How to take better travel photos with your smartphone

These hands-on tips and a few expert techniques will turn special moments into long-lasting memories.

By Staff Writers, November 27 2019
Executive Traveller x HUAWEI

Travel is all about making memories, and every trip has its share of special moments which you’ll want to capture and, later, share with family and friends.

That’s when you appreciate the convenience of having a smartphone with an extraordinary camera right there in your hand.

The latest technology in advanced devices like the HUAWEI P30 Pro blur the line between a compact right-there-when-you-need-it smartphone and large, expensive digital SLR cameras. 

From wide panoramic cityscapes to the intricate detail of super-zoom – from those ‘golden hours’ at sunrise and sunset to night-time shots with incredibly clarity – the HUAWEI P30 Pro, with advanced AI-assisted software and a Leica Quad Camera lens array, lets you turn special moments into lasting memories.

The P30 Pro’s stellar camera is also coupled with Huawei’s famous, long-lasting battery-life – making sure travellers have enough battery life to last from dust to dawn, so that you never miss a moment of your holiday.

Regardless of which brand of smartphone is sitting in your pocket or purse, there are some essential tips and smart techniques that can help you take better photos on the go.

This article is sponsored by HUAWEI

Composition is critical

Thanks to the automatic settings of most modern cameras, photography is often considered to be ‘point and shoot’ affair. But take a few moments to consider the composition of your shot: you’ll be delighted with how much better it looks.

‘The rule of thirds’ suggests you divide the whole photo into a grid of three columns across and three rows down: the camera settings menu for your phone may be able to place that grid on-screen as a helper. Think of how the image works in that whole space, not just the middle of it.

Activate the on-screen grid on your smartphone's display to help with composition.. Leigh Stark
Activate the on-screen grid on your smartphone's display to help with composition.
Leigh Stark

Consider taking your shot from an interesting angle instead of just straight-on: get up high, down low, move around the subject to find a different perspective.

AI stabilisation, such as on the HUAWEI P30 Pro, will help keep your shot steady even if you’re balancing precariously and have just one hand free to press the shutter button.

Some images work better when the subject is positioned off-centre.
Some images work better when the subject is positioned off-centre.

Use roads or natural patterns in the landscape as lines to lead the eye; and, if the image suits, place elements in the foreground, mid-ground and background to give your photo a real sense of depth.

Embrace the night

Some of the best opportunities for travel photos are at night: those sweeping cityscapes or classic lit-up views of iconic buildings or monuments. Because there’s usually not much light, you need a long exposure – which in turn means a very steady hand to keep the camera stable.

The right smartphone can delivers stunning SLR-grade night-time shots.. Leigh Stark
The right smartphone can delivers stunning SLR-grade night-time shots.
Leigh Stark

Conventional wisdom is to disable the flash so it doesn’t flood the foreground with harsh flat light, but if you need all the light you can get, try placing a few folds of tissue paper over the flash to soften and diffuse it.

But for the very best in low-light photography, the HUAWEI P30 Pro simply can’t be beat. This is the undisputed king of the night. The 40-megapixel lens feeds a ‘SuperSensing’ array for 30% increased light capture with reduced noise, bolstered by image-processioning algorithms: a powerful partnership of hardware and software which almost must be seen to be believed.

The right smartphone can delivers stunning SLR-grade night-time shots.. Leigh Stark
The right smartphone can delivers stunning SLR-grade night-time shots.
Leigh Stark

Huawei’s tech experts then added the AI stabilisation to remove the need for a tripod, and long exposure capture so that the P30 Pro actually captures light for several seconds after you hit the shutter button. 

A portrait worth framing

Travelling with your partner? Don’t just take a photo of them: take a portrait which you’ll want to proudly frame and display when you get home.

Revisiting the ‘rule of thirds’, try placing your subject at one of the four intersection points on this grid. This balanced yet off-centre composition makes for a more dynamic image which not only draws your eye to the subject but showcases and connects with the background. If it’s dark, disable the flash and use light from another source.

This is also the time to fire up your smartphone’s portrait mode. In the HUAWEI P30 Pro, portrait mode gives priority exposure to the subject’s face for optimum skin tones while blurring the background and enhancing separation between the two.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro's smart settings can tailor its image processing for old buildings and blue skies.. Leigh Stark
The HUAWEI P30 Pro's smart settings can tailor its image processing for old buildings and blue skies.
Leigh Stark

Getting closer with zoom

Sometimes you can’t get as close to your subject as you’d like, or you might be trying to capture a specific element such as the finer details on a building. Candid street photos also work better at a distance because they’re less intrusive. 

In all those instances, the 5X optical zoom of the HUAWEI P30 Pro delivers crystal-clear images through a dedicated telephoto lens. 

Huawei calls this a ‘periscope’ zoom, but it’s achieved by channelling the incoming light through a tiny internal prism angled 90 degrees sideways, rather than relying on a lens which physically extends from the rear of the phone. Then the incredible Master AI helps stabilise the zoomed image.

Need to get even closer to the action? A combination of optical and AI-enhanced digital techniques delivers a powerful 10X ‘hybrid’ zoom without the usual compromise in image quality and clarity compared to a purely digital 10X zoom.

The Huawei P30 Pro's enhanced zoom in action.
The Huawei P30 Pro's enhanced zoom in action.
The Huawei P30 Pro's enhanced zoom in action.
The Huawei P30 Pro's enhanced zoom in action.

But if you want to go all-out, the HUAWEI P30 Pro supports up to a staggering 50X digital zoom while still keeping those faraway details surprisingly sharp.

