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I’ve been meaning to write this post for as long as I can remember. The number one question I get asked on my Instagram is “how do you take photos of yourself when travelling solo?”
Sorry to burst your bubble guys but I don’t have a little fairy hanging around, hire professional photographers or have an Instagram husband. Although admittedly, sometimes it would make things a hell of a lot easier.
90% of the travel photos you see of me on my blog or Instagram, are taken by me!
Since I have started to travel solo and I run a travel blog that requires epic photos (selfies just don’t cut it on the gram), I’ve been taking photos of myself on a regular basis for over two years now.
In this post, I’m going to share everything I know about self-tography with you including:
- Different ways to get epic travel photos when by yourself
- Tips for travelling with a tripod
- How to set up your tripod or gear to get the photo with you in it
- Ways to limit your camera from getting stolen
- How to stop caring what people think (but that’s mostly down to you!)
We’re going to cover all the ways of taking photos by yourself, but how to take them too!
So, are you ready to join the ranks and become a self-tographer? Sweet! Let’s go.
1. A tripod and a timer mode
Although not the most effective option in my opinion; setting up your tripod, mounting your camera in the position you want it, and letting it run on a timer is a great option to take photos of yourself if you’re just starting out.
Most cameras will have self-timer modes and, if you’re in the market for a camera, I would check the capabilities of the timer modes on the camera first.
A big tip I have is to read your camera manual thoroughly or experiment with the timer modes available first before you set out on your travels.
You don’t want to turn up at your photo location all set to go and then struggle with setting up the timer.
The best way is to set your camera up on a continuous mode. This is where the camera will keep taking photos for you. This means you don’t have to keep running back and forth to start the timer each time.
For example, you could set up your camera to take a photo every one or two seconds. That way, you can change positions up each time without having to worry!
Another way is to buy a remote shutter that works with your camera. But, this could prove expensive.
Top tip: when choosing the right tripod, try to get one that can hold your camera in portrait mode – perfect for 8×10 editing for Instagram.
2. A tripod with a remote shutter (where you can see yourself)
The first option is a common way of getting photos but to really level up, this is what I suggest.
For me, not only do I like to set up my tripod in the position I want it, mount my camera and compose it for a beautiful photo; I like to see what I look like in the picture as well while taking it.
That way you can make sure you’re not getting half your body in it, your hair doesn’t look messy etc. (although for me it’s a given lol) and you can use see if the pose or facial expression makes it an attractive photo.
After all, there’s no point in posing for 30 minutes to find out the photos look wrong or you’re cut out of the frame! Or, you’re not happy with your pose, you’re too far away etc.
How I do this is by using a camera that has WiFi capability and using a remote shutter through a smartphone to take photos of myself.
How to set up your camera with a smartphone WiFi App
Most of the big camera companies like Olympus, Canon, Sony, Nikon, and Lumix have an app that you can download for free to connect your phone with your camera.
It’s really simple to set up. You just turn on your WiFi mode on your camera, connect your phone via an app and away you go!
Not only does having this app and the WiFi setting allow you to see yourself on the screen and press the shutter to take a photo while you’re by yourself. You can instantly download those photos to your phone to edit for Instagram or post to stories, Snapchat, Twitter etc. It’s genius!
You just have to be a little creative with where you hide your phone so it doesn’t show in the photo.
Sometimes I sit on my phone, hide it behind my body if I’m facing away, press and throw away the camera, or use it as a prop etc.
3. Burst mode option with your camera (guess what, tripod again!)
I always used to take photos of myself while travelling solo with option number two (WiFi-connected smartphone shutter) for the first year or so. But, I found that this limited my options and gave a ‘static’ photo.
I would either need to sit, turn away, or stand super still to make sure I could press the shutter. And, although there’s nothing wrong with that, I was craving something more…
Motion in my photo!
You know, that twirly dress, spinning around candidly, jumping in the air, walking in the distance motion-type pictures you see on Instagram.
So, I decided to up my game once more and started to play around a little bit on my Olympus camera features.
Well, I’m happy to say that I discovered a little breakthrough. Burst Mode!
How to take photos of yourself using your camera in Burst mode
This is similar to a timer. But, instead of taking one photo, it takes multiple photos in a really short space of time! I.e. 10 photos in 2 seconds.
What this means is that it will take multiple photos for you in one sitting so you have a better chance. For example, if you were twirling around in your dress or skirt, the burst mode would capture that better in 5 photos a second than just one photo per second.
