When traveling to a new place, what’s one thing you can’t leave without getting? A picture!
And not just any picture – a picture of YOU standing in front of that iconic place to document and record that YOU were there. Something “to show the grandkids.” Something to tell stories about. Getting pictures taken of yourself is one of the hardest things to achieve when traveling alone. Here are six useful tips on how to take pictures of yourself when traveling solo:
1. ASK STRANGERS
Being a traveler is like being in a secret society – without the secret part. I usually feel a sense of community among other travelers (distinguishable from vacationers). Maybe it’s because everybody is on Cloud 9 at that canyon, monument, or beach, that everybody is so generous and helpful. Or maybe it’s because there is something special about being on the road and witnessing new things with strangers. Whatever it is, know that random people can do a good bit of your photo taking for you.
Don’t be afraid to give directions about how you want your photo to be taken. Obviously don’t be arrogant or demanding as they are doing you a favor, but people are usually happy to help. I find it beneficial to take a sample pic of the picture I want them to take. This helps them try to achieve that look.
Because, who knew? Some people do not know how to take photos. I could make an entire album of all the bad shots taken of me. I don’t get it. My entire head should be in the frame. The picture should be straight. Your finger should not star in the shot. You have to actually press the shutter. Here and there, you’ll get people who know what they’re doing. They’ll snap continuously and get different angles to give you options. Some people will give you one picture…because that’s what you asked for, “a picture.” And if you’re eyes are closed in it, oh well. That was your shot.
If you want them to snap a few pics, let them know. Closed mouths don’t get fed. But remember, be kind, rewind, and pay it forward! Take photos of other people, too. Sometimes offer without being asked. No one is trekking all the way to Iceland not to get a picture of themselves in front of Skogafoss.
My tripod is my best friend when I travel. After multiple spoofs of going on trips and not having the right equipment, I’ve finally gotten a grasp on my must have photo gear. Discounting the actual camera itself, the tripod is the most important tool for a solo travel photographer. With a tripod, you can set your camera up and put it on an interval timer (or use a remote shutter release) to take automatic pictures of you in front of a scene. Click. Click. Click. Nailed it!
3. CAMERA MOUNTS
Head mounts, wrist mounts, poles, gimbals, stabilizers, suction cups, you name it. Having the equipment to set up your camera in different situations will serve you well in the quest of getting photos of yourself. If you find yourself lacking while on a trip, don’t be afraid to use your environment. That flat boulder can be a tripod.
4. DRONE ACTION
Consumer drones have become increasingly popular and they come in all shapes and sizes with different capabilities. For around $400 you can get an entry level drone for taking aerial shots and hard to get to angles – like the shot you want of yourself standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Unless you have a photographer crouched with a telephoto lens nearby, a drone is the only way to get it. You’ll control the drone and take the pictures. Like anything, it will take some practice. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be piloting like nobody’s business.
Note: Always drone responsibly. Always research the drone laws of any country you intend to fly in. Check out FAADroneZone for safety guidelines and requirements for flying in the U.S.
5. THE SELFIE
Explanation unnecessary, right? Ok. I’ll just say that not only can the selfie come in handy when all else fails, but it is sometimes the best look for a photo. Like when you want to capture your face knowing there’s a tiger right behind you.
6. ASK STRANGERS PT. 2
What if you don’t even have a camera? What do you do when you’ve just gotten out of the ocean to climb up a cliff to dive off of and you don’t have your camera to capture it? You find someone nearby and you ask so nicely if they could take a photo with their phone or camera and email it to you. I’ve done this back and forth a few times with people and it’s always a nice feeling to receive “presents” from real and random people that you just met.
There it is. Six ways to take pictures of yourself.
While “getting the shot” is the goal of this article, remember that it’s also perfectly fine to put the camera away and just live in the moment!
How do you take pictures when you travel alone? Let me know in the comments below.