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Expert Tips for Better Phone Photography

Christine Amorose Merrill is the voice behind CestChristine.com, an awesome blog that covers her life as a traveler—with some pretty amazing photos, to boot! For those of us without a professional camera to document our travels, we checked in with Christine for her tips on taking memorable photos with a smartphone.

ivy climbing on townhouses
Photo © Christine Amorose Merrill.

How did you get your start in blogging and travel photography?

I moved to Nice, France and started my blog in the spring of 2010. Although I majored in journalism, I initially started blogging as a way to keep my friends and family in the loop as I lived out my dream of bartending and studying French on the Cote d’Azur. It’s hard not to be inspired in the South of France: the sparkling turquoise Mediterranean Sea, the pastel shutters and cobblestone streets, the bakery display windows piled high with baguettes and pains aux chocolats. And I’ve never stopped writing and taking photos of my travels—through solo adventures in Europe, Southeast Asia, Central America, Australia, and the USA, and stints living in Melbourne, New York City, and now San Diego.

library with classic architecture
Photo © Christine Amorose Merrill.

What is your favorite thing to photograph when you travel? Is there a particular type of image that inspires you the most?

I’m most drawn to blue skies, colorful details and open spaces, whether that’s a tropical beach or an empty cobblestone street. I’m also always looking for shades of turquoise and pink, and elements of symmetry in cities or nature. Although I love traveling to gorgeous, remote (and very photogenic) beaches, I’m most inspired by public art or street graffiti: I love seeing how people beautify and bring color into their cities. I also love how ephemeral street art is: sometimes being captured in a photo is the only way that it will live on.

Photo of the New York City skyline taken with a mobile phone
Photo © Christine Amorose Merrill.

What advice would you give to travelers working with a smartphone? Any tips for capturing the perfect shot?

I strongly believe that the best camera is one that’s always on you. Some of my favorite photos aren’t necessarily grandly prepared, or even in the most photogenic tourist destinations: it’s a spectacular sunset captured while walking on the way to dinner, or a human interaction that is easier to candidly take with an unobtrusive smartphone. Although cameras in phones are getting better and better, I think the biggest drawback is how it manages in low light and how disruptive the flash can be. I always find that smartphone photos are best in good natural light: use your golden hours properly!

colorful mural painted on the side of a city building
Photo © Christine Amorose Merrill.

Do you have any favorite photo editing apps that you use? What do you like about them?

I edit all of my photos in VSCO; I use the same filter so that my Instagram feed and blog have a consistent feel, and usually increase the exposure, contrast, and possibly the saturation. Lately, I’ve been impressed by the editing tools in the Instagram app as well. They’re also super easy to use, and I like that all of the editing can be done instantly on my phone.

photography of the brilliant colors of sunset captured on a mobile phone
Photo © Christine Amorose Merrill.

Lastly…if you had to choose, what’s your favorite photo that you’ve taken?

That’s such a tough question! I think this one is one of my favorite photos and memories. Peak bloom is always one of my favorite times of the year, and being the first person to see the cherry blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic on this morning was magical.


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Want to take better travel photos with your Android or iPhone? Learn how to level up your phone photography skills with these expert tips from travel blogger and photographer C'est Christine.