a highly sophisticated phone, and the camera gets better with each new model, so why would anyone expect it to be a sucky camera? I still have an iPhone 6s (which is great), and I can’t even imagine how much better the iPhone 7, 8, and X cameras are.

Plus, you always have your iPhone with you. I don’t think you will leave it at home when you travel. Now, at the risk of sounding repetitive of every single photographer in the world – the best camera really is the one you have with you. And when you understand how to use your camera and what it means to take great photos, you’ll see that your iPhone could quickly become your go-to travel camera and everyday life camera.

Travel iPhoneography is the combination of the words iPhone and travel photography. I like to think of travel iPhoneography as the skill and art of taking stunning travel photos with your iPhone. And yes, both of these are crucial elements. Skill alone is not enough to take wonderful travel photos, with any camera. You might know how to use your camera, but your photos will be boring. And artistic ability won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use your camera. You might have nice ideas, but your photos look like they were taken on a potato.

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The best photos happen when technical skill and creativity come together to produce something that engages the viewer and creates an emotion. Here are a few tips to get you started with travel iPhoneography.

1 Quickly open your iPhone camera

Sometimes travel iPhoneography requires you to be fast. How many times have you seen something really cool while you were traveling, tried to whip your phone out to take a photo, but weren’t able to get the camera app open quick enough? If you’re like me, too many disappointing times. Thankfully, there is a really simple way to open your iPhone camera from the lock screen in two seconds. No more fumbling with your thumbprint or passcode.

All you have to do is push the on/off button on the right side of your phone. This will bring up the locked home screen. Then swipe your finger from the right edge of the screen to the left side, and the camera is all ready to go!See the little camera icon on the bottom? Easy peasy, right? (Yes, my home screen is Darth Vader)

2 How to take a photo

Besides the big white shutter button, there a few other ways to take a photo with your iPhone camera. One way is with the volume buttons on the side. If you like the feel of using a regular camera, you might like this, but I don’t. The buttons are really stiff, and it’s pretty impossible to get a sharp photo unless you have something solid to hold your phone against.

There’s a cool way to use a remote shutter that comes with your iPhone. Sorry – this method only applies to iPhones with an earphone jack, so 6s and earlier. For iPhones 7 and later, you’ll need to purchase a remote shutter that connects via bluetooth. But for those of use with an earphone jack, all you need to do is plug in the Apple earbuds that came with your iPhone, and use the volume button on those as a remote shutter. If you do this paired with a tripod, you are guaranteed to get tack-sharp photos every single time. Brilliant.

Download the Travel iPhoneography 15-page PDF.

3 Lock and adjust focus and exposure

Did you know you have control over the focus and exposure in your iPhone camera? Add this to your travel iPhoneography toolkit. You probably already know that you can tap anywhere on the screen to change the focus and exposure. But after you take a photo, everything returns to the default setting. To keep focus and exposure locked on the subject you want, tap and hold until a yellow box flashes and you see AE/AF LOCK on the top of the screen. Then, slide your finger up down on the little yellow sun to increase or decrease the exposure. When you take a photo, everything will stay locked so you can take another shot. Kewl.

travel iPhoneography

4 Become a travel iPhoneography pro with different camera modes

Next to the shutter button are several camera modes. There’s the regular photo size, a square size, panorama, and portrait in iPhone 7+ and later. Square is great for taking photos for Instagram so you don’t have to crop them and lost image quality. Panorama works for landscapes and scenery. All you do is slowly pan the camera from left to right keeping the arrow on the line. Portrait mode is great for focusing on a subject nearby to you and getting the background blurry. This bokeh effect is usually done on DSLR, but now you can do it on (some) iPhones.

On the top (or left side) of your camera screen, from top to bottom is Filters, Timer, Live, HDR, and Flash. Apply filters to get instant effects to your photos. I don’t use these often. Timer can be set to 3 or 10 seconds and takes 10 quick photos in burst mode. Burst mode is a great way to get the exact split-second photo of something that happens quickly, like someone jumping or walking. Just tap and hold the shutter to take a bunch of photos, then go into the Photos app to select the ones you want and delete the rest.

HDR stands for high dynamic range, and it brings out details and colours to make really vibrant and intense photos. Whether you like HDR is personal preference, but I happen to like it. HDR mode on your iPhone works well in brightly lit landscape settings to bring out the detail in bright areas and also shaded areas. HDR mode on the iPhone camera is not too intense, but you can amplify the effect in post processing.

travel iPhoneography

Finally, there is flash, which I don’t recommend using as a primary light source. If you must use it, use it a supplementary source in addition to another light source. The flash can be harsh and cold and give weird reflections and glares. Not good things for aspiring travel iPhoneographers.

5 Composition for travel iPhoneography

That is a lot of technical things under your belt, now let’s get into the art part of travel iPhoneography. Yay! The skills you just learned won’t help you very much if you don’t know how to compose an eye-catching photo. And don’t worry if you are afraid you’re not artistic or uncreative. You can learn everything you need to know about design and composition. And creativity can be learned and practiced. Who knows, you might discover a hidden photographer inside you. There are many rules and guidelines for composing your photos, but I’m just going to go over three important ones below. Even if you just think about these three and practice applying them in different situations, you will already be improving your travel iPhoneography.

