Most travelers I know are trying to travel lighter, faster and smarter. Doing this well comes from making decisions about everything – from when you buy your airline tickets to what you pack in your suitcase.
Certainly, when it comes to traveling lighter, many travelers are opting to leave bulky DSLR cameras at home, in favour of their smartphone, an item they’d be bringing with them anyway. I would NEVER leave home without my iPhone 7 Plus – not just because it has become my own personal, portable, handheld office but because for me, the camera does absolutely everything I need it to – and I don’t need to be bogged down with heavy camera gear to get that perfect Instagram shot. Portrait mode gives your photos a bokeh effect (a sharp foreground and an out-of-focus background) that’s seriously cool for a pocket-sized phone!
If you rely on your iPhone to photograph and video your travels, make sure you know just how to use it to take the best photos possible. Will Allen is a Montreal-based filmmaker and still photographer who does most of his shooting with an iPhone alone. “With the incredible improvements in technology and smaller lenses on the phones, it is totally possible to get an award winning shot with an iPhone,” he says.
The thing is, the iPhone camera actually has a number of features that you may not even know about. Will says he’s still learning new things his iPhone camera can do every day.
Here, Will breaks it down and tells us how to take better iPhone photos:
Oh! Travelissima: What features does the iPhone camera have that people might not know about?
Will Allen: One function that stands out more for me is the new slo-mo function. It’s really incredible and in the past, to get that quality of slow motion video, you needed to rent a special camera. The iPhone has blown me away in how many functions are packed into it. The panoramic function is amazing and perfect for landscape shots that you simply couldn’t capture or do justice to in the past. And it has basic edit features that are perfect for tweaking those shots that are close but not quite there.
OT: How can you capture the best light on your iPhone?
WA: Like all photography, the iPhone is the same; it’s all about the light available. I’ve found the best light when capturing the perfect shot with the iPhone is front-lit sunlight, when the sun is high in the sky. (And all photography needs an eye to frame the shot in the right way.) Good sunlight is the best, however the iPhone is really great at using available light even in low light situations, as long as you’re focused on a point with the most available light.
OT: How can you really capture the essence of a destination using an iPhone camera?
WA: I think this is probably where the camera on the iPhone really shines. It’s not so much about having the best wide-angle lens or most expensive camera on the market but having it when you need it most. The iPhone is always in your pocket and super easy to get out and shoot fast.
When you want to capture a destination, it’s about finding that perfect angle. Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty, get low sometimes to get an essence of the size or the subject whether it be a mountain or a building or the ocean. Whatever it is, find the angle that works best and try different functions like panoramic or a short video, panning around the scene. With video, you get those subtle sounds that often you wouldn’t think about but bring you right back when you hear them again.
If you’re more interested in pure photos, then shoot wide and get that perfect angle where the light is shining strong on the subject. Don’t be afraid to try lots of angles; you can always delete the ones you don’t like.
OT: Is travel photography different from other types of photography?
WA: All photography is the same. It’s all about being prepared and ready to snap the shot when you see it. If you’re not ready, you’re guaranteed to always miss the shot. Be ready, be respectful of different cultures and people’s personal space and property. Often, if you just ask someone if you can photograph something, they will be very happy to let you and even show you something you might not otherwise have seen.
OT: Sunsets and sunrises are some of the most popular photos travelers take. How do you get the best shot?
WA: Sunsets and sunrises are often harder to mess up than get right. Again, timing and being prepared is key. Be focused on the right spot. Find something nice to add to the foreground to give some depth and constantly check the focus as the light changes very rapidly on sunsets and sunrises. By adjusting your focus point, you are adjusting your light at the same time.
OT: What photo apps do you use on your iPhone?
WA: Snapseed and Photoshop Mix.
Will Allen’s top 5 tips for taking better photos with your iPhone:
1 Always make sure you’re in focus.
2 Give some depth to your shot by adding interesting subjects in the foreground or background.
3 Be patient and wait for that perfect light or moment. Don’t rush for the sake of just having a photo.
4 Play with angles, move around, get low, get close (if it’s not a wild animal!) and get dirty … lie on your stomach and give the shot some depth by giving it a giant perspective!
5 Investigate, ask for local flavours and interesting hidden gems. It’s not always about just walking around with a camera that gets that perfect shot. Get off the beaten path and explore for real.