Introduction to Smartphone Photography

This guide is dedicated to helping you with the nitty gritty of smartphone photography  – how to take a great shot on your phone, what editing apps to use, how to share and print your images and keep them safe.

Whether you're totally new to photography, or a seasoned pro, there's a lot to be gained. Let's get into it. 

Note: This is a super extensive guide. Use this navigation below to jump around to different sections on this page. You can also press the back button on  your browser to jump back to this navigation.

Why You Need to Be Shooting
with Your Phone

Photograph More

Unless you're one of those admirable people who carries their favourite camera with them at all times, at the ready, chances are that you often watch great photographic opportunities pass by you. (Not quite there yet? Start taking photos with your phone regularly, and in no time, the world will be full of photographic potential!)

But nowadays, most of us keep our phones with us all the time, which means most of us have a camera with us all the time too. And because of the advances in smartphone design, that camera does a pretty decent job! Awesome shots are now within your reach, every where you go. You can easily practice your craft – and add to your visual record – every single day. 

Build fundamental skills

Smartphone cameras are nowhere near as powerful as DSLRs, and even some point-and-shoots. The megapixel count is low, and they lack the manual controls that let you achieve shallow depth of field and super-crisp shots of subjects in motion. And the editing apps are nothing compared to programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. 

So, what's the plus?

When you can't rely on your technical or editing powers to create a great shot, you have to go back to the basics: Composition. You need to think more about the light, the colors, the lines, the placement of your subject. Being forced to focus on those fundamentals will do amazing things for your photography.

Connect​

If you're taking photos on a smartphone, chances are you'll want to share them at some point too. Plug into a photo-sharing community like Instagram or Flickr, and get ready to reap the benefits: you'll connect with friends and other photographers, gain valuable feedback, and get inspired. There are even stories of people gaining new clients, lucrative sponsorships and entire careers thanks to their participation in those communities! 

My Experience with
Smartphone Photography

First up, introductions! I'm Stephanie.

I'm Lauren's younger sister, and a part-time ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I'll be guiding you through the exciting world of smartphone photography!

Until just two years ago, my cell phone was just that – a phone. I took fewer than 20 photos with it over the four years I owned it!

If I wanted to use my camera, which I'd been doing regularly for three years at that point, I used a DSLR.

And then it was time to upgrade. I bought a new shiny smartphone.

The day it arrived, Lauren challenged me to share a photo once a day for a year. I accepted and signed up for Instagram that afternoon. And over the past year, things for me have changed.

I've taken over 8,000 photos on my phone. I've captured big moments – adventures, birthdays, holidays – moments that, as usual, were also recorded on my DSLR. More importantly, I've captured the small moments that tend to go unrecorded and so are easily forgotten, but that ultimately form the bulk of our lives: bike rides, dinner parties, afternoons at the playground with my nephew. 

I've shared over 450 photos on Instagram and looked at thousands of images shared by other people.

I've connected – even if only in a small way – with people I haven't seen in years.

I've made acquaintances with photographers I've never met and been inspired (and intimidated) by their incredible work.

Photography was exciting again. I started running more often, running further, in search of a great shot, getting to know my hometown better in the process. I got up for sunrises, I stayed up for northern lights. I learned more about the technical stuff and experimented with new styles. I saw more, I experienced more. 

There was a cost, too.

I've spent hours editing and captioning (and re-editing and re-captioning) photos. I've battled little insecurities about what I say and share online. But those costs are so small, compared to the record I have: The photos of family, friends and adventures, and the emotions and lessons attached to those images.

Sometimes, I look back on those photos and wish I'd taken them with a better camera, but I know too that if I had only used my DSLR, so many of those photos simply wouldn't exist. So until the day arrives where I bring myself to tote around multiple devices, always at the ready, it's me and my smartphone. And I'm so excited to see where it takes me.

A Note on the Photos in this Post

Essentially all of the photos you'll see in this guide were taken with and edited on my smartphone, a Nexus 5. Scroll through, and you'll get an idea of what you can (and, in some cases, can't) do with a camera phone. 

When I used a different camera or edited a shot on my computer, you'll see a note saying so. 

Choosing a Phone

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, we unfortunately can't tell you exactly what to buy. For one, we don't know everything there is to know about every smartphone out there! But even if we did, we couldn't say what's right for you, because we don't know you as well as you do! You'll need to think about what's available to you, what you want out of a phone, how much you're willing to pay and so on.

