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Why I Left My Camera At Home On a Recent Trip to Portugal

I love doing photography with a ‘real’ camera and I’m not one of those people who only uses a phone camera for photography.

I love the feeling of a real camera in my hand, the process of choosing the right lens for the occasion and the experimentation with different settings that makes photography exciting and always interesting.

But on some occasions I do believe that my phone camera really is the best camera for the job.

I recently visited Portugal and Spain. My trip was primarily a holiday with family, but I did intend taking some photographs while I was there. I didn’t intend to go out to improve my photography by practising certain skills; my intention was just to enjoy myself. I considered taking my camera, but on this occasion I decided that my phone camera was all I needed.

Here are some of the reasons why I left my camera at home on this trip:

#1 I have a good camera on my phone

When travelling I like to spend time photographing the area I am visiting. This is when I like to capture interesting places and candid moments, and street photography lends itself well to this.

I want to be spontaneous, capture what I see as I stroll around. There’s no time for picking out the right lens. Granted, a fixed focal length can do this but with a camera I always feel I could get a better picture with a different lens whereas with my phone camera I have my range of lenses ready to use as required and I have to work within those limitations.

My phone is not a latest, top-of-the-range model, but it does have a regular wide-angle lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens and a 2x telephoto lens. This means I can vary my perspectives, get as close as I need to get without intruding on people’s privacy and be sure of a relatively sharp picture as I quickly move around a scene.

An example of where the phone camera is very useful is when taking photographs in a street market, where there is lots of activity and there are plenty of scenes to choose from. I don’t have to worry about whether I have the best aperture or shutter speed to ensure a sharp image. I can be confident that my phone camera is taking care of those details while I concentrate on getting the best composition or capturing a candid moment or interaction.

#2 I don’t want to carry camera and lenses to areas where they may be damaged

My DSLR camera, and more specifically my lenses, are precious as I have built up my collection over time and don’t want to risk damaging any of them. Often, on holiday, it can be difficult to take care of everything while travelling around an area, getting on and off buses or trains, or indeed while walking. A phone camera can be tucked away discreetly and taken out only when needed.

On this occasion I travelled to a sandy area in 33°C heat, and I was glad not to have a large camera bag on my back with camera and lenses to take care of.

#3 A camera can be intrusive for travelling companions

When I travel abroad it is usually for a family holiday rather than a dedicated photography trip. On this occasion I travelled with my partner and some other family members so I felt that it would be disrespectful to make the trip all about photography. That is not to say that anyone had an issue with me taking photographs, but with a phone camera the process is more casual. I didn’t have to ask people to wait around while I set up a shot or stopped to change lenses.

My photos were mainly of street scenes, markets and interesting buildings or features in the environment so I could capture a lot without being absent from my companions.

I could have brought a small camera with me, and there are many dedicated travel cameras available (, but on an occasion where pin sharp images were not the priority, I just decided to enjoy the freedom of shooting what caught my eye without too much thought about the photography gear.

#4 It is easier to blend in with a phone camera

The best street photographs are those that capture a moment in time. These moments are happening all the time; we just need to watch out for them and be quick enough to capture them. In my opinion, we do this best if we are not self-conscious about being watched. It is good to be able to move around inconspicuously, discreetly capturing what we see.

At one point when I was out photographing, I looked around and realised that there were dozens of others taking photographs with their phones, and nobody was taking any notice of them. It is easy to blend in when using a phone camera.

Some countries have specific regulations regarding street photography and many street photographers will approach a subject and ask if they would be happy having their photo taken. As I am not in this league of photographer, I am content to stay in the background and do my best to enjoy shooting a range of images that capture the essence of the place I am visiting.

#5 My phone camera is always with me, even when going to the shops

Probably one of the most used sayings in photography circles is that the best camera is the one you have with you. I’m not sure if this was in usage before phone cameras became so popular but today it is almost certainly used to refer to the phone camera in our pocket.

Regardless of the type of phone we have it will probably have a decent camera, always at the ready to give us a travel memory that we might otherwise have missed.

I often find that it is on my way to the supermarket, when I wouldn’t ordinarily be taking a camera with me, that I spot something interesting that I just have to shoot, or an effect that I want to experiment with, as in the images below.

To Sum Up

I love travelling to new places, seeing people in their own environment, becoming part of the daily life of a community (if only for a short while) and capturing candid moments and interesting scenes.

It is this experience that is most important to me, rather than being concerned with settings and focal lengths and pin sharp images.

A small travel camera would meet my requirements but, for the reasons mentioned above, my phone camera has many advantages over carrying an extra camera and, on this occasion, it was exactly the camera I needed.


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