Best iPhone travel photography tips

May 09, 2024Elodie Pellet
iPhone in tripod stand with wallet and passport on travel bag in airport filming airplane

If you’re planning your dream vacation and want to get top-notch photos, you may be considering investing in the latest DSLR camera. But if you already have an iPhone, you have all the photography power of a premium camera and none of the bulk. Time to shift your research efforts to scoping out great photo opportunities in your destination. Use these pro tips to capture stunning travel photos with your iPhone.

Choose a travel tripod

Stability is a critical component of good photography, especially if you’re taking long exposures or photographing a moving subject. If you’re shooting video, a tripod will eliminate the jerking effect you’d get from holding the camera in your hand. With a stable base for your camera, you can use a long exposure when shooting busy street scenes to capture the sense of movement. 

When traveling, it's also crucial to have a tripod capable of shooting in all situations and environments. This travel tripod features independently adjustable legs that can split, providing enhanced stability on uneven surfaces. This flexibility allows for compositions and stable shots no matter where your adventures take you.

Unlike conventional tripods, you want your travel tripod to be small enough to fit your backpack, and lightweight. Every ounce adds up quick, whether you're boarding a plane or hiking a trail. This travel tripod weighs only 0.4 ounces (that's not a typo), barely registering on the scale. 

A girl holding a pocket tripod in her hand in front of a lake

For those of you who regularly travel by air, you may be wondering how to transport this device on board an aircraft, but fear not, the product is TSA-proof, allowing it to pass security checks without a hitch. So you can take it with you to the other end of the world. Keeping your tripod close at hand during the flight will help you not only to pass the time more quickly, but also to enjoy your favorite shows, play games and take memorable photos.

Don't forget to download your shows before the take off!

An Iphone on a tripod stand on the small table in an airplane


Think about your composition

Consider what element in the scene you want your photo to highlight, and then build your composition around it. Think beyond placing your focal point in the center of the photo. Photographers use the rule of thirds to draw focus to objects of interest by placing them at a one-third distance from the edges of the photographic field. 

An iphone in a tripod taking a picture of a monument at night
The gridlines on your camera identify those one-third points so you don’t have to measure. They also help you align your photos so your horizon line is perfectly horizontal. To have gridlines appear on the screen when taking photos, go to Settings, then Camera, then Composition, and turn on Grid.

If you don't use a tripod, use your hands

If you don’t have a tripod, holding your phone with both hands will maximize stabilization. If you have access to a firm surface, steady yourself by leaning on your elbows. If you’re shooting video while moving, move slowly and take smooth, wide strides. Using your hands for long exposure and time-lapse photography is always more risky, as you won't be able to achieve ideal stability. Ideally, you should always remember to bring along a travel tripod. Or better still, place your tripod in your wallet so you never have to remember to take it with you. Problem solved!

Go high or or low

If you’re visiting iconic places and want your photos to make a real splash, think about scale and perspective. Envision your scene from higher or lower angles than those you see from your natural height. For added interest on your low-perspective shots, turn your camera upside down when shooting from the ground. It brings your iPhone’s lenses as close to ground level as you can get.

An iphone on a tripod taking a picture of a guy from a low angle in Japan

If you have access to higher ground, take the opportunity to capture evocative panorama shots. Hike that mountain trail or climb that bell tower. You’ll get incredible photos and fabulous bragging rights. If the physical climb isn’t for you, seek out a rooftop restaurant or observation tower with easy access and breathtaking views.

A tripod holding a phone taking a picture of a girl with a mountain landscape background

Sometimes the available space makes it difficult to capture the full height of your photographic subject. For example, if you’re photographing a tower from a narrow town square, you can apply landscape techniques vertically. Use the panorama feature on your iPhone by selecting Pano from your camera screen. Hold the camera horizontally and pan upwards from the ground to the top of the feature you want to capture. 

Think about where the light is coming from 

An iphone on a tripod taking a photo of a landscape from a rooftop


If you’re photographing outdoors in natural light, keep the light behind you and facing your subject. If it’s a time of day when the light is especially harsh, it may be best to shoot in the shade of a building or some trees. 

Low light conditions may not be your first choice for taking photos, but you can create evocative images using the shadows cast by the light outside a window or an almost-set sun. Bad weather days can be ideal for creating photos with even light. Conditions like fog and rain can add a sense of atmosphere that puts a unique twist on those photos of iconic tourist sites. Bad weather may even turn into a great travel story one day!

A man holding an a phone placed on a tripod that is about to take a picture of a landscape

Consider long-exposure pictures

Long-exposure shots can help you make the most of light and color. The high dynamic range (HDR) feature enables you to capture a wider range of colors. It takes multiple photos with different exposures, then combines them to create the ideal blend. It’s a great way to balance colors when photographing in extremely low or high light.

