6 Solo Travel Photography Tips + 5 FREE Presets for Photo Editing

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.


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Woman taking a selfie
SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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.


BEST TRIPOD FOR SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOS

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

HOW TO USE YOUR TRIPOD

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
SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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 really great cell phone and iPhone photos nowadays, the commitment to packing a DSLR camera for 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


SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY 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.

SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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

SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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.


SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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.

TAKE MY PHOTO PHOTO COURSE 📸 Professional Enough: How to Use the Least Amount of Effort to Get the Most amazing Photos to learn more!


SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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

TAKE MY PHOTO PHOTO COURSE 📸 Professional Enough: How to Use the Least Amount of Effort to Get the Most amazing Photos to learn more!


SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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

SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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. Want to learn more about getting Professional Enough photos? Check out my phone photography course, where you’ll leaven how to take photos and edit like a boss ⤴ like that!

TAKE MY PHOTO PHOTO COURSE 📸 Professional Enough: How to Use the Least Amount of Effort to Get the Most amazing Photos to learn more!


SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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!

SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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.

SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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.

Ready to really level up your solo travel photography game? Check out my phone photography course, Professional Enough. In this four-module video course, we’ll go step-by-step, together, to learn about setting up the shot, lighting, photo composition, how to edit in Adobe Lightroom — plus you get 20 FREE PRESETS!

TAKE MY PHOTO PHOTO COURSE 📸 Professional Enough: How to Use the Least Amount of Effort to Get the Most amazing Photos to learn more!


Have questions on solo travel photography?

If there was anything about how to take photos of yourself while traveling we didn’t cover, please ask away in the comments down below!


Enjoy these related solo travel blogs!


Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures


¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… READ MORE

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62 Comments

  1. Kelly

    Such great tips! Even if you’re not travelling solo or you want a photo with a friend its great to have ways to ask other people 🙂 Sometimes you get very lucky with the shots they take! Thanks for all your Mexico tips as well 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Asking a stranger will always be hit or miss! That’s why I check the photos after they take them.

      Reply
  2. Cristina

    These tips are amazing 🙂 I find it difficult to ask people to take me pictures, so I think I should definitely get a tripod so certain occasions. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      The bendable “octopus” tripod is an amazing investment. It’s also not heavy so you can comfortably carry it around all day in your backpack.

      Reply
  3. Elina

    Thank you for sharing these tips and presents! It is always difficult to explain to another person how to take your perfect shoot, but sometimes this is the only option.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      For sure, it’s never comfortable… I tend to look for other women, around my age, and if anyone’s taking a selfie I’ll offer to take her photo, and then she usually will offer to take mine as a return favor.

      Reply
  4. Debjani Lahiri

    Those are some worthwhile tips specially the rule of the third really steals the show of the good frame I agree

    Reply
    • Shelley

      yes!! how to look more professional in 1 second…. use the rule of thirds.

      Reply
  5. Demi

    Great tips, I used to hate asking other people. Now, I just find someone who is alone, and usually they want you to return the favour so everyone’s a winner!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Yes! That’s also one of my strategies.

      Reply
  6. roshni

    I have never thought about attaching my octopus tripod to a branch!! such a good idea for pics in parks

    Reply
    • Shelley

      YES! That octopus is the best.

      Reply
  7. Amanda

    I love all these tips! Very useful, especially since I’m travelling solo a lot 😍

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Solo travel is the best! I hope you can use the photo tips!!

      Reply
  8. Maggie

    These are fantastic tips! I “can’t even” with selfie sticks, but there are many times I’ve said to myself “wow, a selfie stick would be so useful right now.” I should just suck it up and get one LOL

    Reply
    • Shelley

      No one “can even” with them! But yeah, they do their job well.

      Reply
  9. EvBeing

    Super useful post and tips! ” Would you mind taking me a photo?” usually works but not always for a good photo😆 A tripod of course Good to know about the octopus 😃👍👍

    Reply
    • Shelley

      The octopus is the best!!

      Reply
      • christy

        Great tips! I prefer a tripod myself:)

        Reply
        • Shelley

          that’s the 100% guaranteed way to get the photo you want!

          Reply
  10. Agnes

    I don’t think I’ll get to a place where I can tell a stranger exactly the right photo to take, but great tips overall! 🙂 Presets look good. I’m ready to bump up my photo skills game for sure!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I think that if that tip doesn’t sound good or right to you, you shouldn’t do it!

      Reply
  11. Bella

    I’m a travel photographer and I think these tips are really great – so clearly explained and with great examples!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      WOW! Thank you for that compliment!! I appreciate it so much.

      Reply
  12. Cass

    Love the layout of this post. So many great tips that will help uncertain solos here!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Thanks for the layout compliment! And I do hope the tips will help you on your solo travel journeys!!

      Reply
  13. Aswani Kurra

    I love how organized this post is and all the great tips! Even though I travel with my husband sometimes I go alone in the morning so these will help me!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      So glad these were helpful tips for you!

      Reply
  14. Suvarna Arora

    These are such great tips. I always take my pictures myself with a tripod so these are great explanations.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      The tripod is always works to get the best shots!

