Ready to up your solo travel photos game!?
You’re in the right place to get said awesome solo travel photos!
👋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!
Table of Contents
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Tip #1: Locate a "real" camera
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:
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!
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.
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.]
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.
Tip #3: Ask a 2nd person
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:
- Ask someone to take the photos.
- Thank them.
- Sit down & scroll through the photos.
- 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!
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
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:
- Determine how you want to frame your photo & where you plan to be in it.
- Place the tripod down on a flat surface, or attach the octopus somewhere convenient, like a tree branch.
- 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.