So now, my photoshoot set up goes like this:
- Firstly, I set up my tripod and mount my camera
- Then, I connect my camera to my smartphone via the Olympus App
- I will then set my camera to burst mode on the app where it will take 15 photos in 2 seconds
- Next, I set that to repeat every 2 seconds
- I position myself where I want to be in front of the camera by looking in my phone
- I’ll press the button to release the shutter
- Hide my phone somewhere (or keep it near the tripod)
- I have fun!
This is the way I take all my photos now as it not only means I can get creative. It also means I can leave my phone by the tripod if I don’t want it to be in my photo… Winner, chicken dinner!
4. Use a smart phone with a timer mode or invest in a Bluetooth shutter for it
Although limited, most smartphones on the market have a timer mode built into the camera.
For example, an iPhone has the option of a 3 or 10-second countdown before it takes the photo. Leaving you with enough time to get in position and pose where you want!
What’s more, is you could put it on selfie mode so you can see yourself on the screen too and get yourself into position properly.
Blue Tooth Shutters for Smart Phones
Even the most basic, cheap selfie sticks have Bluetooth shutters so you can press a button on the stick and the smartphone will take a photo when pressed.
How you set this up is by connecting the blue tooth shutter to your phone, similar to a Bluetooth speaker.
Then you can connect it to your phone and press the Bluetooth shutter to take your photo without timer mode. Giving you more flexibility and not having to go back and forth to your phone! The power of modern technology aye?
5. Get crafty with propping up your camera or phone
In some instances, the use of a tripod is not allowed. For example, in most tourist sites in India, Istanbul or Egypt tripods were prohibited.
This is a nightmare for the self-tographer to be sure. But, it just means getting a little more creative with how you take your photo.
I took this by propping up the camera against a step
Some top tips I have for utilising your surroundings as a makeshift tripod or prop for your camera:
- To gain height, use your bag/coat to rest the camera on
- Look for stairs, surfaces, walls or even bins to prop up your phone (just make sure it doesn’t fall in/over lol)
- Put your camera in the top pocket of your backpack to rest the camera
- Use your drink bottle
There are so many ways to be creative and still get a good photo without a tripod and no hands to help you!
6. Get your GoPro out but make sure it has a selfie stick
A GoPro is a travel bloggers ultimate weapon. It can survive the test of time and take photos in any situation no matter how messy.
Whether scuba diving in the ocean, throwing colours for holi, mud wrestling, tubing in Laos, chucking tomatoes for La Tomatina , sandboarding, skydiving, Bungy jumping, surfing, or riding in an air balloon.
You can rest assured your camera won’t break and you can take some epic action photos in the process.
They’re also made for self-tography as they have a wide-angle lens. Meaning you can get more of yourself in the photo.
To avoid getting your arm getting in the way, I would invest in a GoPro stick. This means you can get more in the frame and even have the GoPro behind you to take some awesome photos.
They don’t have to be expensive either, my first was a Monopod from eBay for £1.99! Although it got rusty in the water so I wouldn’t recommend it. You can also get floatable ones here.
There are also tonnes of other accessories for the GoPro like head and chest brackets, mounts for bikes, and surfboards, you name it.
You can get really creative and it’s so lightweight, meaning it will save you from lugging around loads of heavy equipment.
It does take practice however and again, you’ll need to play around with timer functions but it’s so worth it.
7. Ask a stranger to help you out
This is not my favourite option as I like to compose photos myself (and I’m picky) but, sometimes it’s just easier to ask someone to take one for you.
Sometimes this can be great and sometimes it can be a complete fail.
It’s a gamble you take. I mean I totally get it, not everyone is travelling to get perfect photos haha!
But sometimes when a stranger takes it, the composition is all off or parts of the landmark are missing etc. it can be frustrating and there’s a limit on how much time you have.
At the end of the day, this stranger is kind enough to help you out! Let’s not take up more of their time than necessary.
The trick is learning to communicate what you want and your vision to the person you ask.
Some tips for asking strangers to take your photos:
Firstly, look for someone with a DSLR, they may know more about photography
Before you hand someone your camera/phone explain what you want in the photo.
Explain what pose you’ll be pulling. If it’s meant to be a smize or you’re looking away, it could help them understand. Or else, you could be told to turn around and ‘smile’ or, they may not think you’re ready for the photo. Hey, not everyone gets the blogger life!