But we won't leave you totally in the dark here. We can, at least, tell you a bit about what to look for in a smartphone from a photographic sense.

In the box below, you'll find some of the main points you may want to consider from a photography perspective. Don't think that every phone needs to be a winner on all of these fronts – we simply want to open your eyes to some of the features that are out there and relevant to photographers. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide how to prioritize the things below!

A few things to consider
from a photography perspective

Image quality
What do the photos coming out of the camera look like? Check for things like sharpness, contrast, saturation and color (white balance and tint). Online reviews with photo examples are a great help here!

Megapixels
If you're looking to share or print your images at larger sizes, as a very general rule more megapixels on a phone is better.

Screen
Consider things like screen size, resolution, and the quality of the contrast. These'll all make a difference in how easy it is to use your camera, especially in tricky lighting conditions, like low light and direct sun. They'll also influence how similar the image on your phone looks to that same image when it's posted online or printed out. 

Image stabilization
These days, some smartphone cameras come equipped with image stabilization – a function that reduces blurriness caused by movement of the camera. This can make a big difference in the quality of your photos and videos, especially in low-light conditions!

Video quality
Almost all camera phones can shoot HD video (1080P). But some camera phones support shooting at faster frame rates (for slow motion video). And a few cutting edge smartphone cameras can shoot at an ultra high definition (4K) resolution.

Popularity
As a general rule, if you choose a more popular phone you'll have more options when it comes to apps and accessories, and you'll have an easier time tracking down replacement parts (like USB cables and chargers).

Operating systems & device compatibility
If you're used to working with a particular operating system or want your phone to be compatible with your other devices, you may want to choose a phone from the same brand.

Storage space
If you plan to take a lot of photos (and/or use a lot of apps) you may want to opt for a phone with lots of storage space. Our current phones have 32 GB of space, and we wouldn't want any less. 

Battery life
Your battery life will depend on a lot of things (like how much you use your phone and what apps you run in the background), but it's worth getting an idea of what the maximum battery life is.

Other camera features
Do you care about having burst mode, exposure control, panorama capabilities, etc.? If so, do your research and see whether the phone you're eyeing comes with those features (or a relevant app). 

Price
As a general rule, the better the camera features, the more expensive the phone will be. If you're serious about smartphone photography, it may be worth it to pay the premium. But don't lose sight of the fact that smartphones still don't match the quality of DSLRs or even advanced point-and-shoots (the photos from which you can share on platforms like Instagram and Flickr). 

Read Reviews 

If you're not camera savvy (or phone savvy), check in with someone who is! Don't know anyone? No worries. The internet is full of reviews by people who know their microchips from their megabites. Here are a couple of review sites we recommend checking out before you buy. 

DxOMark

This site will give you an in-depth review of the camera on almost every major smartphone out there. We particularly like the intuitive design of the reviews, which awards a score out of 100 for things like exposure and contrast, color, autofocus, noise, stabilization, noise and more – for both photos and videos! 

tom's Guide

Here you'll find a ranking for the best smartphone cameras of 2015, as chosen by the tech website, Tom's Guide. Each pick comes with a full review, so you can get a good sense of what makes each camera stand out. 

iPhones vs. Android Phones

​A virtual ton has been written on the merits of iPhones and Android phones (as a quick internet search will attest!), so we're going to keep this brief.

There are two main types of smartphones that dominate the market: iPhones and Android phones. iPhones are made exclusively by Apple, and run the iOS operating system. In contrast, Android phones can be made by a bunch of different companies (Samsung, LG, etc.). The name instead comes from the operating system those phones run – the Android system developed by Google. 

If you're not sure whether to get an iPhone or an Android phone, here are a few things to consider:

Accessories, Apps & Compatibility

Historically, iPhones have been the popular choice among smartphone users (or at least users who are willing to invest in expensive gear) and so companies have been eager to develop apps and accessories that are iPhone-compatible. On the accessories front, this is helped by the fact that there are relatively few models of iPhone being used at any given time. Manufacturers can know that if they make an iPhone accessory, it will be compatible with a huge number of phones.

Now contrast that to Android phones. Though they occupy a larger share of the market than they once did, there are considerably more types of models out there – and so less incentive to make accessories. On the apps front, things are levelling out a bit, though iPhone users still seem to have a bit of an edge (iPhone users enjoy higher quality uploads to Instagram, for example). 

Finally, some tech gear is compatible only with certain phones. Anyone who wants an Apple watch, for example, will need an iPhone 5 (or a newer model).

