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Traveling solo can be a freeing experience of self-discovery and exploration of new destinations and embracing different cultures. One aspect that many solo travelers struggle with is capturing high-quality photos of themselves. However, with a few simple tips and tricks, you can document your solo travels with awesome travel photos and videos.
If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I’m super awkward especially when it comes to taking photos. When looking at photos from my first few solo trips, the majority of them were of random objects, buildings, and selfies.
How to Take Instagram Photos by Yourself While Traveling Solo
I started writing more about my travels sharing the experience on my blog and social media accounts and I knew that needed to change.
When sharing photos of my solo trips, I usually get questions like “Who takes pictures and videos of you when you are traveling alone?” or general questions on how to take pictures when you travel alone. Well, I finally put a blog post together.
If you’re looking to get into solo travel photography or just want to learn how to take pictures when you travel alone, here are some of the best ways to get it done.
Ask Fellow Travelers or Locals
When I first started to get solo travel photos, I just asked someone. On some occasions, it has been a local, while others were fellow travelers. Most of the time, fellow tourists will help with taking pictures.
If someone looks like they’re in a hurry, it is best to let them keep going. I usually do this while on group walking tours. I also offer to take another solo traveler, couple, family, or group of friends’ photos in exchange for taking mine.
Tips on Asking Tourists or Locals for Travel Pictures
Asking a fellow traveler or even a local to take your photos as a solo traveler can honestly be a hit or miss. If you want that perfect shot for your blog or Instagram, let them know EXACTLY what you want beforehand. Here are some more tips for asking fellow tourists or locals to get those perfect photos.
- Look for Someone with a Good Camera: Whether you’re getting solo travel pictures on your cell phone or another nice camera, look for someone with a DSLR camera or Mirrorless camera. Chances are they may know about photography, you may not have to explain the type of shot you want so hard, and they can take good pictures.
- Explain What You Want in the Shot: If you ask a fellow traveler or local to take your photos, let them know what you want! Explain the type of pose you’ll be pulling off so you can get the type of photo you want. If your pose calls for you to look away or be serious, they may be waiting for you to smile or turn around.
- Take (or show) them a Photo: If you have a specific vision for that great shot you want, you can take a picture without you in it and explain how they can frame the photo. You can also take a photo of them so they can get an idea of the type of picture you want. If you save travel photos or poses from Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration, you can also show them.
- Take More than One Photo: Take more than one photo to have options. You can explain this to the person beforehand or wait until they leave to ask someone else if you’re unhappy with the results.
- Know Your Angles: Candid poses work well, but when asking other people to take your travel pictures, it is not the time to experiment with different poses and angles. Practice looking in the mirror to get an idea of your good side first. When you know which angle and poses work, you can get the shot quicker.
Use a Tripod and Set a Timer or Use a Remote Shutter Release
Learning how to take great Instagram photos of yourself takes practice. When I became serious about taking better photos, I invested in the Manfrotto compact action tripod and used the 10-second self-timer.
My previous camera did not have a front-facing flip screen so it took much longer to frame shots and I used a lot of trial and error. My new camera has WIFI capabilities so I can connect it to my phone to see the photo before using the shutter button.
Use Your Smartphone with a Timer or Bluetooth Shutter Remote
If you’re a smartphone photographer, the same concept of using a tripod with a timer and a shutter remote control can be used. Smartphones these days already have built-in self-timer mode and you can switch to selfie mode to see yourself before the shot is taken.
A Bluetooth shutter remote allows you to get the best photos without using a timer. Just connect the Bluetooth shutter remote to your Android or iOS device and press the respective button to take your photo.
Instead of taking one photo, putting your camera in continuous mode allows it to take multiple photos with one click. Burst mode is great for taking action shots of you walking, running, laughing, spinning, or even dancing.
Your expressions and movements are captured in multiple frames per second than just one so burst mode gives you a better chance of getting that good shot.
