solo travel photography

6 Solo Travel Photography Tips + 5 FREE Editing Presets

ready for better solo travel photos?!

You’ve landed (🛬 pun intended) on the right article for solo travel photography tips! Here’s why…

👋 Hi, I’m Shelley, and I’ve been on my solo travel in Mexico journey since 2018, taking photos all along the way — so I’ve learned a thing or two (or 44!) about solo photography. In this article, I’m going to pass that knowledge on to you through six photography tips for solo travelers.

In this era of Instagram travel photos and social media photography, I’m sure you agree great travel photos are important. Throughout my last few years of solo travel, I’ve been learning as I go, and picking up as many tips to get the best travel photos possible along the way.

📸 BONUS: 5 free photo editing presets

Beyond the photos themselves, the editing is just as important; if not more so. For that reason, there’s 5 FREE photo editing presets at the end of the article for you. Can’t wait? 👉 Click here to download them now. Wondering, What is a preset? Don’t worry; by the end of this article you’ll know.

If you’re ready to learn how to take better pictures when you travel alone, including ways to be in your solo travel photos, and some editing hacks, let’s get to it. We’ll start with the best tip there is for solo vacation photos: using a tripod.


1. Best Tripod for Solo Travel Photos

If you ask 100 other solo travel bloggers for solo photography tips, the hands-down #1 piece of advice will be: Get a tripod! Having a tripod for solo travel photos has been an absolute game changer, as they are easy to use and inexpensive to buy.

RELATED BLOG ✈️ Mexico Solo Travel: 20 Amazing Destinations for Female Travelers

As you’ll see, some of the other trips in this article require asking a stranger to take a photo for you (with tips on how to strategically pick the right person to ask). However, for those not into the idea of talking to strangers for a photo, there’s still great solo travel photography in your future.

But to get these epic solo travel photos, you’ll need to consider some camera phone accessories, namely a camera phone tripod, these camera phone lenses, and yes — even a selfie stick.


Bendable Octopus Tripod

If you can’t even with the mere thought of a selfie stick, you’re about to fall in love with the octopus tripod, the best tripod for solo travel photography. This tripod is the one surefire way to get epic solo travel photos — and the one gadget that will single handedly turn your solo photoshoot ideas into reality.

Unlike the not-so-cool selfie stick, this flexible, wrap-around cell phone tripod is super cool. They even look like one of the smartest animals on Earth, the majestic octopus 🐙

These fun things cling on to nearly everything and also double as a traditional tripod, for those who really want to up their solo photos game. Either way you use it, an octopus tripod is awesome for taking completely straight and level pics, so they will look like a pro took them.

📸 The Best Tripod for Solo Travel Photography: UBeesize Portable and Adjustable Camera Stand Holder with Wireless Remote and Universal Clip


Here’s the step-by-step way you’ll use your new pet octopus tripod to get the best solo photo, in any of the solo photography poses you desire:

  1. Determine how you want to frame your photo and where you plan to be in it.
  2. Place the tripod down on a flat surface, or attach the octopus somewhere convenient, like a tree branch, light pole, or anywhere you can wrap it around.
  3. Set your phone’s self-timer and get yourself into frame before it goes off.
  4. If you have a model with a Bluetooth remote, the remote is small enough to hide in the palm of your hand, so you can just click the button when you want to take the photo.

Woman with a selfie stick taking a photo in Paris | solo travel photography

Bonus Tip: Embrace the Selfie Stick

Yes, a selfie stick automatically makes you a tourist! But, well, you are… and it’s super cool, and quite liberating, to lean in and embrace that. Plus, a tourist is on vacation — and what’s better than travel and vacation!?

Besides that, you’ll likely never see these people again, so rock your selfie stick with the same kind of confidence it took for you to travel solo in the first place.

The thing with selfie sticks is, well, they work. This is why they are so popular — because they efficiently and effectively solve the problem they are designed to solve.

Woman with selfie stick and mountains and a lake in the background | solo travel photography
How to take solo travel photos: Embrace using the selfie stick and you’ll have better travel photos for it.

If you’re planning on buying a selfie stick, the one linked is a great, highly-rated, affordable option. It has all of the best selfie stick features, including that it’s a lightweight model with Bluetooth and a wireless remote shutter, a wrist strap, long battery life and adjustable telescoping length of 0- to 40-inches.