Get even closer with macro mode

While some subjects and circumstances call for zoom, others come alive when you get really close to capture the finest details – this could be part of a fence or gate, a flower in bloom, some jewellery at a market stall, or even a drop of water. So, don’t think you always have to stand back: instead, have the confidence to really lean in for a great shot.

One of the HUAWEI P30 Pro's AI-assisted modes is optimised for greenery.
One of the HUAWEI P30 Pro's AI-assisted modes is optimised for greenery.

Again, bring your composition skills into play when it comes to framing the image and using angles and perspectives.

Brace yourself to hold the camera steady: in macro photography, even small movements have an exaggerated impact.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro lets you get to within 25mm of your subject, automatically adjusting its 16mm-equivalent super-wide-angle lens for focus as the AI image stabilisation kicks in to help you produce a super clear and detailed image.

'Super macro' mode makes for sharp and steady close-up images.
'Super macro' mode makes for sharp and steady close-up images.

Go for bokeh

‘Bokeh’ is a visual effect where part of the image is in sharp focus, while the rest is artistically blurred out of focus. It’s a great way to give photos a professional touch and we recommend you try bokeh in portraits, food and drink, and even animal shots.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro has outstanding bokeh capabilities, including a clean blur-free differentiation between the subject and background, and the ability to easily blur an object in the foreground while the main subject is further behind.

One standout is the HUAWEI P30 Pro’s advanced Aperture mode. This lets you adjust the focal point and depth of field with the tap of your finger, even after you’ve taken the photo, so you can dial up or down the desired amount of bokeh to fully customise your shot. 

Beyond the defaults

Get to know your phone’s camera settings: the standard mode may be a safe choice but there’s so much more your phone is capable of, with some stunning results.

Dive a little deeper: the smartest smartphones are packed with intelligent pre-sets to optimise any scene.. Leigh Stark
Dive a little deeper: the smartest smartphones are packed with intelligent pre-sets to optimise any scene.
Leigh Stark

For example, the HUAWEI P30 Pro’s beguilingly-named Silky Water effect combines a series of long exposures along the surface of flowing water, such as water rapids or waterfalls, without needing a tripod.

HDR mode boosts the ‘dynamic range’ between the brightest and the darkest elements of a picture – try it for when the highlights seem too bright or the shadows too dark, and you’ll achieve a perfectly balanced exposure that has that ‘wow’ factor.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro's amazing 'silky water' effect in action.. Aleks Harlow
The HUAWEI P30 Pro's amazing 'silky water' effect in action.
Aleks Harlow

But you don’t need to over-think all of this, because one of the best photo-friendly features of the HUAWEI P30 Pro is an artificial intelligence engine which can identify over 1,500 scenarios from 25 categories – such as ancient buildings, waterfalls, fireworks, food, flowers and foliage.

It automatically optimises the focus and exposure to enhance the details in your image, such as shapes, colours, brightness, contrast and even the depth-of-field. 

This means you can focus on taking the photo, while the HUAWEI P30 Pro ensures it’s the best photo you can take. 

Sweeping panoramas

Most modern smartphones make it easy to capture an extra-wide panorama shot: select panorama mode, then slowly and steadily sweep the camera from left to right.

There's a simple 'pro' tip to getting a steady panorama shot...
There's a simple 'pro' tip to getting a steady panorama shot...

Steadily’ can be the challenge here. The solution: position yourself in the direction you want to be facing at the end of the shot.

Keep your feet firmly planted, swivel back with your hips to begin the shot, and then slowly ‘unwind’ yourself at the waist while your feet stay still.

Want to get even more into that vista? The HUAWEI P30 Pro’s wide-angle mode and 16mm ultra-wide-angle lens broaden the field of view when the camera’s AI engine detects a scene involving tall buildings, landscapes or group portraits.

The HUAWEI P30 Pro's standard wide-angle mode helps capture a postcard vista...
The HUAWEI P30 Pro's standard wide-angle mode helps capture a postcard vista...
... but its ultra wide-angle mode captures even more of the scenery.
... but its ultra wide-angle mode captures even more of the scenery.

Don’t overlook video

Short video clips are a wonderful way to capture more of a mood or a moment that even the most detailed still photo can convey, and they’re easily shared with family and friends via Facebook, Instagram or email.

For something different, try clip effects. Slow motion (or up to 32 frames per second in the HUAWEI P30 Pro’s super slo-mo) is a great effect for fountains or the edge of a waterfall, while the P30 Pro’s ‘moving pictures’ records a scene approximately one second before and after you tap the shutter button, then merges them into an flipbook-style photo animation.

The best of both worlds: the HUAWEI P30 Pro’s Dual View Video mode.
The best of both worlds: the HUAWEI P30 Pro’s Dual View Video mode.

But a standout of the P30 Pro is the unique Dual View Video feature which uses two cameras to record a distant wide-angle view and a closer zoomed-in view (at 2x to 15x) at the same time.

The result is an extraordinary split-screen video with two perspectives of the same scene, such as a panorama and a close-up.

The Huawei P30 Pro is on sale from all major carriers and a number of retailers, with a recommended retail price of $1,399. It is available in two elegant colours – Aurora and Breathing Crystal.

For a limited time, you can grab Huawei's P30 Pro in limited editions for the same price: the Misty Lavender style is available from Mobileciti, and each one comes with a stunning Swarovski Crystal embellished case; and a striking Black style is available at JB HiFi, Mobileciti and the Huawei Authorised Experience Store.

This article is sponsored by HUAWEI