Probably the most common question I get asked via Instagram direct message is how do you take your Instagram photos? Do you always have someone with you when you travel to take pictures of you?? And even if I prefer to travel with company (just to be able to share the beautiful moments with someone) it happens more often that I am sometimes alone on trips. This year, for example, I was in Scotland and in Holland alone on trips. Regardless, I have brought back beautiful pictures from each of these trips. How I did it and all my tips and tricks on how you can take beautiful photos of yourself even on solo travels (z.B. with self-trigger), I would like to reveal in this article. But not only for solo travelers these tips can be helpful. Because who would not like to have from itself and its travel company also times common pictures, or?
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Tip #1 – Ask (strangers)
The easiest way to get photos of yourself while traveling is to ask other travelers. By the way, I usually ask other travelers first if I should maybe take a picture of them. Then they are usually more open and like to return the favor. The only question is: how beautiful is the whole thing afterwards?. There it begins already once with the selection of the correct person. When I ask someone for a photo on the road, I specifically pick people who have a good camera themselves and, if possible, preferably still from the same manufacturer. This way you make sure that at least the technology is mastered, which is actually less and less the case in times of smartphones in my experience.
Maybe at this point the hint again: I take almost all my pictures with my full frame camera Sony A7iii and always in RAW format – of course also when I’m alone on the road.
Basically, I often find it difficult to ask strangers for a picture. So that I am fully satisfied with a picture, usually arise loosely around 30 shots, so that in the end everything looks as I have imagined it. With strangers, you often only have 1-2 images to fit then. And the danger that head or feet are cut off is unfortunately from experience very large. Or confused looks, if you don’t look frontally grinning into the camera like on classic tourist photos.
In any case, it is important to give the "volunteer" precise instructions on what should be on the picture and preferably take a sample picture beforehand. For example: "The top of the mountain should still be in the picture and make sure that my feet also fit in the picture at the bottom." Maybe even give more specific instructions on where you want yourself to be (if you don’t want it to be in the center). Of course you should have adjusted the camera well beforehand and – to be on the safe side – not necessarily with a large aperture (</=2.8) work. The risk is simply higher here that you will be out of focus in the picture. You get the idea: quite a bit for a stranger off the street. That’s why I usually go with tip #2, even if I’m often kindly offered help in doing so.
Example: Here I asked the guide from the hiking group to take a picture of me and gave the appropriate frame)
Tip #2 – A tripod or no tripod?
When I travel alone, I actually always have a tripod with me – either the Rollei Compact tripod (most of the time) or the even lighter and more compact Joby Hybrid Gorillapod. Even though I always have the tripods (or one of them) with me when I travel, they are not always at the start of all activities. Let’s face it, a tripod is quite a hassle to use, not only because of the weight and size, but also from handling. Here the Gorillapod has in any case the nose in front. Despite the gripper arms, I think it is not as usable as a "real" tripod, what you put on the floor.
Fact is: It happens that I’m sometimes on the road without a camera. Then it’s time to get creative. Often there are tables, walls, rocks or other objects on which you can place the camera. Putting the camera on the ground can also give a great and unusual perspective and beautiful photos.
Example: I took this picture only by putting the camera on the edge of the pool. Not bad or?
Tip #3 – Find a quiet place
If you want to take pictures with the tripod it is important to choose a quiet place for it. Cities are often less suitable for this than landscapes. After all, you don’t want to leave your camera alone for a photo in the middle of a crowd of people or even turn your back on it. If you still want to have pictures of yourself in cities, it might be better to use option #1 (i.e. strangers who look trustworthy). Maybe you just let them press the button on the camera set up on the tripod and make sure that the camera is not left alone and even more so that the picture is cropped correctly. Since I prefer to take pictures in nature rather than in pedestrian zones, this is usually no problem for me. In a secluded place, you can calmly explore the area, set up the tripod and take as many pictures as you need until you find THE ONE subject.
Example: I had this photo spot in the Harz mountains all to myself at sunset and could take as many photos as I wanted.
Which brings me to my next point right away:
Tip #4 – Allow enough time
If you want to take nice pictures of yourself, you should keep one thing in mind: namely, to plan enough time for it. By the time the tripod is in place, the right settings are found and the perfect motif is finally in the can, a lot of time has usually passed and it is not uncommon to run back and forth between the tripod and the photo spot countless times. Time you often don’t have with stressful schedules. This is also why I always have a photo-savvy companion with me on most trips. If that’s not the case, I simply plan enough time for certain motifs. Here’s how to make sure all that effort wasn’t in vain. For example, if you want to capture a sunset, you should not set up your equipment just before, but preferably an hour before. If then still a little time remains to enjoy the scenery – all the better!
Example: By the time this picture was taken, the pizza had long since gone cold. At least the way to the camera was not so far..
