How to nail your solo travel photography game…and not look awkward!
Are you a female traveller looking to take your solo travel photography skills up a notch? If so, you’re in luck!
Solo female travel IMO is definitely something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It can be a little daunting and scary at first, but once you take the plunge and go travelling alone for the first time, you’ll see just how much fun it is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Travelling solo shows you that you are capable of so much more than you ever thought possible. And not only that, but it also allows you to meet some amazing people along the way who will help make your journey even more special.
One question you’re probably going to find yourself asking though, is how am I going to take photos when I’m travelling solo? It might not seem possible at first but trust me, there are ways! Below I’ve compiled 16 tips that will have you snapping pics like a pro in no time.
16 Ways To Nail Your Solo Travel Photography Game
1. Invest in a tripod (or two!)
One way to master solo travel photography is to use a tripod. Without someone to help you snap that perfect shot, it can be pretty difficult to get decent travel photos that actually have YOU in them as well, NOT just the scenery. Cause let’s face it, those get boring after a while and it’s important to be able to capture some memories of yourself.
Enter your trusty new tripod!
These days my tripod is basically like a third arm, I take it everywhere with me and I mean EVERYWHERE.
A tripod will allow you to set up your camera and take great solo shots. It also frees up your hands so you can experiment with different angles and compositions.
If you’re using a DSLR, a tripod is essential for getting sharp, blur-free photos. So if you’re serious about mastering solo travel photography, invest in a good tripod and start taking some amazing shots today!
Best tripod for solo travel
Now the reason I said invest in a tripod or two depends on where you’re travelling and what camera you’re using as different types of tripods come in handy for different reasons.
You’ve got something like the gorilla tripod which has flexible legs. Great if you’re going to be shooting in a variety of different locations on the more adventurous side. A great thing about this wee tripod is that it is a lot smaller and less bulky than your traditional tripods, meaning it’s pretty inconspicuous.
So why opt for a bigger more traditional tripod on the other hand? Typically they are better at housing a DSLR so if you’ve got a large camera or big lens sometimes it makes more sent to opt for a traditional tripod with fold-out legs as it’s going to be stronger or sturdier.
My personal preference is the sturdier tripod. I take a lot of photos at the beach so sometimes the gorilla pod just won’t cut it as there isn’t much for me to attach it to. I also like the height you can get with a bigger tripod. When choosing one you want it to reach at least your eye level otherwise you’ll be taking a lot of low angle shots!
The thing with a larger tripod is people will stare and wonder what on earth you’re doing…so you’ve just gotta embrace it gal!
2. Shoot in the morning
Okay so this is a very important tip for three reasons.
Less people will be around which means less people running your epic photos.
Minimal embarrassment when it comes to parading around in front of your tripod because nobody is around to see it.
The light is just so. much. better. Hello golden hour!
Trust me, even if you are a newbie photographer if you can drag your butt out of bed early enough, you are going to wind up with super cool photos because the light looks so damn good.
3. Use the wifi function on your DSLR
Turns out a LOT of camera models have wifi built into them these days. Not only is this super handy for transferring your travel photos directly to your phone BUT if you download the app compatible with your DSLR, you can go into live view mode and take photos using your phone as a remote!
Incredibly handy and no need to carry an extra piece of equipment around with you.
4. Buy a remote shutter
In saying this though, there will be times when you may benefit from using a remote shutter instead.
The remotes tend to be a lot smaller than our phones, making them easier to hide behind your back or pop in your pocket before your camera clicks away.
If your camera happens to not have wifi built into it then this would be a great option for you!
5. Get familiar with self-timer
This one is a doozy and by doozy, I mean total gamer changer!
Once I discovered how to use self-timer properly for my solo travel photography my photos went from cheesy and lame, to oooh damn that ain’t bad.
Being able to use a self-timer frees you up from being stuck behind or near the camera completely. Finally, you can capture those Insta worthy running away from the camera shots we see everywhere – kidding, but seriously self-timer suddenly opens up a lot more options.
Canon cameras have something called an interval timer and other camera models will have similar settings where you can choose how many photos you want your camera to take and at what intervals.
For example, if you’re going to be moving around a lot, you’ll want to be capturing photos every second for about 30 seconds. Or possibly longer if you’re moving far away from your camera.
6. Use your surroundings to experiment with different angles
This is a bit of a fun one if you don’t have a tripod but do not and I repeat DO NOT, try and balance your camera on high unstable surfaces. That is just a recipe for disaster.
