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How to take great photos on a smartphone: Travel photography tips

Scott Howes shares his top tips for taking photographs on a phone while travelling. Photo / Scott Howes

Whether you’re spending the summer in Europe or embracing a South Island ski season, capturing photographs is the ultimate way to create memories and share your travels with loved ones.

Thanks to the ever-improving quality of smartphone cameras, you don’t have to spend thousands on a DSLR camera to take stunningly detailed photos and high-definition videos.

However, there are a few tips and tricks to know if you want your travel snaps to stand out. Herald Travel asks talented photographer and content creator Scott Howes to share his five biggest tips for nailing ‘the shot’ on a smartphone camera.

Hailing from London, Scott Howes has lived and worked as a commercial photographer in New Zealand for several years. Photo / Scott Howes

1. Use grids and guides

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I would always recommend people turn on the grids and guides and level on their camera phone, it’s game-changing.

Most phones have the option to add a grid, which basically puts two lines down the middle and two lines across your screen. This helps you follow a popular rule in photography called the ‘rule of thirds’.

I use the grids feature every day on my phone and on my actual cameras and it means you can line up the subject or the frame that you’re trying to shoot, and place them in one of the ‘thirds’, which makes it more aesthetically pleasing.

Most smartphones also have a level in them, to save you from taking wonky photos and videos.

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2. Take time and take it right

Travel can be crazy and super fast-paced and it’s easy to get excited and just snap away. It’s only when you get home to edit or review the photos you may realise you’re not happy with them.

So, despite having taken photos professionally for years, I still often take a step back and pause before taking the shot, because if you get it right ‘in camera’ it saves you so much work editing later on.

Howes recently travelled around Japan and took many photographs on an Oppo phone. Photo / Scott Howes

3. Think differently

I think one of the keys of photography is not to just point and shoot. Maybe research your destination beforehand and find unique places to photograph or a way to capture a popular spot differently. For instance, everyone who goes to Roys Peak takes that same standard shot looking down the viewpoint but there are endless possibilities for different photos; it just takes some time to find them.

4. Don’t forget the light

The time of day is key because the lighting is what makes a photo. For me personally, sunrise and sunset are the best times of day to shoot. The sun isn’t as high in the sky so you don’t get harsh light, it’s softer and creates nicer shadows too.

I’ll admit, getting up at 4am for a sunrise shot isn’t for everybody, some people go on holiday just to chill. Either way, lighting is worth thinking about when you take a photo and going a little earlier or later in the day can help you miss crowds at popular attractions.

Howes said Chureito Pagoda, in Fujiyoshida, was an iconic ‘tourist shot’ many people take while visiting. Photo / Scott Howes

5. Try shooting in Raw

Usually, you can let the smartphone choose the camera settings for you. But if you want to take your photos a step further, you can shoot in RAW if your phone camera has a ‘pro mode’. This is how we shoot on a DSLR camera and the image is minimally processed, which gives you more freedom when editing your photos in an app like Lightroom.

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Thanks to OPPO, we have one Find N2 Flip smartphone to give away, valued at $1679.

The OPPO Find N2 Flip is full of great features, including an invisible crease, large front screen, 50MP Hasselblad camera setup, fast charge, long-lasting battery, and cool designs.

To enter, go to and fill in your details.

The competition closes at 11.59pm on Monday August 7. Terms and conditions apply.

Be in to win an OPPO Find N2 Flip smartphone with Herald Travel. Photo / Supplied


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