Tip #5 – Remote shutter release
One tip I can give you in any case: forget the 10-second self-timer and invest the few Euros in a wireless remote shutter release. There is nothing worse than running back and forth for every picture and having to find the perfect position in 10 seconds. Especially in the mountains this can even be dangerous if you don’t pay attention and stumble through the area just to be at the right photo spot in time. At the latest from the 10. If you don’t take the right picture, you’re just totally exhausted and rushed and in case of doubt, the right motif isn’t even there yet. You can usually pair a remote shutter release with the camera via infrared, find your location in peace and only then press the remote shutter release so that it is not visible in the picture.
Modern cameras with Wifi function (z.B. by the way) often offer the possibility to use the smartphone as a remote shutter release via a dedicated app. It saves you from having to buy a remote shutter release, and from having to carry around an extra piece that can be easily misplaced or lost (due to its small size).
Example: In the middle of the flowers, you could hide the remote trigger (in this case, the cell phone) just fine.
Tip #6 – Use the bracketing
An alternative to remote triggers is the continuous shooting function of the camera, where the camera usually takes a picture every second until you stop it manually. I also like to use this function, especially for pictures where I don’t want to hold the remote release in my hand or hide it. The only downside is that you end up with a huge mountain of reject photos, in which you are just on the way to the site. Sometimes this is an advantage, because spontaneous pictures are created, which you suddenly like much better than the planned motif.
Example: This picture was also taken with a tripod and continuous shooting. I just positioned and timed the camera and then had breakfast in front of it at my leisure.
Tip #7 – Always keep moving
If you are not a born model and know exactly which poses or movements look good, I can only recommend to walk back and forth in front of the camera and try different poses and movements. This is often how the best pictures are taken, which look natural and not so "posed" and thus radiate much more joie de vivre. Whether running, walking, shooting or whatever – be creative and ignore passing people. You can’t imagine how often I’ve been looked at strangely by other people when I’m jumping around in front of the camera like this. But the result is usually worth it.
Example: This picture was taken while jumping around in front of the camera and I even liked it so much that I accepted that I still have my cell phone in my pocket (and of course I forgot my hair tie on my arm).
Tip #8 – Other perspectives& Use times
A tip, which is not only related to "self-photography", is to avoid classic times and motifs – especially at popular tourist attractions. And of course this is especially true if you are alone on the road. Early in the morning nobody cares if we set up our tripod somewhere and hop up and down in front of it. In addition, the light in the morning and in the evening is a thousand times more beautiful. Most of my photos are taken at these times, even though I’m not one of those photographers who, for example, don’t even unpack the camera at midday. So if you end up at a main sight during the main time, it is best to look for another perspective. Most of the time, even at tourist hotspots, there are corners that are much less crowded. Just get creative and look around a bit!
Example: This picture was taken (by the way with self-timer and without tripod) at noon in the most popular cenote in Tulum. She had a side entrance which was not only more beautiful, but also almost deserted.
Tip #9 – Check focus and exposure
In general, but especially if you’re taking photos with a self-timer, it’s important to check the subject carefully for focus and exposure afterwards. Especially if we do not press the shutter release ourselves, something can often go wrong here. Before dismantling the tripod, check the pictures and check the focus and exposure of your favorites. Don’t come home later and not be able to use a single picture from the series. Of course, this also applies when you hand your camera to other people. If in doubt (especially with friends or acquaintances) ask for a second pass to be on the safe side.
Example: You can’t imagine how many attempts it took until this photo from Bali looked exactly as I imagined it in terms of angle, exposure, sharpness and pose.
Tip #10 – More is less
I’ve already mentioned it a few times: Especially when it comes to people photography, more is definitely less. So many factors come together here that have to be right for the photo to go from acceptable to good or outstanding. First of all, the posture or posing, where the others are often much less critical than yourself. We are our biggest critics. Exposure, sharpness and angle of view also have to match, so here it’s always better to have 100 photos than just three. I therefore always ask – whether friend or stranger – to take as many pictures as possible or – a good trick – set the serial function of the camera from the beginning, so that it takes several photos at the same time when pulling the trigger. Even if I’m shooting alone with a tripod, I’d rather make one more pass than one too few. You can always delete!
Example: Also such a photo, which was taken with a tripod and from which I had afterwards easily 200 mostly unusable shots.
And as with pretty much everything, photography is also a matter of practice: Practice, practice practice! No master has fallen from the sky and if you want to have some fun and scroll back a few years in my Instagram feed (or also with some other Instagrammers with many uploaded pictures), you will find the clear proof for that!
Do you still have questions about (self)photography, self-timer, Instagram and Co? Post it in the comments! And be sure to check out my profile @Sonneundwolken and say hello!