Camera quality

iPhones are generally considered to have the best cameras, and Apple is always pushing to improve the camera between models. Android phones tend to lag behind a bit, though the latest round of Android phones – especially phones developed by Google – are edging in. 

Price

If you want a new, unlocked iPhone 6 with a decent amount of storage space, it will cost you over US$700. Equivalent Android phones are considerably less expensive. 

What We Prioritize

We personally look for a smartphone that has a great camera and suits our other phone needs, prioritizing an easy-to-use operating system, great aesthetics, a good price and a fair warranty. 

A photo straight out of my smartphone's camera, taken in low light. 

On the camera front specifically, we want a camera app that's easy to use (or to know that we can download a better alternative) and great image quality. We recommend looking at reviews that show how image quality changes under different conditions, paying attention to things like contrast, color quality, saturation and sharpness. 

A photo straight out of my smartphone's camera, taken in direct sunlight.

All that being said, your priorities may be different from ours – it's your call! But if we can recommend one thing above all else: try the phone before you buy. See if you can play with a friend's phone, or head to a store to try out a test model. Is it intuitive to use? Do you like the look of the photos? Does it seem like the right fit for the price? 

Essential Accessories

When it comes to accessories, all you really need to get started with smartphone photography is a smartphone with a camera app and a charger. But here are some things you should seriously consider buying, ideally the same day you get your phone. 

case and screen protector

Make sure you set yourself up with a good phone case and screen protector. You'll kick yourself if you scratch your pricey phone because you were unwilling to shell out a few extra bucks for the protective gear! A quick Google search of your model plus the terms 'case' or 'screen protector' will help you track down good options. We bought ours at Best Buy.

Non-essential Accessories

As smartphone photography becomes more popular, all kinds of new accessories and gadgets pop up. Here are a few non-essentials that you might want to consider, beyond the run-of-the-mill case and screen protector.

Portable battery pack

A portable battery pack allows you to recharge your phone from a battery. It's a great extra for campers, hikers, travellers and anyone whose phone runs out before their desire to take photos does! 

Here's the battery pack we use.

Waterproof case

A fully waterproof case will allow you to submerge your phone in water for a period of time – you'll be able to snap shots without a problem in rain, snow or even in a pool or the ocean! Some of these heavy-duty cases are so thick that they may reduce the responsiveness of your touch screen, so read reviews before you buy.

Lenses

These days, you can find a whole suite of lenses specifically designed for smartphone photography, including wide-angle and macro lenses. We haven't tried them ourselves, but reviews abound!

Getting Started

Alright, so you've got yourself a fancy smartphone – congrats! You're probably itching to start taking awesome photos, but first things first: Let's make sure you've got the best camera app for the job

Choosing a Camera App

​When you purchase a smartphone, it will most likely come pre-programmed with a default camera app. In some cases, this app will be exactly what you need! And in some cases...well, let's just say you can do better. 

To evaluate the quality of your camera app, first make sure it has all its features enabled (in some cases the default setting may be for the extra features to be turned off). Once your camera app is fully enabled, test it out to see what it lets you do. If you like the functionality, awesome! If not, you might want to try an alternative from your app store. 

Not sure what you should be looking for? Here are a few things we think a camera app should allow you to do: 

Camera apps - basic features to look for

  • Add gridlines to your frame: This makes it easier to get your subjects centred, your horizons level, etc.
  • Enable or disable flash
  • Set a timer
  • Adjust your exposure level easily
  • Lock your focal point and exposure level: Once you've locked focus or exposure, you should be able to recompose your shot without the focal point or exposure level changing
  • Shoot video

There are some camera apps out there now that allow you to gain even more control over the look of your images. For example, some let you adjust your settings manually, shoot in High Dynamic Range, and even shoot in .tiff or .dng formats to minimize image compression. You can definitely get by just fine without this level of control, but feel free to experiment with these more advanced camera apps if that sounds like your kind of thing!

And note too that some editing and sharing apps (like Instagram) include a camera function as well. There's a lot of choice out there!

Smartphone Photography Tips

When it comes to our smartphone photography, our general philosophy is to see the camera's limitations as its advantages.

Here's what I mean.

Camera phones are not nearly as powerful DSLRs. They're not even as powerful as some point-and-shoots out there. For the most part, they lack the manual controls or the hardware you need to say, create a dreamily shallow depth of field, get a crisp shot of someone in motion, or produce a shot in low light that's not peppered with noise.

