Taking Great Vacation Photos with an iPhone

Vacation season is upon us! And if you are like me, no doubt you will want to capture some great shots to remember your trip. But what if you don't want to lug around your DSLR or other camera the whole time? Can you really capture quality memories with just a phone camera?
Last month, my family and I went on vacation to Myrtle Beach. I shared some photos taken with my DSLR here, but the majority of the time, I just kept my phone handy, so I didn't have to be bogged down by stuff while we were out having fun. I currently have an iPhone 4S (*affiliate link), which is not even that great as far as quality, graininess and megapixels, yet I still managed to preserve our vacation memories and document our trip without having to get my camera gear out all the time.

I began while we were on the road. It was so easy to whip out my phone when we made a quick stop and capture some of the surroundings on our way down. You'll notice most of these shots are square, since I often think in terms of Instagram when using my phone. I know my photos will most likely end up on there, so I automatically set my camera to square to take the majority of them.
I captured stops at restaurants and for fueling up. Adding photo filters to give them a "retro road trip" vibe.
And the beauty of the surrounding nature when we finally arrived at our destination.
Funky locales...(at this one Owen said, "That shark ate us Mom!" after we went inside).
A romantic night out just for two. I actually got a little star (or planet?) in the above shot. That was a thrill.
I wasn't afraid of nighttime shots with the phone. They aren't the best quality, but when thinking about composition and using photo editing filters, they can still be keepers!
I took A LOT of photos with my phone, including lots of personal family ones. Like Hazel finally getting to touch the sand she had been dreaming of the whole trip down. And Owen making his very first sand castle. It was so fun to look through them on the ride home and remember the fun times we had. 

So here are my tips for getting some great shots on your upcoming vacations (or anytime!) when using your phone:

1. Think about composition. This is probably the most important aspect to taking photographs no matter what equipment you are using. Composition can definitely make or break a photograph! I have learned that with an iPhone it is often best to square any edges you see in the shot (if possible) and find a focal point.

You can go back to the old rule of thirds for this and make sure the focal point is in one of those locations. You can break this rule sometimes and still come out with an awesome shot, but it really does help when you are just starting to think about composition if it hasn't been on your radar previously.

2. Keep your lens clean! I wish someone had told me this when I first got my phone. My lens would get smudged and I had no idea. For months my shots were terrible because of this! I thought it was just the camera then one day it dawned on me...DUH! Just like my regular camera...keep that lens clear. Makes the edges in the image crisp and clean.

3. Keep your phone stable. If you can prop it on something that makes all the difference. Shots will be crisper and clearer if the phone isn't affected by your hand shaking. If it's not possible, practice taking shots holding it as steady as possible, and when in doubt, always take more than one! You can then just go back and delete any that aren't in focus.

4. Use photo editing apps and filters that fit your style or mood of the photo. I personally love VSCOcam and PicTapGo for my own photos. Some cost a little bit of money but some are free. I have my favorites filters that I go back to time and time again. If you find a style that suits you, stick with it! It can be nice to have a cohesive look to all of the vacation photos as a whole. I chose to do some slightly different in my shots to create a vibe/mood for certain images.

Choose filters that you naturally gravitate towards. But one word of caution: don't over edit! When you over edit phone shots with too many filters, they lose quality and become grainy, thus probably not enhancing them as you had hoped to, but in fact ruining the image. Images edited with filters may also not be the best quality when printed, but may look amazing on a smaller scale like the phone itself.

5. Have fun and don't over think it. Sometimes if you spend a lot of time on Instagram or Pinterest, you can start to feel like what you can do isn't "good enough" or as awesome as what someone else could do. Comparison can really steal you from capturing some great memories. I know because I have allowed it to happen to me in the past. I have gone through phases when I thought the way I took photos just wasn't as good as so-and-so, and what not, and then stopped taking them as often. Not cool.

Maybe your vacation photos won't win any major awards or get 1,000 likes on Instagram, but who really cares when you have the memory you wanted to save. To look back on with a smile. That is all that matters when you are heading home! Some of my phone shots didn't turn out the greatest, but I am glad to have them!

On a personal note, I know I have been a bit MIA here on my blog the past several months. Life with a 2 1/2 year old and almost 4 year old can get busy and I don't want to miss a second with them. They have my heart and are my first priority. So, when you find me "not here" just know that is where I am...focused on the little ones and my family life. As it should be, I can already hear you telling me! ;) Also, I have been decluttering and "freeing myself from stuff" which is time consuming but so liberating! I do hope to share about my journey in that soon!

Hope you are enjoying a lovely start to summer!

Till next time...
~Alice W.

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  1. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions on using your iphone for vacation photos. Last year, while on an Alaskian Disney cruise that is what I used and loved being able to capture the moments that I couldn't have with my big girl camera. Enjoy your little ones, as they grow up too quick!


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