When much of your time is spent traveling solo, it can be tricky to get great photos of yourself enjoying said travels, if you get any at all. I love photos of myself in my favorite destinations, and there’s no shame in wanting to preserve those special travel memories.
I’ve experienced plenty of moments when I just couldn’t be bothered to ask a kind stranger for a photo or I left the proper gear at home, and I know how much that regret can sting when you’ve got a million photos of a beautiful city and not one single piece of evidence that you were actually there.
Of course, getting beautiful photos of yourself isn’t the only reason to travel, but it’s a nice bonus. So if you’re a solo traveler who wants to be the subject of more of your own shots in the future, here are some of the best ways I’ve discovered over the years to get beautiful photos you’ll love.Try these 6 simple methods to get great self-portraits while #travelingsolo Click To Tweet
But before we get into the different methods for getting self-portraits when you travel, let’s establish a few basic ground rules:
Check your pride at the door. Yes, people are going to look at you. Some will probably laugh or even make fun of you. But you’ll never see those people again and they’ll never remember you either, and at the end of the day, you’ll still get a great photo out of the deal.
Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re in a big city, it’s probably not a good idea to set up your tripod on the other side of the street where someone could easily run off with your stuff. Same goes for crowded tourist attractions. Also, take special care during adverse weather conditions or in precarious places. You don’t want to lose your gear to a sudden gust of wind or accidentally fling it over the edge of a cliff.
Don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Remember, you’re not just traveling for the photos. I know perfect lighting conditions are often fleeting, but so is the chance to watch the sunset in a place you might never visit again in your life. Don’t let the quest for a perfect shot overshadow what could be a perfect moment.
Method #1: Tripod + Timer
Using your camera’s timer setting and a tripod is one of my favorite ways to get self-portraits while traveling. It’s certainly one of the more conspicuous methods and many people will prefer not to travel with the extra bulk of a tripod, but it’s great for those photographers who are particular about their framing.
Sure, you could just find a nice stable surface upon which to set your camera, but then you’re severely limited in terms of angles and may waste a lot of time propping the body or the lens this way and that way only to end up with a shot you’re still not happy with.
I travel with a Canon Rebel SL1 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. While my camera body is super light, my lens is anything but, so I needed a sturdy tripod that would keep my setup stable. The one I use and love is the Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod; it’s lightweight and extremely easy to handle.
How to do it: Set up your tripod and get your framing just right. Choose the 10-second timer setting and use the continuous shooting option if it’s available to you. This will allow you to shoot up to 10 images consecutively, so you can switch up your pose and make sure you get a shot you love. Hit the shutter release and make a dash into position. To avoid blurriness, choose a large f-stop so the whole frame is in focus (including you, no matter where you position yourself).
Method #2: Tripod + Wireless Remote
This method works much like the first but does not require you to sprint into place after hitting the shutter release. Certain cameras (like mine) are equipped with wireless remote capabilities so you can hit the shutter release from a distance. You just need to find the remote that is compatible with your particular model and you’re good to go! I use the Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote Controller. These little accessories can cost anywhere from $5-20.
There are a few drawbacks to this method. For example, the range of my remote is quite limited, meaning I need to be fairly close to the camera for it to work (they claim it works within a range of 16 feet but I typically find I need to be closer than that–maybe 10 feet from the camera or less). Furthermore, you may have to do some quick thinking if you want to hide the remote control in the shot. I usually leave one hand out of the frame, stuff the remote in my pocket, or toss it out of the way (carefully) if I really need to.
How to do it: There are two ways to shoot using a remote control if you’re using a camera setup similar to mine. Choose the drive mode that allows you to shoot using a remote (there’s only one–you’ll see a remote icon next to it). The remote itself then has two modes that can be changed by moving the switch on the back. You can either shoot instantaneously when you press the button or use a 2-second delay. The latter is my preference because this allows the lens to focus on you before the photo is taken.
Method #3: GoPro Selfie
I had my GoPro for a long time before I discovered just how awesome it was for getting amazing travel photos. The ultra-wide-angle lens allows you to capture a ton in every frame, so even if you’re shooting a selfie, you’ll see plenty of beautiful scenery as well (which makes it seem less like a selfie).
Even better news is, you don’t even need an obnoxious selfie stick for these shots. An arm will do you just fine, but if you want a more solid grip, I suggest investing in an accessory like a hand grip that doubles as a tripod. The GoPro is a great choice anytime you’re around water (just make sure you have the correct water tight case) or if you don’t want to carry around a big bulky camera.
How to do it: Set your GoPro to take a photo at short intervals, such as every 5 seconds. This will give you time in between shots to get your framing just right, and the front display will count down so you know exactly when the photo is taken. I recommend taking a number of photos at slightly different angles since you won’t know quite what you’re shooting. If you don’t want to see too much arm in the shot, bend your elbow and bring the camera closer to you.
Method #4: GoPro + Tripod
If you’re not a fan of the selfie or you just want more of the focus on the scenery than yourself, pairing a GoPro with a tripod is a great way to go. Just as I mentioned previously, I use an accessory that doubles as a hand grip and a tripod, and I love it.
How to do it: First, find a tripod that you love. A GorillaPod might be a fun choice for a GoPro since it allows you to attach it to just about anything, which could result in some unique shots. Then just set your GoPro to shoot continuously as discussed above. I prefer an interval of 5 seconds so I have time to set up each new shot.Get awesome photos of yourself on your travels by using a @GoPro! Here's how. Click To Tweet
Method #5: Ask a Stranger
I’ve had varying degrees of success with this method over the years, but I usually find it best to approach someone who’s carrying a camera themselves. I do this for a couple of reasons: For one, they are unlikely to run off with your baby since they have one of their own and know how precious they are; secondly, they’re more likely to know a thing or two about photography and will hopefully get you a nice shot.
If a person doesn’t have a camera of their own, it’s a gamble to hand off your camera to them, but sometimes this will be your only option. Some other safe bets would be people who are also clearly tourists or people traveling in pairs or groups. If you’re on a tour, ask a fellow traveler or even your guide if they’re not busy.
How to do it: Put your camera on the exact settings you want, put on your friendliest smile, and approach someone. It sometimes helps to tell them exactly where you’d like them to stand and remind them which button to press. If it’s not quite right, don’t be afraid to ask for a redo. People are generally kind and will want to help.
Method #6: Make Friends
The final method I use quite often when traveling solo is a simple one–make some friends! While I love sightseeing by myself a lot of the time, it can also be quite fun to run around a new city while getting to know other travelers.
If you’re staying in a hostel, you’ll have no trouble meeting people. If you’re not staying in a hostel, there are still plenty of ways to meet people. I rarely have a set list of things to do and see which leaves me flexible to tag along on other people’s outings if they’ll have me. When you’re out with new friends, offer to take photos for them and they’ll undoubtedly return the favor. If the day goes well, you may just wind up taking photos together too!
How to do it: Be cool. Keep your requests to a minimum and let your new friends know you’re more interested in their company than getting photos of yourself. While some people love to take photos on their travels, others couldn’t care less; if they fall into the latter group, you don’t want them to feel used or put out. If they’re not familiar with your camera, have it ready to go before handing it over.
What are your best methods for getting travel self-portraits? Let’s swap tips in the comments!
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