Traveling on your own is a fun way to have new experiences and expand your boundaries without worrying about synchronizing multiple people’s wants and needs. It can be a truly inspiring way to get to know your own limits — just not that great when you need an extra pair of hands to snap a quick picture for the memories. Luckily, technology makes travel self-documentation much easier (and we all know everyone wants to display their best shots from their travels on sites like Instagram).
I travel solo on about eighty percent of my trips, so I’ve had to learn a few tricks along the way. Here are some of my top tips for taking great travel photos as a solo traveler.
Set Up a Tripod
Bringing a tripod is a tip for good photography even if you’re not traveling solo, but if you want steady photos, they’re a must. Tripods will help you avoid the blur and warp of out of focus or unsteady shots. For smaller cameras, the Gorillapod line and similar flexible tripod products are great for keeping your camera steady even on the most unstable of terrain. Their ability to wrap around poles, skis, railings, and other surfaces means that you have the freedom of setting up shots even in tight urban settings too.
I personally use the Manfrotto line of tripods for my heavy 5D Mark II and I’ve been able to set it up in some precarious places. I also carry a digital timer remote and set it up to take photos every second so I don’t have to constantly run back and forth just to get a couple of different angles.
Use a Selfie Stick
Yes, using one may look silly, but selfie sticks are still incredibly useful for taking pictures on your own! By extending the range between the camera and the subject (likely yourself) further than a natural human arm span, it allows the frame of the photo to be expanded. This way you’ll be able to fit more of the background into your photo and you won’t come home with a million unflattering close-up photos of yourself. I personally love this selfie stick because it’s all-weather and they offer a money-back guarantee.
Attach a GoPro
If you’re looking for the perfect action shot or want your video and photos to come from a first-hand perspective, then attaching a GoPro to your gear while you surf, ski, bike, or even bungee jump can be a great way to capture the experience. Furthermore, the wide range of mounts available mean that you can capture images with the GoPro in environments where other cameras may fear to tread — like underwater or tumbling through the air. We use the Hero4 Silver because it’s the only GoPro with an LCD screen to frame and view your shots.
Ask a Stranger
Whether you have specialized gear or not, there’s always the option to reach out for help from someone new. After all, you’re not traveling just to look at a foreign place or culture, you’re there to experience it, to take part in a different world or way of life. Photos can be a great way to capture memories from your trip, but starting an interaction with another person, even if it’s just asking for help with your camera, is a great way to make them.
You won’t always get the best photos with this option, but my trick is to ask someone who is carrying their own DSLR camera. I like to give people an idea of how I would like the shot framed before I hand over my camera as well.
Install Photo Editing Software or Apps
Ok, so you’ve taken the perfect selfie: now what? What you do to the photo after you take it can be just as important to the character of the photo as how you set it up. Most cell phones come with a built in image editor which allows you to do basic editing, such as slapping on a filter or cropping and rotating the image, but experimenting with other apps like ProCamera or Snapseed will give you further options such as color correction, noise reduction, and curve adjustment.
For photos not taken with your phone, I recommend Adobe Bridge and Photoshop for editing software. Plenty of photographers use Lightroom as well. It’s very similar to Adobe Bridge, but it’s a little easier to learn.
Consider Upgrading Your Gear
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer who takes good pictures.” While I agree that you don’t need $10,000 dollars worth of photography gear to take a great photo, megapixels do count for something. I regularly take the exact some photo with my iPhone as I do with my Canon 5D Mark II and the photo from my camera always wins. A nice camera with more megapixels means your photo won’t look grainy after editing, you can crop the image and still have a decent quality photo, and you have more options — like taking the photo in RAW instead of JPG and bumping up the ISO for night shots.
The 5D Mark II is a little overkill for the everyday photographer, so I usually recommend that travelers start out with the Sony a7 Mirrorless or the Canon Powershot G16 Point and Shoot camera. For more information about some of the photography gear we use, visit our travel resources page or our travel photographer’s camera kit post.
How to Take Great Travel Photos
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