They say one of the best ways to learn about the world is to see and experience it firsthand. There is only so much that pictures and books can teach you, so once the privilege to explore becomes available, one must make the most out of it – and what better way to memorialize a feeling or a memory than capturing them in photos?

Taking photos is as much science as it is an art form. While objective measures of framing, steadying, and shooting can prime your photos, bottling up the essence of the moment cannot be left alone to the act of dialing down exposure or ensuring the subject is at the front and center. In candid moments, you often have little time to whip up your heavy DSLR camera and take a picture of a moment in its purest, fleeting form. This is why smartphones are your best bet at making the most out of the mundane and magical and taking beautiful remembrances.

In this handy guide, we will explore a few tips to seize the essence of your adventure using just your smartphone while traveling around the world.


The best camera is always the one you have. Don’t be fooled into thinking that travel photography requires fancy DSLR cameras that you have to begrudgingly carry around until your shoulders ache at your ten-thousandth step of the day. Most modern smartphones boast an already impressive camera, eliminating the need to carry a separate point-and-shoot that can actually make your bag heavier and exploring less convenient. A case can also be made for ease of use, in that a smartphone fits nimbly in your hand and requires little to no configuration before shooting a fleeting but photo-worthy moment.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare your smartphone for taking travel photos:

  1. Clean your camera lens with water and microfiber cloths. Avoid using harsh chemicals like alcohol or wipes with rough or gritty textures.
  2. Charge your smartphone. If you’re going to use your phone to take photos, navigate unfamiliar roads, and browse social media during your downtime, it is best to carry around a power bank and charging cord.
  3. If you don’t have pockets deep enough to store your phone, carry a smaller crossbody bag that can carry your phone and other valuables that you can keep close and easily reachable at all times.
  4. A tripod with a remote control can be instrumental in taking steady photos without needing the help of anyone else. You can orchestrate the photo first, taking into account the spacing and exposure, and then wirelessly push the shutter button when you’re already in the frame.
  5. Placing a QR code label on your devices is a new way to protect your belongings that are more prone to loss during your travels. SeQR Contact provides a revolutionary service that allows finders to contact owners via a secure and anonymous messaging platform where they can coordinate the return of the lost item.


When you begin taking photos, you should utilize framing to create dimension. This can be done easily by toggling on the grid function in the native camera settings of your smartphone. What this does is divide the field of view of our camera into a 3×3 grid of nine equal squares. You can either frame your photo with your subject at the center or utilize the rule of thirds where you position your main focal point on one of the sides or where the grid lines intersect.

It also helps when you play around with the geometrical shapes in your surroundings to frame a photo. You can try looking at something in different angles to find the best perspective to shoot from. Finding shapes that provide depth can turn a simple photo into a dramatic one.

Below is another example of using patterns to highlight lines, shapes, and spaces. It may seem simple at first glance, but the combination of contrast and shadows almost evokes a feeling of nostalgia.


It’s no secret that the golden hour yields some of the best photos, but morning’s first light can be just as beautiful. There’s magic in capturing the vibrant blues of the sky when the sun is just about to rise and the grayness of dusk begins to give way to the sunlight. This is also perfect if you want photos with little to no human element since most people are still sleeping or just about to start their day. If you want to take photos of landscapes filled with urban architecture, try to capture where the light hits walls and adjust exposure to make colors more or less vibrant, depending on your preference.

Don’t underestimate the magic of the mundane, too. Street photography tends to produce the most honest depictions of a place. It’s not a tourist destination that needs to maintain its reputation for being such; it is simply a place where the commoner and the foreigner usually cross paths, requiring no pretense to be something that it’s not. 


Following our discussion about using natural light in photos, you can also shoot artificial lights to tell a story. Focus on the diversity of colors, especially against a darker backdrop. It can be helpful to focus on one particular element in a “noisy” photo to anchor the viewer’s attention.

Another thing to remember is that vibrant colors in a photo don’t always serve the photo’s purpose. Sometimes, the emotions embodied in what you are capturing do not evoke loudness or boldness. In the example of a photo taken below, the muted colors give way to the sunlight’s tinge on every object it touches.


There are many ways to explore subjects, especially in travel photography. There are sights to see, food to eat, and people to meet. One of my favorite ways to shoot tourist destinations is by framing it in a square photo to resemble a postcard. I usually send these over to friends or post them on my Instagram. Taking a photo of the Osaka Castle in its singular glory, with no other people or objects in the frame, can be challenging, especially on weekends. In this particular instance, being close to your subject is not the answer. You can use your phone’s digital and optical zoom to take a photo of the structure about a few feet away.

One of the very first subjects I focused on was flowers, especially colorful ones. They’re unmoving subjects unless there’s an intense draft, and also provide stark color contrasts – in the case below, a light lilac against the backdrop of dark green leaves.

Moving elements like vehicles, humans, and animals can be much harder to capture, which is why I configure my shutter speed or use burst shots to take photos. Animals make the funniest facial expressions, but you won’t quite enjoy them again if you don’t take photos fast enough. Here’s an inspiration to practice your phone-whipping-up skills:

Taking photos in places saturated with both locals and tourists can be tricky. There would be many people walking around the food stalls and stores, but a useful tip is to stray away from the main thoroughfare and find a good spot on the sidewalk or an elevated area to shoot from.

Utilize the bokeh effect to create drama in your photos, separating foreground and background clearly while evoking a story. Below is an instance where instead of focusing on the moving subjects or people, you focus on the static elements in the photo.


More than anything, however, remember that you are traveling to make memories for yourself. Taking photos, artistically intentional or otherwise, should only come second to experiencing the world and making core memories. Don’t forget to take photos of yourself in the places you go, too! Japan in particular has a very fun way to document the places you’ve visited, as they usually carve beautiful art on their manholes that differ by location. You can take a photo of your shoes stepping on these pretty manholes for keepsakes and to remind you of where you’ve gone.

A classic way to take a photo of yourself is by using reflective spaces or mirrors and your rear camera to take a photo selfie. This eliminates the need for a tripod and is possibly one of the easiest ways to include yourself in your photos while traveling, without necessitating another person to shoot the photo for you.

There’s also no harm in asking kind strangers for photos. You can always approach someone who appears relatively free and politely request that they take a few photos of you. Try to be specific in what you want to achieve in the photo and provide them as much guidance to save you both time.

Next time you visit a new place, try implementing these tips and observe how your photos improve. Don’t stress over the fact that you might not have the “right” professional gear to capture your adventures. Our smartphones are workhorses as much as they are tools for creativity, and this revolutionary convenience at our fingertips doesn’t have to stop at communication and productivity. We can take it up a notch and use it to pursue unforgettable experiences.

Whether you are a beginner or an expert, there is no better time to start than now. Just take photos, experiment with framing and lighting, practice with various subjects, and have a lot of fun while you’re at it. I hope you discover beauty and magic everywhere you go, and that you take a little of that magic and beauty with you through your smartphone photos.

About the Author

Bob Aran is the co-founder of SeQR Contact. When he is not solving everyday problems for his clients, he goes out to see the world and finds more problems to solve. He also likes taking photos while he’s at it.

Disclaimer :

The reproduction of any of the content, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

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  1. Surffares Travel

    Thanks for sharing this information, it’s very helpful.

  2. exoticindiatours

    This comprehensive guide to travel photography with a smartphone is a treasure trove of tips and techniques. Perfect for both beginners and seasoned photographers looking to capture stunning moments on their adventures!


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