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The Art Of Taking Pictures Of Yourself When Traveling Alone 

Fact: Majority of the questions I receive since I started my blog is about how I manage to take my pictures. Because let’s be real, no one is ever too cool for a good picture of yourself during your travels. I’m not a fan of selfies because they never really justify the places I visit because, well, for starters, you can’t even see it. But sometimes, it can be quite a challenge to capture the ultimate Instagram photo for certain reasons. But fret not, my fellow traveler, because I’m about to reveal my little tricks and secrets on how to take the ultimate self portrait. It’s all just an art, really.

1.) The art of lurking and getting inspired.

One of the things I do to hype myself up for an upcoming trip is by utilizing the Instagram “Places” feature. I like to refer to it as research. By searching the location you’re going to next, you’re given hundreds, even thousands of photos to get inspiration from. This is how I scout for Instagram worthy locations. Keep browsing to get ideas. I’m not saying copy it, but get inspired from the beautiful shots that catches your eye! Study how the photo was taken– take notes on the angle, analyze the subject, and then picture where you see yourself in that very photo. The cool thing about lurking on people’s Instagram posts is that if you’re lucky like me, you learn about hidden little locations that actually turns out to be the perfect spot for a great photo.


You can also find plenty of inspiration in Instagram accounts that features travel photos like @dametraveler, @passionpassort, @darlingescapes and many more. You can even get inspiration from me @girlunspotted ! The photos they feature are so charming and lovely so let yourself be inspired. Learn some new poses, perhaps? Maybe get some new outfit inspo for your next hike? Like I said, you don’t have to be such a biter. Just get some ideas that you like, tweak it,  and add your personal touch to it.

2.) The art of utilizing your self timer.

Once you’ve committed to a camera of your choice– whether it’s a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, a GoPro, or a smart phone– learn how to use its features. I recommend mastering the art of self-timers because if you’re traveling alone, this is the most reliable photographer you have.

Girl, Unspotted
Tripods are travel buddy goals.
I’m very dependent on my GoPro self-timer when I’m on a solo adventure. I also have the three-way mount which serves as a tripod as well. I set mine to multiple shots so I have a bunch to choose from later on. Here’s a fact: for every 20 photos you take, you only get 1 perfect shot. So here’s why you need to learn #3…

Edit: Remember that when you set your tripod in a public space or when you hand your camera to a stranger, you’re doing it at your own risk. Do this with caution and be extra wary. For instance, I would never try to pull off tripod photography in the streets of Manila or Saigon. A little research on the area will give you a better judgement.

3.) The art of timing.

Take your time, but not too much time. You’re traveling, remember? Don’t see the world through the lenses of your camera. You’ve got to find balance. That is why #1 is pretty essential to picture obsessed freaks like us. It will save you a lot of time wandering around trying to get a cool picture.

But don’t be too rushed! Walk around and let creativity flow. Let the things around you spark even more inspiration. Savor this precious moment whilst scouting at the same time. Visualize. Take your shots from different angles until you have something you’re happy with. Let the people pass until you have the area to yourself. And then get to clickin’!  But don’t be annoying! Be mindful of other travelers. Take your time, but only when it doesn’t make it inconvenient for others.

Girl, Unspotted
Lunch time at Ta Prohm has a little less crowd.
Speaking of timing, plan ahead. Weekends and holidays are obviously a busy time. But if you must go on those days, you can go extremely early to avoid the crowds. It’ll give you amazing lighting too. I find lunch time to be less crowded too so go for a heavy breakfast because you can utilize that extra quiet hour for plenty of good shots.

4.) The art of “candid” photography.

Smiling photos are cute, but pseudo natural snap shots are better. Today’s most cliche pose just might be the one where you’re facing against the camera while looking at a gorgeous view. Let’s face it, it’s a little artsy, it works, and best of all, there are less chances of it being awkward. But unlike pseudo candids, it does get a little repetitive. And don’t even get me started on duck faces.

Girl, Unspotted
A little staged candid laugh ain’t neva hurt nobody
So how do you take the perfect candid shot? Simple. Look away from the camera and laugh. Or don’t laugh. Do a serious face. Or look pensive. Maybe a little smirk or giggle? I personally prefer fake laughs because my chronic bitch face doesn’t always look pleasant. Either way, it works. Also, if you’re on self-timer, you can even add variety by doing different pseudo actions. Walk a little, put your hands up, touch your hair, the sky is the limit. You may look a little silly having your own little photo shoot, but at least you’ll have a few shots to choose from.

5.) The art of not giving a damn.

Whether you’re posing in front of a tripod, asking strangers to take multiple shots of you, and especially taking your time for your self portrait, you will be low key judged. And that’s okay. The more carefree you feel about looking like a fool, the better your photos will turn out. The less you care about other people staring, the more natural your facial expressions will seem. So, be yourself and let your happiness radiate within you, and the ultimate Instagram shot will come naturally.

Girl, Unspotted
Sir, I have an addiction.

6.) The art of asking strangers.

When self timer is not appropriate in certain circumstances, don’t be discouraged. A decent photo from a stranger is usually a hit or miss, but if you’ve come prepared, you might just get a picture frame worthy shot. With your advance research, creative set of eyes, and oozing inspiration, direct your lucky stranger kindly on how you’d want your photograph taken. Sounds easier said than done, but use your charm! I like to take a sample photo of the angle that I prefer and then show the nice stranger where I would be in the picture. And then I tell them to just keep clicking away for a good 10 seconds once I’m in position. Then I start busting my candid laughs and artsy back views.

Girl, Unspotted
“Sir, kindly click as soon as I turn around.”
Picking the perfect stranger doesn’t have to be tricky either. Go for the ones in cute outfits. They’ll know a thing or two for sure. The couple mimicking the Follow Me To shots will most likely know a good angle. Maybe offer another solo traveler a hand with a photo and get one back in return.

