I’m often asked what camera I recommend for travel, and more and more often I tend to answer: a good phone. Now, I’m not saying that phones are better than today’s cameras, but I think that some of them have reached a quality that is good enough for 99% of the people who are going to use them during their trip.

Because yes, when traveling, the most important thing is to have your camera at hand to capture the moment when it arrives. And I’ve seen too many times big SLRs bought for a world tour, staying in the bag or in the hotel because they were too bulky. The phone has the advantage of being small and therefore always there at the right time.

In this article I will give you my tips on how to take the best travel photos with your phone. For that I had the opportunity to test the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 with which I could take some example pictures in Paris (those you will see in the article). I’ll tell you more about it in the following article.

The rules

There are rules in photography, which apply all the time. Whether the photo is taken with an SLR, a GoPro, a drone or a phone! Basic rules that you must know and that will make your pictures immediately more beautiful and professional. To know them, I recommend you the complete video I made on the subject and which is just at the end of this paragraph. I cover all the points in detail with examples. For this article, I have also made a small selection of these tips that are essential for me.

1) The rule of thirds

This is THE rule to know in photography and it is quite simple. Basically you have to imagine that your photo is divided into 3 horizontal and vertical lines. Your eye is first attracted to the intersection of these lines, so that’s where you should place your subject. This also allows you to divide your image aesthetically by giving you an indication of how you should position yourself.

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On the same theme, it is advisable to place the horizon on the top or bottom third of your photo, as well as the gaze of a subject you are photographing. In short, these are very important indications that will really allow you to gauge the balance of your composition.

On most smartphones, you have the possibility to add these grids to have them as a reference when taking your picture, as in the following example:

2) Lhorizon

This is a problem I see far too often on travel photos: a horizon line that is not straight. It’s quite simple to apply when you take the picture or when you modify it, but try as soon as possible to have the horizon as straight as possible. It’s more comfortable for the eye and makes the composition more readable right away.

3) Placing a subject

In order to get an idea of the scale of the landscape you are shooting, it is always a good thing to have a subject present. For example when I am in front of a building, you can immediately guess how impressive it is.

4) The vanishing lines

One last little tip that can be applied to your phone photos: find vanishing lines to compose your image. You can for example use marks on the ground, buildings, rails, etc… in short elements present in the landscape which will naturally attract the eye towards the subject of your photo.

For example here, the lines on the ground, all converge towards the arc:

The settings

The wide angle option

One of the advantages of SLRs, hybrids and other cameras is that you have the possibility to change the lens and thus have totally different angles adapted to each situation. On phones, it is now possible to benefit from this advantage as well, as most of them have different lenses built in. And often forgotten is the wide-angle lens, which allows you to have sublime landscape photos. On the Microsoft Surface Duo 2, it is available by clicking the “0.5” button, for example.

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The “panorama” option is also a pretty creative solution on phones to get a “wide angle” rendering of certain landscapes. It is available for many of them and allows you to take a series of photos that will be put together automatically by the camera to give a complete image that is almost impossible to reproduce with a conventional lens.

The night shot option

As its name suggests, the night shot option is a mode found on many phones that allows you to overcome an obvious problem at the end of the day: the lack of light. If this mode is not complicated to understand, I can still give you two tips to get the best out of it. First, try to be as steady as possible when taking the picture, the shutter speed is often reduced to let the necessary light through, and so the picture will be blurred much faster if the camera was moving while the picture was taken. You can therefore set up a self-timer to avoid touching the camera.to reduce the movement of the camera as much as possible.

Retouching

Retouching is also an important part of the process when taking pictures. Each camera has its own retouching system, what I can tell you about them is not to overdo the contrast or saturation. Only apply subtle changes to the photo to keep it looking natural. In some cases, filters are pre-saved in your phone and you can apply them directly after taking the picture.

When possible, take your photos in .RAW, an image format that is much heavier than .JPEG but also retains much more information (colors, contrasts etc. ..) and therefore allows a greater range of work on the retouching part.

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Microsoft Surface Duo 2

As I said at the beginning of the article, I was able to test the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 for a few weeks, in order to take pictures in Paris and show you some examples of the rendering that was possible. It’s the second generation of this range and frankly I found the handling super simple and the rendering really very satisfactory.

For those who would be interested in its more technical characteristics, know that it is equipped with a main lens of 12 megapixels with a wide-angle of 16 megapixels, as well as a telephoto lens connected to a sensor of 12 megapixels (2x optical zoom). Enough to make you happy when you travel.

All Android applications are available, and you can open 2 at once (one on each screen). You can also install and run photo editing applications without problems. The two screens allow you to have an optimal comfort during your trip, without needing a computer.

As you will have understood from reading this article, there are plenty of different ways to get creative with your phone’s built-in camera. They are now powerful enough to cover the needs of 90% of travelers who want to take pictures of their trip, and most importantly, they have one big advantage: they are easy to carry around. And when you have to pack your travel bag, you’ll be happy not to count the extra kilos of an SLR and lenses you’ll use very little during your trip.

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