On Vacation, Leave the Photo Gear at Home and Take Your iPhone Instead

I just got back from a family vacation to New Hampshire. And you know what? I didn’t take my camera bag with me on the trip.

What a breath of fresh air.

That’s right. I left my camera at home and took my camera phone instead. Specifically, the iPhone 3GS.


The iPhone 3GS offers a three-megapixel digital camera, autofocus, and good-quality video with sound. It’s a huge upgrade over the camera in previous versions of the iPhone.

Nick Campbell at greyscalegorilla summarized some of the camera’s capabilities:

It’s a wider angle lens so that helps take better landscape. The macro focus is super useful (especially for taking photos of beer labels.) The touch to focus feature is brilliant. What really blew me away though is the fact that the touch point on your photo also regulates exposure and color temperature … With the old iPhone cameras, backlit photos were impossible. Now, just touch on the person’s face and take your shot.

It’s all new to me. I’ve never had a camera phone, and I didn’t intend to buy one until my wife got an iPhone; a few minutes of playing with it and I was hooked. The day before we left for vacation, I purchased the iPhone 3GS and decided to give it a test run while on the road.


My first goal was to broadcast my daughter from the airport informing everyone that we were on vacation. I quickly made a video in between planes at Chicago Midway Airport, uploaded it to YouTube and published it on Facebook. Comments on the video started pouring in before we’d even caught our next plane.

Throughout the trip, I took pictures and posted them to Facebook at least twice a day. I felt like I was learning how to be a photojournalist again. Fortunately, there were no deadlines — only my own self-assigned story and a sense of responsibility to entertain and inform my friends on Facebook.


We played with empty pill bottles at Aunt Helen’s, rode the chairlift at Grandpa Great’s house, enjoyed a ride on the plastic moose at the welcome center in Vermont … and all of it was published and broadcast. I posted a total of 17 images and three videos from a week’s worth of travel.

Next time you’re on vacation, leave your cameras at home and enjoy the walk through airport security carrying only a phone. Who knows? It just might allow you the freedom to see again.


17 Responses to “On Vacation, Leave the Photo Gear at Home and Take Your iPhone Instead”

  1. These pix are amazing; basic technology has advanced so much that we can take photos with our minds and not worry about bulky equipment; love it.

  2. Beautiful color and resolution. The silhouette of your son framed by the aircraft window is great photo. Improvements in digital photography coupled with the tight integration of online publishing and social media platforms (WordPress, Facebook, Google’s Picasa Web Albums, to name a few) make self-publishing a snap. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. This only goes to show that it's the creativity and the knowledge of sound lighting principles that truly make the photographer and certainly NOT the equipment.

  4. Mistake.
    At least bring bring camera like Panasonic LUX-3
    A pocket camera.
    I have done so many good "Getty" pictures on Vacation, Family or other wise. For Stock,etc
    Ipone can't hack it for that.

    Mark Richards

  5. Leave camera at home? Now, that's gutsy! However, I often travel with only a Lumix TZ5 and a monopod.

  6. For every photo like this, there are 5,000 crappy iPhone images on Facebook. Doesn't mean the iPhone can't take good photos. But it doesn't mean the iPhone takes good photos more than 1% of the time either. Optimal lighting conditions, still subjects, etc are required. If you love taking photos, why leave your camera at home when you go to see a new place? Those memories are priceless.

  7. I agree with all of you. For me, carrying a camera around is like a smoker carrying cigarettes around. If I do not have a close by, I get antsy. Separate me from my camera for too long, I get withdrawal symptoms.

    I gave up smoking and can live with it. I cannot....no, I WILL NOT give up my camera for the lousy one on my phone. But congrats to those who can use a cellphone camera with success. Maybe I need some practice.

  8. Challenge yourself with limitations...it's a good exercise...

  9. I have to agree with the author Sean. As much as I love my art, it is a refreshing breath of air when I don't have to look for the angle, anticipate lighting conditions, etc.

    However, that doesn't mean I won't take my iPhone to take photos! That is too much of a withdrawal for me 🙂 I'm about set off on a week long camping trip and I will be leaving my Nikons at home!

  10. I have a high end Fuji Point and Shoot that is my camera when I want to get away from the big stuff. It has a decent zoom and I can use my polarizer and split neutral density filters. Shoots RAW files, too!

  11. Someone once said that the best camera you have is the one you use. I've taken some amazing shots with my iPhone 3GS (and 3G before it) that I would have missed otherwise.

    Check out http://www.chasejarvis.com to see what can be done with an iPhone. He shoots with his D3 for a living, but has a whole gallery of iPhone pictures.

  12. I was inspired a few weeks back also from Chase Jarvis' writings... I have since taken a huge amount of images with it and add them to my blogs..
    Have a look here for my shots from the weekend of abstract shots:

    Makes a change from using my 40D all day long.. it's renewed my 'taking pictures all the time for fun' phase, which I havn't done for ages.

    Love it.

  13. This is exactly why I bought the Olympus E-P1 Pen, so that I can always have a compact-sized camera in a little shoulder pouch, which can take quality photos as good as any SLR. Of course, mounted with a kit lens it will only have entry-level kit lens quality, but mounted with a pro lens it's capable of pro quality. If you're carrying it for size and portability you probably want to use the kit lens, but entry-level SLR quality is still a helluva lot better than a point-and-shoot pocket camera of the same carrying size. 😉

  14. Apple are definately at the top of their game. Bye bye symbian and Nokia 🙂 Great blog...

  15. i bought my gear to make prints to hang on my wall. why on earth would i leave it at home when i travel? the posted shots don't even look good on the screen [distorted, lack of focus, unsaturated colors, blown out highlights] these could never be printed... just sayin

  16. To each his own. What I carry depends on what I'm doing.

  17. I heartily concur with you, Sean. The iPhone 3GS picture quality is astonishing, given such a simple 3.1 MP device. When combined with cool photo apps like Pro HDR (a must for shutterbug enthusiasts), you can really produce some stunning imagery. Here are some of my results: http://ramblings.chriswray.net/?p=438.

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