Most trips I do are short trips – one or two days filled with a more or less busy schedule. Most times, I don't take my DSLR with me, as I find it rather bulky, and will I have time to go out to take some pictures? That's not always guaranteed. So for most trips, my smart phone is my primary photographic equipment.
A thought that might abhor a proud owner of a top of the line DSLR, who travels usually with a selection of at least three different lenses . For others, a smart phone could turn out to be the ideal choice as photographic travel companion, and if you take some things into consideration, you will surely take home some great images from your travels. Hell, some advise could even help the DSLR photographer to get for more interesting travel pictures.
Don’t take your DSLR or Mirrorless camera with you, when you want to take smartphone photos.
One advantage of smartphones is that they are quite small compared to cameras with attached lenses. Even a Galaxy Note 4 is way more handy than the smallest DSLR. So why loose that advantage by bringing also along a clunky DSLR?
If you bring cameras from two different categories to a walk, usually you end up using only one and forgetting about the other one. Depending on your camera, you might also see things differently, because you know that certain kinds of pictures work better with certain kinds of camera.
Be realistic what your smartphone can do!
Let's be honest about this: There are limitations to what a smartphone can do and sometimes even if it can do it, it is not good at it. Zooming is a good example. Unless you have a Nokia PureView camera or a point-and-shoot/smartphone hybrid like the Samsung Galaxy Zoom, rest assured: your smartphone can do only digital zoom, and digital zoom sucks. So prepare yourself to get close, if you want to shoot details. That's what smartphones are often quite good at.
Use your stock camera app! Edit later!
Back in the time we used analog film cameras, you had to decide before going out to take photos, if you want to take colour or black and white images. With digital cameras, you can make that decision later or on spot. That seems very appealing at first, doesn’t it? When I started to photograph with my HTC Magic, I was so fascinated with all these apps that let you apply the filter right after taking a photo, but I got tired of that rather quickly. Why?
First, when you switch between different apps to take your photos, you have to deal with different UI concepts in different apps – and you end up spending too much time remembering, how this app works compared to the other one you used before.
Second, you tend to miss out on photo opportunities, when the filter used in the last photo doesn’t work that well with the next one. And while you think about other options, you might miss out on a photo opportunity.
So stay with one app to take photos, get to know really well how it works – and apply filters later. While sipping your favorite coffee is a much better opportunity to do so.
Edit your images, for chrissakes!
No matter what camera you use – pictures are raw diamonds at first. Not that impressive at first, but with the potential to look beautiful, if you polish them. The tools you can use are called Snapseed, Pixlr, Foto-Gitter, etc. Use everything you have to make that beautiful diamond appear.
Watch out for the right light!
Light is very different during the day – and some light is better suited for photos than other. You should better try to avoid taking photos at around noon, as the sun is usually too bright and right from above. You’ll get very harsh shadows in that time, like the ‘panda eyes’ when people’s eyes are hidden in the shadows, while the rest of the face is brightly lit. As this time of the day Southeast Asia can plague you with scorching heat, take a cool break then in a nice café, and edit your shots on your smartphone.
Good times for photography is in the morning until about 11am, and then again in the afternoon after about 4pm. During these times the sun is rather low in the sky and shines from a less steep angle onto the world.
If you take photos of your family or friends, better have them look towards the sun. It makes the right exposure easier, and you get a more even lighting on their face in the morning or in the afternoon.
See details that are less photographed.
The word “photography” is from greek language – painting with light. Usually people emphasize on how to use light effectively to get certain effects. I think of something different before – if you paint, you create a new reality in your images. Your images show how you see the world. So try to see things that other people don’t realize. It can be a different perspective, or what works quite well with a smartphone to look for details others pass by.
When I go to a new place, I start by observing and taking photos rather randomly at first. Until you remark there’s something that has caught your attention at start that you did not see at first. When you see, what it is – go for it. Start looking for it!
Like in my last trip to Berlin, quite early on I saw the great murals in the German capital – and at the end of the day I had a nice selection of rather unique details of Berlin walls (pun is not unintended ).
Have a constant element in your pictures!
Do you remember Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wonderful film “Amélie”? To encourage her father to travel, Amélie took his garden gnome and gave it to her flight attendant friend to take photos of the figurine in front of the world’s famous sights. Why not make use of that idea for your own travel photos? If a garden gnome is not your kind of style, why not take a Godzilla with you, or R2D2 … and have it travel with you?
Share, share, share!
Let your family and friends experience your travels with you. Post to your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Line … whatever you use!
Just remember: Don’t flood them with all the photos you take! Select only the good ones! Nobody wants to see nearly identical shots of the same place in his feed – and a photo selection is just as strong as your weakest image. Be brave to be picky on your photos!
This article was written for Bangkok Mobile Photographers #BMP. All photos were taken with a Sony Xperia Z1 during a trip to Berlin and edited on the same device with Snapseed.
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