8 Tips for Taking Travel Pictures With an iPhone 7

A travel photographer puts the new iPhone to the test on a trip to Rwanda.

Travel photographer Austin Mann was given early access to use the iPhone 7 while traveling in Rwanda. He's traveling light, setting aside his traditional camera gear to put the new iPhone 7 to the test.

Find out if the iPhone 7 is the right mobile device for your next travel adventure.

Amakuru! (Hello from Rwanda!)

I’m travel photographer Austin Mann, and every year I take the new iPhone on an adventure to answer two questions: What are the new features of the iPhone camera, and how do they make my pictures better?

This year I’ve been working with and testing the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in Rwanda. I trekked to a volcano and photographed mountain gorillas, putting the iPhone to work. I used the new optical zoom, put the stabilizer to the test while flying over the rain forest, and wished it would rain so I could try out the new water-resistant feature!

It’s been a whirlwind, and the iPhone 7 has been a beast of a camera, keeping up every step of the way. Here are my top tips from my adventure.

Rwanda's rugged hills provide travellers remote and stunning views of the African nation known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. Shot by Austin Mann with the iPhone 7 over southwest Rwanda.

1) Strengthen your story with different focal lengths.

The iPhone 7 Plus is equipped with two lenses, a wide-angle 28mm and a portrait lens, 56mm. Different focal lengths tell different stories. A wider angle generally gives a better sense of place, while a telephoto brings the viewer into the details of the subject. Consider this while you’re shooting and experiment with both.

2) Don’t put away your iPhone 7 after sunset.

Some of my favourite images from the past week have been shot well after the sun has gone down. In the past, I would have put my iPhone away thinking the images wouldn’t be usable, but now with a new sensor and faster aperture (f/1.8), the iPhone 7 autofocuses and captures substantially better in low light.

The new iPhone utilizes two lenses, allowing for both wide landscape photography and zooming for tight details. Shot by Austin Mann on iPhone 7 Plus in southwest Rwanda

3) Look ahead.

Travel photography is about capturing the unknowns and unexpected. Always be looking forward, and consider using the iPhone’s burst mode so you don’t miss a moment as it happens. With the new 256GB model, you can be bursting all the time without worrying about your storage. Quick tip: To use burst mode, press and hold the shutter button until rapid fire begins.

4) Buy an unlocked iPhone and a local SIM card. It’s usually around 10 times cheaper.

Communication is super important while traveling. It allows you to make new plans, call someone, google something, and more, all on the fly. In photography, this means your GPS data will be recorded with your photo. The iPhone’s new memories feature can organize your images together by location and create simple and fun video vignettes.

Later, you can also look on a map in Photos and see exactly where you captured different memories, which is also helpful for finding specific images.

A young Sabyinyo gorilla nestles in the foliage of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Shot by Austin Mann with the iPhone 7 Plus.

5) Bring a lightweight tripod.

A small, compact tripod can be helpful and is a great way to capture time-lapses, low-light images, and more. While the iPhones now all have a stabilizer built in, the extra support from a tripod can be especially helpful with the 7 Plus optical zoom.

Keep in mind that shooting with a longer focal length, like the iPhone 7 Plus optical zoom, amplifies camera shake. You’ll find it will naturally be more difficult to get a tack-sharp shot while shooting with 2x, especially in low-light environments or unstable foundations, like a moving vehicle. To compensate, use a mini-tripod or experiment with burst mode. Sometimes I’ll shoot a 20-shot burst just to ensure that I have the sharpest shot possible.

6) Off-load your pictures daily if possible.

Thanks to a new water-resistant feature, we won’t be losing our pictures during accidental swims, but it could be left at a hotel, or worse, picked from your pocket, which happened to me in Ethiopia. At the end of the day, the iPhone can be replaced, but your pictures can’t. Don’t get two weeks into a trip only to lose them all in a moment.

If you don’t have your laptop because you’re traveling light, consider a SanDisk iXpand. It’s essentially a USB flash drive with a Lightning connector, so you can quickly and easily off-load your images each day.

Be sure to keep your backup and your iPhone in separate bags for extra safety.

7) Play it safe.

Don’t put your iPhone—or any valuable—in the tray when going through security. Instead, put it in a pocket of your bag before sending it through the x-ray. This way it’s protected from being accidentally—or intentionally—carried off before you get through the metal detector.

8) Play to the strengths of the iPhone 7 and stay nimble.

One of the greatest strengths of the iPhone 7 as a camera is its agility. You can focus on getting to the best shoot spots instead of worrying about lugging gear. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of unnecessary dSLR lens adapters.

Try leaving your dSLR at home and travel superlight. The iPhone 7 doesn’t replace your dSLR, but it’s plenty powerful and a really fun way to experience and capture the environment around you. You’ll love leaving the extra chargers, batteries, lenses, and big tripod at home for a change.

The first time I did an iPhone camera review like this was in Patagonia in 2013; I went hiking for 10 days in the mountains with nothing but my iPhone, and I felt like I was walking on clouds the whole time! You won’t regret it.

Read Mann's in-depth review on his website, www.austinmann.com

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