Continuous Shooting aka Burst Mode
Take a Video & Screenshot
Taking a short video and screenshotting is another great way to get solo pictures when traveling. I only have done this when forgetting to take a thumbnail photo for Youtube, but it works. The quality isn’t the best, but it still provides content for some social media platforms.
Get Creative with Your Body and Angles
The best thing about solo travel photography or photography, in general, is being able to play around with different angles and being creative. Learn different composition techniques like the rule of thirds, the rule of odds, leaving negative space, and more.
Photography is just another form of storytelling so, in addition to shooting your full body, you can share parts of your body that add to the story.
My favorites usually include holding food or drinks, showing my feet or legs while sunbathing, or cooling my feet off in the pool or beach.
There are many other ways to be creative with different angles and your body to get amazing photos as a solo traveler so have fun trying them.
Meetup with Other Bloggers
As a travel and lifestyle blogger, I have been fortunate enough to gain blogger friends through the years. Whether it be on a FAM/Press Trip, at a travel conference, or at a general meet-up at a destination, travel bloggers love to meet each other.
Sometimes photo shoots are planned, while others can be spontaneous. A fellow blogger offered to take my photo on a FAM trip at the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and it is one of my favorite travel photos from my trip to Corning & the Finger Lakes Region.
Not only is this a great way to network on a personal or business level, but it can also expose both of your audiences to find and follow someone new.
Connect With Friends from Travel Groups
Believe it or not, not everyone is an existing or aspiring travel blogger or Influencer. Some people just love traveling for their own pleasure.
If you’re visiting a destination solo, you can meet up with someone from a travel group. This is a great way to see a destination from a local or explore a destination together.
Make sure it is in a public place to ensure your safety if you choose this option. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t go. There are many niched travel groups targeting my demographic of black travelers, solo female travel, millennial travel, and more.
If you can think about a niche that describes your travel lifestyle, it probably exists. If not, or there is one that doesn’t fit your needs, it can be an opportunity to build a community of like-minded travelers.
On a Tour
In addition to selfies, some of my first solo traveling pictures were via tours. You can purchase your travel pictures via the tour itself or ask the tour guide. I’ve done both options for my first solo trip at the Aquafari Tour in Curacao, CNN Studio Tour in Atlanta as well as in Cartagena.
Hire a Professional Photographer
Want the best shots without all the work or equipment? When all else fails, hire a photographer! There are TONS of aspiring and professional photographers available online.
Sometimes you DO get what you pay for with a personal photographer, but I’ve been lucky enough to have more than a great experience for the additional cost.
Every photographer I’ve worked with, I would personally use again WITHOUT the third party because their work and personalities were up to par.
If you use Airbnb, I highly recommend reading the reviews, asking the photographer questions about your photo usage, being professional, and BEING ON TIME. I still prefer taking my own photos.
Tips for Traveling with a Tripod
When you’re not used to traveling with a tripod, it may be annoying figuring out how to pack your luggage or carry it around when exploring. If you’re traveling with a tripod and checking luggage, put it in your checked luggage. Traveling carry-on only? Pack your tripod in your carry-on luggage or bag.
Another important tip is to check the weight and dimensions before purchasing. Sometimes tripods can be too heavy or too big. Checking the weight and dimensions ensures the tripod doesn’t take up too much weight in your checked luggage and/or fits properly in your carry-on.
Below are both of the tripods that I use for taking everyday blogging and travel pictures.
How To Take Photos of Yourself Without a Tripod
Tripods can be cheap, but not everyone wants to invest in one for solo travel photography. Here are the best tips on how to take pictures of yourself without a tripod.
Take a Selfie
If you’re starting to travel solo, selfies are a good option. Traveling alone can be scary and selfies allow you to have control of your devices. To help catch great pictures, you can invest in a selfie stick.
In Barcelona, my selfie stick had an attachment accessory for my phone and a mirrorless camera. It is a plus if you can get a selfie stick that can also convert to a tripod and includes a Bluetooth shutter release. Here are some tips for taking a good selfie.
- Clean the Camera Lens – You’d be surprised how much cleaning your front of the camera lens improves your photos.
