Being a solo traveller can bring many challenges. For one; how to take photos while travelling solo? It wasn’t until 2021 that I invested in a tripod (my IG bestie), which meant from 2015 to 2021, I was taking selfies, asking people to take my picture, balancing my phone on objects, you name it I tried it.
Taking solo travel photos doesn’t have to be difficult. With practice and a couple of tools, you can create beautiful images with your mobile phone. In time, you will discover that taking photos by yourself is easier than getting someone else to do it. Having this skill will give you the flexibility to take your time creating and allow you to take as many shots as you want without “inconveniencing someone”.
The focus of this article is solo travel, mobile photography. However, all these methods will work for a camera (I just don’t own one).
How do you take pictures of yourself on a solo travel trip?
In this article we will deep dive into how to take travel photos alone. I will share all the methods that can help you get amazing photos from your phone with some solo travel photography tips as well.
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Get an IG Bestie AKA the Tripod
Investing in a tripod has been by far one of the best decisions I’ve made for travelling. And by investment, I don’t mean you need to break the bank and get a boujee state of the art, high-tech tripod. My first one was from Ebay for £15 and while it wasn’t very sturdy it did my Greek content justice.
Now, when looking for a tripod, you want to take a couple of things into consideration.
- It’s weight. How bulky is the tripod? You will be carrying it around most days, so be sure it’s not going to break your back or take up too much room in your day pack. However, you do not want a super light model as it will fall down at the first gust of wind, you need some weight to withhold a strong breeze.
- The height. The main focus of our travel pictures is the backdrop. We want to be able to capture the whole scene and have the flexibility to alter the perspective.
- Can it fold down? You need to take into consideration how much space it will take up in your backpack.
- What accessories does it come with? Look at what heads are included. Do you want a camera mount, a phone mount or both? Also, does the tripod come with a Bluetooth controller?
- Some tripods have a small Bluetooth remote which is ideal for when you want to take a few quick snaps without doing a full-on photoshoot with an intervalometer (I will explain about that in a later section).
I always carry my tripod on days out, so it’s essential that all 3 of these criteria are met. Personally wouldn’t break the bank when it comes to your first tripod. I recommend spending between £15 – £50.
I have the Zomei T90 55″ Phone Tripod with Bluetooth remote. It seems this model has now been discontinued as its not available to purchase anywhere.
As a first tripod I recommend the Eversta 54” phone tripod with Bluetooth remote for £19.99.
Using a tripod takes the pressure off asking someone for more than 2 or 3 shots. It will give you the freedom to spend however long you want creating the perfect photo, without feeling like you are inconveniencing someone.
Setting up your tripod is really easy. Simply unfold the legs to the desired height you want (most tripods have 3 leg lengths). Then add the mount you want to use and put your phone either horizontally or vertically. Then set up the frame.
Solo travel photography tips
When setting up the shot, try not to block any of the main vocal points with your body. You want the background to be the main focus and you are just enhancing the shot with your pretty face.
If you want help improving your composition, then turn on grid view. This will help you with the rule of thirds. If you are unfamiliar with this method, it basically means you want to place your subject (you) in the left or right column and leave the other 2 thirds open.
ALWAYS! Clean your camera lense before you start shooting. This will make your images so much crisper and clearer.
Use a Intervalometer
An intervalometer is a game changing setting that will help you take multiple photos over a period of time. This will eliminate running back and forth to the camera to press the self timer. To get this on your phone you will need to download an app. I use Pro X Cam Lite but if you type Intervalometer into the app store you can find one that suits you.
This is the app I use the most often for my photographs. The app is free to download and has app purchases, but I personally don’t think you need to buy any extras. The app shoots in Raw and Jpeg. A lot of photographers say to shoot in Raw but I find it makes my photos fuzzy and it also takes a ton of storage. The app is great because it takes both at the same time, so you get the best of both or you can do Jpeg only.
When you open the app in the left hand corner there is a little clock/timer. If you click on that, you will get a menu with the following options: Single photo, Burst photos, Interval shot and exposure bracketing. Click Interval shot and then you will be given the options Repeat and Interval.
