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One of the most asked questions I get is, “How do you take photos when you’re traveling alone?!”, and the short answer is “patience, a tripod, camera, and editing software”. But the long answer, and reality, is it took me a lot of practice, a lot of truly awful photos, and tons of YouTube videos and courses in order to perfect my solo travel shots.
In this post, I’m going to share with you the gear that I use plus tips on perfecting that perfect “solo travel shot” so that you too can take incredible pictures while you’re traveling solo!
How to Take Photos When Traveling Alone – The Ultimate Guide
The first thing you need to know about taking your own photo, is that it can sometimes be awkward and embarrassing. There might be people staring, people who come up and talk to you, and people that straight up laugh at you! But keep your goal in mind – to get that amazing shot, and do your best to ignore the rest. Because the truth is, behind every amazing photo that I’ve taken – there is somebody in the background gawking at me.
Tips for Taking Solo Photos
CAMERA VS PHONE
The first thing you need to think about when taking photos while traveling alone, is do you want to shoot on a camera or a phone? The upside to a phone is that it’s much easier, more affordable (as you probably already have a nice camera built into your phone), and it’s easier to pack. The downside is, however, that the quality just isn’t as good as a DSLR camera.
If you’re serious about getting into photography, I highly recommend investing in a good, quality camera (the one I use is linked below). But if you’re doing this for more of a hobby, or you just want to practice before making a major purchase, then your phone will do the trick!
LEARN YOUR SETTINGS
Before you start shooting, take some time to learn your settings. Of course, if you are shooting with a camera, there will be much more to learn. But if you’re shooting with your phone, there are probably still minor tweaks you can make within your device.
If you have a camera, the major thing you’ll want to focus on is shooting in manual versus automatic. There is nothing wrong with shooting in automatic, and I did it for years before learning manual, but if you’re going to invest in a camera, I strongly encourage you to also invest the time in learning how to fully use it. (By the way – in automatic mode, the camera automatically adjusts your settings for you. In manual mode – you are in control, adjusting all settings yourself).
When I purchased my camera, it came with a free photography class. I would make sure to see if that’s an option for you, and if not think about hiring someone for photography lessons. Another much cheaper way to learn your camera is YouTube. There are tons of resources, for free, right there. Just make sure to search your camera type along with “how to use”.
Tip: If you’re planning on shooting solo photos, make sure that your camera has a bluetooth function where you can link your phone to your camera, plus an option for a “self-timer” so that you’re able to run in front of your camera, pose, before getting the shot. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re shooting in RAW for best edits.
START AT HOME
When you start to practice, start at home. You don’t want to get on your first trip and realize that you don’t actually know how to set up your tripod, or how to remotely shoot. Start at home, learn how to set everything up, learn how to frame yourself, learn how to shoot remotely, etc. The more comfortable you are at home, the better off you’ll be when you’re out in the real world.
MOVEMENT IS KEY
The key to an amazing photo? Movement! Set your shutter speed high, and show some movement in front of the camera. My favorite ways to show movement are by quickly moving my head, which shows my hair moving around; flipping up my dress, or simply walking!
If you’re not comfortable creating movement, you can also find a place to sit and pose – I recommend doing something unique with your arms to avoid just smiling at the camera; or stand in front of the camera with your hands on your hips.
While movement is key – confidence is even more so! After 5 years of taking solo photos, I still get a bit embarrassed while I’m in front of others – but they would never know it! Just smile, take a deep breath, and do what you need to do. I generally try to avoid eye contact but if someone comes up to speak with me, I confidently tell them that I’m working and give them the name of my blog/Instagram.
More often than not, people are just interested in what you’re doing and have good intentions behind their stares and questions.
THINK ABOUT YOUR OUTFIT
Another thing that can make your photo stand out is what you’re wearing. Try to find clothes that show movement – a dress, skirt, jacket. And if that’s not your style, perhaps add a hat, scarf, or hairpiece to play with. I also like to look up the destination I’ll be in, and visualize what outfit would look good where I’m going.