Here's the good news: When you're limited technically, you have to push yourself in other ways to make a shot work. And, as you'll soon see, in pushing yourself to get great shots from your camera phone, you'll be developing fundamental skills – some of the nuts and bolts of great photography!

So let's dive into it, and learn how to take compelling shots with your smartphone camera. Once we've got the basics down, we'll hook you up with some ideas of what to photograph, to help you dive right into smartphone photography.

Know Your Camera

First things first: Get to know your camera. Test out its various modes (panorama, video, etc) in different conditions – like low light, direct sun, and when your subject is moving – to see what the different modes excel at and where they fall a little short.

For example, my phone has both a standard mode, where I can manually adjust my exposure, and an high dynamic range (HDR) mode, that produces a single shot from several images taken at different exposures.

My default is to shoot on HDR, as the resulting shot looks more true to life in its gradation of light to dark tones and its color (counterintuitive, but there we are!). I switch over to the standard mode whenever I need to seriously increase or decrease the exposure, or in low light conditions (where the HDR mode struggles to focus). My camera also has a lens blur function that allows me to mimic a shallow depth of field, but it's a bit clunky so I don't use it much. 

Knowing how your camera's different modes work will help you have more control over the final look of your shots. All it takes is a little bit of practice!

And don't forget that you can download 3rd party camera apps that can give you additional functionality.​

Nail Your Composition

Spend a bit of time on Instagram, and you'll discover that photographers with big followings have something in common, whether they photograph fashion, families, wildlife or waterfalls . That common feature: A great compositional style.

What is composition, you ask? In essence, when you compose a shot, you're choosing how to arrange the visual elements in your frame – elements like lines, shapes, colors and light. The resulting arrangement is your composition. 

Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work."

Wikipedia

Your composition impacts not only the look of your image – like whether it feels static or dynamic – but also how your viewer thinks and feels about it. A shot of a several pedestrians crossing a street may not catch your eye, but a shot of a single pedestrian could convey a range of feelings or ideas, from loneliness to adventure. 

With smartphone photography, composition is key because, for the most part, everything in your frame will be in focus. You can't adjust your aperture to blur out all the background details, so you have to work a bit harder to make sure the elements in your frame make for a great shot that communicates your message.

Plus, chances are that if you're posting to Instagram, you're going to be doing the bulk of your editing with a not-so-powerful editing app, rather than Lightroom or Photoshop. You have to get it right in-camera – your app's not going to save you from bigger mistakes! 

Here are a few things we look for when we compose photos with our smartphones:

light

Light can have a big impact on the look and feel of your images. Imagine the same scene lit by the soft golden light of sunrise versus the harsh, shadow-creating light of midday. 

Light can also help direct attention. We tend to look first at things that are brightly lit, or lit in way that differs dramatically from the rest of the scene. 

Light can change the color of your shot, too! For example, daylight tends to be neutral or slightly blue, sunrise and sunset light tends to be warm, and the light before sunrise and after sunset is much more blue. Because cameras don't adjust for changes in the color of light as well as our eyes do, these colors can show up quite strongly in your photos. 

Above: After sunset, natural light tends to have a blue cast. My eyes knew that the snow was white, but my smartphone camera registered it as super-blue – no editing applied!

Keep the different effects of light in mind as you shoot, and look for light that enhances your message. If you don't like the effect a light source is having on your image, change it up – turn off an overhead light and shoot only with window light, come back to your shot at sunset instead of midday, or reposition yourself (or your subject) until the light falls where you want it to. 

LINES

Lines are hugely powerful elements! See, our eyes love a good line. Whether it's wavy, straight or curved or implied (like a line created by loosely spaced people), our eyes will latch onto the line and follow it to the end.

Here's what that means for your photos: If you want your viewer to look at your subject, place them at the end of a line (or a series of lines, for even more attention-directing power!). 

Above: The diagonal lines of the staircase are a magnet for your eye! Place your subject at the end of those lines, and your viewer is sure to see them! 

There are all kinds of lines out there, and they do different things for our photos. Horizontal and vertical lines tend to feel static, diagonal lines tend to feel dynamic, and wavy or curved lines are both dynamic and a little gentler. If you want to create a particular feeling in a shot, incorporate the types of lines that enhance that feeling! 

Above: In the first image, the diagonal lines of the trees and picnic table give the shot a more dynamic feel. In the second image, when those lines are straight, the shot feels much more static. 

Space

Look at the two photos below. Which photo makes the subject stand out more? It's the one with all the empty space! 

