How to Get Awesome Solo Travel Photos + 5 Free Presets

READY TO GET AWESOME SOLO TRAVEL PHOTOS?

Do you want to learn how to get beautiful solo travel photos, and take your travel photography game to the next level?

If so, you’re in the right place!

Here’s why…

👋I’m Shelley, and I’ve been traveling solo through Mexico & taking photos all along the way 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.

PLEASE JOIN ME ON MY SOLO TRAVEL PHOTO JOURNEY…

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 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!

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Woman sitting on the edge of a cliff taking a photo
How to get awesome solo travel photos: Find someone who has a digital or DSLR camera, and nicely ask them to take your photo.

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:

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.

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.

Of course — and unfortunatly — this isn’t an exact science! 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!

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

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Woman taking a photo of another woman

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.

How to get awesome solo travel photos: Kindly ask your photo-taker to not cut your feet off and take the photo vertically. (Then return the favor!)

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. 

NOTE: Do keep requests within reason!

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.

iPhone camera with the grid lines on

Bonus Tip: 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) Phone cameras have grid lines you can turn on in the 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.

How to get awesome 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!

Ask A Second Person for A Photo

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, instagrammable travel pics.

Some people downright suck at taking them!

There, I said it; and so did Bored PandaHilariously, I might add!

Here’s a strategy for making sure you’re getting photos you can cherish forever, and won’t be embarrassed to post on your socials:

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

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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:

  1. Female
  2. Around 20-25 years old (or around your age, which might be 20-25)
  3. Who’s taking a selfie
  4. Who seems like she’s in a good mood
Woman with a camera taking a photo

Bonus Tip: 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.

Woman with a selfie stick taking a photo in Paris
How to get awesome solo travel photos: Embrace the selfie stick! Not easy — but certainly doable.

A Selfie Stick & A Tripod

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

I get it!

You’re not alone! Approaching strangers just isn’t for everyone, and that is totally fine. If approaching a stranger is not for you, I can still promise you this:

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.

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.

Camera phone tripod

THE OCTOPUS TRIPOD

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.

Phone camera tripod wrapped around a tree

HOW TO USE YOUR TRIPOD

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.
Woman with selfie stick

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.

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!


How to get awesome solo travel photos: The real key to getting awesome solo travel photos — EDITING!

Presets & Photo Editing

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.

Photo camera settings

Bonus Tip: 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’s instagram account look so pretty & consistent.

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How to Get Awesome Photos as a Solo Traveler


Have any tips for getting awesome solo travel photos?

Please let me know in the comments down below.


Enjoy these related blogs!


PLEASE JOIN ME ON MY SOLO TRAVEL PHOTO JOURNEY…

¡Hola Chicas!

👋 I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world! Now, I help women like you cross Solo travel + Mexico travel off your bucket list through my blog + podcast… 

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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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