a cell phone with a screen

Without a doubt, memories are the best lasting investment of travel. The things you do at every step of your journey are forever there for you to recall and daydream. In a world of rich media, capturing those moments is easier than ever. But if you want to take that smile, sunset, meal – or just a gigantic airplane seat to the next level, we’ve got a few pro tips for making your photos look Instagram star good. Like, really good

a crowd of people at a concertDon’t Zoom

Zooming is the first no-no in beautiful travel photo from phone world. Even the best camera phones become quite grainy and lose sharpness when you pinch and zoom. Try to get yourself to a position which captures your subject as you hope, through the viewfinder. Get REALLY close for some things. It’s much better to crop, than zoom.

Camera Apps

Nope, not editing. These apps are meant for shooting. Apps like VSCO, Camera+ and Manual are just a few of the photo game changers which allow you to customize how you shoot. You can slow down shutter speed to create blur or allow extra light from billboards and so many other cool effects. This is how you get the beautiful artsy images you see everywhere.

a mountain above clouds at sunsetCreate Light

Taking photos during the day is fairly straight forward, and camera software is extremely advanced. But for night photos, try to shine some light on the subject. Of course, you can use your flash, but getting a nice light on your subject, from behind the camera really helps. For airplane seats on overnight flights, consider carrying a mini light to illuminate your target.

Tap Focus

Camera phone photo software is getting seriously advanced. But people often fail to tap around enough to find ideal light or focus balance. If someone is in silhouette, or not enough background is coming out, get tap crazy and start tapping random places until you find a nice happy medium.

a woman in a pool with a donut floating on a pink inner tubeReal FX

Snapseed and VSCO are arguably the two best editing platforms available directly on your phone. Snapseed offers incredible powerful tools to lighten or darken even the tiniest places, such as a glaring forehead! You can apply things like lens blur around a beautiful meal, add color or even texture. Download both and play around.

Raw First

Speaking of effects, don’t take photos with effects applied. Try to take a raw, plain image first. Doing so will give you ultimate flexibility in improving your photo, without making it look like an impressionist painting, or something seriously funky. Always edit afterwards, and save the picture as a new image, incase you ever want to go back to the original.

a pool with a building and umbrellaClean

This may seem obvious, but you’d be shocked to know how often it’s the roof of all problems. Your phone case is very handy, but there’s probably a sea of material living in between it’s protective bumper and your camera lens. Be sure to regularly wipe the lens with cloth and clear any gunk away. No one likes a blurry photo.


Taking a rich photo that’s 5mb or larger and turning it into a 50kb image is going to reduce the brilliance of your image. Try to always edit the full sized images and not the ones you send to your friends over Instagram, Whatsapp etc. Keeping large images makes it easier to get full sized prints made too.

a person standing on a dock in the water with a city in the backgroundDon’t Flash

Any real photographer will tell you that the only flashes worth having cost far more than your camera or at the very least, won’t fit on your camera. Phone flashes are terribly designed and just make things look very… strange. As a trick: use one of your friends flashlights to shine light on people from a different angle, or just turn a light on.

Best Tools

If you really care about capturing your travels without bringing a clunky rig around, it may be well worth upgrading to an iPhoneX, Google Pixel, Samsung, Huawei or other leading new phone camera producer. The technology is moving so fast, anything before this generation may just be a bit behind. It’s cheaper than buying a DSLR proper camera!

Feel like you’re ready to become an Instagram star?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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