It’s pretty safe to say that Iceland is a very photogenic country, AKA there are unlimited opportunities to take a lot of photos, but with that said, do you need a fancy camera setup in order to experience Iceland and capture it in the best way possible? That’s what we’re talking about today, friends.
Hello, Team Iceland. Welcome back to my channel. If this is your first time on my channel, well, then, welcome, friends. My name is Jeannie, and I’m your tour guide for all of the Iceland planning things. Today, I wanted to talk about whether or not you need a camera in Iceland, or is a smartphone okay? Because there’s lots of photographers that are making their way to Iceland with all these big, fancy setups, and maybe you’re thinking, “That needs to be me.”
We’ll talk about that, but before we get into that, I want to give a shout out to one of my followers. This message comes from Matt, and he sent me a photo of him proposing under the northern lights in Iceland. Then to top it off, he sends, “Thank you for all your info. I got my proposal off. You’re the MVP of our trip.” I mean, seriously, if there’s anything that melts my heart more than getting DMs, it’s getting DMs like this, and two, remember to send me a message in the middle of your trip. It just makes me so happy.
You guys, thank you so much, and Matt, you are amazing. I’m so excited for you. Congratulations on your proposal, and thank you guys, if you ever want to give a shout out to me on Instagram, all you have to do is tag me in your stories, and I’ll be able to see your trip. It’s so fun for me, and you never know. I might feature you on my story.
Camera or Smartphone?
All right, guys, so we have a lot to talk about today. I’m going to debunk the camera myth. We’re going to talk about the pros and cons of bringing a smartphone. It’s going to be great, so let’s get into it. First off, let’s say you’re still unsure if you’re going to bring a camera or a smartphone. If you’re deciding between the two, let me just break it down to make it pretty simple. It really comes down to what you’re going to do with your photos after your trip. If you’re planning on using your photos to just post on social media, Instagram, Facebook, maybe show your neighbor where you went, then I promise that a smartphone will be just fine.
However, if you’re going to do something with your photos like make a photo book or print a photo to hang on your wall, in that case, then a camera with different functions is going to come in a lot more handy for you. This is going to give you more options to control in camera and give you a higher resolution so that when you’re printing those photos and putting them on the wall, they don’t look grainy or pixelated.
Pros + Cons of a Smartphone
Now, with that being said, let’s go ahead and talk about the pros and cons of using a smartphone. The biggest pro is that you don’t have to have a big, bulky camera bag that you’re lugging around with you on your trip. Let me tell you, every time we go somewhere, between the GoPro, the drone, the camera, the tripod, and all of the things, it gets to be quite overwhelming how much gear we have to bring with us, so when you have a smartphone, you just put it in your pocket. Simple.
Along with that is, you don’t have to worry about which lenses to bring and which gear you’re going to need with that setup. Usually, when you’re shooting landscapes, like in Iceland, then you’re going to want a couple different options. You’re going to want a wide angle. You’re going to want a zoom lens for those faraway shots. You don’t have to worry about that with a smartphone. You also don’t have to worry about a big, heavy tripod, which is super nice as well. It makes it a lot easier when you’re navigating around the sites so you don’t have to set up your tripod and get your lens out and get your thing out and get all of the things out. Trust me. Huge time saver here.
Lastly, you don’t have to worry as much about the weather conditions, so when we have our DSLR camera out, then we have to think about like, is it too windy? We can’t use the tripod. Is it rainy? Now, we have to put on the rain cover. Is the sky completely bright and blown out, like a lot of times it is in Iceland? Now we have to use our ND filters. There’s so much to consider when you have a big camera setup. When you have a smartphone, it’s just a lot simpler.
With that, of course, there are some cons with just carrying a smartphone with you. Number one is, you can’t control different settings. A lot of photographers shoot, obviously, in manual mode, which means that you can control a lot of different aspects within your camera, so you can control if the sky is blown out. You can control if the sun is reflecting off the water. With a smartphone, it’s harder to control for those things. Of course, technology and these built-in cameras are getting better every day, so some smartphone cameras might be better than even the one that I have, but in general, photographers would agree you can control so many more settings with a DSLR camera.
Along with that is that you lose the ability to zoom in on things. I know that with an iPhone, Sam… All of those phones allow you to zoom in, but that reduces the quality of the image, so actually, zooming in is not as good in the long run, and especially if you have something very, very far away, your smartphone camera is only going to be able to zoom in so far.
To Print or Not to Print
Lastly is the point that I mentioned before, which is that if you do want to print your photos, and hang them on your wall, and do something nice with them in the future, then it’s possible that you could have more pixelated images compared to if you’re using a camera setup. I do have to, obviously, mention a big caveat, which is that not all cameras are created equal as well, so if you just have a point and shoot with low megapixels and actually your smartphone has more megapixels than your maybe point and shoot or something like that, then of course make that comparison and maybe your smartphone takes better photos than someone else’s camera, but you have to make that decision for yourself.
All right, so I want to talk about some of the cool features that are built in the smartphones that you might not even be aware of. For this part of it, I am going to refer to the iPhone, because that’s the camera that I have, so those are the features that I know that are built in. The first one is turning on the live feature. Many of you might know, if you were to take a photo and you have the live feature on, then you would see some movement of people, for example. You’re thinking, “Oh, that’s kind of cool. It’s kind of like a small video clip.”