Now don’t get too crazy. Taking solo photos is fun and amazing and truly gives you some great memories. But it’s not all about the photo or outfit – it’s about the destination and experience – so don’t get too wrapped up in buying clothes. My rule of thumb is one new outfit/country, and then I mix and match my old outfits so I’m not spending too much money!
SHOOT AT SUNRISE OR SUNSET
Lighting is everything when taking photos, and the best light is always at sunrise or sunset. If you’re just starting out or you get embarrassed, I recommend taking advantage of sunrise. At sunrise, the light is beautiful, and there will be much less people around staring at you. And while the downside is early mornings, it’s truly magical to see a city wake up around you.
Tip: I look to shoot underexposed vs overexposed (darker vs lighter), because it’s much easier to brighten a photo than it is to darken a photo!
DON’T GET BOGGED DOWN
There is nothing – nothing that ruins a trip or experience faster than somebody who places all of their time and resources on getting that “perfect shot”. I’m speaking from experience, trust me when I tell you that it is NOT all about the pretty photo. Sometimes things just don’t work out – you’re having a bad day, the weather isn’t cooperating, the crowds are too big. Sometimes you just need to put the camera down and enjoy the destination you’re in, versus trying to get that perfect shot.
LEARN HOW TO EDIT
And lastly, the key to that perfect travel photo is truly all in the edit! I use Lightroom to edit my photos and would recommend the same to you! For editing, you can watch YouTube videos or purchase pre-made presets to help you along the way.
The Best Photography Gear for When You’re Traveling Alone
I shared my best tips for taking photos solo, and now I’m going to share the gear I use and recommend!
CAMERA – CANON EOS RP
I’ve been a loyal Canon gal and have worked my way up the line as I’ve learned the art of photography. I am currently using the Canon EOS RP with the 24-105 mm lens and I absolutely love it. While it took me a while to learn the ins and outs of the camera, now that I have, I don’t think I’ll ever get a different camera. This model is pricey, but well worth it if you’re truly interested in mastering photography.
A camera bag is an essential to keep all of your camera gear together and protected! Below you’ll find my favorite camera bags, based on how much equipment you have. The less equipment, the smaller the bag needed!
- Aproca Hard Storage Travel Protective Case
- BAGSMART Camera Backpack
- FOSOTO Waterproof Anti-Shock Camera Case Bag
Your camera will more than likely come with a strap, but you’re already spending so much money I think you need a cute camera strap to personalize your purchase.
Here are my favorite camera straps…
- MegaGear Leather Camera Strap
- Wolven Pattern Canvas Camera Strap
- Weewooday Macrame Camera Strap
- MoKo Cotton Woven Camera Strap
LENS CLEANING KIT
If you’re investing in camera gear, I also recommend buying a cleaning kit to keep your lens nice and clean! I use this cleaning kit from LensPen and love it!
A lens protector can seem unnecessary and even pricey (mine clocks in at $80), but I highly encourage you to purchase one. I had my lens protector on and hit my camera, shattering the protector but keeping my lens in tact. This meant I only had to replace the $80 protector versus the entire lens which would’ve cost me hundreds of dollars.
The specific lens protector that you purchase will depend on which lens you have for your camera. Make sure to purchase your camera first, and your lens protector after you know what you’ll need.
I recommend purchasing a nice tripod that will attach on your camera and allow you to shoot content remotely. This is a necessity if you’re traveling alone and taking your own photos. I use the Vanguard VEO tripod.
Another thing I would consider buying is a bag to fit all of your stuff in! I use the Nordace Siena Smart Backpack and it fits all of my camera gear. (Tip: I always recommend carrying your electronics with you versus checking them in).
Any questions about taking photos when you’re traveling alone? Leave a comment below!
If you’re gearing up for a solo trip, don’t miss:
The Best Countries in Europe for Solo Female Travelers
The Ultimate Solo Travel Bucket List
How Solo Travel Changed My Life