Tips for Taking Great Photos in France with the iPhone 8 Plus

The light is different in Paris.

I’m told the light is bluer. Personally, I couldn’t identify exactly what it was, but there was something different in both Paris and in Belgium and almost all my pictures turned out quite lovely.

Today I wanted to share some of the things I learned about using an iPhone camera exclusively while on a big trip and why I’m taking my DSLR with me on the next trip.

Keep the lens on the iPhone clean. This is basic, but I forget to do it All. The. Time.

Holly Becker from Blogging Your Way and Décor8 shared this in the RISE course I took before the trip. She gave a lecture on photography tips and this basic tip is gold. The iPhone camera is especially vulnerable to dirt and smears because we hold it in our hands all day. If you don’t have a camera/glass wipe on hand, clean it on your cotton shirt.

Pay attention to the light and where the sun is. This is a big deal. It’s normal to continue to snap as many pictures as you’d like, especially when on tours BUT shooting when the sun is out full force creates images lacking the crisp focal point. In these images below, you can see the difference of taking pictures of a Parisian building and the Eiffel Tower at around 2:00 in the afternoon (on the left) versus 6:00 (Eiffel Tower and a Cafe pictured on the right). In the evening, clouds came out, blocking the sun’s rays a bit and creating a more intriguing backdrop than the blue sky by itself.


If you’re shooting outdoors without shade, the golden hour of photography really is the hours around sunrise and sunset. The problem is, it’s really a limited time span! Plan your shots accordingly. A kind fellow tourist took this shot of me in front of Notre Dame. The gorgeous church shows up beautifully, but I’m hidden a bit in the shadows. If I’d been taking the picture and wanting to focus on the person, I would’ve used the portrait feature, zoomed in the person’s head and torso, forcing the camera to put the background in a blur.

I was told Paris is overcast most of the year, but in early October, there was plenty of sun. Clouds would breeze through in the afternoon. Personally, I thought they added an interesting autumn depth to the photographs.

Put some restrictions on yourself on when to take pictures. We creatives can get so busy trying to capture the moment, we lose the gift of enjoying being in the moment. The gift and curse of having a good camera in the phone is it becomes a permanent extension of my hand if I’m not careful! I certainly caught myself doing that, thankfully before the trip was over! I put away my iPhone during the hours of the broad sunlight in the afternoon, knowing my photos were going to be overexposed and I wouldn’t be happy with the outcomes. It turned into a bit of a blessing. I could focus on sightseeing and not trying to get that ideal image. When the late afternoon/early evenings hours approached, I pulled out the iPhone with more zest, ready to enjoy the next hour. It was almost like a photography adventure, making the entire day more enjoyable because I was present and aware.

Look to capture the story of the unique angle, color and detail. We’ve all seen a bazillion pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Iron Lady is truly a sight to behold. However, the more intriguing photos, the ones that capture your personal story are the pictures you take with your vantage point.

Personally, I fell in love with the café culture of both France and Belgium, the freedom to enjoy a cup of double espresso, sit back and people watch or read. The waiters didn’t rush you to leave. (In fact, I had to chase them down for the check). I loved the flowers that were still blooming, almost seeming to intentionally rebel against the cool chill of winter.


Play with the different features on the iPhone. I LOVE the portrait feature and find my photography voice by homing in on specific details while creating the dreamy blur in the background. The iPhone 8 plus has several different ways to shoot, including video options. What is it about your travels, whether local or far away, that tells the story through your eyes? That’s what makes the best images intriguing. It’s the combination of skill + story telling.

Tips on Printing with minimal stress. Did you know you can send your photos from your smart phone to Walmart directly for printing? Call me a luddite, but I didn’t know this! Usually, I send all my pictures to my computer to download, edit, etc. and then transfer the ones I want printed to Walmart. It can be quite tedious.

Yesterday, I decided to check out Walmart’s website on my phone. When I went to the one-hour pickup option, I realized I could everything FROM MY PHONE. I know. I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes because you’ve been doing this for two years. But this was my learning moment of the week!

I did print almost 100 pictures, some to send to friends I made on the tour and others for myself to share with family and friends. I continue to be impressed with the iPhone 8 plus picture quality, especially on digital platforms and social media, but something does get lost in print, especially when trying to increase the size to a 4×6 print.  The edges are cut off in some pictures and there is a grainy image in some.

In conclusion, I have no regrets about not taking my DSLR. This was a discovery trip for me and it was beneficial to move fairly lightly, navigating the challenges of language, culture and directions without having a lot of extra equipment to be concerned about. This trip felt like trying to find my balance. I’m exceptionally thankful to Deby and Kirk Dearman (the artists who led the tour in Belgium) for strongly suggesting we pack light.

I miss the quality of the DSLR is when it comes to printing pictures and making them larger. The DSLR cameras do a better job of creating highly pixelated images that can be printed beautifully and used for projects, framing, etc.

Next time I travel, I will take the DSLR camera with me, using it for specific projects, while using the iPhone for street shots and pictures for social media sharing. The DSLR is bulkier to carry around, but that’s worth it to get some of the detailed shots and stories I’d like to capture for upcoming projects. I already have an idea for a photo shoot and the DSLR will be a must for that.

How about you? Do you take your DSLR camera with you or are you relying on your iPhone for images? Would love to hear your thoughts as well as any tips you have for getting the most out of your iPhone for travel photography.

2 Comments on “Tips for Taking Great Photos in France with the iPhone 8 Plus”

  1. Melissa, thanks for this super informative post. I don’t consider myself to be very knowledgeable about cameras, so this made me feel better about taking better pics just with my phone. 🙂

    1. Very happy you found this helpful, Kent! I’m consistently impressed with what the iphone cameras can do!

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