Ok, let’s talk about solo travel photography. We all see those gorgeous photos of solo travellers living their best life hiking through mountains or swimming in turquoise waters or running down the streets of postcard-perfect fairytale villages without another person in sight.
These photos are beautiful. We all envy them. We all want photos like them. But that’s easier said than done and normally we end up staring at the image asking ‘how!?’.
Let’s face it, solo photography, especially when it comes to self-portraits, can be really hard. Especially if you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘photographer’. However, there are a few tips and tricks that do make it a lot easier. Even if you don’t have all the gear and knowledge.
As the girl who started with epically awkward double-chin selfies and have now moved onto photos like the ones in this article, I think it’s safe to say that I kind of know what I’m talking about.
Ready to learn my solo travel photography tips? Let’s go!
Solo Travel Photography Tips: Hire a Photographer
Let’s start with the easiest option when it comes to solo travel photography tips: hire someone. At one time, this might have seemed very strange but as more and more people travel and want photos of themselves around the world, finding a travel photographer for hire has become very common.
Why Hiring a Professional is a Good Option
Hiring a photographer obviously comes with a fee. So why would you choose to go this route instead of trying to take your own? Well, there are a few reasons.
First off, if you don’t have certain camera equipment then it’s going to be pretty tricky to get good photos of yourself. Phone photography has come a long way (you can find my smartphone photography tips here) but at the end of the day, if you want to do some self-photography, you’ll need a bit more than just a phone.
Hiring a photographer also guarantees good photos. If you are a perfectionist or are celebrating something special and want truly amazing photos, then hiring a professional is the way to go. It’s also a lot easier and stress-free.
Another perk to hiring a professional is that, well, they are professionals. They know the area, they know where to go and when, they can help you figure out how to pose, and more. Part of the reason why I have hired professionals a few times is because of the experience and learning opportunities. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in front of the camera and having a hype man/woman behind the lens was a big confidence booster. I also learned a lot from the photographers I’ve worked with in terms of how to pose which has been incredibly valuable. If you haven’t yet, check out my article on how to pose for travel photos. I promise it will come in handy!
Where to Find a Professional Photographer to Hire
There are several companies that offer this service at a variety of prices. The most affordable option I’ve found is via Airbnb Experiences. The photographers who offer photoshoots via Airbnb are a mix of students looking to practice and professional photographers who do this on the side. Prices vary depending on the photographer and you can see examples of their portfolios online. When you find one you like, just book a time that works for both of you and away you go! Since they are hosted on the Airbnb platform and very review based, I think these photographers are trustworthy. I’ve certainly never had an issue with it. The shot above is from a photoshoot I did with a photographer from Airbnb Experiences in Dublin.
Solo Travel Photography Tips: Ask Other Travellers for Help
You can always ask others for help too. Of course, this involves being a bit smart about who you hand your phone or camera off to but chances are if you come across someone else who is also taking photos, you’ll be safe. I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve handed my cameras to over the years and I’ve never had a problem.
Of course, you never know what type of photos you will end up with. I’ve lucked in and actually handed my camera to actual photographers before. I’ve also got my camera back with blurred images and half my head cut off. It’s a crapshoot.
If you do choose to go this route, you can always show them exactly what you want. Frame the shot before you hand them the camera to show them exactly what you want and ask them to take a few different shots rather than just one. Don’t worry about being bossy, most people won’t mind, especially if you offer to return the favour afterwards!
If you don’t love the idea of asking a complete stranger for help, there are a few other ways to make this work. You can join a tour and ask the guide to take your photo. If you are at a restaurant or a hotel, you could always ask a staff member for help if they have a moment. Or, turn to social media. There are so many Facebook groups out there for travellers. Post in a group you are part of and see if anyone is around and interested in doing a photo walk together.
Solo Travel Photography Tips: How to Take Your Own Self-Portraits
This is probably the part you’ve been looking for. After all, knowing how to take self-portraits is a pretty handy skill and can save you a lot of time and frustration by not having to rely on someone else. Of course, it’s also more work. But, I look at my travel self-portraits as a visual journal of some of my best memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. So, if you have the time and the patience, it’s definitely worth trying. Here are my tips on how to take self-portraits.
Plan in Advance
Planning makes things run much more quickly and much smoother. Especially if you are running around a city by yourself with your camera. I like to do a bit of scouting ahead of time and find places that I like and want photos in front of. I usually walk around a city to discover these spots for myself, but Instagram and Pinterest can also be very helpful in finding great photo locations.
