If you are one of the brave souls who has decided to take on the globe completely solo, then you know what it is like to have that moment of wanting to take a photo of yourself but not quite sure how.
Many times we are forced to take the plunge of asking a total stranger or someone you barely know to take your picture.
There’s the inevitable fumble with the camera, trying to casually direct the person to get the photo you want and after all that, you have to actually pose. And unfortunately nine times out of ten the photo never turns out as you wanted.
Maybe you are trying to break into the travel blog niche or simply want amazing photos to share with your friends and family back home. Either way, it’s really hard to take the pictures you want when travelling by yourself.
I have been there, as a solo traveller and a blogger. I have done the awkward posing and the asking for a second picture. I have also been the person standing unashamedly in front of a tripod in a very public place.
However, I always think it is worth it to get the picture you want. Unless you are a landscape photographer, people want to see you on your travels. You are the subject experiencing all these amazing places so it is only natural that people want to see you in the moment enjoying yourself.
Having been the person shamelessly taking selfies and jumping in front of a tripod, here are the best ways to capture travel photos when travelling by yourself:
Invest in the gear
You do not have to spend thousands of pounds on top-of-the-range gadgets. Simply investing in a cheap tripod for your camera or device will make a huge difference to how you produce travel content.
I am not talking about long, bulky camera tripods you see being used by professionals. Thankfully, there are a wide array of compact, adjustable tripods on the market that will slot easily into your backpack.
One of the most popular tripods used by bloggers across the globe are ones with flexible legs. Available in mini and larger sizes, these nifty little items not only stand up straight like a regular tripod but their legs can also be wrapped around poles, fences or the side of a table.
This added versatility will add a whole new level to your travel photos. A smaller version of these tripods are inexpensive but sturdy enough to hold a DSLR camera.
If you are taking photos solely with a smartphone, then you may consider a versatile tripod for your device. There are plenty to choose from. You can get compact gadgets that have extendable legs and turn your smartphone into an unbeatable camera/ tripod combination.
If a tripod is not your thing, don’t discount the benefits of a selfie stick. The selfie stick has a bit of a reputation and many people are embarrassed to be seen with one in public.
However, it is still great for taking pictures of yourself in great locations. My trick is to set my phone to take three photos in a row on a timer and then I move the stick around behind me to get some fantastic perspective shots.
If you are an action camera person like me, 3-way mounts are the best accessory on the market for your device. Not only are they ideal for perspective shots but the bottom part can be removed and turned into tripod legs for even more flexibility in your pictures.
Know your devices
Whether your tool of choice is your smartphone, an action camera, a DSLR or any shooting device in between, you need to know how your device works.
The majority of cameras have a shutter function that allows you to take a number of photos after a few seconds. This is a great tool that gives you to time to get in front of the camera, to move around and leaves you with a fantastic selection of photos to choose from.
Some cameras have the capability to pair a remote with them. These remotes can be bought online, just be sure that it is compatible with your specific device before purchase. They will allow you to control your camera when you are not holding it.
Most cameras made in the last few years also have bluetooth functionality that allows you to pair your device with your phone. This is usually done via an app. This will give you endless freedom to take as many photos as you like and also be able to see what your camera lens is seeing on your phone, making for the perfect picture.
Most action cameras have a time lapse function which commands the camera to take a series of photos at selected intervals for as long as you want.
For example, you could set your camera to continuously take pictures at 1 second intervals until you tell it to stop. This is an amazing way to move around in front of the camera and catch a spectacular candid shot.
One thing I have learned since taking my own travel photos is to be a bit shameless. Yes, people will stare and in some cases come up and ask if they can take the photo for you (I usually politely decline because I know I can get the shot myself).
In the beginning, I used to be terrified of people seeing me take my photo so I would try to find the quietest place I could for my photoshoot. However, this was never the best location for my picture so I had to quickly become brazen with my photography.
Now I set up my tripod in busy parks or squares or in front of pretty buildings on bustling streets. I know I look ridiculous jumping around in front of my camera but the shots that come at the other end are more than worth it.
Having said all this do not venture too far from your camera at any time. Don’t get distracted by your phone or leave your device for too long, remember there are always opportunists ready to grab at any moment.
Find your style
If you know exactly the type of photos you like to take and what your friends or followers want to see then it becomes much easier to adapt to being your own photographer.
Personally, I like a mixture of perspective shots (me looking out at buildings or landscapes) or wide shots (a minuscule me against an impressive backdrop).
I know that these are the photos I want to take so I make sure to have the gear on-hand to capture them at all times and am able to quickly scan my surroundings for the best angle or composition for my photos.
You can edit your photos with endless filters and colours but in the end if you don’t have a consistent style and know what you want from your travel photography, you will never master your travel photos.
If all else fails, ask
It may not be the ideal scenario but if you are stuck and want to grab a special snapshot of yourself, sometimes you will find it necessary to ask a stranger.
Make sure to set your camera settings before you hand over the device and don’t be afraid to tell your temporary photographer exactly what you are looking for. A bit of direction never hurts!
The photo may not be perfect but you will have at the very least a great memory from a great location on your travels.