It’s that time of year again, and I am literally counting the days to our summer holiday. There will be sunshine, happiness and lots of opportunities for photography! I will be taking a selection of cameras with me, but the single most versatile camera is of course my smartphone. Unlike with an ordinary camera, it can be endlessly reconfigured, and there are always new things to try. So here is my selection of tips, both old and new, for mobile travel photography.
1. Get your apps ready
Before I go I like to make sure I’ve got the latest versions of all my apps — and any new apps that might be useful. For me, that’s old favourites like VSCO (with its new swizzy update) and Steller for editing and sharing, and Golden Hour, which tells you when the golden hour is, no matter where you are; and some newer apps including Snapchat (it’s not just for teenagers, you know), PlayMemories Online (which lets me move photos from my Sony A7 to my phone) and the newly updated Kodak Professional Film app, which tells you how to get the best out of different kinds of film, and even helps you find nearby stockists. I also make sure that my most commonly used apps are easily accessible from the home screen.
2. Do your homework
Another thing I like to do before I go is draw up a list of places to visit, both old and new, near where we’ll be staying, and then look them up on Google Images and Pinterest for photographic inspiration. Is there a particular vantage point from which to shoot an overhead view or a sunset? Are there parts of a site or town we shouldn’t miss? We always have a list of things we want to do anyway, but I like to supplement that list with photo ideas. A good way to keep track of your ideas is to make a Pinterest board and fill it with inspiring images. The aim is not to slavishly copy other people’s pictures, but to allow them to motivate you and help you find your own ideas and interpretations. Seeing the pictures everyone else has taken challenges you to add your own personal twist.
3. Know your smartphone
The software on smartphones is being updated all the time, which is great, but it means your phone may have features you don’t know about. And as wonderful as smartphone cameras are, they’re still very limited in some ways. So make sure you know all the tricks: how to turn HDR on and off, locking focus and exposure, remote triggering using the volume buttons on your headphones, how to use Burst Mode, and so on. Smartphone photography works best if you don’t zoom (you can always zoom or crop afterwards), hold still and have a clean lens (a smudge or fingerprint can make everything look dull and blurry).
4. Shoot now, process later
When we’re abroad we often don’t have data access on our phones, because (outside the EU at least) it is ridiculously expensive. But I have come to see this as an advantage, not a drawback. It means that I snap away during the day and leave all processing and posting until the end of the day, when we are back at base and basking in Wi-Fi coverage. It’s hard to process images reliably in bright sunshine anyway. This neatly ensures that I don’t get distracted from whatever we’re doing, and can enjoy the moment. To make my smartphone battery last longer, I quite often put it into Airplane mode during the day, too. Later on, I enjoy putting my feet up, with a glass of wine, and looking back on the day as I choose images, process them and share them.
5. Dare to try something new
A holiday is a great opportunity to experiment, stretch yourself and try something new! Why not give video, or underwater photography, or time-lapse, or photo-collages, or some other new technique a try? On last year’s I had lots of fun experimenting with Hyperlapse, which was the perfect way to capture boat trips.
This year we’re going to try to take some underwater pictures of sea turtles, with disposable underwater film cameras. And my husband has some weird 360-degree camera that looks like a golfball. It’s only a matter of time before we’re taking a drone on holiday, I suspect! My ideal holiday has a mixture of familiar rituals and new adventures. And that applies to my photography as well. Bons voyages!