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Tips & Tricks

Smartphone Travel Photography Tips

Big cameras mean a lot of gear – and you may not want to lug it around with you on your next trip. Luckily, smartphone cameras have improved massively over the past few years and are constantly evolving. Due to this focus on mobile photography, say goodbye to extra baggage fees and back injuries and hello to impressive smartphone photos!

couple taking a photo

To make sure that you make the most of your smartphone camera the next time you’re on your travels, we’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to taking great photos, perfect for your next travel photography book.

Get to know your smartphone camera

The first step to channelling the inner travel photographer within you is getting to know your smartphone camera. This may seem like quite a basic tip, but that small device in your pocket will have features that you haven’t had the chance to explore yet. Take some time to test your smartphone camera when you aren’t trying to capture a moment– with the pressure off, you can play around with the camera settings and find what works for you.

lady using her smartphone to take a photo

On the other hand, it’s always helpful to know the limitations that your smartphone camera will have too. Although a smartphone camera is more than enough to take high quality photographs, a DSLR will offer different strengths and it is beneficial to be mindful of the differences in comparison. For example, zoom.

Optical zoom v digital zoom

Zooming is something to consider when you’re taking photos on your travels with a smartphone and not a DSLR. With that in mind, its important to know there are two types of zoom – optical zoom and digital zoom. So, what is the difference?

Optical zoom is when you use your camera to zoom in on the subject, whereas digital zoom is when you manually zoom on a piece of software after the photo has been taken. TechRadar sums up the difference perfectly – ‘Optical zoom uses magnifying lenses to get you a much closer-up view of a scene than you’d see with your eyes. Digital zoom relies on software to get a similar effect.’ It is tempting to zoom into something in order to get a closer look, but with a smartphone camera, it can often be more detrimental than helpful.

zooming into a photo

To avoid losing out on the quality of your photo, take it from a default distance then crop it later in a software of your choice. That way, you won’t compromise quality, and it’s easier to play around with or optimise a larger image.

Use HDR mode (where necessary!)

HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is a common feature on both iPhone and Android that aims to add more dynamic to the ratio of light to dark in your photographs. Depending on the model, HDR on smartphones will take several photos per snap.

In general, when your smartphone camera is in HDR mode, it will take one regular photo and one HDR photo that has been captured at a different exposure. Ultimately, you should end up with a photo that is more like what your eyes see, rather than what your camera sees.

landscape photo with tree and fields

But as with all techniques, make sure you don’t over use it. HDR is best used when the lighting is unpredictable or problematic. For example, landscapes, low-light and backlit scenes are commonly known to benefit from HDR mode. This makes HDR great for travel photography as your landscape shots can be elevated to the next level – or in other words, it does the scenery justice!

However, we would suggest avoiding HDR in environments that are high in contrast, have vivid colours or when taking photographs of moving things (which includes people and animals!)

Know your lighting

As you may not have all the features that a DSLR holds, its important to work with your smartphone in a way that complements the lighting you have to hand. Therefore, the biggest tip is to work with what you’ve got! If you do decide to use flash (which we recommend to use as a last option) only use it during the day. This is because bright sunlight always goes hand-in-hand with shadows, and shadows can obscure the detail in your photos. When you use a flash on a bright, sunny day, you “fill in” those shadows and get a nice, evenly-lit image.

Otherwise, use natural light where possible.

If you have a bit more wiggle room in your luggage, portable LED panels are an inexpensive way to artificially boost your lighting. An external light gives you more freedom to experiment as you can also use it to bounce light from a wall and onto your subject.

Embrace the candid!

Another benefit to mobile photography is that the point-and-shoot turnaround is quicker than with a DSLR. Once you see a moment you want to capture, your smartphone is only in your pocket (or maybe even already in your hand!) and you won’t need to worry about setting up to get the shot.

group of women with sparklers

This flexibility allows you capture the most candid photos. From a certain shadow, to a street act or a moment of fun between friends, a smartphone is a great way to document off-the-cuff, unexpected moments. Make sure to set your camera settings beforehand so you’re ready whenever the moment presents itself.

Quick wins for Smartphone Travel Photography

Although there are some technical wins when it comes to smartphone photography, there are a few things you can do before you set off to make sure your travel photography goes as smooth as possible.

Check your storage

Before you set off on your adventure, you’ll need enough memory to capture all of your memories. There is nothing more annoying than a ‘storage full’ warning when you’re just about to capture the moment. Take some time to check that your phone has enough room for your new snaps, or you may find yourself falling short at the most inconvenient time.

taking a photo with a smartphone

If you’re looking for a place to store your photos, take a look at the CEWE MYPHOTOS app. Save your favourite photos and videos in one place and access them from anywhere at any time – with any device.

Clean the lens

taking a photo with a smartphone

As we use them every day, we may neglect the more sanitary side to our smartphones – and that can affect the quality of your photographs. We’d recommend using a microfiber cloth, a camera lens wipe or a small cotton swab (and not your t-shirt or jumper!) to give your lens a good clean.

Grab a tripod

taking a photo with a smartphone

When you’re travelling, there may be moments that you just need to drop everything and sit back and enjoy. From a particularly breath-taking scene to an unexpected discovery, a tripod for your smartphone is well worth adding to your kit. That way, your phone can pick up on the moment you’re enjoying without distraction! Plus, you may just need that extra bit of stability and positioning to get the perfect shot.

Attach an external lens

taking a photo with a smartphone

If you’re looking to expand the capabilities of your smartphone camera, without masses of extra equipment, an external lens will elevate the photography you can achieve on your phone. From fish-eye to wide-angle lenses, these add-ons can bring an entirely new quality and perspective to your photos.

Use a Grid for Rule of Thirds

taking a photo with a smartphone

Rule of thirds is a common ‘rule’ when it comes to positioning your photograph as it encourages the eye to look beyond the centre focus. Many smartphones have a feature that allows you to add a grid that separates the image into thirds. The aim is to position the important elements in your scene along the lines in the grid, or at the points where they meet.

iOS: Settings > Camera > enable Grid

Android: Settings > Apps > Camera > Grid Lines

Preserve Your Photos with a Small Square Photo Book

We often forget to do something with the photos we’ve spent so much time crafting – especially when we’ve returned from a spectacular trip with a whole camera roll of holiday snaps. It can seem daunting to print them and you might not even know where to start. The Small Square Photo Book is the answer you’ve been looking for!


  • Download the app on Google Play or iOS
  • Select your travel photos from your phone
  • Personalise the cover with seven unique styles
  • Add text to the inside pages
  • Expect delivery in 4-5 working days!

Quick, simple yet still premium quality, you’ll receive a pocket size document of your travels to enjoy for years to come. You’ll also enjoy the satisfactory feeling of knowing you’ve done something productive with your photos.

If you'd rather display your photos in your home, consider a calendar featuring your holiday memories. We recommend getting some travel calendar inspiration if this is something you'd like to create for yourself or as a gift for someone else.

And if you've absolutely fallen inlove with a photo and want to keep it close at all times, you could consider creating a personalised phone case with it, for yourself or a partner, friend or family!

Do you have any smartphone travel tips that you’d like to share? Then let us know! Leave a comment below or get in touch with us on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.