The Live Photos feature on your iPhone lets you capture a few milliseconds of video, which appears as a photo but reveals movement when you tap and hold the image. To turn on Live Photos, open the camera on your phone and tap the sunburst icon in the top right corner. The words “Live On” appear when the Live Photos setting is active. To achieve the effect, tap the edit option in the top right corner of the photo. At the bottom of the screen, tap the sunburst icon. 

Include people in the picture

In addition to conveying scale, including people gives your photos a personal touch and engages your audience’s imagination. Rather than taking selfies, take some time to play with composition. Then, use a Bluetooth shutter remote or the self-timer on your camera to place yourself within that composition. If you have an Apple Watch, you can use these devices to take photos remotely when your camera app is open on your iPhone. 

If you choose to use your camera to take selfies, use the Mirror Front Camera setting to ensure your photos show your actual image rather than a mirror image. To turn it on, go to Settings, then Camera, and select Mirror Front Camera under the composition category.

Consider shooting in portrait mode to make faces jump out and create a softly blurred background.

An iphone on a tripod stand take a picture of a man walking over a bridge with a temple on background

Adjust the luminosity and edit your pictures 

Your iPhone has photo editing settings, where you’ll find options to enhance highlights and shadows. You can also adjust for color vibrancy and saturation. Other photo editing options on your phone include the brilliance and sharpen settings.

Beyond the features that come standard with your iPhone, there are apps you can download to get more advanced editing options. Adobe Lightroom is a free mobile app. It enables you to install presets that allow for faster, more consistent editing. 

If you’re making videos, use CapCut or Inshot for excellent video editing features. In addition to experimenting with colors and brightness, these apps enable you to add fun transitions that make your videos more engaging and professional looking.

Avoid digital zoom

The sad truth about the zoom feature on your iPhone camera is that the more you zoom in past the optical range of the lens, the poorer the quality of your photo. Instead, try to get as close as possible to your subject. The digital zoom essentially crops the images and compensates for the missing details and pixels using AI generated textures.

Enable the RAW format on your iPhone

Speaking of AI generated textures, if you want to reduce the automatic post processing of your iPhone you can shoot in RAW mode which is available on most newer iPhones. You can access it by going to Settings > Camera > Formats > Apple ProRAW > ON. When you take a photo make sure to tap the RAW button in the camera app to enable it each time the scene is worth shooting in RAW. You don't need to use this format all the time as it take up more of your storage and time to edit. 

Think about golden hour

When you want to capture photos of specific outdoor locations, aim for those times of day called golden hour, the periods just after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun is lowest in the sky. The natural light casts a golden glow that gives your photos an evocative effect. An added benefit of sunrise is that you may be able to capture your location with minimal tourist traffic.

Be aware that the golden “hour” can be a misnomer. Depending on where you are in the world, that magical quality of light may only be present for 15 minutes.

Take note of where and when you took the picture

Many people express a post-travel regret of having paid so much attention to their camera that they failed to truly experience their surroundings. As you take photos on your journey, be mindful of the experience. Capture shots of the things you see in transit to create a sense of story. Even shots of the airport, the view through the plane window or the dashboard of your car can take you back to the experience.

Think of your photos as tiny narratives, chapters within the larger travel story. Look for opportunities to photograph action, whether it’s your hiking companion walking ahead of you or a boat cutting waves through the water. Additionally, capture the little things that will later revive the experience in your mind, photos that will prompt you to share the story of your experience. 


A couple taking a picture of them with an iphone on a tripod

Don’t forget to resize for social media 

If you plan to post your photos on social media, set your camera to take shots fitted to the limits of each platform. Take a variety of pictures and videos in various sizes so you have plenty to choose from when it’s time to edit and share.

Here are the aspect ratios for several major platforms:

  • Facebook Post – 16:9
  • Facebook Story – 9:16
  • Instagram Post – 4:5
  • Instagram Story – 9:16
  • Twitter – 16:9
  • TikTok – 9:16

If you have settings on your iPhone camera that you like to use frequently, use the Preserve Settings feature to program them as presets. You’ll find this option in your camera’s Settings menu.

Don’t hesitate to make a backup on iCloud

Don’t leave your storage to chance. Your iPhone can back up photos and videos directly to your iCloud account. In the Settings menu, tap the top of the screen where your name appears, then tap iCloud and select Photos. Select Optimize iPhone Storage to save smaller file sizes.

A portable tripod for your portable lifestyle

Why waste precious packing space with a clunky tripod when you can get optimal stability and flexibility for your iPhone camera with the Pocket Tripod Pro? This incredible product is the width of two credit cards and offers 180 degrees of tilt angle adjustment. Once you see how much stability and versatility you get from this tiny gadget, you’ll want one for your travel bag and another for your pocket. Visit the Pocket Tripod shop to see how it works.

A man standing and rising his hand while a phone is taking a picture of him

Be Present  

Last but not least, don't spend all your time on your phone taking videos and photos to enjoy later. The best photo or video won't replace the sensation of actually being where you are. Enjoy the moment as it's happening as much as you can. Set your phone up on a tripod and let it do its thing. Be mindful of your experience as you travel.