In today’s digital world it’s now easier than ever to document your travels. Gone are the days of lugging expensive, bulky cameras around, or relying on a cheap throwaway camera. Nowadays, the vast majority of Westerners own a smartphone, which are incorporating increasingly more powerful cameras.

Smartphone cameras are now capable of taking award winning photos and make the ideal tool for travellers who are keen to capture those special moments during their adventures. Slim, light and small enough to fit in your pocket, mobile travel photography has never been easier.

With a few useful tips under your belt, you’ll be able to take your mobile photography to new levels, especially when travelling. Read on to discover how you can transform, blurry, grainy snaps into high quality mobile travel photos.

Master the Controls

First things first, you need to master the basics. Mobile photography while travelling often relies on grabbing your phone quickly and taking a snapshot before it’s too late. This means you have to know exactly what you’re doing to avoid disappointment. The vast majority of mobile cameras work in the same way.

  • Tap the screen to take off autofocus mode and select the focal point of your picture. This also adjusts the lighting to match the focus.
  • Swipe up or down to adjust the brightness of the picture.
  • Hit the volume button to take a picture. You can also hit the volume button on earphones to take a sneaky snapshot.
  • Hold the shutter button down to capture a burst of 10 frames per second.


Additionally, check your manual to see how to make further adjustments manually.

Keep it Steady

Preventing blurring and taking a sharp, clear photo is often easier said than done for the apprentice mobile travel photographer. However, there are a number of methods you can use to overcome this issue;

  • Hold your phone with both hands.
  • Tuck your elbows tight against your body and hold your breath as you take your shot.
  • Support your smartphone against a sturdy surface.
  • Use the volume or earplug button to take the picture, rather than pressing the on-screen shutter button.
  • Use the timer.
  • Buy a Gorillapod to use for additional support – especially useful for landscapes.

Forget the Flash

Avoid using the flash and instead search for natural ambient light sources. Taking a photo with flash is a sure-fire way to ruin a photo as it tends to create flash reflections, glare and oversaturation. To prevent this, use an additional torch in darker areas and raise the ISO a little.

Keep it Clean!

You may be great at mobile travel photography, but if your lens is dirty, your pictures will come out blurred or with other defects. When travelling, your smartphone may take a few knocks and can become greasy from sunscreen, oil from food, grit from the road, etc.

Take a microfiber cloth with you and be sure to give your screen and lens a quick wipe before you use it. This way, you can be sure to take great pictures each and every time.

Avoid Digital Zoom

When you use the digital zoom function on smartphone cameras, the resulting photos are often very grainy and low quality. Instead, get up close and personal to your subject. This will create a far higher quality image and many more intricate details will be picked up. Don’t worry if your photo captures elements either side of your main focal point, as you can easily crop these out during the edit stage.

HDR vs Manual Mode

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and balances light and dark sections of an image to create a perfectly exposed photo. By switching HDR onto automatic, you don’t need to worry about adjusting the focus and exposure. HDR works best in bright, outdoor photos or interior images that have a bright light source.

You can turn HDR off if you’re not happy with the results in other environments. Tap the screen to select a focal point and slide your finger up and down the screen to adjust the exposure – down to darken, up to brighten. By going fully manual you gain a greater control over more complex images. This is ideal for darker areas or sunset/sunrise photos.

Use Guide Lines

The guide lines can easily be switched on or off and are a huge help when setting the composition of your snapshot. Typically, a 3 by 3 grid consisting of 9 boxes will overlay the screen, making it easier to set features off centre and ensure you’re holding the camera straight.

Take Advantage of Your Phone’s Size

While smartphone cameras aren’t yet up to the same standard as larger, professional DLRs, they do have many advantages over their bulkier counterparts. Size and portability is certainly among the biggest bonuses. Your smartphone can fit in a pocket, removing the need for additional baggage. It’s easy to carry around and take out within seconds to capture rare moments.

Additionally, your smartphone can capture images a traditional camera never could. Hold your phone between narrow bars or slats for example to take a photo from a unique angle.

Instagramming Wins

Instagram is among the most popular ways to edit and share your mobile travel photography. However, don’t be tempted to use the app to actually take photos, as it gives you a lower definition than your smartphone’s built in camera app. Instead, upload your best snapshots to Instagram to edit and share – don’t upload every single shot as people will soon tire of your albums!

Instagram is full of useful editing tools and filters that can be used to improve your photos. The adjust tool is useful for fixing tilt or slant problems and can drastically improve your perspective quickly and easily. Take it easy on the filters and be aware that it’s better to edit with a light touch, rather than an entire overhaul.

Use Apps to Edit like a Pro

The final version of your photo doesn’t necessarily rely on having a top of the range camera or taking the perfect picture. Indeed, perfection lies in the final editing. There are many apps you can use, from Instagram that offers a wide range of general editing tools, to more specific apps that cater to just one use, such as ‘Touch Retouch’ – which is used to remove entire elements from your picture.

Use cropping, blurring, tilt adjustment, exposure and colour adjustment apps to create the image that’s perfect for you. Take care to avoid over-editing, as this can detract from your original image.