How to Capture Your Summer Holiday Using Just Your Phone

take great summer holiday photos on your phone

We’ve just returned from our summer holiday in Greece, and with half-term and the summer holidays just around the corner you may be planning a holiday or some local adventures soon too.

This year I left my ‘big’ camera at home, and took my Fujifilm XE-1 mirrorless camera with me instead. Of course I also had my phone with me all of the time, and on most days I found myself taking photos with my phone, rather than taking my camera out with me.

It’s possible to take lovely photos with your phone, and these days it’s the camera that you have with you all the time. So, if you’d rather leave your camera at home and capture your summer holiday using only your phone, how can you make sure you take some great photos?

In this post I’m going to share how you can take great holiday photos using just your phone. First, we’ll look at how you can use the settings on your phone camera to take great photos, and then we’ll look at some general steps that can improve photos too.

take great summer holiday photos with phone

Although our phones can take pretty good snapshots when we simply ‘point and shoot’, they also include lots of tools that can help to take even better photos. Here are the three that I think are most important:

Control the focus and exposure

Just like a DSLR, our phones have the ability to control both where the focus is in an image, and it’s exposure.

I use an iPhone, and you can control both the focus and exposure by touching the screen. To choose where you would like the focus point in your photograph to be, press down on that part of the screen until ‘AE/AF LOCK’ appears on the screen – this means that the point you have selected will be the focal point of your photograph. On a Samsung phone you can use a feature called ‘Selective Focus’ to do the same thing.

To control the exposure on both iPhones and Samsung phones tap the screen before you take the photograph and a small sun symbol will appear. Swipe the sun up and down to change the exposure (brightness) of your photograph. Once you have the exposure you like, you can take your photograph.


Don’t use the zoom

Phone cameras use a digital zoom, which can cause images to look much more grainy when you have zoomed-in to take them.

Try to change your position rather than using the zoom – this will help to give you crisp and clear photographs. Otherwise, if you really have to zoom, take the photograph without using the zoom and then crop it afterwards. This will probably result in some loss of quality, but less than if you had used the zoom.


Use flash selectively

The trouble with the in-built flash on your camera is that you can’t control it in the way a photographer would use lights in their studio. For example, you can’t change how powerful the flash is for each photograph and you can’t control which parts of the photograph it touches. Therefore I recommend using it only when you have to.

Generally, you’ll get better results if you don’t use it at all during the day. This is especially true on a sunny day when there will be plenty of natural light to light your subject.

The same goes for landscapes – even at sunset. The flash on your phone probably won’t have enough range to light the whole landscape, which will mean only the parts close to you are bright.

If you’re photographing people at night time you probably will need the flash.

take great summer holiday photos with phone

Try different perspectives and clear the background

If you’re on a crowded beach or at a busy tourist site, you can get home and find that all of your photos have other people in the background. Before you take your snap, move around and try taking the photograph from different heights and angles to see whether you can avoid having these other ‘distractions’ in the background of your photograph. It will often make your photos more impactful if the background is clear.

Similarly, move your own ‘stuff’ out of the way, or wait for other people or vehicles to move. In the photograph above where my husband and daughter are flying a kite, our bags were sitting on the sand, and in the frame. By quickly moving them behind me, they were out of shot and they are no longer detracting from the focus of my photograph.


Use apps to edit your photos on your phone

A little bit of editing can help to give your phone photographs an ‘edge.’ I’ve previously written about my favourite apps for editing in this post, but if you were just to start with one I recommend Snapseed.

I don’t like to use filters on my photographs, so I find that using the in-built editor on my iPhone is usually enough, but if I need some more advanced features I can then take the photo into Snapseed and finish editing there.

If you’re new to editing photographs just start with the basics – try moving the exposure, contrast, warmth (or temperature) and saturation to see what each does to the photograph. Over time you’ll find a style that you like.


Consider taking a tripod or selfie stick

If you want to appear in your photographs, rather than taking them all a phone tripod or selfie stick can help you to do this. Just pop your phone on the selfie stick or tripod and either use the timer function or a remote to take the photograph.


Over to you

I’d love to hear how you get on with these tips, and what other questions you have about capturing your family with your phone. Let me know in the comments below, or send me a message here.

You can find more photography tips here

Picture of Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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