9 Smartphone Photo Tips: How To Take Great Pictures On Your Las Vegas Day Trip

If you have a DSLR camera with you on any day trip from Las Vegas, it is likely you already know enough about it to capture really great images. So this article is not likely for you.

Or, you may have left your DSLR at home or at the hotel for a number of reasons. I know for myself that DSLR cameras are sometimes awkward to travel with.

I am not a professional photographer and don’t use a DSLR often enough to be quick about it. I certainly have not developed my skills into habits. I often have to stop and think too much about settings, etc.

In addition, sadly, I know for a fact that a good DSLR camera is expensive to replace.

I was guiding a tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon a few years ago, and I put my DSLR down somewhere for just a moment, and it vanished, along with all the photos.

My fault entirely, a momentary lapse of reason, the oversight of just a few seconds, a mistake I won’t make again. It was just an entry-level DSLR that worked just fine for me, and I miss it. My old DSLR camera has a new owner somewhere.

If I had been using my smartphone, it would have been slipped into my pocket instead of me setting it down.

Even though I have two very nice DSLR cameras now, I find myself using my smartphone most of the time when I am guiding tours.

So, at least in a few very important ways, the camera in your smartphone beats the DSLR.

Why is a smartphone camera better than a DSLR? Consider this short-list of smartphone photo tips:

  • Your smartphone is ultra-convenient
  • It fits in your pocket or purse
  • You have well-developed habits regarding its whereabouts
  • Your smartphone is simple to operate
  • Smartphones give you really amazing photos

Your smartphone has become your constant companion.

There is a pretty good chance you will have your smartphone with you on your day trip from Las Vegas, and it is likely you are more than comfortable using the built-in camera.

It has probably become your take-everywhere, shoot-anything digital camera. These photo tips may help you get even better photos with your smartphone while you are visiting those once-in-a-lifetime scenic areas outside Las Vegas.

9 Smartphone Photo Tips For Awesome Pictures On Your Day Trip From Las Vegas


1. Use Grid Lines

smartphone photo tips las vegas day trip rule of thirdsGridlines help balance your shot when taking pictures with your phone. Using gridlines can help you set up the ‘rule of thirds’ – it is the easiest and single-most effective way to improve the quality of your images with your very next picture.

Turning this feature on puts four lines on your screen – two of them go across the screen left-to-right, the other two are top-to-bottom. It divides the screen into nine sections – ⅓, ⅓, ⅓, both horizontally and vertically.

rule-of-thirds-smartphone-tips-camera-sideways-las-vegas-tour-guideAccording to the rule of thirds, if you line up your subject along the lines or at an intersection your shot will seem more balanced and pleasing to the eye. This is essential when using a smartphone since there is no optical viewfinder.

How To Activate Gridlines On iPhone Cameras:

  • Go to “settings”
  • Select “photos & camera”
  • Find the “grid” switch and turn it on.

How To Activate Gridlines On Samsung Galaxy – Android – Cameras:

  • Open the camera app
  • Go to “settings”
  • Scroll down and switch the “gridlines” option to “on.”

2. Try To Get Closer

The digital zoom function on smartphones have a trade-off: it will get you digitally ‘closer’ to the object, at the expense of losing fine-detail.

tours from las vegas auto auctionFor example: If you are standing near a beautiful car at the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction in Las Vegas, you probably want to take a step or two closer instead of using the digital zoom function.

grand canyon west rim tour from las vegas day tripBut, if you are on a Las Vegas day trip to the Grand Canyon, one or two steps closer might be a very bad idea.


3. Clean The Lens On Your Smartphone Camera

There is no lens cap to protect the lens on your smartphone from all the dust in your pockets or even worse, the fingerprint smudges.

Gunk collects easily on your camera’s lens, and this is the most common cause of hazy images that cannot be fixed with editing.

The lens cloth that is used for eyeglasses works great – and just wiping the lens with your t-shirt can get the job done.


4. Change The Angle

Take the picture from a viewpoint that is either higher or lower than eye-level. This will help avoid that common snapshot look.

Selfie sticks are very helpful with this.


5. Don’t Use The Flash

Smartphones take pretty good pictures even in low light situations. Natural light is best in most cases, and almost any room lighting, some light from any other source is usually better than the flash.

You can almost always expect great natural light on any Las Vegas day trip; but if you happen to be under a tree or maybe you found some shady spot to stand in, the natural light may not be just right.

So an exception to this ‘don’t use the flash’ rule is when there is already good light available – using the flash will sometimes add brightness or contrast or detail or remove a shadow.


6. Turn Your Phone On Its Side

smartphone tips las vegas day trips tip phone on sideThis particular Smartphone Photo Tip is important for any scenic vista on your day trip from Las Vegas: You will get more of the image you want if you hold your phone sideways instead of up-and-down.

smartphone photo tips tours from las vegas hold camera uprightI know, there are times when it is really important to hold your smartphone camera upright to capture exactly what you need to get.

Much of the time, though, a sideways view covers more of the territory you want.

Bonus Smartphone Photo Tip: When you hold the smartphone camera sideways, you can use the ‘Volume’ button to click the shutter – very convenient.


7. Steady yourself — or use a tripod

A good tripod can make a big difference in the quality of photos and can be even more important for video.

Tripods are inconvenient on tours, you probably don’t want to carry one around with you. And a firm grip and steady hand are always needed.

Still, a standard rule applies for good photos and better videos. The term used by some professionals is: “DNMTFC!” (DoNotMoveThe#Camera.)

So this smartphone photo tip is very important, especially when using the smartphone for video; smooth and steady wins the day, hold the camera still – Do Not Move The Camera! A better solution to steady the smartphone or any camera while on a tour would be a monopod. Or you might discover your selfie stick would work just fine.


8. Add A Microphone

smartphone photo tips from tour guide day tours from las vegasWhen shooting video, good audio is sometimes more important than sharp footage. Your phone’s internal microphone is designed for making phone calls—it is not meant for recording high-quality audio.

You can buy an external microphone that plugs directly into your USB or Lightning port, or one that works with your phone’s audio dongle.


9. Best Smartphone Photo Tip Of The Day: Take A Little Time To Learn More About Your Smartphone Camera’s Features

The imaging capabilities of modern smartphone cameras are staggering.

And we all go so fast all the time – where do you find time to learn more about this device that connects you to the world in so many ways?

Learning more about other functions of your smartphone is something you might be able to do while you are flying into Las Vegas, or on the road to your tour destination while riding through the many miles of Mojave Desert on your day trip from Las Vegas to Hollywood, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, or Death Valley!

There you have it – 9 smartphone photo tips you can use on your Las Vegas Day Trip!

Martin McUber: Author, Tour Guide

Author (active), Tour Guide (retired) at Best Nevada Tours
Las Vegas Tour Guide Since 2008. I've helped happy, adventurous people from around the world see the Grand Canyon, Skywalk, Death Valley, Area 51, Hollywood, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Yellowstone, and more; with helicopters, boats, day trips, private family multi-day tours through 5 western states. I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere! - more...