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While I’d love to say there’s a hot European or a private photographer on the other side of my photos, the truth is, a majority of my pictures are taken on a self-timer or with specific instructions given to a nearby stranger (bless their hearts).
So I’m going to break down how to take those stunning, Instagram-worthy photos if you travel by yourself, as well as ways to go about asking a stranger, who to look for, and what you can do to ensure someone you just met can take a quality photo for you.
Pictures tell a thousand words of stories that we hardly do justice for without graphic evidence.
In a perfect world,
I’d be married to Channing Tatum we’d all be able to hire private photographers to follow us everywhere on trips, snapping every staged candid moment, and making us look like the supermodels we all could be if fast food chains and Nutella didn’t exist.
Alas, ’tis not the case, so listen up my
unphotogenic lovely lilies, a mind-blown you awaits on the other side of this post 😉
1. IN ANGLES WE TRUST
When near a popular monument, make sure you tell the person to place the camera just a few feet above the ground and angle it upwards.
If by yourself, place your camera on the ground against a rock, or anything that can prop it.
By angling it upwards, you can cut the heads off of all the people around you, making it seem like it’s just you and the Eiffel Tower chillin’ in Paris 😉
When you think of a scenery, think of the thousands, maybe millions who’ve been on those exact grounds you’re standing on, taking the exact same photo, with the exact same, standard angle.
It’s amazing what perspective does to enhancing a photo. Using an angle apart from the “holding my camera directly in front of my face while standing straight” does wonders to the eye.
2. SELF-TIMERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS
Self-timers work great when you’ve got a place to yourself, or you’ve got a lot of time to kill. This usually involves placing your camera a few feet in front of you, allowing you 10 seconds to get in position, and if your camera is in burst mode, I recommend dancing or doing a few fluid movements to add some variety to your shot selection.
Ideally, there is a rock or nearby ledge you can prop your camera against. If not, I recommend this handy tripod for phones!
3. CHOOSE BACKGROUNDS THAT COMPLEMENT YOUR OUTFIT
Maybe this is just for my ladies, but when your outfit coordinates with a monument, lake, or wall, the photo will pop even more.
Tie dye with mesmerizing blue water really brings out my eyes and credit score dontcha think? 😂
4. ASK STRANGERS TO TAKE AT LEAST 3 POSES OF YOU
First off, no one is immune to theft while traveling, and if you travel solo, you run the risk of placing your camera into the hands of a thief (I’ve seen it happen, ugh).
But there’s a foolproof way to make sure the person you’re about to approach isn’t going to run off with your hundred to thousand-dollar DSLR.
If a person has kids with them, specifically a toddler in a stroller, you know for sure they aren’t running off with anything.
You take my camera sir, and I’ll take your baby and put a ransom on that @$#. But don’t worry, I don’t discriminate. This applies to kids, spouses, and pets as well.
So now that you’ve found your photographer and you’ve made eye contact with his toddler
in case they want to crawl off as an accomplice to this potential thievery when you’re ready to strike a pose, now what?
Kindly ask them to take 3 separately timed photos. WHY?
The first picture will be blurry, the second you won’t be ready, and the third will be just perfect. You’re welcome 😉
5. LOOK FOR PEOPLE WITH DSLRs ON THEIR NECK
In most cases, if a person has a DSLR around their neck, chances are they will respect a fellow
expensive-camera-buyer photographer and treat it with the same care as they would their own.
Not only that, but there’s a good chance they already know how to work your camera and you don’t have to spend 10 minutes explaining how to push a button (it’s okay grandpas of the world, we still love you).
6. LAUGH AT THE CAMERA, INSTEAD OF SMILING
LAUGH instead of smile. Smiling is weird. And awkward. And weird.
Save the smiles for things that matter in life (looking at you, Nutella). Laugh out loud towards the camera to produce the most genuine smile your face is capable of.
Your face muscles will look relaxed and the “smile” in the end that’s generated from the laugh will end up looking more natural.
7. LOOK FOR A COUPLE TAKING AN AWKWARD SELFIE
Use this method when you know exactly what kind of picture you want. Because when you offer to take their picture, you’re going to frame it and arch your back in a manner that shows you know what you’re doing.
