How to Take Great Solo Travel Photos Without Feeling Awkward

Wanderlust

So you’ve planned a trip, and you’re ready to fly solo. Congrats! Traveling alone takes serious guts and you’re a total rockstar for doing it. Have you thought about how you’re going to document this trip of yours? Taking solo travel photos of yourself (besides the duck face selfies) can be a real challenge, so I’m going to share some of my favorite strategies for getting pictures of myself (or even me and my boyfriend if it’s just us two traveling) on vacation.

Whether or not you’re traveling solo, you’ll probably want to download my travel photography resource guide for all of the tools (and some bonus tips) that I use for taking pictures when I’m on vacation. Click here to download the guide now:

Click here to download your travel photo resource guide

As someone who’s taken so many selfies it hurts, allow me to lend you my expertise:

Want to take great solo travel photos? Click to read my top tips.

Invest in a Selfie Stick (Yes, I’m Serious)

I’m with you. Selfie sticks are unnecessary and obnoxious and I’ve almost been hit in the head with them in Times Square too many times to count. I never thought I would need or want one, to be honest. But then I booked a solo trip to DC and I thought…hmm…that might actually be useful.

So I bought one. And I sheepishly pulled it out on a weekend road trip with my boyfriend and we actually were able to get pretty good shots of ourselves when we were out on the shores of lake superior with not a single soul around.
And then I brought it to DC and used it to take one of my favorite Instagram posts ever.

And now, I’m telling you to get one. They’re actually great. Mine is a bluetooth situation, so you just charge it, connect it, and click away. [Link to mine on Amazon.]

Want to take great solo travel photos? Click to read my top tips.

Shot with a selfie stick when there was nobody around.

Just be sure to keep your hand low when you’re holding the stick, so that you aren’t getting photos from crazy angles or (god forbid) with the actual stick in the shot. Just try it. You don’t have to love it, but let me know if you do.

Bring Options

This is one of the keys to awesome travel photos in general, but especially when we’re talking about solo travel photos. Always bring a couple of options for cameras, so that you have the flexibility to get a variety of great shots, and you can narrow down your best ones later.

When I travel, I always bring my iPhone 6 and my Canon Rebel. And I often bring my GoPro and/or my Instax instant camera. I have yet to actually bring all of them, but I’m guessing that I will on my next trip.

Bringing all of them allows me to get different kind of photos and photos of different quality. You can also use the GoPro 3-Way Grip like a selfie stick.

Take A Lot of Pictures

I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is just not taking enough pictures. I’m totally guilty of this myself, because sometimes it’s just not reasonable to stand somewhere for an hour taking pictures. That’s okay.

I’m just saying, if a photo is important to you, one camera click is not enough. Take a lot. You’ll discard most of them later, but you’ll be more likely to get one that you truly love. The great thing about taking a lot of travel photos when you’re flying solo is that nobody’s waiting on you to wrap it up quickly.

This also means that whenever something catches your eye, you should stop and take a minute to capture it. Some of the best photos are detail shots that many people would just walk past without noticing. Train your mind to take a moment to capture those places when you see them. And if it takes an extra minute, who cares?

Try Different Things

The main thing that I would say is not to take all of your photos head-on and smiling at the camera. It’s going to be boring and all of your photos will look the same. Just turning your head a bit or mixing up your smile might make a huge difference and get you the perfect shot.

This is a picture I took with a selfie stick outside of the capitol in D.C., and it’s not bad as far as solo travel photos go. The thing is, I tried a lot of different things before this worked. I have weird photos of the back of my head, of me facing straight on, of all sorts of faces. This one works, but if I hadn’t tried a lot of things, I wouldn’t have gotten anything.

Try a Tripod

LOLOLOL I’m hilarious. *eyes rolling emoji*

Anyway, you might want to give a tripod a shot. I wouldn’t use it in a busy area, because I get nervous and don’t want to take my hands off my camera or phone, but you might want to try it in less-busy areas or to get shots of you at your hotel or something.

I invested in a gorilla pod and also the attachment for my iPhone, so that I can use the tripod for both phone and DSLR pictures. The great thing about the gorilla pod is that you can attach it to things by wrapping the flexible legs around it. The hard thing is getting level pictures, since the legs aren’t perfectly straight and it’s a bit challenging to straighten them out once you’ve bent them. There is a level on the gorilla pod, so that helps. Set your timer and you’re good to go!

Ask a Stranger

I get really nervous about handing my phone or camera over to strangers. I literally never give my DSLR to someone else, of course because it represents an investment to me, but also because most people can’t really operate them and I’m sick of getting out of focus shots.

If I really need a stranger to take my picture, I look for someone who (1) is not alone and (2) ideally has kids with them. I always ask directions from moms, so I think this stems from this. I just feel like someone is less likely to run off with my phone if their girlfriend or children are with them, which may be incorrect, but nonetheless it’s my general policy.

I also operate on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” policy, so I’m always happy to spend an extra minute taking pictures of someone in order to give back and be sure they have the memories from their own trip documented.

This only bit me in the ass once, in India, when I thought someone was asking for a picture with her mother, only to discover that she wanted a picture of me with her mother. As soon as people saw me taking pictures, they lined up for a shot with me, and 10 minutes later, a friend saved me. Be careful, ya’ll. I’m probably 10 Indian boys’ “girlfriend” to their friends forever now.

It’s unlikely that it will happen to you. Hopefully, if it does, you have a good friend who will help you.

If you liked this post, be sure to download my photography resource guide for all of the tools I use when taking travel photos. Click here to download it now:

Click here to download your travel photo resource guide
What tools do you use to get great photos when you’re traveling? Let me know in the comments!

-Darcy

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  • Brittany Nash

    “Take lots of pictures” This is me! I take tons and my husband always huffs and puffs at me that I am not enjoying the experience. I always tell him if I am not taking a photo that means I am not really enjoying what is going on hahaha. Great tips!

    • Haha love it. You have to have a lot to choose from in order to get the best possible shot!

  • Brittany Michelle

    No shame in your selfie stick game! I actually use a selfie stick for my GoPro and with the wise lenses you really can’t tell it’s me taking the picture! Great tips!

    • Love it! I was honestly amazed at how good the selfie stick shots turn out!