You don't necessarily need a fancy camera to capture some amazing photos on your next vacation. The best camera is the one you have with you. For most of us, that's a smartphone, like the iPhone 11 Pro. Use your camera (or your smartphone's camera) to tell a story. With a little know-how and a few key pieces of equipment, you can create an interesting record of your trip that you can share and enjoy for years to come.
Light, composition, and the rule of thirds
Some photography tips are universal, regardless of where you are and what kind of camera you're using. Light is all-important in photography; you can't fake better lighting after the fact, even with extensive editing. The ideal lighting isn't the midday sun — it's the magic hour before sunset and after sunrise when the sun is low in the sky. Obviously you can't shoot all of your photos at that time, but the photos you do shoot then will have a golden glow that can't be replicated. No matter when you shoot, look for interesting ways to use the light. Make sure that both your subject and your background are well-lit, and not overblown.
Composing your photos is important. Try to get a clean shot of your subject, without a lot of clutter in the background. Your feet are better than the best zoom lens. Get in a good position to take the photo you want now, rather than expending time and effort later trying to remove unwanted objects or cropping your photo after the fact. The rule of thirds asks you to imagine that there is a tic-tac-toe grid in your viewfinder. Your photo will be more interesting if the subject of your photo lies along one of the lines or at the intersection of those lines.
Interesting angles and zoom
Try to place yourself where you can get close to your subject, but also aim for a unique angle to make your photo really pop. If you can get higher than your subject, shoot down onto it for an unusual perspective. Get underneath and capture the view from below. Or, shoot at an angle for a different twist.
There are times when you just can't get any closer to the subject than where you stand. In those situations, you'll want to consider a zoom lens. If you're using a smartphone, you can buy a zoom lens that clips conveniently onto your phone.
This kit includes a 12X telephoto zoom lens, 0.36X super wide angle lens/15X macro lens, and a 180° fisheye lens/15x macro lens.
Use a tripod or selfie stick
If you (and your travel companions) want to be in your photos, your options are to hand your camera or phone over to a stranger or use a tripod or selfie stick. If you go the stranger route, choose someone that has a fancy camera. I usually have better luck getting a decently-composed photo that way.
Using a tripod or a selfie stick puts you in complete control. Use the timer to give yourself time to get into the photo once it's composed the way you want it.
Octopus-style legs can be used as a traditional tripod or wrapped around a pole or other object.
Get in the photo with this selfie stick. It's compatible with just about any smartphone and it folds down to pocket size.
If you can get close enough to the local wildlife without endangering yourself or the local flora and fauna, you can get some incredible vacation photos.
You can take some striking photographs under the water, but you'll need to waterproof your equipment first. The latest iPhones are water-resistant, rated IP68, which means you can submerge them for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 6.5 feet. Personally, I'm not looking to risk my new iPhone by testing those parameters, so a waterproof bag is in order.
Keep your phone dry
Don't let your pricey smartphone get wet when shooting underwater. This universal pouch holds a wide variety of smartphoness.
Stay charged up
If you are using a regular camera, be sure you have a spare battery and plenty of media cards. When you use your smartphone as your primary vacation camera, you're bound to use up power pretty quickly. It's not a bad idea to carry your charger with you so you can charge up while you stop to eat or sip a cup of coffee at a local cafe. But just in case you need it, a separate battery can really come in handy.
Power on the go
Slip this little battery in your pocket, and you'll be free to take photos from morning to night.
Think like a local
Yes, you'll want to hit all of the hot tourist spots, but don't limit yourself to that. Do a little research and find out where the locals go and what they do. Attend local festivals, markets, parades, and other events. You'll find yourself enjoying your vacation more and taking more unconventional photos.
Experiment with cool or artsy shots. Focus on unusual details. Look for interesting lines and take advantage of geometry. Be playful. It's your vacation! Relax and enjoy yourself. Every photo doesn't need to be a work of art. Take some silly photos that will make you smile when you look back at them.
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at CNET. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, AppAdvice, WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.