Advice | May 19, 2016 9:00 am

You Seriously Don’t Need a DSLR to Take Great Travel Photos

We asked people who get paid to travel with their iPhones

Even the pros are going iPhone first for photos.

Just ask author and intrepid traveler Kevin Raub, who has penned countless books for Lonely Planet.

“I never use a still camera anymore and haven’t for about six years. With the kind of travel I do, it’s just not practical to drag along two machines that do the same: a phone and a camera.”

But whether you’re trying to take Raub’s job or just makes friends envious of your Instagram, you want to put your best frame forward. With that in mind, we asked Raub and a few other travel trade pros for tips and insights on how best to capture capture ye ol wanderlust with your phone.  

Kevin Raub

Seriously, leave the DSLR at home.
“I spend a lot of time in parts of the world where a larger SLR is a bit too conspicuous,” says Raub. “People, specifically, are more at ease with a phone pointed at them, rather than a big professional lens. It’s less intimidating and you can sometimes get better shots because of it.”

Max Hartshorne, Editor-in-Chief of the travel blog Go Nomad, has seen that firsthand: “I was sitting about five feet from the President of Croatia last week, and we were all directed not to use our cameras … [I got] a few discreet shots with the iPhone. It’s more subtle. That’s key.”  

Develop a basic skill set.
“I think when all is said and done, you still need to understand photography basics and have an eye for photography,” says Raub. “I don’t approach phone photography any differently than taking photos with a camera — I’m still very particular about framing, light and composition. The difference being if I miscalculate, I can manipulate or apply a filter and still make it look great.”

But don’t over-rely on filters.
Raub believes less is more. “We still long for a shot that doesn’t require any manipulation to be captivating — the coveted #nofilter hashtag! It’s very easy to get carried away with messing about with a photo, but sometimes less is more.”

MaSovaida Morgan, the Destination Editor of Lonely Planet South America, takes a more nuanced approach. “Filters can be great, but rather than just picking one and calling it a day, play around with exposure, contrast, shadows and highlights in-app to give the image a really unique finish.”

Max Hartshorne

Take notes with your photos.
Particularly if you want to annotate or hashtag later. “A great way to use your iPhone is to take notes by shooting photos of explainer plaques,” says Hartshorne. “That way, you’re already set with the spellings and the details.”

Never go vertical.
“Never ever use vertical, especially for videos,” says Hartshorne. “The photos can’t be tilted to show the whole image.”

Mind the leaners.
Remind people that they’re still in the shot, so they don’t have to lean way over,” says Hartshorne. “It looks funny and is not necessary. Or just move back so everyone can stand up straight.”

Find the light.
“Finding the right light is key,” says Morgan. “Keep your eyes peeled for open shade when the sun is really harsh, and always make time to get outside during sunrises and sunsets – that golden hour light.”

Kevin Raub

It’s all in the finer points.
“Look for the images lurking in details,” continues Morgan. “Architecture, textiles, food, environments that the locals dwell in … And if you can get the opportunity to shoot the people who live there, take it. Just be sure to ask for permission first.”

Find a new angle.
“Find a new perspective and experiment with shooting from different angles,” says Morgan. “Getting up high or down low can make a huge difference. Use both hands for stability and good focus, keep the composition simple and always make sure your phone lens is clean.”

Karen Loftus