Rule of thirds

The first rule I’m going to cover is called the rule of thirds. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s usually the first thing photographers mention when talking about composition. But it bears repeating because it makes a huge difference in your photos. The rule of thirds consists of four lines which pass through the photo and intersect to make nine equal sections. Use these lines and their points of intersection to position horizons and subjects. Doing so will create a nicer balance in the photo then simply centring everything.

travel iPhoneography

Leading lines

Travel iPhoneography includes taking photos of landscapes and outdoor things. Leading lines are a great way to guide the viewer’s eye through the photos, create movement, and tell a story. Look for leading lines in things like man-made roads, natural paths and lines in the ground, fences, railways, and bridges for example.

travel iphoneography

Fill the frame

Filling the frame means getting up close to the subject so there are no distracting elements on the edges of your photo.   Getting close to your subject and making them the clear focus of your photos will make your travel iPhoneography stand out more than a cluttered and confusing image with too many things in it. When you fill the frame, some slight cropping in post processing is alright, but it’s best to get as close as possible while you are taking the photo. Too much cropping will reduce the quality of your image and make it pixels if you decide to make it larger.

6 Editing photos for travel iPhoneography

Taking the photo is only half the fun. Post processing, or editing your travel photos is where they really come alive and can be turn into works of art. And it’s amazing the advanced editing you can do on your iPhone with a few third-party apps from the App Store. My favourite editing app is Snapseed. I use it all the time because it can do almost everything. If you don’t have it on your phone already, I order you to download it and play around with it. It’s free, too.

Please, please, please, the first thing you should do when editing your photos is straighten the horizon. It bothers me so much when photos have crooked horizons. It’s the simplest thing to fix, and will instantly make your photos a bajillion times better.

I also recommend cropping your photos (a little bit) to get rid of any weird things around the edges or give your photo different dimensions. Just don’t crop too much or your photo will lose resolution. In Snapseed, I always like to fine tune the image for exposure, contrast, colour, white balance, etc. It’s also nice to sharpen the photos to bring out the details and structure. I also like to play around with the HDR and Drama filters. Click the button below to download my personally recommend iPhone photo editing apps.

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7 Being more creative with your travel iPhoneography

One thing I recommend doing to help you feel more confident with your travel iPhoneography is to practice. They only way you will get better and get new ideas is by actually getting out there and doing it. You don’t need to be traveling either. You can take travel photos in your own town. Challenge yourself to think like a tourist in your own town and go to those places and do those things. Bring your iPhone. By practicing and getting ideas in your own town, you’ll gain valuable experience before you head out on your next adventure abroad.

I also suggest making your own personal photography tour just for yourself. This is something I like to do from time to time, and you can read more about how to do it in this blog post.

Travel iPhoneography takeaways

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned some new things about travel iPhoneography. Maybe you are thinking about your iPhone differently now and see it is an excellent camera for travel. Getting started with travel iPhoneography is an exciting endeavour. There is so much to learn both in a technical and an artistic sense. Without both of these puzzle pieces, your iphone travel photography will be incomplete.

Travel by itself is exciting, but taking great photos is an important element of a great trip. You want to come home with photos you are proud of and which you can confidently share on your travel blog, social media, or print in a physical photo album. With this post you have a solid idea of what goes in to taking amazing iPhone travel photos. Click here to download the PDF, Getting Started with Travel iPhoneography.

Download the Travel iPhoneography 15-page PDF.

I want to hear from you now. What did you learn in this post? What are still struggling with your travel iPhoneography? Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.

Author

Jennifer has lived in Japan for a total of seven years. She has travelled, taught English, studied Japanese, completed a Master's Degree, and travelled some more. She currently calls Nagoya her home, where she lives with her Japanese husband.

13 Comments

    • Hey, that’s okay! Some of these tips apply to photography in general. Doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have. I hope you can find something to apply to your own photography.

  1. Lot’s of great info here Jen. I’m going to show this to my daughter as she takes a lot of my pics for me on the iPhone. (She probably knows most of this anyway….kids are so gadget/tech knowledgeable these days!!)

    • Thanks. And yes, a lot of the tips will work even if you don’t have an iPhone. Smart phone cameras are giving DSLRs a run for their money 😉

    • It can be difficult travelling with a DSLR sometimes. I’m glad you found this post useful 🙂 The iPhone camera is pretty great.

  2. Lots of great information here. I never owned a smart phone or a phone at all until a few weeks ago. Then I dropped it in the canal while taking a photo. I got another one and have taken some photos but I think this tutorial can help.

    • It’s never too late to learn how to use your iPhone camera. 😉 That sucks about dropping it a canal though. Bummer. I’m glad you found this helpful. Good luck with your iPhone travel photos!

  3. I am glad you stopped by my blog, because now I have come across your wonderful blog with amazing tips. I use a DSLR, but use my iPhone for a lot of pictures too. The tips are going to help me improve my pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, me too. I hope these tips give you a good understanding of how to use your iPhone well. 🙂

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