📸 Solo Travel Photo Tips: Take the photo so that you don’t include your hand holding the selfie stick.

solo travel Photography tips

2. Locate Someone with a Real Camera

As a blanket statement, anyone who has their digital or DSLR camera while traveling, means business. Someone who’s into photography enough to have their camera with them likely understands proper photo composition, lighting, the best poses, flattering angels, etc., and can take a great photo for you.

Since we can all take great cell phone and iPhone photos nowadays, the commitment to packing a DSLR camera with these fancy Sony lenses with traveling — and then actually carrying it around all day — screams this person LOVES travel photography!

It also likely means they are a traveler just like you, and totally get that you want to capture some memories. In short, they are the ideal stranger to approach for a photo favor.

📸 Solo Travel Photo Tips: If someone has a camera, but also a “Don’t approach me” vibe, then wait for the next person.

Of course, this isn’t an exact science, and someone who has a DSLR camera can certainly produce a bad photo. However, there’s a tip in this blog to help you when the person takes a less-than-stellar photo for you, so read on.

Woman with a camera taking a photo | solo travel photography

RELATED BLOG ✈️ How to Travel Alone for the First Time: 10 Useful Tips


When in Doubt: Ask A Second Person

Can we talk honestly for a second?! …some people just don’t care about taking good photos. That’s right — Not everyone cares about taking beautiful, Instagram worthy travel pictures. Some people downright suck at taking them. There, I said it… and so did Bored Panda.

If you ask someone, and they took a photo worthy of being a meme with your head cut off or their finger in the photo, don’t be afraid to “get a second opinion.” Since some places are too amazing to not have awesome travel photos of, gather up the courage and ask another person for a photo.

As was mentioned in Tip #2, always look for someone with a digital camera or DSLR camera. If you can’t find one, be on the lookout for females, ages 20-25, who are taking a selfie and seem to be in a friendly mood. (Disclaimer: This is just a guide, ask anyone you feel comfortable with asking.)

RELATED BLOG ✈️ Scared to Travel Alone? 10 Tips on How to Embrace Solo Travel

woman clicking the button to take a photo on an iphone | solo travel photography
How to take solo travel photos: If the first person’s photo isn’t everything you dreamt it would be — get a “second opinion,” and ask someone else.


Bonus Tip: Return the Photo Favor

Photo reciprocity is good karma!

Always offer to take a photo for whoever you asked to do so for you, even if this person isn’t a solo traveler.

With any sized group, someone always has to be the photographer, so this will give them the opportunity for a nice group/couple shot.

📸 Solo Travel Photo Tip: This is one of the easiest, most natural ways to strike up a conversation with someone if you’re wondering how to meet people while traveling solo.

Woman taking a photo of another woman who's dancing | solo travel photography


3. Know Your Ideal Shot

When you’re shopping for a sweater, you don’t actually want any sweater — You want a Kelly green cashmere cardigan in size medium, please. The same is true when we’re talking about great travel photos, you have to know exactly what you want in order to beautifully capture it.

This goes for when you’re both using your octopus tripod, or asking a kind stranger with a fancy DSLR to take a photo for you. You have to know what shot you’re after to get it, take a moment to think this through before setting up your tripod or asking someone to take a photo for you.

RELATED BLOG ✈️ Solo Travel Anxiety: 5 Common Triggers & How to Overcome Them

woman taking a photo of two other women at the airport | solo travel photography
How to take solo travel photos: Kindly ask your photographer to not cut off your feet and take a vertical photo… Then return the favor!

When asking a stranger, here’s what it boils down to: When you ask for “a photo,” you will get “a photo,” which means any photo. When you know exactly what you want, you’re much more likely to get just that.

You’ll of course want to keep requests within reason, but if you ask: “Can you please take a vertical photo of me and get as much as you can of the pyramids in the background as possible?” you’ll likely get that.

Since this person is doing you a favor, you’ll want to give them the phone completely ready to take the photo, so all they have to do is click! Again, keeping requested with reason, if you think it’s appropriate, suggest they take several photos in Burst mode, or “rapid fire shooting.”

With Burst Mode, you press and hold down the button to take the photo; your phone will keep taking pictures until you release your finger. This way, you’ll get about 25 photos in one second, and can choose the best travel photos from the bunch.


4. Rule of Thirds & Using Grid Lines

Rule of thirds is one of the first things you’d learn in a photography class.