But what you CAN do, is embrace the low angle shots and have your camera safely nested near the ground. Then find something to prop the lens up with.
Let your creativity loose and you’ll be surprised with how much you can utilise what’s around you to get those Insta worthy snaps.
7. Get creative with a goPro
There are numerous adventurous travel activities that aren’t suitable for a DSLR or even an iPhone such as snorkelling, ziplining, skydiving, the list goes on.
Enter the GoPro. These little cameras are perfect for solo travellers who want to get creative with their photography. Plus, GoPros are small and lightweight, making them perfect for solo travellers who want to pack light!
Also, I reckon this is the only camera you can get away with making a selfie stick look cool. Sorry but it’s time to ditch the self sticks for smartphones. It’s 2022, we’ve all moved on.
With a GoPro, you can get great underwater shots, capture adventurous moments, and even take time-lapse videos of your travels. So if you’re looking for a way to up your solo travel photography game, consider investing in a GoPro. You won’t be disappointed.
8. Ask a friendly stranger
Sometimes you won’t always have your tripod on you or you decided to leave it at home cause you knew you were heading to a busy place.
Another way to get solo travel photos is to ask a stranger to take a photo of you in front of a landmark or cool spot.
A handy tip is to look for someone with a DSLR camera, they are a lot more likely to know what they are doing when it comes to snapping pics compared to someone with an iPhone.
Be sure to return the favour by taking a photo of them too!
9. Don’t forget about the rule of thirds
This easily forgotten tip is oh so simple to implement and will take the composition of your photos to another level.
If you haven’t heard of it before, basically the rule of thirds is a composition guideline that splits your camera screen into a grid of nine boxes, 3 across and 3 down.
As a general rule, you want to try and line up your main subject matter on one of these lines. Either horizontally, vertically or both.
It’ll help your photo become more balanced, leading to gorgeous shots without having to be a photography master.
10. Shoot underexposed
A little bit more of a techy tip here, but you don’t have to be a master at manual settings to shoot underexposed. All you have to do is play with the shutter speed as this is what controls how much light gets let into the lens of your camera.
Why do we want to shoot underexposed?
Because when you go to edit your fab pics, this will help retain more detail in the shot and result in a higher quality edit. Basically, there is more ‘data’ for the editing app to play around with.
Overexposed photos are really bright and contain a lot of white and when you try to darken this it just looks grey and almost dirty. Basically, it’s easier to lighten a darker photo than it is to darken a lighter photo.
If you want to step it up even further, be sure to shoot in RAW. If you’ve never heard that word before don’t worry, we’ll keep this beginner-friendly.
I 110% recommend using Lightroom for all your photo editing. I use Adobe Lightroom Classic for all my editing and I’m obsessed. If you want to have a play around the mobile app is free and if you want a little help getting started, you can sign up to grab 5 of my Lightroom mobile presets totally free.
Tips On How To Not Look Awkward In Photos
Okay so we’ve established how to up your solo travel photography game, now let’s discuss how to NOT look awkward in photos. You know when you panic at the last minute and don’t know how to pose, so you freeze and end up with an ingenuine smile on your face that looks forced?
Yeah we’ve all been there. So how do you avoid this?
11. Find a prop
A way to not look awkward in photos is to find a prop. Often we’ve got no clue what to do with our hands so if you find something you can hold it will make the photo look a lot more natural. Sunglasses, hat, jandals, you name it!
Not only do you feel a lot more natural in front of the camera when you have something to hold but you can play the photo off as a candid snap – even though we all know there’s no such thing as a “candid” shot anymore, Instagram I blame you.
12. Sit down
Ah the classic sit pic, always a goodie when you feel a bit stuck. On a gorgeous beach? Sit down. Looking at a gorgeous view? Sit down. Taking a photo in front of a cool backdrop? Sit down. You get the picture… 😉
But seriously this is a great trick to get a gorgeous, natural-looking snap if you’re in a location where you can sit down. Obviously, you won’t be able to sit down in EVERY location you shoot in but it’s better than the alternative of just standing there like a stiff rock.
13. Pretend to play with your hair
Another classic, another goodie. The old play with your hair trick. An incredibly easy pose to pull off which results in a 100% reduction in awkwardness.
Even better if there’s a slight breeze as it will help add some movement to your photo.
