Taking Photos while Traveling Solo
Solo travel photography can be challenging at first, but as with all skill sets, practice makes perfect!
Between the consistent influx of new inspiration from travel photographers and the advantages of modern society, anyone has the ability to take decent self portraits by themselves- whether or not you consider yourself creatively inclined.
Here are a few of my favorite tips for beginners looking to improve their selfie game while on the road solo!
Be Actively Inspired
Spontaneity is vital for artistic freedom- but so is having a foundation of knowledge about what styles and concepts inspire you! Know what you want before you go.
It can feel quite hectic running around in the moment trying to decide what photo to take and where- and that lady won't move! You'll find that there is more creative momentum having a skeleton to build from.
Do research and create mood boards on sites like Pintrest, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Ask for Help
No harm comes from asking someone for help. The worst that can happen is they either 1) say no or 2) take a bad photo.
Set up the composition you want first. Find and note reference points around the frame to help them maintain the exact spot you want. If someone doesn't get the shot the first time, don't be too shy to ask them to take another. And don't forget to thank them!
Since its invention, the selfie stick has been the solo traveler's best friend.
When I was younger, being old-fashioned, I thought selfie stick photos were tacky, but they have grown on me for certain situations. (I think this encroaching fondness was especially encouraged the more I participated in outdoor and adventure sports.) Regardless, they always have been and are here to stay. Embrace the additional tool in your arsenal!
Use a Tripod
This is the Robin to my Batman while when I'm traveling solo. I love my tripod. I've set it up more places than you would imagine- in rivers, on the side of cliffs, in the middle of the street.
If you're comfortable with a few glances now and then, this is the most efficient way to take your time setting up the shot you want, evaluate, and adjust. You don't have to feel like you're holding someone else up, and you can retry as many times as is in the realm of sanity.
My top tips for using your tripod as cameraman:
Set your Timer - Gives you time to set up
Get a Remote - Not having to sprint to pose after hitting the shutter is always nice
Interval timer or rapid fire shooting - More lottery tickets = Better chances
Alt Tip: Set your phone up on its own tripod for and leave the camera at home
(*Took the above photo with my tripod. I set it up in the canoe across from me and set the timer with rapid fire. At this in my travel career, I was too broke to afford a remote and my phone was too old to support the app, so I had to hit the shutter button and race back to the other side to pose before it went off! My panicked faces while trying not to rock the boat had to be entertaining for anyone who caught a glimpse.)
Video Screen Shot
While it is true that quality may suffer if you're not rocking a camera with mega HD capabilities, being able pause at your ideal composition and screen grab is quite convenient.
This gives you the option of having footage of your travel moments as well. While you may not think a short clip of you walking through a garden might be mind-blowing at present, in 40 years, it might be a sweet surprise looking back at the adventures of your youth. (Plus, B roll for daysss.)
Nota Bene: Always let the camera roll a few seconds longer than you were planning to.
You never know what you might catch . . .
Attach a GoPro
It's no secret that GoPro is friend to a traveler from any walk of life. Due to its convenient size and status as the world's first popular adventure camera, GoPros get the job done.
There are also an endless parade of mounts designed to help GoPro cameras more effectively keep up with you on your journeys (i.e. suction cups, helmet mounts, tripods, etc.). As mankind continues to push the boundaries for creative action, I imagine these little guys will continue to live up to the expectation.
Use a Drone
Nothing adds diversity to a photo set like a bird's eye view, and creating a unique self portrait with a drone is always an exciting creative challenge.
Nota Bene: Save yourself some time and check the laws concerning droning for the area you're exploring before you go.
Know Your Angles
For those of you who didn't grow up day dreaming in front of your bedroom mirrors after the rest of the house went to sleep, this is your time to channel your awkward inner preteen and find what angles and movements you find most inspiring for your photos.
The best advice I can give next to writing an entire article or editing a video on the art of posing: work to improve your posture! Tall, straight spine; chest out while pulling your shoulders back and down; and pay attention to your breathing. Relaxed or tense, it will show, so remember that being comfortable in your own skin in more fashionable than any pose you can churn up from a magazine.
Shake It Off
Relax. There is no concern for a photo, neither business nor pleasure, that is so pressing, it has you stressing out or experiencing FOMO. It simply does not exist.
If you've planned the perfect composition and it does not happen the way you imagined, rise to the challenge. Wow us by allowing your resourcefulness to outweigh the change of circumstance. If you're nervous because you're afraid of looking foolish- good. Little moments like this in life are never as fun if you're not at least a bit nervous.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by not being able to capture it all, slow down and remember why you're doing this in the first place: to capture a rare and special moment. A rare and special moment. So don't forget to make it about the experience. Don't forget to look up.
After you've done your research, learned the rules, and seen what everyone else is doing, start finding ways to shake things up and cultivating a style that's uniquely your own!
Have fun seeking ways to be different. If you know locations you'll be photographing ahead of time, use the foresight to your advantage and begin piecing together mood boards, wardrobe, poses, props, etc.! Get weird, kid.
Enhance Your Knowledge of Photography
There is no factor that sets the curve for improving your solo travel photography like that of improving your overall knowledge of photography. Lighting, composition, style, editing, etc. are all things to consider when taking pictures. This might seem like a lot to remember in the moment, but as with all great skills, practice encourages growth and can light a fire under the ass of inspiration.
Nota Bene: If you want to really get good, start thumbing through the history of photography, whether the niche that interests you or the medium in general.