How to Get Awesome Solo Travel Photos + 5 Free Presets

Ready to up your solo travel photos game!?

You’re in the right place to get said awesome solo travel photos!

Here’s why…

👋I’m Shelley, and I’ve been traveling solo & taking photos for the last two-plus years… so I’ve learned a thing or two. Or 44! In this blog I’m going to pass that knowledge on to you.

Let’s learn how to get beautiful solo travel photos, so you can take your travel photography game to the next level!

In this era of Instagram & social media photography, I’m sure you agree that pretty travel photos are important! 

Throughout the last few years on my solo travel journey, I’ve been learning as a I go, but picking up as many tips for instagrammable solo travel photos as I could along the way!

If you’re ready to learn how to get better solo travel photos  ones you can even be in!  and check out some editing hacks, let’s dive in!

In fact, here’s one of my favorite hacks for professional (looking!) travel pics:

Get 5 Free Editing Presets!

Presets: One way to get awesome solo travel photos!

Been curious about using photo editing presets? More on presets in Tip #5, but these are the secret sauce making everyone’s INSTAGRAM so beautiful & visually consistent! I’d love to send you 5 FREE presets, in varying color styles, so you can experiment with editing your solo travel photos.

Let’s get social

Love this blog?! Here are three different Pinterest options to pin your favorite now!

Tip #1: Locate a "real" camera

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Anyone slingin’ a DSLR camera/digital camera means business!

Since we can all take really great cell phone & iPhone photos nowadays, the commitment to packing a DSLR camera for traveling, and then actually carrying it around all day, tells me this person LOVES travel photography!

So what does someone who loves photography love doing?

You guessed it:

Taking photos!

It also (likely) means they are a traveler just like you & totally get that you want to capture some memories… making them the perfect stranger to approach for a photo favor.

Pro Tip: If someone has a camera, but also a “Don’t approach me” vibe, then wait for the next camera(wo)man!

Bonus:

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.

📸44 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Merida, Mexico

Return the Photo Favor

Remember: 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.

Tip #2: Explain 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 asking a stranger for a photo! It is also true with the influencer who’s instagram travel photos go viral  They knew the exact shot they were after!

Here’s what it boils down to:

When you ask for “a photo,” you will get “a photo.” Any photo.

However, if you ask: “Can you pretty please take it vertically with my whole body, and get as much as you can of the pyramids in the background as you can without cutting off my feet?” you’ll likely get just that. [Do keep requests within reason, of course.]

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Should they need it, you can also help out the kind stranger doing you this favor with a quick explanation of how to use your phone… namely Burst mode, but also anything else unique to your phone.

A little about the Burst mode feature:

It works when you press & hold down the button to take the photo; your phone will keep taking pictures until you release your finger. This way, you’ll get 20-30 photos in seconds & can choose the one you like best.

Photography 101: The Rule of Thirds

This rule 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.

(Almost all) iPhone & Android phones have grid lines you can turn on in the camera settings.

I make sure I’m following this rule when I set up my shot, but if not, you can always crop the pic afterwards so it conforms to the rule.

Solo travel photography - Rule of thirds

Tip #3: Ask a 2nd person

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Some people just don’t care about taking good photos!

Not everyone cares about taking beautiful, instagrammable travel pics.

Some people downright suck at taking them! There, I said it; and so did Bored Panda. Hilariously, I might add!

Here’s a strategy for when you’re somewhere really special that you need an amazing photo of:

  1. Ask someone to take the photos.
  2. Thank them.
  3. Sit down & scroll through the photos.
  4. Make sure there’s something I’m happy with. 

If there isn’t a photo you like, ask someone else to take some more.

Some places are too amazing to not have an awesome photo of; and if that means gathering up the courage to ask another person for another photo: So be it!

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As was mentioned in Tip #1, ask someone with a digital camera or DSLR camera! If that doesn’t workout, and since most people don’t have a real camera, there’s a certain demographic I look for.

Want to know what that demographic is?! 

I’d recommend looking for someone who fits this profile: Female, Around 20-25 years old (or around your age, which might also be 20-25), Who’s taking a selfie, 4. Who seems like she’s in a good mood.

How to approach strangers

I think one of the biggest barriers to entry for would-be solo travelers is the How do I talk to strangers? conundrum…

Well, strangers let you know if it’s ok (or not) to talk to them by their body language & 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.

Tip #4: A Selfie Stick & A Tripod

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If you’re really not into the idea of asking a stranger for a photo…

I get it! Approaching strangers just isn’t for everyone, and that is totally fine!

I can promise you this though:

There are still great solo travel photos in your future, even if you don’t want to talk to strangers.

But to get them, you’ll pretty much need to consider some camera phone accessories, namely a tripod, and Yes — even a selfie stick.

The thing with selfie sticks is, well, they work

This is why they are so popular… because they efficiently & effectively solve the problem they are designed to solve. Come to think of it, I actually wish everything worked as well as a selfie stick does for solo travel photography!

If you’re considering one, some features to seek out include: a lightweight model with Bluetooth, a wrist strap, long battery life & adjustable telescoping length.

Embrace the Selfie Stick

Yes, a selfie stick automatically makes you a tourist! But, well, you are… and it’s super cool to lean in & embrace that.

Remember: 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!

If you “can’t even” with the mere thought of a selfie stick… Enter the octopus tripod 🐙!

Maybe you’ve noticed, but excuses be damned! One way or the other, we are going to get you some amazing solo travel photos…

Unlike the admittedly uncool selfie stick, these foldable, flexible wrap-around phone holder/tripod things, are super cool! They even look like one of the coolest & smartest animals of all time, the octopus 🐙

These fun things cling on to nearly everything & double as a tripod, for those who really want to up their solo travel photo game. The tripod is awesome for taking completely straight/level pics.

Here’s the step-by-step way you’ll use your new pet octopus to get the best solo travel photos:

  1. Determine how you want to frame your photo & 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.
  3. Set your phone’s self-timer & get yourself into frame before it goes off.

Tip #5: Presets & Photo Editing

Your 5 FREE photo editing presets!!! 📸💥

Since the dawn of photography time, humans have edited pics.

Back in the day, this was done while processing photos in the darkroom  and Yes! I just completely dated myself.

This was a bit of a tedious process, which is why we’re soooo lucky these days that we can do it with photography editing presets & a cell phone from the comfort of our couch.

I have tried a few camera and editing apps, and I stick to Adobe Lightroom for both.

Why? You might be asking.

Because of the presets & how the camera gets me the closest to professional photos I can get.

What exactly is a preset?

Basically, it’s a group of settings, including the brightness, contrast, color vibrancy, etc. that you can copy + paste from one photo to the next… or you could think of them as the Magic Sauce that’s making everyone instagram account look so pretty & consistent.

Have your own awesome solo travel photos tips? 

I’m by no means a professional photographer! I took a photojournalism class in back in college and have watched a lot of YouTube videos as my formal training in photography! Translation: I could use your help.

Let me know in the comments down below what tips you’d add to this list. Also, which tips from this list caught your eye?!

¡Hola Chicas!

👋I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor, who ditched the office for the world! I have been a solo female traveler in Mexico for 2 years now, and want to pass my experience + expertise on to you.

Let’s Turn Your Dream Into Your Destination ✈️🌎

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I’d L❤️VE to hear your thoughts…

40 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
  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
  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
  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

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