You booked your holiday months ago and now you are getting really excited, anticipating all the new adventures and experiences coming your way. The big question – should I invest in a decent SLR camera to record all these cherished travel photos?
Before you rush out to upgrade your old point and shoot or SLR – think about the photos that you have now. How many were captured on your smartphone? Why is that? It is because you always have it conveniently with you.
Does a SLR camera take better travel photos – No!
The camera, no matter what you use is just a tool. Creating travel photos is the same as any photography – it is about visually communicating a story and making an emotional connection with the viewer. The viewer can also be you, reviewing your images long after your memory has faded and recalling that amazing experience.
I would suggest, that unless you intend on printing photos larger than A3 size or have your photos exhibited – your smartphone is already a more than capable and incredibly versatile camera. Aside from being incredibly practical, your humble phone has a number of hidden features you are probably not aware of. Many professional photographers are also not aware of these tips you are about to learn! Think about it, when was the last time you read a manual for your phone?
Below are a few known and hidden features available on most smartphones.
No this does not stand for High Definition Resolution! In fact, it does not increase the image quality at all.
It does however, in some circumstances create a much better photo. It actually stands for High Dynamic Range. You do not need to know what that means – other than the phone simultaneously captures and blends the best of three images into one final image.
HDR images record more detail in the bright areas of the image; such as clouds and creates an image more similar to what your eye naturally observes.
Long press and swipe the screen
Tap the screen to tell the camera where you want it to focus. Next, long press to lock the focus. If you have an iPhone or a later model Android handset – you can now swipe up/down or left/right to make the image brighter or darker.
Look at you – now you have full creative control to capture a brighter or darker image. This is really helpful for those problematic backlit images.
Hold the shutter button to capture a burst of images
You may have already discovered this option by accident. If you are heavy-handed and hold your finger on the shutter button, it will continuously capture images until you lift your finger. This can be really handy for photos of someone walking and you want to capture them mid-stride.
Capture the photo using the volume button
You can hold your smartphone similar to a point and shoot camera by placing fingers on top and below the phone and squeeze the volume button to capture the photo. This can be helpful if you are precariously taking photos over water and do not want to let one hand go to tap the screen. This also means you can also attach and press the volume button on your earphones!
Capture photos in silent mode
When you turn the volume down on most smartphone handsets – this will actually mute any noise your phone makes when you capture a photo. This is particularly helpful for travel photos, where you are discretely capturing the local people and culture.
Turn on the grid or gridlines
These two horizontal and vertical lines are there to help you align your subject on one of these lines in accordance with the photography principle – rule of thirds.
Rule of thirds suggests that by placing your subject off-centre – then the attention of the viewer is encouraged to be initially drawn to the main subject, then wander off and explore the rest of the photo.
You probably already subconsciously move yourself off to the side of the photo to allow the viewer to see where you are. Depending on your handset, you may need to turn this on within the camera settings or within the camera app itself.
This was one of the best things to be added to the smartphone camera. How good is it? Once you select this mode – start either left or right of the scene, tap the shutter at the beginning and end as you sweep your phone across the scene capturing the entire landscape in one photo. Did you know you can also do a vertical panoramic?
Quick tip: To stop the panoramic capture, simply move the phone back in the opposite direction. This avoids you having to tap the phone again.
Want full manual control of your smartphone?
Not only do you have amazing existing features on your phone camera – you can replace them with a completely new camera app. These utilize the same hardware on your smartphone and provide a differenet user interface and in some apps provide a lot more user functionality. If you are photo tech savvy – then you will love the fact that you can manually adjust the ISO, shutter, white balance, manual focus, long exposure – the list goes on. If you are using an iPhone, I would recommend either ProCamera or Camera+. Two of my favourite camera replacement apps for the Android are A Better Camera and FV-5.
As you can see, there is so much more that your humble smartphone can achieve. Taking advantage of these hidden features and applying some basic photography principles will have you well on your way to capturing professional travel photos that your friends and family will struggle to believe you achieved on your smartphone.
Let us know – were some of these tips new to you?
About the Author
Mike James from Better Mobile Photos provides online and in-person training to empower photo enthusiasts to visually communicate their story and capture cherished moments on their smartphone.