Alternatively, take a photo of what you want without you in it. Or show them the Pinterest pin that inspired you or the photo you’ve saved from Instagram. Then, they may understand what you’re looking for a little better.
8. Get creative with capturing your body
Of course, you don’t have to always capture all of yourself in the photo. It could be just a certain part of you.
Whether it be your hands with a nice coffee or some yummy food (the perfect excuse to buy ice cream), your feet against a pretty tiled floor, or your legs with a breathtaking view – there are countless ways to get creative photos without letting the camera go.
A big inspiration for me when I first started travel blogging was @girleatworld who takes stunning colourful captures of food she eats around the globe.
She holds it in her hand against an iconic background and it’s genius! Now she has almost 400k followers on the gram. Go follow for some inspiration, but don’t if you’re hungry ;)
9. Smile in the mirror
A common one but one that still works and can be quite effective!
Taking a picture on a reflective surface, mirror or even mirrored road signs does still make for a great photo at a different angle.
10. Buy a drone
Not a cheap option, but can bring a whole new level to your photography game!
A drone is essentially a flying camera and it allows you to take photos of yourself from heights you never thought possible.
But this doesn’t come without complications.
A drone can cost way over a thousand pounds and they are easily fickle when the weather isn’t so great. For example, if it’s windy, it could easily be blown away never to be seen again!
Also, a lot of countries (Morocco, Egypt etc.) have banned drones all together which means you may have to leave it at home or get someone to drone-sit while you travel.
Don’t even think about flying this near an airport or air travel space. Recently, Gatwick Airport in London had to delay flights due to drones flying overhead.
Which resulted in hundreds of people not being able to go home for Christmas and came with a 5 jail year sentence for the culprit.
A lot of the high-end drones will have a nifty feature warning you whether you can fly it (or won’t take off at all) so you’re all clear.
But, if you are caught flying it in an illegal zone, you could lose a ton in fines. Some countries make a lot of money this way! They’re epic, but be careful.
11. Screenshot your vlogs/videos
This may not be as good in terms of quality, but sometimes taking a screenshot of your vlogs or videos can be a great way to get still content.
For example, when I wrote about Holi in my blog post. Some, if not all of these photos were grabbed from my GoPro footage. The reason being is the colours would have destroyed my DSLR.
This is also a great way to capture movement and present a moment in time that you may have missed on your camera.
You can easily do this in iMovie or any other video editing software by using the Screengrab option.
GoPro also provides an awesome app in which you can transfer your videos/photos from your GoPro to your phone using the handy WiFi feature. From here, it easily allows you to screen grab any photo from a video.
12. Collab with other bloggers or join travel groups
Travelling solo doesn’t mean you need to be alone and if you want to be part of the travel blogging community, we’re a really nice bunch (promise)!
Many travel bloggers will love to meet up and collaborate together. Whether that be arranging a meet-up in a city or specifically meeting to shoot a location together. It can be a super fun way to meet and network with other bloggers.
Another way to do this is on press trips where all of you are sponsored to travel together with a tourism board or tour company. You can create some really awesome content of each other for your blogs or Instagram accounts.
Alternatively, travelling in a group tour to a country with companies like Topdeck or Contiki can open up more possibilities for photo opportunities. That and you could make travel friends for life!
Travelling with a tripod
Travelling with a tripod in your luggage or on your back while exploring a city can be tiresome.
Although my tripod weighs less than a kilo, if I carry it on one shoulder – it kills by the end of the day!
Here are some of my top tips for tripod travel:
Check the weight of a tripod before you buy it. You’d be surprised how much they can weigh, If it weighs 3 kilos, it’s going to take up a lot of luggage allowance and weigh you down.
Try and buy a tripod that folds up small or a compact tripod for travel
Invest in a proper photography backpack for your equipment and carry it on two shoulders for support.
Setting up your tripod
- So, you’ve got your tripod, you’re all set to go, you arrive at the location and… now what?!
- Well, there’s a couple of things that I check first before I get my tripod out to take the photos:
- Check a composition with your phone first, no point setting it up to find out that you hate how it looks.
- Decide what height you want your tripod. 9 times out of 10, I extend to full height but a lower angle could create a more effective composition
- Check you can balance your tripod in the location. If it’s in sand/mud, plant the tripod deep enough so it won’t topple
- Check your surroundings and the weather, if it’s windy it could fall over and hurt your camera! The last thing you want is for your camera to break.
