30 simple tips to take better travel photos with your smartphone

A beautiful travel picture can be with you for the rest of your life: on your laptop, on your desk or even on the wall, as an element of interior design.

Even if you are not a photographer, you can create high definition images with a smartphone.

Smartphones are more portable than professional cameras, and the quality of photographs has steadily been improving.

But what makes an high definition image an outstanding image?

In this article you can find the ultimate tips to take better travel photos with your smartphone.


Take photos with people

  • Incorporate a human element into landscapes, such as a person or their property.
  • It makes photos more personal, more memorable and gives them a sense of scale and place.
  • Put famous landmark in the background (the Tour Eiffel is a clear example) and capture how locals live their lives around them.
  • For portraits, shoot at eye level or elevate the subject. Avoid shooting down at someone.

Play with reflections and symmetry

  • Symmetry brings aesthetically pleasing balance and proportion into photography. When used correctly, it can create outstanding images.
  • Look for reflections as this can make for a beautiful photo: a mirror, a lake or a window can help you to take a unique shot.

Forget selfies

They are not cool any more. It is cool to take a professional photographer with you, as Will Coldwell suggests. Of course, if you an ordinary traveler, you might use the person with whom who you are travelling.

The quality might be not that extraordinary, but still, it’s better than selfie!

Use the rule of third

The rule of Thirds
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This is a key rule of photography: divide the picture up into thirds (you will eventually have 9 equal squares) and place your main object on the interception of lines. A specific function is available in every camera app settings.

This is how you will focus attention on the “main object” and improve the composition. It sounds weird, but it works!

Capture the perfect moment

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The crucial thing to remember is to think of your camera when something exciting happens. If you are lucky enough, and keep cool, then it’s done.

This is why the smartphone is such a useful thing. You don’t need to prepare, just grab it out of a pocket and SHOOT!

Use burst mode to capture the perfect moment in motion. To use burst, hold down the shutter button and it will capture 10 frames per second.

Keep your lens clean

We bet that your smartphone is not always in the clean and sterilised place.

So you better wipe your lens before making a shot-of-your-life. Otherwise, no one will believe you if you’re just saying that you really spotted the troll in Norway.

Focus & Light

  • Look for a focal point rather than taking a photo just of the sea: a pattern in the sand, footprints, water over rocks.
  • Use lines in your composition. They should lead to your focal point.
  • Focus on the foreground even if the backdrop is what you want. It adds character and depth to the photo.
  • Use High Dynamic Range (HDR) which will result in a perfectly exposed photo.
  • Use the focus feature by tapping on what you want to be in focus. In this way will adjust the light in the photo (this is really useful for sunset and sunrise).

Don’t you ever use the flash

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Not only because it turns nice old ladies in theatres and museums into scariest monsters ever seen, but because it ruins the quality of the image.

Believe us. If you don’t, then try to investigate by taking such pictures, asking your professional friends, reading blogs and magazines and then, just don’t do it. Don’t use flash.

Don’t move

Keep your photo sharp using these easy tricks:

  • Hold the smarphone with both hands
  • Lean the smartphone against a steady element or a flat surface;
  • Shoot the picture with the volume button instead of the screen tap
  • Use the self-timer

Sunset & sunrise always win

“For great landscapes get up early or stay up late.” Dave Bouskill founder and photographer of adventure travel blog, The Planet D.

Shoot early in the morning or as the sun is setting to give your image more impact, with longer shadows and softer lights.

Shooting at these times means you will likely be there when no one else is, giving you a unique perspective.

Create silhouettes using the sunset (as the flash on most phones cannot carry long distances). Try to shoot a sunset with clouds to provide some interesting patterns and uniqueness.

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Use photography apps

Photography apps are something that might help a simple picture look cool. Stan Horaczek, reporter from Popular Photography, recommends using Camera Awesome (made by SmugMug).

“It allows you to shoot in bursts and separates the AF lock from the exposure lock”

Don’t use Instagram to take pictures: it gives you a lower definition than the built-in photo app.


Crop it. Don’t zoom it.

When you zoom in on your smartphone the quality of the picture is just not as good.

The camera simply guesses what the image looks like and makes it more precise, based on these assumptions. The picture gets ugly fast.

Don’t add fake blur

The depth of field is a feature of the cameras that is hard to replicate with smartphones. Wide angle lenses and sensors makes quite difficult to have a blurred background picture. But replicating a blurred background effect through an editing app makes things worse!

Apps apply the blur effect uniformly: in this way the picture will have an ugly transition from sharp to blurry and it will look unnatural.


Instagram has become one of the most popular ways to edit and share images.

Instagramming travel photographer Kirsten Alana has these tips:

  • Don’t share everything on Instagram, share your best images.
  • Edit photos with a light hand that compliments, rather than detracts, from your original.
  • Though Instagram has filters, remember that putting a filter on a bad photo will not make it great.
  • These are down to individual choice, but the most liked photos have the following filters: Willow, Valencia and Sierra.
  • #nofilter brings in the most likes on Instagram.



Your smartphone can be a great solution to keep beautiful memories of your travels around the world.

The only things you need are a high definition camera and to apply the tricks you’ve just learned.

Posting on Instagram can be a good metric to measure how capable you become with your travel pictures.

The bigger the audience it reaches, the better the results: the more likes you get, the better your pictures are.

If you have any questions about any of these tricks, or you have some other to share, let me know in a comment below!


About the Author:

Anastasia Terentyeva
Russian journalist, traveler-amateur. I think that best way to discover a culture - is to try their cuisine!


  1. […] and who knows your photograph might just end up on the next issue of National Geographic. Check out Yonderbound, National Georgraphic, Conde Nast Traveler, and iPhone Photography […]

  2. Avatar
    Joey Bent October 12, 2016 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    This is super helpful! Thanks for the tips. Hope to use these on my vacation soon. I got my start on photography from http://www.adoramapix.com/blog/2016/09/27/photography-101-travel/#.V_6Zv-ArKhc
    go check it out!

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