There are many things to love about solo traveling, but one of the challenges about traveling alone is trying to get yourself in your travel photos. However, as I have gone on more and more solo trips, I’ve discovered there are definitely ways to take photos of yourself while solo traveling, if you get creative.
Of course, traveling shouldn’t be all about taking photos of yourself. However, I am a huge believer in documenting my life and my travels, hence I blog and I am a scrapbooker. I always enjoy looking back at my photos and reminiscing about these memories, especially when I’m actually in the photos. Plus, I want my kids to look at these photos someday and go “well, mom was pretty cool back then” (well, hopefully they think that).
One thing to remember is that you WILL feel super awkward and get some judgy looks, stares and comments. I wanted to die of embarrassment when I was out shooting by a pretty beach one day and was posing in front of my tripod, when this little girl blurted out, “mommy, what is that lady doing?!” That same day, another guy looked at me and went, “isn’t that what a selfie is for?” But you WILL eventually get used to them and learn to ignore them, I promise!
Here are my best ways to take photos of yourself while solo traveling – now get out there and work it!
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1. Camera tripod with remote or time lapse mode
I use this to take most of my photos – I like to joke that my tripod is my Instagram boyfriend. I have this tripod from Amazon. It is cheap, easy-to-use, and lightweight – this is super important because if it was big, bulky, and difficult to use, I would never take it with me anywhere.
You can get a remote for your camera, so that you are not running back and forth to set the self-timer. I personally don’t use a remote, because I have an older dSLR (Nikon d300) and they don’t make very many remotes for them anymore. However, one trick that I have discovered is the time lapse mode – on my camera it is called “interval timer shooting,” but you can look in your use manual or Google your camera model + time lapse mode to figure out what it’s called for yours and how to use it. I love this because I can set it to take dozens of shots at a time, without having to run back and forth, so I just turn it on and pose away.
This is my preferred method of choice – however, I avoid setting up in crowded areas, and try to keep my camera not too far away from me. I have been known to show up to a location super early in the morning so that I can avoid the crowds (this photo in front of the Bean in Chicago was taken at 6:15am). Also, keep in mind that different locations have different rules regarding tripods so you may not be able to set one up in certain places. I also use caution in areas that have rough terrain or heavy wind, as my tripod can easily get knocked over.
2. Selfie Stick
Ok, I know, I know, you’re totally judging me right now – I used to roll my eyes when someone busted out a selfie stick, but now I consider them to be another useful tool in helping get great travel photos of myself. Plus, they are so readily available – if you need one in a pinch, they are available EVERYWHERE (and I mean, you can even get one from an annoying street vendor if you decide you need one right then and there).
I’m honestly still trying to figure out how to make the most of my selfie stick and up my game – but I have seen other people take some epic shots using theirs! I did bust mine out several times while in Mexico City, and glad I had one with me. Some people opt to use a GoPro with their selfie sticks, but I just use my handy dandy iPhone.
My selfie stick came in handy when I was at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, which as you may know, is always swarming with people. For this shot, I stood on a ledge, whipped out my selfie stick, and got all the people out of my shot.
3. Tripod for Smartphone
These are great for situations in which you just can’t use a traditional tripod, or when you don’t want to carry one around. I actually use this selfie stick with tripod leg attachments which is super versatile and compact. It’s small and easy to keep in my purse, and quickly whip it out when I need it.
I found that traditional tripods were not allowed at many landmarks and archaeological sites in Mexico City. However, I was able to use my smartphone tripod at the pyramids of Teotihuacan, which allowed me to capture photos of myself with these epic pyramids.
I went on a cabin trip up in the mountains earlier this year – when I got there, I discovered that I had failed to charge my dSLR battery and also didn’t bring my charger. Luckily, because my selfie stick tripod is so compact, I usually just leave it in my purse, which allowed me to capture these shots of myself in this winter wonderland.
I also used my selfie stick tripod to snap this photo of myself in front of the palace at Versailles – “real” tripods weren’t allowed, but I was able to use my phone tripod to get this snap of myself. This is one of my favorite travel photos to date!
4. Ask someone!
Sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do and ask someone to snap a quick photo (or two, or three. Or even ten) of you. Sometimes I get really shy about this, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get! This is sometimes my only option in locations, such as museums, in with neither tripods or selfie sticks are allowed.
Be selective about who you ask! Pick someone who looks trustworthy – perhaps someone with a camera of their own. I like to ask people who have dSLRs of their own, since the likelihood is higher that they know how to use them. Tell the person what shot you had in mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for a retake (or you can ask another person). One strategy is to ask someone who is also alone, and to snap a photo of them in exchange for them taking one for you. If you are on a tour, you can ask someone else on the tour with you, or even the guide to snap a quick photo for you. This is what I did while touring the Luis Barragan house in Mexico City.
Or, you can ask a group who is struggling to get a photo with everyone in it. When I see a group of people taking turns getting a shot of each other, I usually offer to take one of all of them in exchange of a photo of me. The added benefit here is that usually means there ends up being fewer people getting in the way of your shot. Patience is key. For this shot in the atrium at the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, I waited until the room emptied out except for this family who was struggling to get a photo of themselves, so I offered to snap a photo of them in exchange for a shot of me. They were so appreciative that they invited me to tour the garden with them so they could help me get more photos of myself – ha!
5. Make new friends
Meeting new people on your travels is a great way to explore a destination and help you get some photos of yourself! One way to do this is by staying in a hostel, which has social events and activities to help you get to know others who are also staying there. I personally have only stayed in a hostel once, and ended up barely spending time there because I was constantly on the go, but I have friends who stay in hostels all the time and have met lots of people who became activity partners and friends.
In this day and age, social media is a powerful tool to help you connect with people all around the world. You can use social media in a number of ways to help you connect with people who are in the same destination you will be in. You can post a status update on your profile asking friends to connect you with people they may know who are in the same city you are going to. Or, you can join a travel Facebook group – Girls Love Travel is a great one – to help you connect with other travel lovers all over the world.
For me personally, Instagram is a platform that I’ve had great success with in connecting with amazing, inspiring travelers from all over the world. When Jennifer from Adventures of Wander, who lives in Stockholm, saw that I was going to be in town, she reached out to me via Instagram and offered to show me around her hometown. We spent an afternoon exploring the city and snapping photos of each other – and she helped me discover some Instagram-worthy spots that I would not have known about otherwise!
I had been friends with Melissa from Wit & Folly on Instagram for awhile before I found out we would be in LA at the same time. I had a fun day meeting up with her and going mural crawling in Venice and Santa Monica, and then going up to the observation deck at Sky Space. It was so lovely to finally meet up in person – and to snap a bazillion photos of each other!
Social media is also great for helping you find local friends who can accompany you on your adventures. I regularly meet up with Natalie from Pastels and Passports, whom I also met on Instagram, for photo outings that help me discover some of the amazing spots that we have here in San Francisco.
And there you have it! There is definitely an art to taking pictures when traveling alone. What are some of your favorite ways to take photos of yourself while solo traveling?
MY FAVORITE CAMERA GEAR FOR TRAVEL:
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