Once upon a time, a camera was a luxury, and on a family holiday, you generally had to share it. I remember my first trip abroad – Japan in 2009. I had to seek my parents permission to take the family digital camera with me.
Though these days cameras have become an essential, and every traveler has one. In fact most people have two; a camera which is actually a camera, and the one built into your phone.
Yes, we’re well and truly living in the camera phone era, and as you travel around the globe you may notice a trend that travelers are leaving their traditional digital camera’s at home. Instead, most people these days are favoring their phone.
So that begs the question:
Do You Really Need a Camera on Vacation? Or Can You Use Your Phone?
Is the Camera Phone Better than the Traditional Digital Camera?
Most digital cameras produce high-quality photos, but the quality of pictures on your camera phones will usually differ.
The quality of pics taken with your device depends on the phone’s autofocus, image stabilisitation, megapixels, exposure, preset scene modes and built-in support to enable image sharing. But most phones these days offer high quality photograph and video.
Whether or not a camera phone is equal or better to a digital camera will depend on your purpose. But generally, as long as you have a quality camera phone, you’re good to travel. And the multi-tasking abilities which come with today’s mobile phone makes them more economical than traditional digital cameras.
How to Take Good Photos on a Camera Phone
Whether it’s a planned picture where the subjects have time to strike a pose, or a spontaneous shot of a bird’s feet touching a wave’s tongue, you can take captivating, impromptu pictures with amazing detail on a camera phone.
Here are tips to ensuring that the pictures you take on your phone are of high quality.
Setting up your camera phone
It is important to regularly clean the lens, before and during your journey. The camera lens can collect dust, dirt and tint, thus producing blurry pictures.
Go to camera settings on your phone and tune them to the highest quality possible. Sometimes we take great pictures that we want to print but can’t due to poor resolution.
Check the exposure, white balance and preset modes. Pay closer attention to white balance settings, to prevent subjects from being redder than normal or being ‘white lightened’ out.
Remember to remove any frames, as they may cut things off or ruin the initial picture quality. You can add the frame during editing. Even as you go through the preset modes, ensure that you do not leave any effects on. Things like sepia and grayscale can be adjusted during editing.
Low Light Equals Poor Quality
Camera phones aren’t great for taking pictures of subjects in low light. So if you find yourself in this situation, switch the flash on and make sure that your camera is stable to avoid blurry images.
Avoid Tight Focusing
Camera phones produce clear pictures when almost the whole scene is in focus. This is mainly because of the camera phone’s short focal length.
For example, it can be difficult to tight focus on writings on a historical wall. However, if you manage to capture the whole scene, you can use editing software to tighten focus on the writings on the wall.
Getting Full Images of Yourself
If you are travelling alone and are wondering how to get full pictures of yourself, your best bet is to ask someone to take the picture for you, or set your phone somewhere it can capture your full self and use the timer feature to switch poses.
Losing pictures on our phones is as easy as taking them. Insure your photos by keeping a backup in cloud storage so that your pics survive, even if your phone falls in water!
Send Them Instantly as a Postcard!
A definite perk of using your camera phone is to send them instantly as real postcards! MyPostcard is a website / app at the center of a movement which says no to E-cards, and yes to the real thing!
You upload your photo and a personalized message, they print and mail them. It’s easy, cheap, and hassle free; you don’t have to worry about the old-day hassles of getting your photos printed, running down to the post-office, and trying to find the word for ‘stamp’ in Hungarian!!
TECHNOLOGY WE RECOMMEND FOR TRAVELING WITH YOUR PHONE↓
Used my iPhone exclusively on a recent trip to Greece vs taking my camera and lenses. Worked wonderfully! However when downloading the photos from my iPhone to my pc, they were all sideways or upside down. Pretty time consuming to fix 700+ photos.
Glad you got fab photos! But yes, that can definitely be a time suck if you have to manually flip them all once you’re home. I wonder if you can batch rotate in any free photo editing software.
You can use Irfanview (a free program), it’ll do it in seconds.
File -> Batch Conversion/Rename -> Use advanced options -> Advanced -> Fine rotation (set it to 90, 180 or 270 degrees depending on what you want it to do).
