The best camera is ALWAYS the one you have with you!

As a photographer, I have gone through many stages from a newbie to a seasoned pixel peeper and everything in between. I'm ashamed to say there was even a camera snob stage where I missed so many incredible moments just because I didn't have a "REAL" camera with me. When my best travel buddy & I were planning a once in a lifetime three week trip to Europe with just carry-on luggage I knew I had to make a choice: clothes or camera gear. Clothes won out! I was pleasantly surprised by the results. All of the images in this blog entry were taken with a mobile phone.

Nyhaven Harbor, Denmark

Sipan Island, Croatia

Copenhagen, Denmark

Sidewalk Cafe in Belgrade, Serbia

Always Be Ready!

Consider keeping your phone in camera mode so it's ready the moment you unlock it. Keep it in your hand if at all possible. It is disappointing to miss a perfect shot because your phone was somewhere in your bag. Keep ypur phone charged. I always have a charger with me on vacation but that doesn't help in the middle of the forest. Keep your lens clean. A smudged lens can reek havoc on a otherwise great photo. Take it everywhere. Consider waterproof bags and cases for those incredible beach shoots.

Wild Orchid at Natural Bridge Overlook, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Rainbow Sunflare, Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington

Sand Ripples, Ruby Beach, Washinton

Tell a Story!

The best vacation photos tell a story about your trip from start to finish. Take photos of key moments such as the mode of transportation from point A to point B. This helps build the story of your journey. Consider taking photos of the views from your car window, airplane seat, or lodging. Don't forget to include your travel companions in some of your shots too! Make your photos a visual journal.

Raindrops on the car window while waiting out the rain, Mt. Rainier Narional Park, Wahington

View from the room, Sipan Island, Croatia

Relaxing view of the Caribbean from the very back of the cruise ship.

Don't Forget About Yourself!

The person holding the camera is often left out of vacation photos. If your traveling with friends or family, remember to ask them to take photos of you as well. You can also use the self-timer feature and a mini flexible tripod. I was recently sorting through vaction photos when it occurred to me that there not any photos of me because I was the one snapping pix.

Light is the Key!

Photography is all about using light. Watch for interesting plays of light and shadows. Look for reflections. Reflections can be of the sky or the landscape. Early morning and late afternoon light is amazing and will enhance everyone's photos. Can we all say "Hello Golden Hour?" I also personally LOVE lens flare where the light is scattered or "flared" when it hits your lens at just the right angle.

Sunrise Flare Behind St. Kitts Island (photo credit: my husband, Doug)

Steeple Reflection, Copenhagen, Denmark

Clouds Reflecting on Water, Glass Beach, Ft. Bragg, California

Sunflare & Light Scatter at Sunset, Acadia National Park, Maine

Keep It Stable.

Use both hands. Nobody likes a blurry picture. A good way to keep everything steady is to use the physical buttons (usually a volume button on your phone) for the shutter instead of the virtual button on your phone's screen. It gives you more leverage. Extra pro tip: you can even plug in the headphones that came with your phone and use the headphone's volume button as an extended shutter release if you are using a tripod.

Don't Use Zoom.

If you want the absolute best images from your phone's camera, forget you have a zoom. Don't forget that while phone cameras have come a LONG ways, it's capabilities are generally not the same as a DSLR lens nor are the processors. Many times, an image that was zoomed in prior to snapping the pic end up really poor quality if they are later enlarged & printed. The solution: move your feet to zoom.

No Zoom: from a distance

Zoom Used at Same Location as Prior Image, (very poor image quality)

No Zoom, just inches away. (note better image quality)

Try a Unique Perspective or Angle

Try shooting from a dog's view or maybe a bird's. An unusual perspective can be especially useful when photographing famous landmarks or popular tourist attractions.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Space Needle seen under Chihuly Glass Flowers, Seattle, Washington

Redwood National Park Forest Canopy, California

Don't Forget the Details.

Whether it's a photo of the delicate moss hanging from a tree in a rain forest, a wave battered & smoothed piece of glass on a beach or delicate wild orchids growing under a redwood, focusing on the details brings a sense of place and reminds you or your trip.

Moss Hanging above a Creek, Hoh Rain Forest, Washington

Wild Orchid, Redwood National Park, California

Sea Glass, Glass Beach, Ft. Bragg, California

Focus on the Subject.

Select the focal point yourself. Depending on your phone and model, you may have the option of touching the screen where you want the camera to focus. If you do have that feature, use it! Don’t let the camera choose where to focus because it may get it wrong.

Take LOTS of Pictures.

As a professional photographer, I NEVER take just one shot. I fact, I almost always take two or three 10-shot bursts of each pose or setting. The final image is almost never the first shot. Whether it's closed eyes or a change in lighting angles I almost always have another thought of how to make the shot better as I'm pressing the shutter the first time. Take a shot look at it, critique it, then take another one.

Don't Forget to Edit.

As a pro, all of my photos are edited in some way. The same applies to photos taken with your phone. And by edit, I do not mean adding a quick Instagram or Snapchat Filter on your photo. Be selective and only choose the best images to keep and edit. There are many apps out there to help you do this but keep in mind most of the time only a few minimal tweeks are needed. I use Lightroom on my PC for my professional images but I love Google's free app Snapseed for my mobile phone shots. The majority of my edits are for cropping, straightening, brightness, contrast and/or saturation. Be Creative! Photography is an art. If you love your final image it's perfect!

Raw Unedited Image

Edited: Cropped, Added Contrast & Saturation for Color Pop

Lastly, Enjoy your Vacation!

The joy of having a camera available on vacation is to document those moments you want keep close. The best way is it be in the moment even if it means putting the camera down. Because, let's face it, not everything can be captured on a camera. It's much more important to be present and connecting with your family and friends!