      Reply
  15. Portia Jones

    This is such a great guide! I do a lot of solo travel and it can be really hard to get good shots when you are travelling alone. The post is really clear and has a great layout as well, great job!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Thank you for saying that! I really appreciate it… and believe me, I share your pain of wanting photos while solo traveling! I had to get creative to get the good shots, & hopefully some of my tips will work for everyone.

      Reply
  16. Iulia

    Great resource! I love how you explain everything and I have to say that I agree. I have been through all of these situations and I also carry my octopus tripod with me al the time, but the easiest thing is to just ask someone to take the pic for you. Especially if that person loved travel photography 😀 I don’t always get the best pics from strangers but I have some that are memorable.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I’m so glad these tips resonated with you! I totally agree with you that getting photos from strangers can be hit or miss… that’s why if the place I’m at is important enough, I might ask a 2nd person for a photo.

      Reply
  17. Léa

    So many great trips Shelley! I don’t usually travel solo but I do shoot with a tripod very often, either when I am going on sunrise missions at home, or if I want to be sure of the result ahah. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Tripods are the easiest way to get the best photos.

      Reply
  18. Mal

    These are so many great tips! I travel solo and sometimes really dread asking people for photos because most of them are so bad it’s a waste of time. I normally take my tripos but I will also invest in the octopus! I love the idea! Thanks fo sharing 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Asking a stranger is rarely comfortable, that’s why I developed strategies on who to ask that would make me feel most comfortable… ie. women, someone around my age, etc.

      Reply
  19. Bettina

    This is so helpful! I always struggle taking pictures by myself when I travel but tripods are the perfect tool!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      That octopus tripod is a game changer!

      Reply
  20. Paula

    Lovely post! Thank you so much for sharing! I love to take pictures of myself when solo traveling, although I get some cringe looks from strangers. But I couldn’t care less!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      😂 💖 “But I couldn’t care less!” LOVE THIS!!

      Reply
  21. Brianna

    Great tips! I definitely struggle with taking photos of myself but tripods really help. And presets, they really are a gamechanger for making photos pop.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Couldn’t agree more about the presets!!

      Reply
  22. Loise

    Great Tips! useful also for couples, of course if we want a photo for the two of us. It’s actually weird for me to ask a stranger as well so let’s just get the work done and do it with ourselves. Tripos are really useful!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      For sure, I know couples always want photos together! Sometimes I’ll offer to “trade” taking photos of a couple, for them taking one for me! It’s a win-win situation for us both.

      Reply
  23. Melissa

    Awesome tips! I’m always worried about how to take pictures when I’m alone. 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Glad they were helpful!

      Reply
  24. May Durkee

    Nice tips! I’ve traveled solo and tried to take pictures and man, it’s hard! Tripod is my best bet, strangers are hard to achieve what I’m looking for (I’m picky)… sometimes not even my husband (my photographer) can’t get it right lol
    Thanks for sharing these 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      It is hard!! Hopefully my tips will help a little… but yeah, you said it: It’s hard 😆

      Reply
  25. Fiona

    These are great tips! I hated having to ask too many times for some one to take a photo, especially if I didn’t like the photo!!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Yeah, it can be awkward. That’s why I’ll ask one person, then check the photo after they walk away… then ask another person *if* need be.

      Reply
  26. Diane

    My favorite is probably the first one – I love that! Look for someone with a camera, because they are probably more serious about taking travel photos. Maybe that’s why SO many people approach me! But I also love the second tip – because people won’t know what you’re looking for exactly unless you tell them, so some guidance is nice. Do you find that most of the time people are willing to take your photo…or do some of them refuse? If anyone asks me, I ALWAYS say yes and try to take a few just to make sure I get a good one.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Diane: Thanks for having a camera!! We need people like you! …Personally I’ve never had anyone refuse, but I approach people strategically.

      Reply
  27. kmf

    These are such great tips for those of us who travel solo frequently. I’ve been a photographer since the darkroom ages, but am always looking for some inspiration and new perspective.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I learned in a dark room also! It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it also seems like 2 lifetimes ago…

      Reply
  28. Kim Yuhl

    I really loved your tips, especially your editing ones. I am always looking for ways to improve my photos. I may not be a solo traveler, but my husband is not always the most helpful, if you know what I mean. 🙂 Anyway, I can’t wait to start traveling so I can put some of these into practice.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Kim: I’m glad the blog was useful for you… Maybe you can pass some of the tips on to your husband 😆😆😆

      Reply
  29. Jaclyn Kaiser

    These are great tips! I’ve been thinking about getting one of those octopus holders and I definitely will now!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Jaclyn: You’re going to LOVE the octopus 🐙 📸 It’s a game changer!

      Reply
  30. Ildiko

    What great recommendations. I usually have no problem asking strangers for a photo and I do reciprocate. I use a selfie stick and occasionally a tripod. I did not know about hose pre-sets. Your pic examples of them are fantastic. I downloaded them Thanks.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Ildiko: I’m so happy you DL’ed the presets!! You have to let me know what you think of them.

      Reply

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