How To Capture Great Vacation Photos With Your Phone

We have all been through it at one point: going on an awesome vacation and having zero good pictures to show for it. Forget about relying on friends and family to share their photos eventually (I am still waiting), here are five important tips on how to capture awesome vacation photos and the tools you'll need to get it done. Did I mention you won't even need a professional camera?

1. Find Natural Light

If you find your vacation photos aren't up to par, evaluate the lighting around you. Images are usually best composed in natural light and if you take most of your pictures in dimly lit areas or under artificial lighting, you'll notice the photos you bring home don't exactly represent your vacation of a lifetime.

My Tip: Go outside or near large windows for photos. Also, make sure the sun is behind you (the photographer) to avoid harsh shadows. If you absolutely must take a cellphone photo in "bad lighting", consider using the flash or not including people in the photo at all.

2. Use the Rule of Thirds

If you are taking a picture of your friends and family at a special place and want to include the landmark or landscape and the subjects, use the rule of thirds to achieve an awesome photo. The rule of thirds breaks up the photo into three sections (left, middle, and right) and allows the eye to focus on the subject while balancing a beautiful background.

My Tip: If you want to take a photo of someone standing with picturesque scenery, you'll want to put that person on either the left or right side of the photo. That allows the subject to have a powerful impact on the photo without losing the equally impactful beauty of the landscape itself. It also helps personalize the setting.

3. Use a Photo Editing App

Everything is always a little better with a bit of editing, even your vacation photos. Travel bloggers often recommend tons of their favorite photo apps for creating the perfect travel shot, but Snapseed and VSCO are still top favorites. For bright and vibrant images, Snapseed's ambiance tuner is my favorite; for moody, hipster photos (coffee shop, anyone?), VSCO has got it down.

My Tip: Think about who is going on your vacation, the destination, and where the photos will be posted. Photo editing for going to the beach or being out in nature might require different enhancements than exploring a city.

4. Discover Your Camera's Burst Mode

Um, holy jumping photos. Think about all the time you take trying to catch the best action shot. Did you know if you held down your cellphone's shutter button it goes into burst mode? Burst mode takes a ton of photos and allows you to choose from the results to pick the best shot - delete the rest. Awesome, right? Warning: you'll also learn your prep face for jumping makes you look constipated.

My Tip: Use your limbs to make shapes when you are jumping instead of standing straight. Otherwise you might just look like you're floating. Additionally, as the photographer, the closer you are to the ground the more dramatic the shot will be.

5. Get Creative

Think of creative ways to tell a story through your photo so that sharing becomes fun. Think of the special things about the place you are visiting and find surrounding cues that can describe your experience without an explanation.

My Tip: Facial expressions are everything. Use your body to describe how you are feeling in that very moment and you'll make it easier to capture that memory years later.

What Will Be Your Next Adventure?
Regardless of where you decide to go, take these tips with you and capture great vacation photos to look back on for years to come. Always remember though, now that you are taking better pictures, you won't need to take as many. So get the shot and put the phone away to enjoy the experience first-hand.

Olivia Christine is an explorer, Travel Writer, and MapQuest Parachute contributor.