Basically, pretend your phone screen is a tic-tac-toe grid; you want the subject of the photo at the intersecting points of those lines, rather than in the dead center of your photo.

Nowadays, all phone cameras have grid lines you can turn on in the settings. If they are distracting, know that after a while most people can eyeball the thirds and won’t need the grid, but it certainly does take the guesswork out of things when you’re just starting out with using them.

Try to follow this rule when setting up your shot, but if not, you can always crop the photo afterwards so it conforms to the rule.

iPhone camera with the grid lines on to show rule of thirds | solo travel photography
How to take good travel photos: Turn your phone’s grid lines on in the settings, so you always know where the “thirds” are.


5. Timing + Lighting = The Best Travel Photos

Arrive as Early as Possible

When traveling, there are a few iconic shots you’ll want to take in certain cities or countries, like the Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower. Since these places are so iconic, you’re not the only one who’s wanting travel photos there. So how do you take good travel photos in these places? Arrive early!

While arriving early isn’t always possible, in times you can’t, you can still get creative. This will also require a bit of patience, but frame your shot and get your octopus tripod set up, so you’re 100% ready for those magical few seconds when no one’s in the frame but you — and then take your photo.

Understand Photo Lighting

While photo editing can do a lot, there’s not much you can do if the lighting is really bad. While there’s sometimes nothing you can do, try to avoid photos during midday when the sun is directly overhead, as it will cast harsh shadows all over the place. Here are the best times to take your travel photos.

  • Magic Hour: Also called golden hour, this is known as the best time to take photos because the natural light from the sun is soft and golden in color, and makes everything and everyone look beautiful. Magic hour takes place during the one hour before sunset, and the one hour after sunrise.
  • Blue Hour: A lesser utilized photography time, blue hour, or twilight hour, will give you dramatic blue-colored lighting in your photos. Blue hour takes place one hour after sunset, and one hour after sunrise.
hands holding an iphone and taking a photo of a colorful old town | solo travel photography


Bonus Tip: How to Approach Strangers

One of the biggest barriers to entry for would-be solo travelers is the How do I make friends while solo traveling conundrum…

Well, strangers let you know if it’s OK (or not) to talk to them by their body language and overall vibe.

I have met people all along this solo travel journey by only approaching those people who seemed inviting — the ones giving off “Talk to me!” vibes.

woman taking a photo of another woman who's sitting on a park bench | solo travel photography


6. Presets & Photo Editing

Since the dawn of photography time, humans have edited photos. Back in the day, this was done while processing photos in the darkroom — and Yes, I just completely dated myself 🤣

Darkroom editing was a bit complicated and tedious, which is why we’re so lucky to have the technology we do not. These days, thanks to photography editing presets you can edit photos in the light and from the comfort of our couch.

I have tried a few camera and editing apps, and I stick to Adobe Lightroom for both. Personally, I like Lightroom for the editing presets so I can do one-click edits, and also because the Adobe Lightroom camera offers more functionality than my native iPhone camera.

In short, Lightroom helps me get the closest-to-professional photos I can possibly get.


What is a Preset?

Basically, it’s a group of settings, including the brightness, contrast, color vibrancy, etc. that you can copy and paste from one photo to the next.

Even noticed how some IG accounts have a consistent look to all their photos? That’s thanks to the Magic Sauce known as photo editing presets.

A preset is essentially a pre-set and pre-determined look and feel you can apply to all your photos with the tap of a phone screen.

For presets called “cool,” you can imagine softer lighting, with pastel tones to the colors; whereas a preset called “bright” will have vibrant, bright colors and lots of bright white light.

Photo camera settings to edit photos | solo travel photography
How to take solo travel photos: Presets offer one click photo editing!


Download Your 5 Adobe Lightroom Mobile Presets

Here are the 5 FREE presets I promised you. Please note that they only work on Adobe Lightroom Mobile, a free app you can download for iPhone and Android. Adobe is one of the biggest names in photography editing platforms, so besides the presets, it is also just one of the best photography apps.


Final Thoughts: Solo Travel Photography

With photography, they say the best camera is the one you have on you — so if you think you need a fancy camera to get better photos, you don’t.

Photography is an art, and like most art, it takes practice to make perfect. With solo photography, you just have to practice different skills than traditional photographers, like how to use a tripod, how to not care what you look like with your selfie stick, and how to approach a stranger for help.