How to Take Photos of Yourself While Traveling Solo
Guest Post by Max Therry
When you’re traveling, it’s important to take photos as a reminder of your journey. But what if you want to create memories of these great locations and you’re traveling alone?
If you don’t have a companion to take photos of you, all is not lost. It’s quite simple to set up a decent self-portrait regardless of whether you use a camera phone, a DSLR, or a compact camera. All you need is a little time and preparation, and hopefully this short guide will give you a few ideas to put into practice.
There are a couple of pieces of equipment that can make it much easier to take self-portraits, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on them:
A sturdy but lightweight tripod will give you a better chance of taking sharp images in low-light conditions and make it easier to get the camera at the right height for taking selfies. Choose one that folds down as small as possible for traveling, and check how heavy it is before you buy. A compact camera or a phone camera tripod will weigh a lot less than one that is built to support a DSLR camera.
Expert Tip: Flexible tripods are quite useful and can be attached to anything
These little sticks designed to hold your phone may seem cliché, but they are handy bits of kit. A big plus is their small size and ease of packing to travel with. Another advantage is that you can experiment with different angles.
Expert Tip: Sit down and put a selfie stick in front of you, lie down and take a photo from above, or even put it over your shoulder. Get creative!
Remote Control Shutter Release
If you have a DSLR, you can buy a remote controller that will electronically press the shutter for you. This saves the need to set your camera timer manually and then dash back to your spot and compose yourself before the timer runs out! Most have a 2 and 10 second timer on them.
Expert Tip: Some phones can be used as a DSLR Remote. Check if there is an available app (like this one) that works with your camera!
Ideas for Taking Photos
As mentioned above, using a timer is a good idea. Set your camera from single shot to the 2 or 10 second timer mode once you have found your location. 10 seconds is probably best if you are pressing the shutter button yourself, as it will give you time to get back to your spot and pose. If you are using a remote timer, 2 seconds is long enough. If you use a remote and set it to 10 seconds, the countdown can seem to take much longer than that!
Use reflective surfaces. You can use windows, mirrors and still water to make some fun and creative shots.
Ask someone if they would mind taking your photo. Most people are obliging about this, and you have probably been asked to do the same yourself at some point. If you choose someone with a camera, chances are they will take a better-framed and composed shot than someone who isn't walking around snapping pictures. However, it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily know how to use your camera if it’s a different type from theirs – you’ll need to put the settings in yourself before they take the shot.
Sort out your background and framing before you stand in the shot. This means taking several test shots so you can see if the setting is right for you. This would also work great with the previous tip: before asking somebody to take a photo of you, show him or her the frame you’d like to be in on your camera - this might help them understand you more clearly.
Tips for Getting Better Self-Portraits
Don’t just take shots from one angle. Try from above or set your camera on a tripod at around your waist height. When you shoot from that angle, there is less distortion in the image, so you will look in proportion.
Take lots of shots, not just one. Every time you click the shutter, move slightly. Turn a little or change your hand or head position. Use the burst mode, especially if you’re trying to capture yourself being active. This will give you more choice when it comes to choosing the very best shots.
The best looking and most natural way to stand for a portrait is to have one foot slightly back from your other, and put your weight on the back foot. Slightly turn your upper body so that you are not facing the camera square on, and keep your shoulders up and back. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, try clasping them loosely in front of you, holding something like your sunglasses or a scarf, or putting one hand on your hip. If you are next to a wall, try resting one arm against it. It might be better than just having your arms hanging straight down at your sides.
Check your light. The best time of day to shoot is the hour after sunrise, and the hour before sunset. This is known as the ‘golden hour’, and it has a lovely, warm and soft light with gentle shadows. The golden hour is far more flattering than the harsh, mid-day sun and the hard contrasts it provides. If you have to shoot during the day when the sun is high, try to find a shaded area to shoot in.
Be yourself. This is the most important thing! If you try to be someone you’re not for the camera, you will end up with strained and awkward-looking shots.
Edit Your Images
Nearly all photos will benefit from a little post processing in image editing software.
If you prefer taking your photos with a phone, you can use your phone’s built-in editing abilities or try downloadable app: some of them will actually give you more control over the adjustments and better results.
Also, you can try using some third-party camera app instead of the pre-installed one. There are plenty of such apps that will allow you to have full control over the shutter speed, focus, white balance etc and increase the improve the quality of your picture.
If you have access to your laptop or computer, there are also several reasonably priced options for image editors, like Affinity, Luminar or ON1. If you want a free image editor, you can use GIMP, which has been around for years, although it takes a bit of practice to use it to full effect.
When you have picked the best photos that you want to edit, use your image editor to crop your images to tidy up your frame and remove things at the edges of your images that you don’t want in there.
You can also erase the unwanted elements from your photo - quite a handy feature when you take your photo using shutter remote or timer and can’t really control your background and catch a perfect moment. Boost the contrast if the image needs it, and perhaps brighten and add a little more color.
Don’t overdo your image editing – it’s very easy to get carried away!