Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How to take good Instagram photos when you travel

Everything looks better, or at least different, when seen from above. Seek out viewing platforms, sky bars, cable car rides and overhead walkways for expansive perspectives. Everything looks better, or at least different, when seen from above. Seek out viewing platforms, sky bars, cable car rides and overhead walkways for expansive perspectives.
1. Get high
2. Learn from locals
3. Don't tune out while in transit
4. Get lost
5. Pack extras
6. Use the right apps
7. Embrace bad weather
8. Plan your sunrises and sunsets
9. Look up
  • CNN's Jethro Mullen gained nearly 800,000 Instagram followers
  • He shares some tips for improving pics when you travel
  • Get up high, get lost and use editing tools are just some of his suggestions
  • Instagram has around 150 million active users

Editor's note: Mobile World Congress is the world's largest mobile phone trade show looking at the current state of mobile and where it might go next. Watch CNN International's coverage live from Barcelona on 24 February to 28 February.

(CNN) -- With about 150 million active users, the mobile photo-sharing app Instagram has become a popular way for people to document their lives.

It lends itself particularly well to travel, when even the most reluctant photographer can be tempted to take a few pictures.

The most Instagrammed places in the world last year included an airport, amusement parks and a Las Vegas casino.

CNN journalist and avid Instagram user Jethro Mullen has racked up nearly 800,000 followers on the app.

Here are his tips for getting the best out of your phone camera when you travel.

1. Get high

Everything looks better, or at least different, when seen from above.

Viewing platforms, sky bars, cable car rides and overhead walkways are great for expansive perspectives.

If you're shooting through a window, get your lens as close to the glass as possible to reduce unwanted light reflections.

2. Learn from locals

Nobody knows a place better than the people who live there.

You can discover photogenic spots in the places you're going to visit through hashtags, geotags and the feeds of local Instagram users.

When I visited Atlanta last year, a photographer I knew through Instagram pointed me in the direction of the colorful staircase you can see in photo no. 2 above.

Making great views greater.
Making great views greater.

3. Be on the look out when you're on the move

Don't tune out while in transit.

Architecture and human activity at airports and rail stations often provide rich photo opportunities.

And the views from planes, trains and automobiles can be compelling.

Window seats offer great shots.

Flights from southern China to Europe can provide majestic views of mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, for example.

4. Get lost

Avoid hopping from landmark to landmark.

Some of the most satisfying and memorable pictures from a trip can be those you stumble upon when exploring a less frequented area.

Take some wrong turns, wander, see what you find.

5. Pack some extras

A number of gadgets allow you to get more out of your phone camera.

Lens attachments, like the Olloclip, provide fisheye, wide-angle and macro options.

Flexible tripods, like the GorillaPod, allow you to set up long-exposure shots using apps like Average Camera Pro and Slow Shutter Cam.

Make sure you check any gear you buy is compatible with your make and model of phone.

6. Use the right apps

Native Instagram filters can undoubtedly jazz up a run-of-the-mill image.

But their effects can be heavy, bludgeoning subtler elements of a photo.

Editing apps like Snapseed, Afterlight (both of which I used in photo no. 6 above) and VSCO Cam allow you to tinker in a gentler manner with brightness, saturation, contrast and other aspects.

I edit nearly every Instagram I take using these tools.

Get low for good water shots.
Get low for good water shots.

7. Embrace bad weather

Rain can put a dampener on a vacation, but it creates a range of appealing subjects for pictures: puddle reflections, colorful umbrellas, raindrops on windows.

What's more, the sky can be at its most dynamic before and after stormy weather.

To optimize puddle shots, turn your phone upside down so the lens is closer to the water's surface.

8. Plan your sunrises and sunsets

Think about where you want to be for the often rewarding light conditions at the start and end of the day.

Consider how the sunlight is likely to interact with the surroundings, like trees, buildings or water.

Apps like Sun Seeker can tell you the sun's predicted path through the sky.

9. Look up

In outdoor areas where your surroundings feel cramped or cluttered, try tilting your head back and seeing what lies above.

In cities, clusters of skyscrapers or geometrically arranged facades work well.

Natural surroundings, like forests of tall trees, can also be eye-catching.

Jethro Mullen is the newsdesk editor for CNN Digital in Hong Kong, and a popular Instagrammer.

Part of complete coverage on
Mobile World Congress
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Mobile World Congress spans the full spectrum of untethered gadgetry, from the next generation of mobile phone networks to wireless charging technology.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
After three-plus years, the world's largest social media outlet is pulling the plug on its little-used e-mail service.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
Mobile World Congress returned to form this year, with Samsung, Sony, and Huawei all choosing to launch flagship devices in Barcelona. These are my picks from the show:
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mobile World Congress begins in Barcelona Monday and amid the hoopla of new super-phones, largely unknown technologies will be revealed. And it will be these that change our lives.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
With a lack of gender diversity in the tech sector, the time has come to make women in ICT a norm rather than the exception
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1025 GMT (1825 HKT)
The medical and healthcare sectors are in the midst of rapid change, and it can be difficult to see which new technologies will have a long-lasting impact.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2026 GMT (0426 HKT)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp was "worth more than $19 billion" during a speech given at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1944 GMT (0344 HKT)
Sony has announced a tie-up with the estate of Michael Jackson, allowing them to use his music to promote the release of a new smartphone.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 1929 GMT (0329 HKT)
Financial transactions have always been at the heart of our society, but growing smartphone and Internet penetration are inspiring new, disruptive approaches.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1039 GMT (1839 HKT)
Google has heard all the concerns about Glass, its digital headset expected to hit the market by the end of the year.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
Looking for a new way to reach your fitness goals? Now's the time to check out some of the hottest fitness apps as 2014 gets underway.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
What if Facebook spent $19 billion on something and most people never noticed?
The Philips Fluid concept phone has a bendy organic light-emitting diode, which means it can be wrapped around the wrist as a watch or bracelet or used as a normal mobile phone.
See full coverage from the world's biggest mobile technology conference in Barcelona, Spain.