Which Takes Better Travel Photography – Phones or Cameras?

Ladies and gentlemen, the iPhone7 has been released – and, hype be damned, you probably already know if you’re going to purchase one or not.

At this point in the game you are probably either so over Apple that you’ve moved on never to be seen again, or you exist at the other end of the spectrum where you are a lifelong Apple lover. Regardless of your stance on the issue, you are bound to have heard that the long awaited release has finally happened.

And if you’ve managed to escape it, I’m not sure whether to applaud you or wonder if you have connectivity issues.

Either way, Apple lover or not, you have to appreciate the capabilities of phone photography. Especially if you love to travel.

How many times have I found myself in an airport somewhere praying that my shoulder’s ball joint will say connected long enough so that I can make my plane and heave all my electronic gear into the overhead compartment while continuing to pray that my weakened shoulder joint will not allow it to fall on some unsuspecting victim’s head? The answer is many.

“Why,” I ask myself every time, “do I insist on bringing all this unnecessary photography gear with me to take average photos?”

No, I am not being humble, I am an average photographer.


Screenshot 2016-09-18 23.25.11.png
This is one of my phone photos

As much as I would like to convince you that my lenses and camera somehow magically transform me into a Bill Cunningham level street photographer, the truth is, I’m a writer. I can describe images for you much better than I can show them to you. Although that might seem counterintuitive that I can write images better than I can photograph them, what is really counterintuitive is my insistence on lugging around pounds of photography equipment even though I take 90% of my photos on my phone.

Yes, I will admit it – I am a phone photographer.

No, I do not have a selfie stick.

Rain or shine, Squatting in doorways or leaning around corners, taking photos with my trusty, almost shatterproof, mostly waterproof, hand held device has provided me with countless images to document my expeditions. Whereas my camera has given me perhaps several hundred.

photo-1461604516355-61bd391c793f.jpgI understand, from having many photographer friends, that my lack of aperture makes low light photography almost impossible (hello iPhone7!) and that my zoom function produces too granular of an image. I do know this, I promise!

But still nothing beats the flexibility offered by these pocket sized devices. In fact, it would maybe even be plausible to claim that you could give yourself the moniker photographer even if you strictly use a phone camera for your work.

I mean, I would consider a friend of mine to be a photographer even though she shoots mostly with her phone.

The reigning school of thought makes many phone photography enthusiasts feel that snapping photos on their phones is subpar to using a real camera and causes them to feel like a college kid on spring break and not a professional hobbyist (or professional professional) because they don’t have all those fancy add-ons. Should you feel that you need gadgets and gizmos to legitimize your hobby, you can kit up and suit up your phone just as thoroughly as you could a camera. I would even go so far as to say that you can get more inventive and perhaps even better accessories for your phone than you can for a good old-fashioned camera. Just check out all these nifty things that you can do with a phone!

Although phones today possess all of these wonderful capabilities, somehow I too have yet to jump wholeheartedly on the phone-photography bandwagon. Clearly, I just have to remind myself to trust in the power of technology.

The question is now, will I remember how wonderful I think phones are on my trip to Belize at the end of the month? Or will I once again lug along my camera? Well you’ll have to wait and see what I post on Instagram.

Do you agree or are you a digital camera fan? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!


10 Comments Add yours

  1. johnwreford says:

    I love film, that is to say I love the experience of loading, shooting and then the getting my hands dirty feeling of processing, needless to say these days this is a luxury and for the most part I shoot DSLR digital and have post production skills that allow me to recreate the same feeling as film, different formats such as my 6×9 or TLR allow me to shoot in different ways, slower, more considered approach and for that reason I get a different result, this is also why I love shooting with my phone, it allows me to do things I wouldn’t do with a camera, its always in my pocket and ready to shoot which sadly my other cameras are not and these days the quality is excellent and as I write this glance up at a framed 12 x 12 inch framed print which is one of my favorite images hot on an iphone 4.
    The point is you chose the tool for the job, what suites you best, the situation and the subject, I don’t want to say which is better only that they all offer equal opportunities 🙂

    Just take pictures.


    1. Jessica says:

      What lovely thoughts! Thank you so much for sharing ! Truly. I wish I had post production skill of any value. Unfortunately, I do not have the time nor the artistic inclination. I’m excited to read your photo journal though! Is every post just an explanation of an image?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. johnwreford says:

        Thank you Jessica.
        The blog is a mixture, I have bold plans but for now its mostly a collection of stories and images from my time in the Middle East, crucially my time in Syria, hopefully bringing to light lesser known aspects of life, I will also try to share tips and tricks relating to photography and travel-
        I have habit of finding myself in somewhat odd situations, I don’t go looking for trouble-or do I? Watch this space 🙂
        You blog looks amazing and I hope its getting lots of attention-keep up the great work


      2. Jessica says:

        Trouble seeker are we? I love it. What an interesting path your life has taken you on that you are traipsing around the Middle East and documenting life there. I love the sensation you get when you look at somebody photographs scenes in everyday life that look just like yours, and yet you’re so used to the Media making their lives look a world apart otherwise. It’s a nice change of pace.

        Thanks for sharing with the world!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. BIGtinyWorld says:

    Sorry.. I’m an avid photographer, and in most cases, my iPhone 6 simply doesn’t quite cut it! I even got a high-quality travel camera (Sony a6000), just so I could have something more portable to take better pictures on the go… but I still prefer my DSLR in every case. I, too, have suffered the back pain, the neck pain, the fatigue of carting around countless lenses (of which I usually touch only 2.. but what if I need one of those others??), but it’s worth it. There was even a time when I was lazy and took a picture with my phone, and I still regret I didn’t just pull out at least the Sony for a better shot. Phones take amazing pictures these days (really, it’s scary), but in my world, they aren’t quite to the point of shelving my DSLR 🙂


    1. Jessica says:

      Hey! Thanks for your thoughts! I can completely respect the power and passion that real photographers can extract from their cameras. I just don’t happen to be gifted in that department! I do think your photos are lovely and I will always be jealous of you guys who actually have a REASON to bring along all that equipment. Plus side – you get a work out every time you haul your camera along! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Same issue here. Was carrying 6kg of photo equipment and my iPhone on top of Mt Fuji. Yet, weather was not really nice, so 99% of the photos I made were with a mobile phone. 😀

    I’ll still carry both anywhere I go 🙂


    1. Jessica says:

      6kg!? Oh my gosh that must have been a workout hike! Don’t you always love getting to your destination and wondering why in the world you brought your big camera along?


  4. The iPhone is convenient, but compared to a fine camera it’s a 1950’s Kodak Brownie as far as quality especially in low light situations.


    1. Jessica says:

      But I have a 1950’s Kodak Brownie and I LOVE using it 🙂 I think everything has its advantages and disadvantages, no? What do you use?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s