Okay I do add this one in with slight hesitation because when done wrong it can come off incredibly cheesy but when done right it can look bomb af.
The key here is to not actually twirl so much. Now I know that sounds weird but hear me out.
What you’re trying to achieve by twirling is to add movement to your photo to 1. make it more natural and 2. make it a more interesting photograph. If you move too quickly it’s not going to look natural and your hair will probably wind up in your face and you might flash a few people in the process (it is good to wear a flowy dress for these kinds of shots).
So how do you achieve the “slow twirl”?
The secret is that you don’t actually do a full twirl, you pretend. So let’s say you’re facing towards the camera to being with, set your self-timer to burst mode or if you have a Canon, set up interval timer to take a shot every second.
Now do a 180 so that you’re facing away from the camera and repeat that motion. This will bring some movement into your dress and your hair as if you’re twirling but it will be a lot less dynamic compared to if you were actually spinning around in a circle.
And voila, you have a non-cheesy twirling photo that actually looks cool.
15. Walk away from the camera
Another Insta classic, bonus tips if you’re wearing a long flowy dress. Again this will add movement to your photo and you don’t even have to do anything except walk away from the camera.
It’s as easy as that! You’ll want to use your self-timer for this one so you have time to get far away enough from the camera.
Expert tip: Try walking forwards and backwards a couple of times while the camera shoots away when you’re happy with the composition of the shot. This will create a slightly more interesting photo than just straight walking.
If you’re ready for full embarrassment mode, try hopping back and forward from one foot to the other. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you feel like an idiot but that feeling will disappear pretty quickly when you get some awesome shots that look a whole lot more natural than they felt!
This one is certainly a good one to try on those early morning photoshoots when nobody else is around…
16. Practise, practise, practise
This probably comes as no surprise but the more you practise solo travel photography, the more comfortable you’re going to become AND the better your photos are going to get.
If I look back to when I first started taking solo travel photos, they were crap. I’m talking blurry awkward, stiff smile selfies.
Now they turn out like this:
Big improvement I tell ya.
An important thing to remember is don’t go comparing someone else’s chapter 35 to your chapter 1, we all start somewhere! If you put in the time and the effort you WILL get better. I promise you.
Safety For Solo Travel Photography
It wouldn’t be a solo female travel post without a section on safety, would it!
Not to sound like your mum or anything, but it’s important to ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. Not just when taking photos but in general.
Know where your valuables are at all times and don’t go walking down any dark alleyways by yourself (although I’m sure you already know that).
During the day if you’re shooting in a popular location, chose to take shots where you’re only away from your camera for a few seconds rather than big photoshoots. That way you don’t have to worry about your camera getting knocked over, or even worse stolen.
All the times I’ve been shooting solo I’ve never been worried about having any of my gear stolen and this is probably because I chose my locations carefully. I hate it when my shots are ruined with other people lingering in the background so I like to get off the tourist track a little and seek out new locations.
But what about getting shots of those key landmarks I hear you ask?
You don’t have to go without! You just have to get a little creative. Instead of shooting your shot from where everyone else is standing, explore the area a bit more and find somewhere less crowded.
Chances are you’ll get a more unique photo of a popular destination cause you spent a little more time going out of your way to avoid the crowds.
Alternatively, you can just try to get to the tourist hotspots early, problem solved.
Where to put your valuables
This is always an important question cause we all know our smartphones come everywhere with us these days and if you’re out and about for the day it’s likely you’ll have your wallet and some cash with you as well.
What I tend to do is use my camera bag as a handbag and then wear that across my body. I don’t have a huge camera bag so it’s pretty discreet and there is just enough room for me to fit in my phone, cash and cards.
For day trips I wouldn’t have my passport or anything on me, it’s best to leave that in the hotel or hostel you’re staying in.
Want some free Lightroom presets to up your solo travel photography even FURTHER?
That brings us to the end of my tips for solo travel photography! At the end of the day just embrace your surroundings and go for it. You’ll be surprised what shots you’ll come out with.
Some of my favourite shots have definitely been when I was least expecting it.
And lastly don’t give up! You will get better I promise.
Once you’ve got the foundation for a good photo, you can start playing around with the editing to give your photos a whole other style and tweak them to fit your aesthetic. To get you started, you can download 5 of my favourite Lightroom mobile presets here.
The best thing about Lightroom mobile is it’s totally free! So nothing is stopping you from getting started today.
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