Say it with me — “it’s OK to use my phone.”

Am I the only one who always feels pressure to create images with my ‘good’ camera equipment? Like, it’s expected of me because I’m a photographer and my gear is attached to my hip at all times?

Well, I hate to break it to those who think this, but my camera likely spends more time in the bag than out of it. At least it seems that way lately.

Using your phone camera while traveling

I recently returned from a two-and-a-half-week trip where I ended up using my phone to record images (some video as well) to the tune of 1,069 photos. My Canon logged in at 3,665 images.

We all know that mobile phones today do a pretty amazing job of taking photos. So why not take advantage of that?

The day we arrived we had planned on just unpacking, settling, wandering and getting a bit of dinner. Traveling can be exhausting and I know of very few people who actually sleep on planes. I chose to leave the camera at our apartment. Too tired to mess with it, carry it, take it out and well I just didn’t care to be completely honest.

Regretful decision?

Do I wish I had grabbed my camera bag? Maybe a little because of the images I was able to get with my phone. While on this subject, have I mentioned that maybe I’m just lazy about it all? I say that because if I wanted to really do better, even with my phone, there are ways to be better.

Lightroom Mobile is installed on my phone. I’ve never really used it. Would I prefer to have my images as RAW files? Of course. Are they? Nope. It just seems one more extra step I have to do before I can click the shutter, so I don’t do it.

Convenience is king

It’s one thing if you are traveling specifically for photography. You’ll likely be with other photographers that have similar goals in mind for what you want out of your trip.

When you’re traveling with non-photographers it’s a bit different though. Not only that, if you go on guided tours as well, it’s not always conducive to spending time taking photos. Sometimes you only have a couple of seconds in one spot because the whole tour group is moving ahead. Your mobile phone is perfect for this situation. 

Phone images don’t have to be just snapshots

Even though you may feel rushed, you can still create good compositions. The same rules apply to mobile photography even if you don’t have as much time to set up a shot. Pay attention, and watch your surroundings, the light and the shadows. 

Create interesting and unique images by changing your perspective. Put your camera low to the ground for a different angle on an iconic site. It doesn’t take that much time to do this or hold your camera up above your head. When you’re visiting famous landmarks, think about how you can create something you’ve not seen before. Yes, even with your phone.

Free your mind and body

While we were in Europe it was quite the heat wave. Walking around in temperatures near 100°F (38°C) for days is exhausting. By the last day of the trip, I had zero desire to carry any extra weight around with me (never mind all the pastries I ate). So, our last day in Munich was spent with my phone as my only camera.

It’s so freeing really. No pressure to get an amazing shot that could potentially be sold or hung on someone’s wall. Also, it’s nice to not always be looking for a photo or scene to photograph. This is difficult to turn off for most of us, and it still happens even when we’re not out with our cameras. But, just wandering and enjoying the sites is important. 

I say this a lot: “Put your camera down.” Why? Because you need to experience what is around you in order to create better images. Besides, it’s nice to relax and not always be ‘on’ as a photographer.