Above: Against a stark blue background, the branches and leaves of the tree really grab your attention. In the second shot, it's not as clear where you're supposed to look first. 

When you surround your subject with empty space – or negative space, as photographers call it – it simplifies your frame. There are fewer things to distract from your subject, so that subject really pops. 

The sky makes for great negative space, but look for non-distracting space elsewhere too – in architecture or even nature! Just make sure there aren't any major elements (like bursts of color or major lines) that draw your eye away. 

Above: There are tons of elements at play in the shot above, and no real negative space. If we dropped a subject in there – like a person – all of those elements would likely distract. But, on its own, it's an interesting shot full of details! 

And sometimes, you may want no negative space at all! An image that's purposefully brimming with elements can be interesting too!

frames

Like empty space, frames can help put the focus on your subject. They seem to shout out: Hey look! This thing here is so important that it gets its own frame! 

Above: Placing your subject in a frame – in this case a literal one (the doorframe) – is a great way to draw attention to them! 

Frames have the bonus feature of adding cool visual interest to your shot. Get creative with your frames, finding them in trees, architectural features – you can even make frames with your hands! 

color

Color can play a huge role in your images!

Just think about it! Color can change the mood of your scene: an image filled with rainbow shades will feel a lot different than one with muted tones, and an image in color will feel different than that same image converted to black and white. 

Color can also direct your viewers attention: a pop of color that differs from the rest of the tones in your scene is going to stand out

Above: Even though the texture is pretty similar across the frame, your eyes can't help but jump to the bright pop of red. 

So pay close attention to the colors in your scene. Do they enhance your message, or conflict with it? Do they direct attention to your subject, or distract from it? If the colors aren't working, and you don't intend to convert to black and white, consider recomposing! 

INSTAGRAM TIP: COLOR

Some Instagrammers take their consideration of color a step further by paying attention to how the colors mesh across different photos in their gallery. You'll find people who chase particular shades, and some whose galleries seem to change color over time. It takes work and restraint to post only photos that fit within a color scheme, but it's a great way to push yourself to get out and look for a shot!

REFLECTIONS & Shadows

Reflections and shadows are great elements to play with in your photos! 

Above: In this photograph of a puddle (flipped upside down), the reflection of the trees serves as the subject and allows the viewer to imagine the scene that exists outside of the frame. 

An interesting reflection or shadow can be a subject in its own right. It can also be used to suggest that space exists beyond the frame, adding intrigue to your image. 

Above: In the first photo, strong shadows create lines that frame the napping cat. In the second, my reflection forms part of the subject (along with my rubber boots), while the reflection of the trees serves as a frame.

Plus, reflections and shadows can create other elements like lines or frames – elements that can be used to direct your viewers' attention to a particular part of your scene. Give it a try!

Quick tips for better smartphone compositions

  • Straighten up: When a line that should be straight – like the horizon – looks askew in a photo, it can be distracting. So unless you purposefully want a line to be askew, take extra care to get your lines straight. Enabling the gridlines on your camera makes this a lot easier!
  • Get your subject out of the center: Placing your subject in the center of your frame can get a little boring after a while. Give the rule of thirds a try: Imagine your frame is divided into a 3x3 grid, and place your subject along one of the resulting gridlines or where two gridlines intersect. 
  • Leave a little room at the edges: When your subject is pressed up right against the edge of your frame, it can be a little uncomfortable to look at. Give it some breathing room by leaving some space between it and the edge of the frame. (And of course, break with this idea entirely if it doesn't suit your intended effect!)
  • Check your corners: Before you snap your shot, do a quick check of all four corners of your frame. Is there anything there that'll distract from your subject (like a pop of color or a line)? If so, consider recomposing to eliminate distractions.

learn the secrets of great photos

The best ways to improve your photos is to build composition skills. Our photo-packed eBook, Incredibly Important Composition Skills will give you the knowledge and techniques you need to be a composition master! 

Use the Limitations for Stylistic Effect

shutter speed

Sometimes, your phone is going to reduce your shutter speed to let more light in. And that means, anything that's moving may end up being blurry.

So take advantage of it! Purposefully create images that capture with blurry elements – they can lend your photos a more dynamic feeling. In some cases, they can even result in some pretty cool, abstract-looking shots. 

Above: To combat the low light conditions of the restaurant, my phone automatically selected a low shutter speed. As a result, the waitress walking through the shot ended up blurry. And that was great – it better conveyed the bustling nature of the place! 

