Vacations: Bring the “big camera” or will your iPhone suffice?

Is my iPhone Camera Good Enough for my Family Vacation Photos?

Pros and cons of taking dslr on vacation

It’s incredible to me that the phones that we never have far from our hands now have cameras that are far superior to the first digital cameras I owned!  It’s become increasingly easy (read; lazy) to just grab your phone when you want to take photos these days, I get it! But in some cases, the phone just can’t stand up to the job if you want complete creative control over your photos.

Hold the Phone

Phones are almost always on us, so they are easy to access. However, it still takes a few swipes or clicks to get to the camera, and it’s easy to miss moments because of the slower response time as the camera writes the images to your phone.  A DSLR has a faster response time and can also shoot in burst mode, quickly recording those fleeting moments. So if you want to capture images of your kids running on the beach, you’ll get many more usable frames with a DSLR.

What if you lose your phone?  This is a nightmare scenario in many ways, not only because of the cost of the lost phone!  If you haven’t been vigilant about backing up your photos (link to backup blog), then you could lose all your family photos.  So if you are using your phone to record memories, make sure that you are utilizing your phone’s backup capabilities when you can access wifi. Also, consider using more than one phone so that the memories are not stored all on one device.

This also applies to your DSLR. Make sure you are backing up the photos on your CF card to your computer, a cloud-based service or a portable hard drive on your trip.

Photographing the slot canyons in Page, Arizona, required complete control over ISO and shutter speed, which my phone does not offer. In this case, having my DSLR paid off!

Creative Control

This is probably the biggest reason that phones fail us. If you want to be able to control the outcome of the photos, then a DSLR wins hands down.  While phones have come a long way, you can’t fine-tune a phone photo with the depth of field and shutter speed like you can on a DSLR. There are some settings, such as iPhones Portrait Mode (which I do love despite how dang slow it is) that will duplicate the look, but you can’t make your own adjustments to control the photo.

Camera phones are not always great in low light situations, and you can’t control the settings on the built-in flash. So if you want photos at twilight, they’ll either be grainy and underexposed, or you’ll lose the look and feel of the light by blasting the subject with flash.

In both of these images, light was plentiful (thank you, sunshine!) and I wasn’t trying to capture distance or action, so my iPhone worked just fine. I used the iPhone X’s portrait mode on the photo on the left.

When I bring my iPhone only:

  • When we’ll be mostly outside (hello, ample light!)
  • When I can’t (or just don’t want to) carry my ‘big camera’ around (shorter trips, crowded spots, or when I have a baby or toddler in hand

When I prefer my DSLR:

  • When taking amazing landscape photos (we do a lot of National Park vacations and I always bring my ‘big camera’ on these trips!)
  • When I know that I’ll want to print and hang some of the photos I create (I also try to do a mini photo shoot of my kiddos when we do beach vacations)
  • When we’re on “lazy” vacations (beach, skiing, visiting family) and I’ll have the time to focus on the photography
  • When I know I’ll be photographing action, distance or in low light conditions.

And because everyone asks, I took my DSLR to Disneyworld once and NEVER AGAIN!  iPhone all the way 🙂

Guess what?! I’ve created a 10 page guide that explains the creative modes in an easy to understand and actionable way. I think you’re going to love it!  Download it today!

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