However, if you use the live feature and you’re pointing it at a waterfall, then it will turn that waterfall into a silky waterfall. Amazing. You guys remember I made a video specifically on how to get the silky waterfall look with a camera, and now you can do it on your iPhone, and this is mind-blowing. All you have to do is go into the setting and then scroll down after you take the photo and you have the opportunity to switch it to long exposure mode. Man, technology’s getting good.
Another feature that I love and we actually end up using a lot is the portrait mode. This is built in on some of the newer iPhones. I believe it was the 8 and up, and this is one of the options along the bottom that you can choose between video, time-lapse, panoramic. If you switch it to portrait mode, then what happens is that you have the subject clear and then the background is completely blurred. This is kind of like a portrait style that you would see maybe in a wedding photographer or something like that, so this gives you that look automatically built in to the iPhone. This is a really nice feature to have, because then you don’t have to worry about changing those settings for your camera. Point and shoot.
Smartphone Northern Lights Photos
Another huge one, and one that people ask me about a lot, is the ability to take photos of the northern lights with your smartphone, because yes, you can do it. All you have to do is download an aurora app. There’s different aurora apps, and they’re named different things based on if you have the iPhone or Android. I know in the iPhone, it’s called the Aurora app. All you have to do is download it. Some are paid. Some are free, but in general, they give you the option to take photos of the aurora.
I will say with this I have seen someone use this app, but their photos turned out blurry. This was because the Aurora app actually keeps the shutter of the camera open longer, which is what happens when you take a photo of the northern lights with a camera, but this means that if you’re holding onto it with your hands, then it might turn out a bit blurry. This can easily be fixed by setting your camera down and supporting it up, or investing in a very minimal tripod. Keep that in mind if you’re going during the aurora season and that’s a primary concern of yours and you want to take it with your smartphone. It’s possible. Rejoice.
Accessories for Success
All right. Lastly, let’s talk about some extras that you can add onto your smartphone for a minimal investment that would take your photography game up to the next level. The first thing that you can buy is a clip-on lens. I used to have one of these for my iPhone, and I really, really loved it. I used it a lot, but this was before we upgraded our camera gear, and now it’s just a lot nicer for me to use our camera.
These are really, really inexpensive on, say, Amazon, and you can buy different kind of lenses, or you can buy a multiple in one so you can change the lenses. These are really, really small. They can be easily packed. Usually, they come with a carrying case, and you can just shove them in your pocket, and you are good to go.
My best recommendation for an attachment for Iceland would be the wide angle. With the camera on your smartphone, it’s usually only giving you this much. With a wide angle, it would maybe give you this much, and that would really help for things like landscape shot for all those beautiful places in Iceland.
The next thing that you could get is a simple phone tripod. I talked about this with the Aurora app. I have a tripod for our phone. I like to use it because sometimes, I just want to take a quick photo of the two of us, or I just want to set it down and walk around a little bit and maybe take some video as well, so I love having a tripod for my phone. It really comes in handy, and these are like 10, $15. By the way, if you want the links to any of these products that I recommend, then all you have to do is check in the description box below.
Another thing that you can buy for your smartphone is the selfie stick. Now, I know that selfie sticks have a bit of a bad name, but let me tell you, my friends, I have used a selfie stick so many times during our travels because it’s so fun to get photos and videos with yourself in it. Right? I mean, it’s one thing to hand off your phone and then just go run in front of it and tell someone to snap, but if you have a selfie stick, then you can get yourself in it. I think these are fun.
Another thing that you guys have seen me recommend is a window mount. This is my secret for getting those beautiful road shots when we’re driving. Usually, I’ll link up my GoPro to it, but I’ve also used my smartphone before, or you can just put it on the window, and then it just sticks right up to the windshield, and you can get some awesome videos and photos there as well.
If you’re coming to Iceland, you got to still worry about the rain, especially the spray from the waterfalls, so investing in a waterproof case is going to be so, so helpful to keep your precious phone protected. I know some of the smartphones these days have built-in water protection, as long as you don’t submerge them, so perfect for you, but if that’s not the case, like mine is not waterproof because it’s older, then I have a waterproof case that I put around, so if we’re going behind Seljalandsfoss or into Gljúfrabúi Cave, then I’m bringing that with me so that I can get photos or videos with my phone, but I don’t have to worry about damaging it.
Lastly, my friends, is, if you are only bringing your smartphone to Iceland to take your photos, and that is your primary source, then you’re going to want to bring a backup battery pack. I use the Justin. This thing has saved me so many times. This is a simple USB plug, so it plugs directly into my phone, and it actually gives me two full charges on this thing. Like I said, if you’re only bringing your phone, that’s perfect, but you’re going to run out of battery pretty quick, so make sure to invest. This thing is like 10 or $15. You can’t go wrong, and I promise you’re going to use it.
All righty, my friends, so I hope that that helps you feel confident on whether or not you need to bring a camera or your smartphone to Iceland. Either way, it’s going to be amazing. You’re going to get some amazing photos. Iceland will not let you down on that front. I can promise you that. If you guys found this video helpful, I would really love it if you could give it a thumbs up and subscribe if you haven’t already, because every week, I have a new Iceland video just for you, and I don’t want you to miss a thing. I’ll see you guys next week, and as always, happy planning.
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