AUTOfocus

While we've found the autofocus on our phones to be pretty good, it's not perfect – sometimes, it misses the focus altogether. Use that! The resulting blurry shots may look a bit like impressionist paintings. Kinda cool! 

Above: To be fair to my phone, I was taking this shot while I was on a moving bicycle, and my subject was moving too. The camera struggled to find focus, but the blurry result is kind of cool! 

Dynamic range

If you're used to shooting with a DSLR or other advanced camera, you'll quickly learn that your phone can't capture the same dynamic range – the range of tones between the lightest and darkest point in your scene. But that's ok! Darker darks can add more mystery to your photo, and blown highlights can look ethereal. 

And if you absolutely need to capture more dynamic range, try shooting on your phone's HDR mode (if it has one), or leave your phone in your pocket and switch back to your more advanced camera. 

What to Photograph: A Few Ideas

Even with the technical limitations of a smartphone camera, there's still a huge amount of choice when it comes to deciding what to photograph. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few basic ideas to help get you in the smartphone photography mindset. Don't feel like you have to do all (or any!) of these. Use them as a starting point to get your own ideas flowing. Pretty soon, you'll find your (smartphone photo) voice! 

Daily Life

One of the big trends with photo-sharing services – especially Instagram – is to use the service as a visual diary or journal. That means that instead of just sharing your commercial work or your holiday snaps, you use photography to give people a look into your everyday life – what you're eating, where you're going, who you're hanging out with, little details in your everyday environment that catch your eye. 

There's even a dedicated hashtag – #widn or "What I'm Doing Now" – that some Instagrammers use to show their followers what they're up to at that very moment (typically at the request of another user who's asked them to share!). 

It may seem a little silly at first, to photograph such small things. But in our experience, looking for photo-worthy moments in everyday life makes us better photographers in the long run because it forces us to practice seeing. Plus, we have to admit, it's awfully nice to be able to scroll through our shots and have a visual record of moments we might otherwise forget!

Vacations & Adventures 

​There are plenty of reasons to take photos on your next vacation or adventure: You'll be doing cool things that you'll want to remember, you'll be visually inspired by a change of scenery, you'll have more time for it. 

But chances are, if you're like us, you'll want to capture most of those things on one of the best cameras you have – the memories you create when you're travelling are special ones and you want to do them justice!

So, when we travel, do we let our smartphone camera take a break? Nope, no sir, no ma'am!  Let me tell you why. 

Travelling is great for a ton of reasons (you can read some of them over here). And one of the big ones for us is that it helps us build relationships – not just with folks we meet along the way, but also with family, friends and friends-to-be scattered across the world. And part of the reason we can build those relationships is because we stay connected – even just a little bit – while we're away. 

See, by sharing photos of your travels while you're travelling, you keep your loved ones up to date. You give your friends the chance to enjoy your adventures and give you travel tips of their own. And if you drop the local hashtags on your shots, you give locals and other travellers in the area the opportunity to engage with you. Scroll through the photos associated with those hashtags, and you'll find out what cool things other people in the area are doing – instant travel guide! 

Above: Before we visited Alberta's Icefields Parkway, we'd seen tons of photos of it on Instagram. When we came across a particularly stunning shot, we made a note of its location and plans to check the place out. The photo of the canoes above was taken at one of those spots! 

Before we had smartphones, we all tried to keep up with blogging while we were away from home, but we struggled with it. The process of uploading, editing, exporting and posting our images ate into time we felt we should be using to experience and photograph our surroundings.

Now, with smartphones and sharing services, we can take a photo and have it online, edited, with a caption, in a minute or two. Plus, we get all those bonus benefits of plugging into an online community that just doesn't exist with a standalone blog. 

So for us, when it comes to photographing our travels, we take a two-pronged approach: We shoot with our DSLR as much as we can, saving the bulk of the editing and sharing for when we get home. But when we come across a scene we want to share immediately, we shoot it with our phone too. (Lauren and Rob have a DSLR and point-and-shoot equipped with near field communication, so they can easily share shots from those cameras via Instagram as well.)

Above: While flying at an altitude where large electronics had to be tucked away, I was able to grab this shot with my smartphone. 

And for times when we can't pull our more expensive gear out – like when it's at risk of getting damaged or the situation prohibits proper cameras – we use our phones exclusively and are glad for it! A quick example: Say you're interested in snapping some underwater shots on your next trip but can't bear to shell out for an underwater housing unit for your DSLR – a much more affordable waterproof case for your smartphone can make it possible!