Dreamy photos of female travelers spam the world of Instagram on the daily. These photos appear exciting, effortless, and natural. Imagine that these women, traveling the world on their own, took these photos by themselves. Seems a bit unbelievable, right?
Traveling, of course, is still about the destination, the adventure into a new land, and the experiences and lessons we learn along the way. But – our photos help tell our stories. As a solo female traveler, however, it may seem difficult or unrealistic to achieve these shots of yourself on your own, but with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to sharing your stories with the world with the help of your amazing solo traveler self-portraits.
I’ve been regularly traveling solo since 2014. Back then, I can safely admit that my self-portraits were nothing to write home about. Over the years, however, I learned a few things about getting the right shot and discovering my personal style. Those seemingly unbelievable photos weren’t too far out of reach after all.
First, some initial advice:
- Don’t be embarrassed to pop out your camera! It can feel awkward to take your own photos when you can feel eyes on you, but chances are you’ll never see those individuals again, and I assure you that getting these photos is worth the brief moment of awkwardness that you my feel.
- Be shameless! If you want a particular picture, you have to go for it! Be wild, be creative. Those are the pictures that have the most impact.
- Invest in a good camera. If you really want great photos, your cell phone isn’t always going to cut it. Phones are getting better and better every year, but nothing can truly compare to the quality of a nice DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Now, how can I get these shots? Let’s break it down into 3 different approaches.
Approach #1: Ask strangers.
Nine times out of ten someone is going to be happy to take your photo. Ask, but be specific about what you want. Portrait or landscape? Full body or close up? Tell them!
Another big tip is to show them on the camera exactly how you want the picture to be framed. Usually I say, “Hi, would you mind taking a photo of me?” Then I show them through my camera just how I want it taken and pretty much just ask them to hold the camera there and snap the shot.
PRO TIP: Ask someone who is already taking photos (more likely that they know what they’re doing – not always, but it usually helps.)
Traveling solo in Budapest recently, I used this approach with a lady and here’s the result. I originally asked someone else, but didn’t like the way the photo turned out, so I actually waited for another person to walk by and I tried again.
Attempt 1 versus attempt 2. Attempt 2 wins hands down.
This is a great tip. If you’re not happy, don’t just call it quits after the first person. Wait around for another minute for someone else to walk by.
Here’s an old photo from 2016 that I asked a woman to take of me while traveling around Italy.
Approach #2: Use self-timer or Remote Control Wi-Fi.
Set your camera up somewhere, preferably with a tripod and using portrait orientation. Initially, take a few sample shots to see if the lighting and frame is set how you like. Then, turn on your camera’s self-timer with multiple shots or if your camera has built-in Wi-Fi you can access your its settings through an app.
Certainly, the best idea for this approach is with a digital camera with Wi-Fi as it will save you a lot of time. I use the Olympus E-M10 MARK II and it has a built-in Wi-Fi feature allowing me to look at the viewfinder through my phone, change settings, and take pictures that way instead of running back and forth. Luckily, more and more cameras nowadays have this feature, so check to see if yours has it. Then, download the accompanying app and voilà.
Please note that this option isn’t always the easiest in busy places. I usually do shots like this early in the morning before the crowds arrive or in more empty spaces such as parks.
If you have a tripod and want to wake up early, go visit a few photoshoot worthy spots as early as possible when there are little to no people, set up your tripod, and go. It’s always easier and less intimidating if hardly anyone is around.
Here’s some additional sample shots I took using a tripod or propping the camera up on something.
Approach #3: Take a selfie.
If you’re out of options, just pop the camera in front of your face. Try some different poses and angles (usually the more popular ones are when you’re looking a bit away from the camera) and try to get as much of the background as possible, so that you’re still capturing the essence of wherever you are. Honestly, despite the controversy, use a selfie stick if you want. In the end, you need to be a bit shameless if you want the pictures you desire.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m Christa! A passionate traveler, writer and photo-taker based in Barcelona, Spain. Originally from the US, I found my home in Europe, and I plan to continue living, exploring, and writing about this wonderful continent for many years to come. Follow along on my personal travel blog www.thespiritedexplorer.com or find me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/hello.christa.