HOW TO TAKE PHOTOS OF YOURSELF WHEN TRAVELING SOLO
Before I started traveling I read a lot of solo travel blogs to try and plan how I was going to take my photos. To write this article I have drawn from this research and added examples of how I overcame the challenges I faced in practice.
As a note, I have not included the always convenient ‘selfie/selfie stick’ option because I rarely share these photos on Suitcase And I but I thought I should mention this first up as this is always an option!
1. HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT: TRIPOD & REMOTE SHUTTER RELEASE
If you want professional results the best option is to invest in camera gear – this means having a lightweight camera, tripod and remote shutter release.
Most of my photos are achieved by putting my camera on my tripod, attaching my remote shutter release, walking into the shot and pressing the shutter when I am ready for the photo. This way I can set up the desired photo in advance before putting myself in the frame.
The specific equipment I use:
- Canon 60D ($400 second hand off Gumtree).
- Manfrotto 732CY Carbon Fibre Tripod & MH293A3-RC1 Head ($100 second hand off Gumtree).
- Remote Shutter Release (this is not an affiliated link, it is just the one I bought on Ebay that was cheap so you may want to check it out).
Iceland was the trip that I used my tripod the most. Both for the Northern Lights and because I was shooting in isolated places.
WHEN IS THIS METHOD MOST SUITABLE:
From my experience this method is best used in remote, relatively empty or secluded environments. I say this because I am always wary of setting up my equipment in busy places not only because it would be easy for someone to take the camera but for fear of someone knocking the tripod while passing and damaging the camera. In saying this, I have set my camera up in busy tourist places like Lake Louise, Canada with no hesitation. It mostly comes down to a case by case decision.
Having an isolated hillside was the perfect opportunity to set up my tripod.
The shutter release I use works up to 100 metres which is super handy for shots where I want to be further away from the camera. It is also a great tool to have if you are ever going to do long exposures for things like The Northern Lights.
2. ASK SOMEONE IN YOUR VICINITY… BUT ASK THE RIGHT WAY.
Asking other travelers is a suggestion that most travel blogs will mention but I completely understand that this is easier said than done. While I am now very used to asking strangers to take my photo it can still be really awkward! Most importantly though, the desired result for your photo is not always achieved when asking a stranger because everyone has different photographic experience, so below I have written the exact process I go through. I also want to note that this whole section does not only apply to strangers! If I am lucky enough to be traveling with a friend, my boyfriend or am on a tour group I do the exact same things (in particular the last tip!).
Who to ask?
Look for someone with a DSLR camera, this will usually mean they have a better understanding of photography and will possibly frame your photo better. It will also mean that you dont have to take time out of their sightseeing to explain how to use the camera. Also avoid asking anyone in a large group or with kids (you don’t want to be a hassle!). I try and look for a fellow solo traveler or a couple, so I can offer to take their photo for them as well
I am not one for taking selfies even when traveling solo but this was my one exception haha! Meet Humphrey who lives in the Sahara!
What to ask?
Be really specific – this is the awkward part that you learn to overcome. When I ask someone to take my photo I first gauge how happy they are to take it and if they are I will make a note such as “Oh, if you could get the mountains in the shot and have it facing in that direction *points* that would be amazing!”
I also always make a huge deal about thanking the person and apologise for being picky so that they know that I am really appreciative of them taking on board any directions.
Don’t be afraid to tell the person what your plan for the photo is! In this instance I just laughed and said “I know this might sound lame but I would love a shot of me sitting in that window looking out!” – 9 times out of 10 they will just laugh with you and be like “Sure!” – *I then also showed them the photo I took without me in it so they understood the framing*
MY NUMBER 1 TIP FOR ASKING SOMEONE TO TAKE YOUR PHOTO!!
Take a photo beforehand with your ideal frame. The reality is that even with directions the person you ask might not understand what you are envisioning. An effective method I use is to take the photo I want before you approach the person. That way I can show them the photo I took on my screen and be like “I just took this photo and would absolutely love one like it with me in the frame if that is not too much trouble!”
This way the person can see the exact photo you want without you having to give any instructions at all. As I mentioned previously, I always make sure to be super appreciative, offer to take their photo as well and if it’s appropriate have a chat to them!
This is an example of a photo where I took the shot first without anyone in it. I then showed the tourist that was passing by and asked if they could take the same shot with me in it!
WHEN IS THIS METHOD MOST SUITABLE:
This is my go to method for places where setting up a tripod would be impractical or a nuisance. The problem with this method though is you need other ‘travelers’ there to take the photo. So what do you do if you don’t have a tripod and there isn’t anyone to ask to take your photo…
Sometimes asking a stranger can lead to some cool candid shots if they take the photo before you are ready!
3. GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SELF TIMER
I completely understand that not everyone can afford a tripod or shutter release. Carrying these around in your backpack can be difficult. I did not have a tripod or shutter release for the first 6 months of my travels so my solution was to get creative with my self timer. Ledges, rocks, tilting the camera up using something on the ground – you name it, I probably tried it. I was surprised how many of these shots lead to some really cool and different perspectives!
A lot of the photos I take at lower angles were on a self timers.
The only drawcard of this option is that you might not be able to get very far away from the camera. For example, my camera has a maximum 10 second timer on it. Consequently, I am running away in some of my earlier shots because I wanted to be further away from the lens!
Traveling solo does not mean that you have to miss out on having amazing self portrait travel photos! While it does take some getting used to, I personally think that it is worth the effort because these photos will remind you of priceless memories and experiences.
If you have any questions feel free to comment below as I would love to help out!
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