How-to | Travel photography with your phone

how to take travel photos with your phone

Travel photography with your phone

Are you planning going on a photography trip and only want to take pictures on your phone? Well here’s our handy guide on how to take great travel pictures with only your smartphone.


Whether you’re going on a city holiday to Rome or a 2 week trek in the Himalayas, it’s a good idea to do some research on beautiful photography locations before your trip. It’s the worst thing when you come back from a trip and find out afterwards that an epic instagram worthy photograph would’ve been only a few blocks from your hotel, but you never walked to that direction. That’s why you should search for photo locations from Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and other big photo sharing websites and then save them on to your phone. That way you can easily go to those beautiful locations when you’re there, and you don’t have to spend your precious holiday time searching for the spots. This way you can also book your hotel from near a location you would like to photograph. This will allow you to go to the location very early in the morning, when there’s less crowds.

If you’re going on a nature/hiking trip, planning before your trip will be even more important. This way you can set-up camp near an epic spot and photograph at sunset or sunrise. It would be a bummer if you’d find out a few days later that you  missed that one spot you really wanted to get a photo. Or that the one beautiful waterfall would’ve been just next to that one road you walked past. Planning is one of the best ways to get epic photographs, so remember to have enough spare time for that and don’t leave it to the night before your trip.

Golden hours

Now that you have your favourite photo locations saved on your maps, it’s a good time to think what time is the best time and light to photograph it. To begin with, it’s always good to keep in mind that the best time to photograph is 1 hour before and after sunrise & sunset. That time is called the golden hour, because the sun shines the most beautiful, golden light at these hours. For some locations, sunrises work better than sunsets and vice versa. It’s a good idea to check from where the sun will rise and set (photopills app) and how it will affect the location you’re shooting.

For example, if you’re going to shoot an epic mountain, you should check if the sun will light it up in the morning or in the evening. This way you know if you have to wake up to shoot it for sunrise or sunset. It’s wise to arrive an hour before, so that you have time to find the best composition for the photo. Keep in mind that the blue hour, which happens before and after sunrise and sunset is also a great time to get some special looking photographs. For these shots it’s a good idea to put your phone on a tripod and take a long-exposure as there won’t be as much light available at those times.


Next it’s time to think about what gear you might need with you on your trip. The most important is your phone of course, don’t leave that at home. Are you going to be only taking photographs or also filming video footage? For video, remember to take your tripod and filming handle, microphone and extra lights if shooting after it get’s dark. If you own a Black Eye travel kit, you can easily take all three lenses with you with the travel case. Or you can take only two lenses with you, the Wide G4 and Tele G4 and you’ll be ready for most situations.

If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the nature, remember to take your Macro G4 to capture those tiny details. Remember to also take a portable charger that you won’t run out of battery when out shooting. It’s good to have some cleaning cloths with you so you can clean the lens before your photoshoot.

Avoiding the crowds

Avoiding the crowds is important in order to get clean travel photographs. You don’t want to let those thousands of people ruin your once in a lifetime shots, and there are a few good tips how keep this from happening.

If you’re shooting in the city, your best bet is to shoot at sunrise. Usually there are no more than a few people passing by and the occasional fellow photographer to share the site with. The light will be great and it’s nice and quiet.

Another tip is the travel season. If you’re going to a destination when it’s low season, it’s highly possible that there’s only few other tourists around and you can also shoot most places at sunset without the high season crowds. Think outside the box and go off the beaten path. Try to find new locations or angles of famous places. Sometimes you can find a nice view of a famous spot if you do a little exploring. Most people will be shooting that iconic photo spot, while you can have your own spot all to yourself. 

Know what accessories to use and when

Practice taking photos in your home city or a hike in the local national park before your big trip. By doing this you’ll be more ready to ace those shots when you need to. Know when you need to use a wide angle or when a tele-lens comes in handy.

Practice how to compose images that they look good to the eye and know your smartphones limits. Usually, it’s not a great idea to depend only on your smartphone if you need to take low-light night sky photos of the stars or the northern lights. Using the phones digital zoom can really kill the quality of the photos, that’s when the Pro portrait tele G4 comes in handy as you get 2,5x more zoom without losing the quality.

Use a special camera app

Your native camera app is probably not letting you get the shots you want. With a third-party camera app like Lightroom, you’ll be able to shoot in Raw (uncompressed file type that offers more flexibility for editing your images) and you can set your own settings and focus for each photo. This will be like turning your smartphone to a DSLR as you can play with the settings and get the kind of photo you want.

You need to know the basics of shooting photographs in manual mode, so remember to study that before your trip. You can still use your cameras native camera app for those fun moments of your holiday, but when you really want to take serious shots, switch to a special camera app.

Get Unique shots

It’s easy to copy someone else and take the exact same image, but that won’t give you the satisfaction of finding your own unique angle and impressing your friends with something new. A good rule of thumb is to walk around your photo location and do some scouting for new, interesting angles. You never now what you can find.

Remember to try taking photos from a low point of view and if possible, climb up higher to get a birds eye view. Try taking long exposures. And remember to switch lenses to see which one works the best. If there’s puddles around, try to catch a nice reflection shot! Sometimes the difference with an average and an epic shot can be just moving a few meters left or right, or getting that camera close to the ground.

Take pictures of people

Adding a human element in your picture can really bring your photo to life. If you’re traveling alone, you can shoot street photos of local people doing their daily things or if you have a travel buddy, make him/her your photo model.

Capture portraits of interesting looking people you find from your destination. And by taking photos on your smartphone, it makes it way less intimidating for your subject than if you would be taking a photos with a big DSLR. You can use your travel buddy to pose for your photo, which usually makes it way more interesting. But remember to also catch candid photos from unexpected and real travel moments. Try to capture and express the emotion of what it feels to be right there.

Edit your photos

Sometimes you need no filter, but most of the time it’s a good idea to take a minute or two to fine tune your photo. You can use different apps on your phone like Lightroom, Snapseed, Vsco or if you have Lightroom or Photoshop on your computer, you can do some very precise editing to your photos taken with a smartphone. If you can, take Raw photos on your smartphone, as these are more suitable for editing. Don’t edit your photos too much and if you’re in doubt, ask your friend what he thinks about it.

Remember to have fun and take lot’s of photos. You can always delete the bad ones later. Tag your photos with #Blackeyelens and show our community your best travel shots. We’ll also share our favourite photos every week, so keep the photos coming!

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