“Who takes all of your pictures?!”, “how do you get pictures that don’t look awkward?”, “do you just ask randoms to take your pictures?”, are most definitely the top questions I get when people take a look at my travel instagram. A lot of people can’t believe that 99% of the pictures I get when traveling were taken by people I recently met or complete strangers.
While I’m by no means a photographer, I have learnt more about photography and what I want in the pictures I take over the past few years. When it comes to getting good pictures at a new destination, I’ve never brought a tripod or used a self timer because I’d personally find it embarrassing to have people watch me set up a camera and have my own photoshoot.
There’s also nothing worse to me than spending too much time focused on pictures instead of taking in the place for yourself. So I’ve managed to find ways to get some awesome pictures while traveling, without making the whole day about getting the perfect picture. Here’s how:
1. Know what you want
The key to getting good pictures in a short amount of time is knowing how you want the pictures to turn out. Before getting to a new country or place I always save pictures on Instagram that I love and look back on them to see what I liked so much about it. Was it the background? The pose? How was the lighting? Was the subject up close or far away? By taking all of those factors into account, you can dictate what style you like and what you may want to do differently in your own pictures.
If you have a stranger taking your picture, odds are that they probably won’t really know what they’re doing, which is where you step in. Make sure to set up where you want the person who’s taking the picture to stand and what you want to be captured.
You can even take a picture of the scenery first from the perspective you want and then show the person so they have a better idea of how you want the picture to turn out.
2. Utilise live photos
I recently discovered that the best way to get great pictures when traveling alone is to turn on the live photo setting on your phone! I never realised how much easier it would make getting a good picture when a stranger or new friend is behind the lens.
Setting your camera to live photo has quite frankly resulted in some of the best pictures I gotten while traveling solo because it captures the movement taken before and after the picture. If you’re not happy with the original picture you can choose a different spot on the picture and 9/10 times you’ll end up with one that looks natural and actually captures the moment.
3. Take LOTS of pictures
It goes without saying that the more pictures you take, the better the odds are that you’ll have some good ones at the end of the day. I find that whenever I ask a stranger or someone I’ve recently met to take pictures for me, they take 1-5 and then hand me back my phone or camera. Sometimes I’ll have a good picture from those but usually they’re awkward or not what I’m going for, so I ALWAYS instruct people to take lots of pictures for me.
After showing them how to use my camera or where to take the picture from, I say; “just take a lot please. Seriously don’t be afraid to take too many just hold down the button”. I find this helps people better understand that you want lots of pictures to choose from.
Once your photographer is good to go, the key to getting a good shot is movement. Walk around, fix your hair – feel free to get as creative as you want – but if you want a shot to look natural don’t stand facing straight and smiling at the camera. Sure, that’s a great shot to send to your grandparents, but it gets boring after a while.
4. Seek out ‘photographers’ nearby
You’re most likely not going to find a real photographer while you’re traveling alone and trying to get some pictures, but there are many people these days who know how to get your good angles and help you out. The only problem is that you need to know who to look for …
Don’t automatically assume that everyone holding a Canon or Nikon DSLR is going to get you a great shot because that often isn’t the case. Sure, you can teach almost anyone where to stand and press the button on your camera, but they’re not always the most suitable candidate for the job.
I always try to find someone around my age who may have just been taking pictures. This way I know they at least have some clue as to what they’re doing and usually they end up getting some decent shots!
5. Find a secluded area
Now this is easier said than done – especially when it comes to super touristy places. This usually comes down to timing (early or late in the day), but you can also play with different camera angles and search for a less busy area to avoid having heaps of tourists in the background of your pictures.
Both places pictured below are usually busy spots in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. When I noticed no one was around I quickly got whoever I was with to get a few pictures and that was that. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want my experiences to be solely focused on getting the perfect picture so I usually go with the flow and spend the rest of my day actually exploring the new place I’m at!
So to wrap it up, those are the best of the best solo travel photo tips I’ve got up my sleeve. It definitely doesn’t always work out in my favour because honestly, sometimes it’s really just luck of the draw in terms of who’s around to get those snaps for you!
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