When I go on my solo adventures that includes hikes to waterfalls or something similar, a guide is usually required. When that’s the case, I let my guide take pictures of me after giving them examples of my preference. So if you happen to have a personal tour guide, give them precise instructions on how you like the photos taken. And don’t forget to tip well!

7.) The art of action shots.

Your candids might be staged, but action shots are as genuine as it gets. Regardless of what kind of action shot you have in mind, I recommend opting for a video instead. Burst shots are fun, but I find videos to be more reliable. But I do presume that you have a decent camera that takes good quality videos at least. Good enough that when you screenshot it, it doesn’t look blurry or pixelated. After all, you’d want to remember those moments in high def, don’t you?

Girl, Unspotted
Screen shot material
I really love GoPro’s “Grab Photo” option. It downloads a screenshot from your video clip in high definition and you have the option to pick which shot you’d like. Similar to 4K photography, I suppose. I recently just found out about this feature and it is complete sorcery to me.

Girl, Unspotted
Gotta love GoPro Video + Photos option

8.) The art of selfie sticks.

Selfie sticks in my book are very dorky and lame. Personally, I think selfie sticks are only acceptable at least with GoPros. I know, I know, double standards. But if it works for you, own it, and do it with no shame.

Girl, Unspotted
Bet you can’t tell this was taken with a selfie stick.
Before the rise of selfie sticks a few years ago, my husband purchased one for our trip to Singapore. And while I was cringing the entire time, (and while people stared at us and our innovative paraphernalia) we actually got some pretty decent shots with it. Now I don’t want to advocate it, but truth is, selfie sticks are real handy during desperate times.

Today, I only use my pole for my GoPro (which also serves as a tripod), and the key is simple: learn your angle! Size also matters in this case– the longer, the better. And finally, the most important thing you need to keep in mind is to be as shameless as possible. Remember, the less you care, the better your photos will come out.

9.) The art of minimalism.

Girl, Unspotted

I don’t mean to get all hipster with you, but sometimes, less is truly more. You don’t have to fit everyyyyything in one picture. Space them out. Maybe go for a certain corner and focus on a good symmetrical shot. Don’t try too hard to fit all those monuments in one picture. Or all those buildings in one single shot.Mind how much of yourself you incorporate in your photo as well. Do you want to focus on your outfit or the background? Trying to squish everything in sight in one photo can be overwhelming, and sometimes, the photo may came out a little too cluttered. Clean shots are more appealing to the eyes.

10.) The art of being yourself.

“I just reread everything I wrote and I sound f*cking crazy.”, I told my husband.

“I could have told you that.”, he said.

I guess it’s too late now to advise you not to try too hard…because well, normal people would consider everything I mentioned here to be the exact definition of that. I’m afraid normal people might even think of this as a satirical article. Thank goodness for blogging because I now have an excuse with my obsessive ways with pictures because I swear, I’m not entirely that self-absorbed.

Girl, Unspotted
Thou shall not have shame.
So I guess in the end, just be yourself and have fun! The reason why I’m okay with looking kinda stupid and stuck up while I take my pictures is because I’m actually enjoying it too. I mean, there I am, traveling to foreign places and I have the technology to preserve this memory. So what if my husband is cringing in a corner or has completely stopped acknowledging me and committed to pretending he didn’t know me.

Like I said earlier, let your happiness show. If you’re shy, be shy. If you’re carefree, be free. If you’re obnoxious, eh, maybe tone it down a little. Whether it’s staged or not, you’ll look back at the moment as you stare at your photo, and you will remember the feeling you had when you explored this new place. Not the awkwardness you felt when you tried to capture that memory.

The Art Of Taking Pictures of Yourself When Traveling Alone

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107 thoughts on “The Art Of Taking Pictures Of Yourself When Traveling Alone 

  1. I can relate about this problem when I am travelling alone or with our SO whom we always want to be in the photo with me. When we are a couple, we usually ask another couple to take our photo and offer to take theirs. If I am alone, I do not really like to be in the photo. Hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. my chronic bitch face – I laughed so hard 😀 I acutally agree with everything you said here, makes sense and you’re not crazy at least in this post 😀 I just hope I’ll manage soon enough to get a good camera, they’re sooo expensive for my budget and now I see the need to have one for sure for my blog….fingers crossed I Figure smth out soon 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The “pseudo natural” thing bothered me a bit for a moment as anything slightly made is not natural anymore but yeah, no problem 🙂
    Defining your style is good, and sure everybody needs an inspiration source, I inspire my “selfie” style on The Rock instagram gallery 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved the post! You have a fun way of writing and that’s what I like to read. I noticed in one image you were swimming with whale sharks, where did you do that? It is my ultimate dream!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great post and, from one blogger and photo-obsessed gal to another, not at all crazy!! Although I never really travel by myself I may just pass these tips onto Mr Ayla seeing as he has become my unofficial photographer 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s certainly an art! Strangers are so kind to try to help, but I’m often on the fence about accepting. The average person is well-intentioned but not very savvy when it comes to taking a photo.

    In Budapest I was drawing a crowd as I set up a shot with the perfect angle. After people saw what I took, they were asking if I could take the same shot for them. Fun way to make new friends! I’ll be posting those on Visit50.com soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The best way to choose a stranger to take your picture is to find someone that is using a camera that is at least as nice, if not nicer than yours. They aren’t going to run off with your camera and you can help them out by taking a pic of them with their camera. Anyone that documents a once in a lifetime trip with an iPad or iPhone is not going to take the awesome picture of you that you are hoping for. I’ve always had great luck choosing people with this criteria!

    Liked by 1 person

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