How to Take the Best Travel Pictures on Your Phone

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Woman on a boat in Belgium, taking a selfie.
Yulia Mayorova /

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Long gone are the days when you had to haul around a huge telephoto lens to take great vacation photos. These days anyone with a cellphone can take pro-level pics. Whether you’re carrying around a premium or economy smartphone, these tips will help you take the type of shot that earns you bragging rights on Facebook. Say cheese!

Focus on color

Windows painted with bright colors
Tanpong Watanatada /

There’s nothing like color to make a photo pop. Whether you’re on a busy street or a quiet garden, look for the collision of color and capture it with a photo. Busy cityscapes, farmers markets and food trucks make great Technicolor subjects.

That said, monochromatic scenes also can be powerful in a more subtle way. The layers of white in a marble courthouse or the different shades of blue in a seaside town could also help you compose a striking photo.

In medias res

Child playing along a dusty path.
Milosz_G /

Place your phone’s camera “into the middle of things” (the definition of the Latin phrase above), and you’ll capture the spontaneity and fun of your vacation. Travel, by definition, is the process of being “en route,” so try to convey motion whenever you can. Ditch the static posed shots and turn your lens to subjects walking, talking or laughing. Use the burst camera option to easily capture a quick succession of events.

Stillness, however, can also be engaging. Focusing your camera on how intently your son is watching a waterfall may be more intriguing than the waterfall itself. Capturing someone’s reaction to a thing of beauty will help you avoid the cliché tourist shots.

Find details

Unusual brass door handle with colored door.

As we travel, we are likely to shoot the wide open beaches and busy city streets, but don’t forgot to focus on the smaller details. A close up of the limes at the farmers market or the unique tile pattern running along the edge of the park fountain can add texture to your images and help you remember not only the look of your vacation but the feel of it as well.

Don’t go into the light

Sun's glare
Aperture75 /

No matter how pretty that sky looks, avoid shooting directly into the sunlight. Always be aware of your light source (the sun, overhead light fixtures). To avoid unwanted shadows when shooting outside, it’s better to have your subjects facing the sun.

Sun or not, often we remember more about the weather on certain trips than the places themselves. Raining in Madrid? It may be fun (and help you better enjoy inclement weather) to try to capture the weather with pictures of the reflections in the puddles or the jumble of umbrellas in the corner of the cafe.

Take Papa Hemingway’s advice, and don’t forget to get the weather in your snapshots.

Consider many angles

Picture of shirtless man in front of waterfall.
Jacob Lund /

The easiest way to create interest is to experiment with angles and perspective. Shoot from anything other than standing height, and try shooting from a low or high angle.

For us foodies who can easily remember our trips by the meals we ate, try shooting that amazing dish directly from above. The bird’s-eye view is a great way to show off your meal in its entirety.

Do you have tips to share for shooting good travel pictures? Do so in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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