How do you capture more interesting travel photos with your iPhone? How do you avoid taking the same cliché vacation photos that everyone else takes? I recently interviewed Steffen Geldner – a talented iPhone photographer with a passion for travel. In this article, Steffen reveals 7 secrets for shooting beautiful travel photos that will preserve the amazing memories of your trip. Read on to discover how to take better travel photos with your iPhone!
1. Research Your Destination To Find The Best Photo Opportunities
Before your trip, I recommend researching the destination to find the most interesting photo opportunities.
I always research the location I’m traveling to. I do this extensively and obsessively!
It’s up to you how much research you do. But you should definitely spend a bit of time looking up some great places to take pictures.
So, what kind of research can you do?
First, you could search for photos that other people have taken at the locations you’re planning to visit.
Which photos jump out at you?
Find out where those places are. And then add them to your list of places to visit while you’re on vacation.
You could also use Google to search for specific things in the area you’re visiting.
You could even use Google Maps to search for places to photograph.
Use the aerial satellite view to “fly” over a city. Look for interesting features that might look good photographed from ground level.
Or use the street view to “walk” through the city, searching for beautiful architecture or colorful walls.
Research the best times to visit. Check the time of sunrise and sunset so that you can take photos during the beautiful golden light.
And find out when the location will be quiet or empty so that you’re not shooting amongst the crowds.
A bit of research will give you a headstart when you get to your destination.
You’ll know the best locations, the best times to visit, and the most interesting viewpoints to shoot from.
Of course, spontaneous travel photos are awesome… and I take plenty of them. But some photos take a bit more planning.
It might sound like extra effort, but the results will definitely be worth it!
Read on to discover how to take good vacation photos as soon as your journey begins…
2. Capture Your Journey To Tell The Complete Story Of Your Travels
Travel photography isn’t just about photographing the destination.
For a more complete photographic story, capture your journey to and from the location you’re visiting.
If you’re traveling by plane, try to get a window seat where you have a view of the wing or propeller.
And of course, you could capture a beautiful aerial view of clouds, mountains, or city lights as you’re flying above.
Your journey will often involve several different types of transport. And they all offer great photo opportunities.
Whether you’re traveling by car, taxi, bus, train, boat, or plane, try to capture some interesting photos.
For example, you could photograph the view outside, using the window to frame the scene.
Look for interesting features within the vehicle. It could be as simple as a colorful seat, or the way the light and shadow falls.
You could take candid photos of strangers traveling alongside you.
And don’t forget to take pictures of your travel companions too.
Try to capture the mood that you’re in. If you’re traveling alone, you’re likely to be in a thoughtful mood. So taking photos out of a train window would help to convey that mood.
If you’re excited to be going somewhere with family or friends, try to capture that sense of energy in your photos.
Finally, don’t forget to photograph the buildings that you pass through when traveling.
Train stations can be amazing to shoot in. If I’m catching a train, I often get there early to take pictures of the station.
Of course, I will have researched the train stations that I’ll be passing through. So I’ll know what kind of photos I can capture!
Take photos of station names and street signs too. This will be a great reminder of the places that you traveled through.
3. Shoot Your Travel Photos During The Beautiful Golden Hour Light
Light makes a huge difference to the quality of your photos.
The same location can look completely different depending on the time of day that you shoot.
When the sun is low in the sky, the light is soft and warm. It casts a stunning golden glow over the scene. And this will look amazing in your travel photos!
This is especially true if you’re shooting landscape photos.
During the middle of the day, it can be difficult to capture a sense of depth in a landscape. But the soft, warm light of golden hour makes it easy to take breathtaking landscape shots.
I find that sunrise is usually a better time to shoot than sunset.
I prefer the quality of morning light. At sunset, the light can be a bit hazy. And there will also be more people around at sunset.
If you get up early, you can capture your location in perfect lighting with hardly anyone around.
Sunrise and sunset are also excellent times for creating silhouette photos.
To create a silhouette, shoot towards the light. Tap to set focus on your subject, then swipe down to darken the exposure. The subject will appear as a dark silhouette against the brighter sky.
Golden hour is perfect for shooting landscapes. But it’s also a great time for city photography.
If you’re traveling to an urban location, be sure to explore the city around sunrise or sunset.
Notice how the golden light hits the streets and buildings.
Find a high vantage point and capture the sunlight illuminating the city.
The golden light of sunrise and sunset adds a magical quality to your travel photos. So whenever possible, shoot during these times of the day.
You don’t have to get up early every day. You’re on vacation after all!
But if you want to capture a location in the best light possible, you can’t beat a beautiful sunrise.
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4. Include People In Your iPhone Travel Photography
Wherever possible, try to include a person in your travel photos.
Why? There are several reasons!
A person creates a strong focal point in your image.
In other words, it adds a point of visual interest amongst the surroundings or background.
A person also gives the image meaning. It creates a little story of a very specific moment during your travels.
You could experiment with including just a single person as well as crowds of people.
Crowds can add a sense of movement, energy, or tension to your travel photos.
I usually prefer to wait for just one person to be in the scene.
A single person creates a strong focal point. And I like the mood that it creates.
Stride-by photos of a person walking by are a great way to capture a single person in your travel photos.
You often have to be patient to capture these kinds of shots. So get a coffee, sit there, and wait for someone interesting to walk past.