I usually have repeated on unlimited, this means i have to cancel the timer rather thann the app cancelling it after 5 or 10 shots. Interval means how many times and how often you want to capture a photo. I used to do it every second but then I would end up with 100 photos and have to delete 95% of them. I think the sweet spot is every 3 to 5 seconds.
Use a Self timer
Sometimes the self timer is a great option to take solo travel pictures. Most phones have the settings of 2 seconds, 5 seconds and 10 seconds. I usually go for 10, so I can press focus, walk over to the spot I want to be in and pose. The only downside with the self timer is that you have to keep going back and forth, which can be time consuming. That’s why the upgraded version is the intervalometer.
Using a self timer will help you check if you like the composition and if you are standing in the right place. I’ve done it a few times where I’ve actually been out of shot and not realised. I think using a mixture of techniques will help improve your photos.
Use a Bluetooth remote
Both my tripods came with a little Bluetooth remote tool which is super handy. Getting a Bluetooth controller will help you take solo travel photos quickly and effortlessly.
Put your phone’s Bluetooth on and pair it with the remote, then once you have connected them you can line up the shot, take a practise one to check it’s working and then stand in front of the camera and pose. The only downside to this method is trying not to make it obvious that you have a clicker in your hand. Most remotes are small enough to hide but try to pick poses that don’t show your hand clutching something.
Take a video
Another great method to take photos while travelling solo is to take a video. Create movement posing and screen grab the frames you like the most. Sometimes this works really well as you can use the video as part of a reel at a later date. However, sometimes the quality of the screenshot can come out grainy, so make sure you press focus before starting the video.
This method works really well if you are low on time and can’t do separate, calculated shots.
How to take solo travel pictures without a tripod
There are many methods you can use to still get epic travel photos without a tripod while travelling solo. We will go into detail about how you can use objects to prop up your phone, how to take a good travel selfie, why a selfie stick isn’t a cringeworthy tool and how to pick the perfect stranger to take your travel photos.
Asking a stranger
I know asking someone to take your picture is a little daunting, but it can also be a gateway to making a new friend if you pick the right person. I would personally choose a girl in her mid 20’s who you have seen taking photos. If they have a professional camera, chances are they will be able to take a good phone picture.
Ask them to take a few photos and even say you are going to do a few poses, so please keep shooting. If you know what you want, tell them. Then you won’t be disappointed with the shots later. Ask if they can all be portraits or a mixture of both. And if you are feeling confident, have the gridline setting on and say you would like a certain composition.
I would also ask them if they want you to return the favour and start talking. I have made a few friends this way and have ended up doing hikes with them, day trips and going for drinks. You can make friends and connection in most places if you are open to talk.
Make friends in the hostel
There are loads of benefits to being social in a hostel. If you are planning on doing a trip and you know that tripod photos are going to be hard, start chatting and making friends and see if anyone else wants to come with you. That way you have a friend for the day and a personal photographer that will be happy to take your photo.
Sometimes it is too windy to use a tripod or there are too many people around, making it harder to set up the shot. So, for a quick and easy way, use the items you have around you.
Many times I have propped my phone up against rocks, my water bottle, my rucksack, a tree, a bench. Half the fun is getting creative and trying to think of ways to make the shot more interesting.
Use a Selfie stick
You may cringe when you hear the word selfie stick or think of a certain type of traveller. But they are actually a really handy tool and they are making a come back. The insta360 has been specifically made for Instagram and it looks very similar to the good old selfie stick.
It does take a bit of practise, but it’s great if you need a higher perspective than the standard shot.
Best solo photography tips
Getting confident in front of the camera.
When I pose in front of the camera, I feel like a piece of cardboard that can’t bend but can smile. Trying to come up with poses in the moment is daunting, so I have several folders on Instagram with different pose scenarios. For example, Mountain View poses, beach poses, sitting down poses, waterfall poses. I like to research my favourite creators and see what kind of poses and shapes they make and adapt that into my photos.
