Scientists claim that it is nearly impossible for the human brain to truly live in the moment. That is why photos is a fantastic way to not only document special moments, but to also help you capture them.

The advanced technology of smart phones makes it possible for anyone to be an amateur photographer nowadays (I know the professionals will be rolling their eyes at me now…) and there is no excuse for anyone not to celebrate their travel memories on their smart phone.

I am very fortunate to be able to travel locally and internationally for work and because I don’t have a professional camera for personal use, I always try to make the most of what my smart phone has to offer.

Here are ten short tips from one amateur photographer to another:

Make sure you have enough space on your smart phone for new photos.

Although most smart phones already have a lot of storage space, you mustn’t misjudge how quickly it can be depleted. Delete unwanted photos before your travels kick off or buy an extra memory card for your smart phone.

Do research on your smart phone’s camera and its features.

Most of us only aims and shoots, but it’s a good idea to do some research regarding your phone’s camera. At first I wasn’t even aware of many of the additional features my phone’s camera had to offer, such as the selective focus feature. Experiment with the different settings and filters on your phone.

Cocktails photographed with selective focus in Gordan’s Bay.

Do research on the interesting attractions at your destination

Apart from the stereotypical photos that you are obliged to take at your destination (Paris’ tower, London’s clock and Cape Town’s mountain) do research on interesting and lesser known shops or attractions that can be found at your destination and make it your mission to visit them and take some nice photos. Remember, your photos tell of your unique travel experience and shouldn’t look like just another guide book.

A second hand book shop in Cape Town.

Download a filter app.

Most social media platforms already have built-in filters, but some are excessive or affects the photo’s quality. A filter should not overpower a photo, but must rather accentuate the finer features of the photo. My favourite filter apps at the moment are VSCO, Lightroom Mobile and Snapseed.

These photos were enhanced with VSCO.

Do not step in the selfie trap.

I suppose there is a place for selfies, but I believe it is almost nowhere and just about never when you are travelling. Yes, a quick selfie to your mom on Whatsapp is acceptable, but swallow your pride and rather ask a friendly fellow tourist to take a photo of you. If you are not travelling alone there are no excuses for hundreds of selfies. It is also not necessary to pose for every photo; spontaneous and in the moment photos are in many cases the best looking ones.

In front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Peter Pan statue in Perth, Australia, where I asked other tourists to take my photo.

Experiment with composition.

There are many ways you can make your photos more interesting. Pay attention to reflections on buildings, look for natural light, tilt your phone or photograph something from the ground up or directly from above looking down.

A beach in Cape Town and a beautiful building in Auckland, New-Zealand.

Photograph interesting dishes.

With the emphasis on interesting! A tuna and mayonnaise toasted sandwich is not exactly worth a photo… Focus on the interesting local dishes of your destination, such as fish and chips on a beach in New-Zealand or Italian gelato (ice cream) while exploring the streets of Florence.

Avoid the flash if possible.

On most smart phones the flash function is set to go off if it is too dark, but sometimes the flash is not even needed as it can make a photo too bright. If possible, rather try and use natural light or lighting.

Look for Insta-inspiration.

If (like me) you like to use Instagram or Pinterest, be sure to follow @doyoutravel, @gypsealust, @ariellesays or @alexstrohl. These travellers’ profiles will leave you green from jealousy, but is sure to inspire you.

Download your photos and print them!

It is of no use if your phone is full, but your walls are empty. At the first opportunity download your photos or store them on your phone’s cloud and even print a few for your pin board at work or your fridge at home to get you excited for your next trip ahead!

This post is also available in: Afrikaans

Jhua-nine Wyrley-Birch
Jhua-nine Wyrley-Birch

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