- Choose a good angle – Instead of holding the camera in front of you, angle it to the side, higher, or lower.
- Find the right lighting – Lighting is EVERYTHING. If you’re not sure which angle has the best light, it may be behind you.
Set Your Camera on Sturdy Surface
Sometimes selfie sticks and tripods are banned in specific destinations and tourist sites for safety reasons. This may be upsetting for some people practicing solo travel photography, or a great way to be creative.
You can rest your camera on a sturdy surface like the floor, table, stairs, or wall and set the timer. To gain some height, use your bag or coat. Just make sure it doesn’t fall off before shooting.
Other Tips for How to Take Pictures of Yourself for Instagram
As mentioned, learning how to take photos of yourself for Instagram takes practice. Posing in front of a tripod for the first time can feel weird too. Here are some tips for taking photos of yourself while traveling that most people don’t really mention.
Learn Your Camera Settings
It makes no sense to spend all that money on the best travel camera and not know the settings. Watch videos and play around with different camera settings so you can start taking good photos.
Get there Early
The best time to take photos is to get to your destination early. By getting up in the early morning to take photos, there are fewer people around so you are able to avoid crowds of other tourists or uncomfortable stares. It also gives you the ability to get your travel pictures out of the way to enjoy the rest of the day.
Learn to Ignore the Stares
When I first started taking solo travel pictures, I used to shy away or feel awkward because of the stares. Doing this made me miss photo opportunities. To avoid this, I had to intentionally stop worrying about the stares from locals or other travelers.
The more you do it, the less you tend to care. You most likely will never see these people again. Who knows, someone may offer to take the photo for you or cheer you on while you pose or shoot.
Don’t Take Forever to Get the Shot
I understand wanting to get the best shot, but taking 20-30 minutes in one location to get one good photo is entirely too long. If it is a popular destination, there may be others waiting to take photos too.
Taking too long is pretty selfish and you don’t want to be THAT kind of solo traveler. If you practice your solo photography skills beforehand, each location should really take 5-10 minutes or less.
How To Take Photos Without Ruining Your Trip
I love taking travel pictures, but I also love to experience being in the moment. Learning how to take photos without ruining your trip may be tricky for some, but it isn’t impossible. To get the best of your time, scout out locations and think of poses for photos in advance.
You can also set a specific amount of time or a specific day to take your solo travel photos. I usually take my travel pictures on the first or last full day that I’m in a destination. I also try not to spend more than an hour shooting. Within that time frame, I can do 2-3 looks in at least 5-7 locations.
Use These Tips When Traveling with Friends
My best friend knows my angles and how to coach me on poses for great pictures, but I also use these travel photography tips for our girls’ vacations.
I have used my camera and remote shutter for group and solo photos as well as hired a photographer. If you’re at a restaurant or hotel you can also ask one of the employees for a group shot.
Recommended Travel Photography Gear
If you want to make solo travel photography a serious hobby, you need to have the right gear. I’ve already shared some favorites earlier in this post, but here are some other travel photography gear recommendations.
Joby Gorilla Pod
The Gorilla pod is flexible so you can use it to grip, wrap or stand on any object like a tree branch or pole. The wrappable legs allow you to keep your camera or phone from falling.
Sony a 6000
The Sony a 6000 is a great starter camera. It is lightweight, compact, and great for photos and videos. To save money on equipment, you can purchase a bundle. Since this model is a few years old, you may want a newer model.
Prime and Wide-Angle Lens
For portrait photography, I love prime and wide-angle lenses. I use the models below
The best part is that some of these solo travel photography tips can be used on any type of camera. The best camera is the one you currently have. Cameras on your smartphone take beautiful photos that have as much quality as a professional camera.
I hope this post sharing how to get pictures of yourself traveling solo inspired you to do more solo travel photography and capture beautiful travel pictures.
Even if you don’t get the perfect shot every time, at the end of the day, it’s more about the experience you had. If you found this post helpful, pin it for future reference.