You’re welcome :)
I used to travel with bulky DSLR but last two years I am using just Iphone and go pro camera. From comfort aspect, a phone in the pocket vs bulky camera in separate foto bag, iphone just wins:)
Definitely wins from a comfort aspect. So much easier to carry with you when you’re on the go, and half the time takes really great quality photos :)
Shouldn’t the question be” Do I need a phone during my holidays?”
Just bring a camera and enjoy your time off (line).
Besides older and cheaper phone cameras just suck for off display purposes and if you zoom in artifacts are too visible.
I think a phone is a lot more of an asset than a camera, for it’s multi purposes. For instance they can also act as a currency conversion, calculator, translator, and source of information when you connect to the internet.
So if it was a choice and it didn’t matter either way, I would go for the phone :)
If I wasn’t blogging – I would definitely only travel with my phone! In fact, I only bought my camera about a year ago. These days phones take surprisingly great photos and can be a convenient way to capture your holiday. Great tips – especially about keeping the lens clean. Mine gets dirty all the time.
Yep it’s the same deal for us. We were recently in Antarctica and one of the girls came back from Kayaking with these incredible photos on her iPhone – I actually used some of her camera phone shots in my posts instead of those taken off my DSLR!
Obviously zoom comes into the equation though, and whether or not you’re selling your photos. But for the every day traveler, they could easily get by with just a phone :)
We are kind of photography technology freak so we would feel like we would miss out without our drone, gopro and dslr! But for the general traveller, we do believe a good phone could do 100% a good job! I’d say maybe also add a lens to it, invest in something like the Ollo clip!
I agree, it ultimately comes down to what your aim is out of your travel photography, because sometimes you need your gear! But for the general traveler, I think it’s very easy these days to get by with just their phone, and not sacrifice on the quality of photos :)
I still remember those days when we fought for the ownership of the camera during family vacations. Looking back it is amazing how rapid the development of digital photography has been. I always carry my DSLR along and try to juggle between phone and camera. Phone is good for instant social media updates, but I still prefer the DSLR.
So do I! It really is amazing how rapid the evolution of digital photography has been. I agree that the phone takes amazing social media shots. I’ve used many smart phone photos throughout my blog too, but yes if your focusing on more professional photography, a DSLR will achieve that :)
If I didn’t love photography so much, I think I would be really happy with my phone photos. I am the only photographer in my family, and if I didn’t take photos, there would be none!
Fair enough! It’s one of those things that if you’re passionate about photography, definitely go for the DSLR’s :) I think for the every day traveler though phone photos nowadays do the job :)
Oh, if i had extra money to spend, definitely gonna buy me some Digital Camera. Even Sony’s mirrorless are something to wish for. But for my trips i pull out my iphone and it does the job. I don’t need the bokeh even, because the pics i take are usually landscapes and city life.
Digital cameras, and DSLR’s, definitely fabulous to have, but the iPhone takes such incredible photos now that you’re definitely not missing out :)
I vote for phone camera when on vacation. Just buy a SD card and make sure you upload the photos on a cloud when in the hotel. :)
Absolutely – I usually tether my phone to the computer once a week to make sure I remember to get the photos off it :)
Phone with HDR app is usually enough for decent pictures and short videos, but for anything beyond that you’ll need a camera. ?
I agree :) I use my phone when I’m on the go, and for general tourist snaps it’s a fabulous choice. But I do like my DSLR for photos I’m planning on using on the website :)
I think it depends on the purpose of the trip. If it’s a general vacation camera phones are perfectly fine. If the sole or primary purpose of a trip is photography and practicing the art then take the camera.
Totally agree with you – For general vacations camera phones are more than fine, but definitely go for a camera if you’re really taking pride in photography :)
Photography is my hobby and I’m a professional travel writer, so I travel with 3-4 cameras actually haha…
Have one rugged weather sealed camera with a zoom lens.
Then a small mirrorless body with some prime lenses.
Then sometime a Go Pro for adventureous and underwater stuff…(had a drone at one point also but didn’t use it much).
Then my iPhone.
If I’m going to the beach on the weekend or to a theme park…yeah, just bringing my phone. If I’m going to Hawaii or Morocco… I’m bringing my gear.
Sounds like you’ve got it covered! When I met my husband in Africa he was the same, haha he had a large backpack which had all his cameras, equipment, and lenses, and then a small backpack he traveled with with his clothes lol :D
I do love our GoPro for adventure + underwater shots, it’s such a fantastic option for those trips.
Thanks for reading, and happy travels! Xx