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Why My iPhone is My Favorite Travel Camera

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Over the past three weeks I have posted a lot of photos from my time here in Lagos, Portugal. On our Blog, Facebook, and Instagram, I have been posting incessantly. The natural beauty here is just astonishing and I see it around every turn and every corner.

I’ve had quite a few people reached out to ask, “what camera do you use?” I think you may be surprised to learn that when I travel, I don’t use a “camera”, but strictly my iPhone. And on this trip, it's the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I have a nice mirrorless camera (Fujifilm X-T3) at home with some very nice lenses, but when traveling, I always prefer my iPhone. I tend to think of my iPhone as a camera first that just so happens to have a few other digital options, rather than as a phone that happens to come with a camera. For me, first and foremost, it’s a camera!

It’s also important to know that I am not a photographer. I am an enthusiast. I have been in the creative arts for most of my life - art, design, writing, photography, and videography. However, I am more of a journeyman with creativity than a specialist, and while I do think it’s fair to say that I have a good eye, that alone does not make one a photographer. So, these are just my opinions and certainly not the technical advice from an actual photographer. There goes my disclaimer.

So, why forgo using a nice camera on a trip in favor of an iPhone? Here are my top 3 reasons:

My Phone is Always with Me:

While no doubt the image resolution and quality might be better on my mirrorless camera, when it comes to portability and convenience, it’s difficult to imagine a better option than the iPhone. It’s always with me. It’s compact, lightweight, and is great when I want to take a quick shot. I can have it out of my pocket and shooting within a matter of seconds. And with the iPhone 13 (and I’m sure it’s true with the very latest offering - the iPhone 14) the image quality is starting to approximate what can be achieved from a mirrorless or DSLR camera. My guess is that most people will be more than thrilled with the quality you can get with an iPhone.

A Camera Around Your Neck Screams Tourist:

In my experience… to truly capture the beauty and soul of a place, you must connect, not only with the place, but with the people who live there. Wearing a visible camera can be a barrier to connection. You are almost always seen as a tourist when a camera is draped around your neck and the local people are much less likely to warm up to you if they feel like you are only there to capture their beauty without truly getting to know them. Having a more discreet camera (like an iPhone) is a way of showing respect and reverence for the townspeople. Carla and I tend towards slow travel and when we first arrive somewhere, I don’t even begin shooting photos in earnest until the third or fourth day after our arrival. I like to get to know the place, connect with the people - get a sense of the whole before I begin photographing its parts. If you begin shooting images as soon as you arrive without getting a sense of the people or place, no matter how good your photographs may appear, they will not truly capture the essence of where you’ve been. Connect first . . . shoot later.

Automatic Backup

I love the fact that my iPhone automatically backs up all my photos to iCloud. That is such a gift. If I’ve been out hiking by the ocean and shooting images of the magnificent cliffs here in Lagos, by the time I come back to our Airbnb the images are already on my computer. It’s perfect! I really don’t have to worry about losing anything I have shot, and in the world of photography that is a tremendous comfort.

When it’s all said and done, good photography is less about the equipment we use and more about the person behind the camera . . . or the phone. Our ability to connect with people and places; to recognize the beauty that shines through, and to take the time to appreciate the people and culture of a particular place . . . that is the true essence of good travel photography. Connection equals Beauty.

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

- Henry David Thoreau

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