Two creators I absolutely love who have accounts designed to help with poses are @josie.bullard and @melhwwang. Josie is the posing queen! Her photos are full of colour and her reels go into detail about how to pose in certain situations. Mel is such a helpful creator, she creates beautiful, easy to follow poses that can be used for all different scenarios.
This tip you may find silly, but practice in front of the mirror. Get used to seeing yourself smiling, get used to seeing where your arms naturally fall. Start creating movement and see what it looks like in the mirror before using all your phone storage on bedroom pose photos. Seeing yourself in this way will help you decide what poses you like and the ones you don’t.
Keep trying. The more you do it, the more confident you will become and the more likely you are to experiment and create amazing photos down the line.
Some poses to for your solo travel pictures
The hair flick.
I love the movement it creates in photos. The process is very simple. Just flip your hair back and forth like WIllow Smith tells us to do. Some of my outtakes are terrible, as I do proper big “swishes”. However, I always like how the pictures come out.
Playing with your hair
This move can look candid, but I haven’t quite mastered it yet. I think you can get really pretty shots by creating some movement in your picture, like a hair twirl. Think about that crush of yours and when they speak to you and how it makes you feel… has your hand automatically gone to your hair? Then smile!
The walking towards the camera
Again, creating movement in your pictures will make you feel less like a piece of cardboard and more of a human. You don’t have to actually walk towards the camera. If you don’t want to be in the foreground, just bounce one step forward, one step back to create the same effect.
The walking away from the camera
This pose creates a touristy photo where you are showing the background as the focus rather than yourself. This pose is effortless, but I always find myself still smiling even though no one can see me! I think this works best when you have epic views or buildings on either side. The goal is to make the person feel they are there with us.
The peace sign
I once mocked a bunch of tourists who did this and the photo ended up being my profile picture for 4 years! This pose is just fun, carefree, having the best time and being happy.
There are so many variations of this position that it really depends what you feel comfortable with. I haven’t found my signature move yet, but I love playing around with different shapes to see which fits the photo.
The shy girl smiling at the ground
This one is funny. I usually couple this one with walking towards the camera because it creates a candid effect.
Editing your photos
The power of editing! It is amazing how a few tweaks to your photos can really make them pop. And I am not promoting adding a hot air balloon in the background that wasnt there or changing your entire face to look better. However, I am not opposed to editing out the odd zit here and there! My usual editing style is subtle changes with contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and sometimes deepening the colours.
I highly recommend downloading the Lightroom app to your phone. There is a free version that works great as you start getting used to editing and then, for tools like healing (which I still cant figure out) and masking, there is a fee of £3.79 a month.
You can also buy presets from most of your favourite creators. I brought some Etsy ones for very cheap when I was unsure of my editing style.
Solo Travel safety tips
If you are planning to go to a very touristy destination and you want to take photos with your tripod, go early in the morning. Fewer people will mean that you can play around in front of the camera without feeling super awkward. It will also mean that your camera gear will be a lot safer as there are fewer people around to pinch it when you are “looking at the view”.
I would always research a destination and its crime rate. Going to a secluded spot, maybe a great picture, but we want you to stay safe. Tell people where you are going, whether that is a friend in the hostel or a friend from home, and tell them the coordinates and that you will check back in at a certain time. I have never had any bad experiences but I would hate to leave this out of the article as it is rare but could happen.
Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your equipment and never wander too far away from it. Please also listen to your gut, it’s usually right! If you don’t feel comfortable, then leave. Have a pre-planned route of where to go and know the emergency numbers for the country.
These safety tips aren’t on here to scare you, but to improve your experience and keep you aware that although rare things can go wrong.
Once you get into the mindset that it doesn’t matter what people think, you are going to feel so much more happy and comfortable in front of the camera. People are going to stare and some might not understand, but that’s OK! You want to capture the memory and you are making an effort to do that. A lot of people that judge are usually a little envious that they can’t or havent tried.
Taking photos while travelling solo can actually be really fun. Eventually, you might start to prefer taking them yourself as you’ll know what style of shooting works for you.
As Always, Happy Exploring!