When they see their photo and are amazed by the vision you had for it, kindly ask if they can mimic your movements and take that exact same shot.
With them having an example to look at, and remembering how you positioned your body to get that perfect angle, you’ll have a better chance of getting exactly what you want!
And they’ll definitely take the time to produce a photo you’re happy with, since you went out of your way to do that for them.
People are usually so cute about imitating my squats and angles when I ask, and the results are always great!
8. NOT EVERY PHOTO NEEDS TO BE A CHEESY ONE
Am I deep in thought?
Am I lost in the moment?
Am I holding in a fart?
All very accurate assumptions and the beauty of the photo is that the interpretation of it is left to the eye of the beholder.
Switch up your style from the normal hand on the hip and angled shoulders, and show people what an enigma you truly are.
Patterned backgrounds, bodies of water, and large monuments all make great backdrops and are iconic for “look at me, I traveled”!
It also helps to use accessories to keep your hands occupied. The reason I love fedoras is because it hides a percentage of my alien-shaped head and gives me something to place my hands on because I suffer from Awkward As Hell Syndrome.
9. TAKE A SHORT VIDEO
While this might be a longer and more complicated method to capturing a quick photo, it’s a great way to get a variety to choose from.
Much like the burst method where your phone can take up to 10 shots in one second, this is also a great alternative, because when you upload the video to your computer, pause the frame you like, then take a screenshot of the screen, crop and edit accordingly, and upload it as a photo! BOOM!
10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHOW SOME PERSONALITY!
It baffles me that there are some people who go on these amazing trips and don’t have ONE single picture of themselves from the trip! Okay, taking pictures of yourself is awkward, I get it.
But anybody can grab a picture from Google and say they went somewhere. Being in the picture is not only undeniable proof that you were there, but it conveys so much more.
Your mood, your expression, and your body all change daily, and you get a chance to see how all of that looked while on a trip, to laugh or gawk at later.
So embrace the moment! Be silly! Have fun!
You’re in gorgeous, foreign territory, even if it was the crappiest time of your life (which, uhhm… impossible), so make that picture hold thousands of memories you won’t be able to adequately retell with words.
For taking sharper images with a nice Bokeh effect, I shoot with a Canon 60D and a 50mm f1/8 lens.
If you’ve held or used this lens before, you can vouch for how easy and lightweight it is. It’s the only lens I’ve shot with in my last two years of travel, and it has an amazingly sharp focus on its subjects.
Note: It’s not a zoom lens, so if you’re used to stock lenses, this will be a bit of an adjustment, and sometimes a challenge to explain to strangers.
Below, I’ve posted the Amazon [clickable] photos of all the top camera and equipment I travel with! Each camera serves a different purpose or captures a different perspective, so feel free to ask questions about any of them in the comments!
The Sony A6000 is compact, lightweight, has amazing quality, and is suitable for beginner to advanced photographers. There’s a ton of reviews I watched on YouTube featuring this camera, and after 20 or so, it was enough to sell me. Almost every photo from 2017 that you’ve seen on my Instagram, was taken on this camera and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
If you’re someone who’s an aspiring blogger or influencer and really looking to take your photos and Instagram gallery to the next level, then you really oughta consider the [small] $30 investment to get a tripod to better stabilize and compose your photos. This has lasted me well over a year and fits in a backpack and small bag. It is hands down the single-best accessory for anybody looking to improve their photography!
Full disclosure, I’m a GoPro ambassador, so I not only get to try out some of their amazing products before they hit the market, but I get to be featured in their global marketing ads too! This camera I got to beta test all around Bali in 2017 and if you haven’t seen the full ad yet, check out this post! I’m obsessed with the quality, and the 4K 60FPS is just beastly. The stabilization combined with the quality makes this camera the most versatile on the market. Can’t go wrong!
And if you loved this post and want more fun, detailed, and relevant tips about how I turned my passion for travel into a lifestyle, check out my e-book for only $10 here!
Disclaimer: All Amazon product links are affiliated, meaning if you purchase directly through my blog, this comes at no extra price to you, but a small commission comes to me. I like to think of it as a finder’s fee, hoping this post saves you time from having to do your own research. Thank you guys for supporting me and I’ll continue recommending products I not only personally use, but love!