I’m not a fashion icon but choosing your outfit is also somewhat important. Contrasting colours will help you stand out more in the photos and is more visually appealing. Also, some female influencers especially like to do wardrobe changes. Personally, that’s not really my style. But I will bring a jacket or a sweater to take on and off so things look slightly different without me having to drag around multiple outfits and try to figure out where to change. I don’t have the time or energy for that but if you do- go for it!
PS: Looking to up your travel photo game? Consider signing up for KelbyOne photography classes. I’ve found lots of helpful tips and tricks for self portraits, landscape photography, photo editing and more from these classes. Learn more here.
Get Up Early
I love mornings at the best of times. Especially in big European cities. Few people are out and about before 9 or 10am which gives me lots of space and time to explore on my own. This also makes early mornings ideal for taking self-portraits while travelling solo.
The lack of crowds and people in your photo is a huge plus aesthetically, but it’s also beneficial for a few other reasons. First off, I feel more comfortable walking away from my camera to get a photo of myself if there’s not many people around. Secondly, I know almost everyone does it, but I still feel self-conscious taking photos of myself when I travel solo. The fewer people around to see me do it, the more relaxed I feel in front of the camera. Finally, ask any photographer, early morning light is some of the best light you can ask for.
Bring the Right Gear
Part of figuring out how to take self-portraits is to make sure you have the right gear. As I said above, just having a smartphone probably isn’t going to cut it. I mean, you could get creative with the self-timer and propping it up on random items, but at the end of the day, you aren’t going to get the results you want.
That being said, most of us (me included) don’t want to walk around with 100 pounds of camera gear. I want cute self-portraits for Instagram and photobooks. I’m not trying to land the cover photo of the next issue of NatGeo.
You’ll need a camera of some sort (phone can work), a tripod, and a remote (unless your camera is bluetooth compatible and you can use your phone). If you want to know what I use, check out my ‘whats in my camera bag’ post.
How to Take Self-Portraits
You’ve mapped out your photo spots. You’re up early with all the gear, and now it’s time to actually take your self-portraits. This is where you get to have a little fun.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with the framing. Use surrounding items as props, angle the camera high or lower.
If you have a manual camera, play with the f-stops so you get some photos with more of a bokeh effect in the background and others where the background is in focus.
Take lots of photos. Don’t just assume you are one and done. Move around a lot, change your positioning; stand, sit, twirl. Take some photos facing the camera smiling and others looking away. Just keep clicking that remote! It’s easier to press delete than wish you had taken more!
A really handy solo travel photography tip is to put your camera to burst mode. This is especially helpful during shots that involve movement like walking, twirling, or jumping. You could also record a video and take still images from it after.
Don’t spend too long in one place. I’m a big believer in taking multiple photos but that doesn’t mean you should spend 30 minutes in one spot. After all, you aren’t going to want to share 15 photos of the same place on social media. Spend 5-10 minutes maximum in one spot then pick up your gear and move on to somewhere new.
Final Tips for Solo Travel Photography
I will share one final solo travel photography regarding editing your self-portraits. As excited as you may be to do this right away, I personally recommend waiting a few hours or even a couple of days. In my experience, the photos I take of myself don’t always match what I had envisioned in my head and I end up frustrated and disappointed if I look at them too quickly. But, if I sit on them for a bit, enjoy the rest of my day and go back to edit them later, I end up feeling a lot happier with the results.
At the end of the day, you need to do this for yourself. There are a lot of people out there who will tease you for wanting photos of yourself while travelling but don’t let them get to you. It’s totally normal to want some great self-portraits of your adventures around the world. After all, for many of us, these photos are our memories. Personally, I plan on using mine to prove to my future grandchildren that once upon a time I was pretty damn cool.
So, really it comes down to whatever works best for you. Think of your solo travel photos as an investment. If you are more comfortable hiring a professional to take them for you-do it! If you are interested in photography and would like to learn how to take your own self-portraits, then go that route. There’s no right or wrong way to take your solo travel photos, just make sure you take some!
PS: If you are looking to get any of your travel photos printed and turned into wall art, check out BestCanvas.ca. I gave their photo canvas and MIXPIX tiles a try and was thrilled as to how well they turned out. Good quality, bright and vibrant colours, and very affordable pricing. Check them out here.