- If you’re planning to shoot a few photos while you’re here, you may want to leave the tripod set up and carry it around like that. To save you time.
A handy checklist to limit your camera from getting stolen
Another question I get asked a lot is “Don’t you worry about your camera being stolen?”
Of course, that is a worry. Especially if I’m doing a photo that requires me to be far away from my camera. Not the mention my stuff like my handbag with my phone, wallet, hotel room key, etc!
But, touch wood I have never had anything happen to my equipment while filming alone. I think people think I’m crazy and are more confused than wanting to steal my camera.
But, that doesn’t mean you can be reckless. So here’s some of my advice. These may seem obvious but it needs to be said:
- Check your surroundings, does it look dodgy? Are there any dodgy characters eyeing up your stuff? If so, choose a new location
- Are you in a place where it could easily be stolen? A busy street, a popular attraction etc. Maybe don’t shoot there
- Is there any security around that would help you if someone tried to run away with it?
- How far are you stepping away from the camera? The further away the more risk
- Put your bags closer to you hidden from view. Not near your tripod! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
How to stop caring what people think!
At first, posing in front of a tripod is downright weird! I know, I’ve been there.
But now, my tripod is pretty much my boyfriend when I travel. My very own (rather stiff) Insta husband. He’s been with me around the world now, capturing my best moments as I go haha.
The big trick is just not to care!
Sure, you may look a little silly. Posing in front of your camera while people are looking.
But, you’re never going to see these people again after you’ve taken your photos.
So, ten minutes of awkwardness can get you a lifetime of memories. I think that’s a good trade-off.
The way I think of it is I’ll regret not getting my photo and I’m not going to have regrets while I travel because a few randoms made fun of me.
More often than not, after I’ve taken my photos, they’ll go and do the exact same! Some people will be impressed, some people will think you’re crazy, some will just not get it.
But, forget about them, rise above them and just concentrate on you and your awesome photos. You’ve got this!
If this article helped you out or if you’re an avid self-tographer, don’t forget to tag me in your photos on Instagram or contact me. I’d love to see your self-made creations.
Read more solo travel guides
75 Inspiring Solo Travel Quotes
Common Solo Travel Problems and how to avoid them
How to boss eating by yourself in restaurants
Why you need to travel solo this year!
Friday 4th of November 2022
LoL I also prefer asking DSLR owner to take my pics. I usually use monopod due to safety concern leaving behind my camera/smartphones at tripod for my behind pics :D Got loads of selfies during traveling. But at least it less hassle if you have tight schedule or in a rush. In some country like Japan, even monopod is forbidden in theme park and museums because it can be blocking people way. I had to smuggling it by keeping it on my hidden pocket and using it when there's no staff around :'D But thank you for the Burst mode tips, will practice it before my next solo trips.
Monday 7th of November 2022
Hi Nana, yes it's great to take pictures with a monopod as well. I actually use my phone more nowadays but I still use a DSLR on occasion. I've noticed people are getting SO strict now this tripod rules it's annoying. Sometimes I use an octopus tripod and tie it to fences and barriers discreetly to get away with it ;) no worries. I also recommend an app called Lens Buddy that continually takes photos for you. It's Incredible! Thanks for reading. Sophie x
Wednesday 28th of October 2020
A must read for solo travellers
Wednesday 28th of October 2020
Thanks Amit! Sophie x
Tuesday 17th of March 2020
Love this article! Thank you so much for sharing it (and of course for your effort in writing it beforehand ?)! Really love your instagram account, too, and there are not many out there with constantly interesting content. You’re doing a really great job, keep on going! Best wishes from Germany, Rebecca
Tuesday 28th of April 2020
Hi Rebecca, thanks for your kind words. I'm so happy that you liked the post and I hope it helped you :) Sophie x
Saturday 21st of September 2019
wonderful photos and texts nice photography lessons
Saturday 21st of September 2019
Hi Christos, thanks for your support :) I hope it helps you! Sophie x
Wednesday 11th of September 2019
It was really interesting and helpful as I can relate to the self-tography techniques. Thanks for sharing the useful tips and experiences.
Thursday 12th of September 2019
Hi Niwedita, thanks for your comment! I'm glad the article could help you out :) Sophie x