Waiting for that perfect moment will distinguish your travel photos from other tourist shots at the same location.
When photographing people, you could shoot close-ups to capture detail and emotion. Or you could shoot from further away so they appear smaller amongst the surroundings.
Having the person appear small within the frame adds a sense of size and scale.
You’ll often capture the best photos of people away from the main tourist destinations.
Get someone to show you the places where the locals go. And then wait for interesting moments and interactions.
Another technique is to take photos of tourists as they’re looking at a beautiful view.
The person will create a more interesting story than just the view on its own.
There will be plenty of strangers for you to photograph when you’re traveling. But don’t forget to include your travel companions too.
You want to preserve the memories of being on vacation with your friends or family.
Finally, you could also include yourself in the scene.
5. Find An Interesting Perspective For Striking Compositions
If you want to learn how to take better travel photos, you have to experiment with different angles and viewpoints.
This is what’s going to set your iPhone travel photography apart from the typical tourist snapshots.
When you find a scene that you’d like to photograph, don’t just shoot from the most obvious angle.
Explore the scene. Look for an angle or viewpoint that’s more unusual. This is what will make your photo more interesting and unique.
Try lots of different angles until you find something that works.
Wherever I go, my first stop is always to get to the highest point in the city.
Try to find a high vantage point that allows you to shoot down on the scene. It could be a tower, a bridge, a tall building, or a mountain.
A high vantage point is great for capturing long leading lines, such as roads or rivers, that lead into the distance.
Next, try shooting from a low angle. Hold your iPhone close to the ground and point it up towards a tall subject, such as a building.
Try shooting through something to create additional layers in your composition.
You could use a window or a hole in a fence as a frame.
Explore the insides of buildings. And capture the view outside from within.
Symmetry instantly sets your photo apart from ordinary tourist shots. It shows that you’ve carefully planned the composition to create the most striking image.
Buildings and architecture are great places to find symmetry. They often have strong lines that can be used to help you create perfectly symmetrical compositions.
Another thing to consider is whether the scene would look best shot with a wide-angle or telephoto lens.
I love to use the Moment Wide and Telephoto lenses while traveling.
The Wide lens is great for architecture shots. It allows you to capture much more of the building in the frame.
And the Telephoto lens is great for landscape photos. You can get a closer view of a distant scene, eliminating any distracting foreground.
Of course, if you have an iPhone with multiple built-in lenses, you can zoom in or out in the Camera app.
Just tap the zoom icons at the bottom of the viewfinder to switch between iPhone lenses.
The new iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max have three lenses: Wide, Ultra Wide, and Telephoto.
The lens that you choose will dramatically affect what you can include and exclude from the composition.
Knowing how to take travel photos that stand out from the crowd is all about finding the most interesting viewpoint.
So here’s another great tip for capturing unique perspectives in your iPhone travel photos…
6. Use Reflections To Capture A More Unique Viewpoint
Reflections offer an amazing way to capture the scene from an interesting perspective.
A reflection can turn a very ordinary scene into something far more interesting.
I often carry a small mirror with me when I’m traveling.
If you place a mirror within the scene, you can capture the view in front of and behind you.
The reflection in the mirror will add a strong focal point to your image.
Rather than holding the mirror, it’s often easier to put it down – for example, in the sand.
If you’re traveling with a friend, you could ask them to hold the mirror while you capture an interesting reflection in it.
Using a mirror in this way is a great way of creating an illusion in your photo.
It makes the image confusing… which is a good thing as it makes it more intriguing.
Mirrors aren’t the only place to find reflections, though.
Puddles are perfect for reflection photography. You can do so much with a small puddle on the street.
After the rain, hunt for reflections in puddles. Get down super low. And hold your iPhone upside down to get the lens closer to the water.
Once you start looking, you’ll notice reflections in windows, metallic buildings, polished floors, and other shiny surfaces.
Reflections are a great way to create symmetry, especially when photographing architecture.
If you’re shooting in the city, look out for reflections in windows at sunrise and sunset.
You can even take a self-portrait by capturing your own reflection.
7. Get Creative With Props & Perspective Tricks
Creating more unique travel photos can take a little bit of imagination.
Here are some fun ways to get more creative with your iPhone travel photography!
An easy way to get started is to use some kind of prop in your photo.
You’ve already seen that a small mirror can add an intriguing focal point to your image. But think of other small items that you could take on your travels and include in your photos.
I love to take a toy airplane with me when traveling.
I’ve created a series of images using this small prop.
I find an interesting building or famous landmark (I usually research this before my travels). Then I get someone else to hold the plane while I lie on the ground and take the picture.
Another fun technique is to use perspective tricks.
Find a beautiful landscape or an interesting urban location. Have a friend stand in the distance so they appear small within the scene.
Then include your own hand (or another friend’s hand) in the foreground. Position your hand to make it appear that you’re picking up a tiny person.
Another trick is to tilt your camera on an angle when you shoot. In the photo below, the buildings aren’t really leaning to one side.
The buildings are actually built on a steep hill. But tilting my iPhone camera so that the hill appears level makes the buildings look like they’re leaning.
A simple prop or perspective trick can add a fun or confusing element to a photo.
And when you’re at a location that gets photographed a lot by tourists, this is one way to make your picture stand out.