How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo

How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo

When I post a photo on Instagram or Facebook, I usually get comments or DMs asking, “Who is taking all of your photos when you are traveling?” Honestly, my answer is not as exciting as I wish- like saying a hot Italian stud. Because that would be the dream if we are being honest with each other.

But how I get my pictures while solo traveling we will get into in a second. I want to talk a bit about why it is important to have photos of yourself in your travel photos because I feel super passionate about it. It all stems from my first international trip when I studied abroad in Italy during the summer of 2011. It was perhaps one of my most singular life-defining moments that truly influenced my future (you are here at my travel blog so this is a pretty great example of that cause and effect if you are wondering). I was in the heart of Tuscany for a month and I took a gazillion photos. But I can count on both hands how many photos I have with me in them- they are mostly landscapes or my attempt at being artsy with food. Now don’t get me wrong, I do have some photos such as me in a gondola in Venice or when I was straight up cheek-pinched by a group of old Italian men who thought I was the bees-knees, but for being in Italy for a month, I was less than impressed with myself and my lack of photos. I also didn’t have a phone so there were zero selfies too. Crazy for a millennial, right? But I think that it is so important to actually get in your photos when you travel because otherwise they could just be a stock photo.

So yea, I have strong feelings on the subject. 

Now that we got my lecture out of the way, let’s delve into how to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo. I have done all of these methods so they are tried and tested by yours truly. No blind suggestions here!

Invest in a tripod and a remote

If you are a solo traveler and if you read nothing else in this post, read this one blurb. I cannot begin to convey the game-changer a tripod AND remote are for self-portraits. Speaking from personal experience, before my tripod/remote days, I was propping my phone or Canon camera on fences or other bizarre surfaces and doing the self-timer trick and it got old REAL quick. The walking back and forth to turn the timer on got so dang repetitive and if we are being completely honest, the angles where my camera sat were less than flattering! That is not to say that I didn’t get a good one every now and then so it is possible … Like this one! I got super lucky because there was a pillar that was pretty tall where I could set my camera. But there were a lot of outtakes of walking back and forth.

How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo in Thomasville, Georgia!

Option 1: tripod and remote for your smartphone

If you are looking for the first foray into the tripod self-portrait, I recommend you invest in a smartphone tripod. I used this method pretty much exclusively for my European trip in 2017 with the included Bluetooth remote. This is great for the budget conscious traveler because the tripod/remote is CHEAP! My exact tripod I used with my iPhone 7 is below and it was so portable especially since it fit in my carry-on suitcase easily.

Smartphone tripod examples!

At the time, I liked these photos a lot because I got some decent photos of me while traveling solo and that was a feat. But I was less than impressed with the wonky colors and pixelated images from my iPhone. But that is more of a personal preference as a photographer myself!

Option 2: Tripod and Remote for your DSLR Camera
(my exact Canon 5D Mark III set-up!)

As I said, the smartphone tripod is a great option for those on a budget but I wanted to have more editing flexibility with my photos, create higher resolution images, and really step up my self-portrait game. I invested in a DSLR tripod and remote. It also didn’t hurt that I already had the DSLR Canon 5D Mark iii camera from my photography business side-hustle.

This is not the set-up for everyone because it does get expensive when you add in the camera gear. But I have never been happier with my images! It is a bit of a pain to pack and carry the tripod since it does not fit into my carry-on suitcase but I have perfected my packing method and found it does fit into my checked luggage. I also plan ahead and bring a tote bag so that when I am walking around a city, I can carry the tripod and camera gear without looking like a total tourist.

***ProTip***
If you are super smart, get up REALLY early before the city is awake and take a million photos at sunrise and get zero judgment from passersby because you are probably the only person out and about! Plus the lighting is perfection at that time.

DSLR tripod examples!

Ask a stranger

If you are like me, I am forgetful and sometimes I just underestimate my need for my tripod and then I immediately regret it and want to take all the pictures because I stumble on this beautiful location. Enter in the “stranger danger” portion of the post.

Ok, I am kidding, it’s not so much of danger but definitely involves a stranger and asking them to take a photo (or more like 10) of you.

This is a bit harder for my introverted personality and it does not always guarantee good results because I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten blurry, chopped-off head photos. But every now and then, I hand over my camera to someone who knows how to *werk it* and they create some photo magic. It definitely helps if you have been chatting them up already and get them comfortable with your weirdness.

This happened to me when I was traveling solo in Key West, Florida. I spontaneously booked a sunset wine tasting cruise and honestly didn’t want to bring my tripod on the open seas and watch my precious camera fly into the ocean. I sat next to this lovely couple and we had just a lovely chat about traveling and the crazy American political system. You know, nothing polarizing or anything. After a few glasses of different wines, we were sure friends. With the gorgeous sunset blazing in the background, I offered to take a few photos of the couple and they so graciously returned the gesture. I now have one of my favorite candid moments because the wife snapped a few while I laughed at a joke her husband just said. My hair is a complete mess and my teeth look huge but I just love it because it shows in the moment joy from my cruise.

How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo on a sunset sail in Key West, Florida!
Key West, Florida, USA

Find a fellow solo traveler and swap!

Another great option for getting incredible photos while solo traveling without the awkward “tripod/remote” set-up is connecting with another traveler and being each other’s photographer. Not only are you forging connections and friends all over the world, you are finding someone who truly understands your solo travel photo conundrum.

There are tons of ways to connect with someone but I found social media to be the easiest and most genuine. There are Facebook groups that are perfect communities for whatever niche you are in. Some of my favorite groups I am in are:

Female Travel Bloggers
Fat Girls Traveling
Girls LOVE Travel
Curvy (Girls LOVE Travel)
the Solo Female Traveler Network
Travelettes

But Instagram is another community that you can meet new people! I follow some great influencers and travel bloggers and I can interact with some truly lovely human beings. That is how I happened to have the most epic day in the Netherlands this year. After seeing I was coming to Amsterdam, fellow blogger Aimee (Aimee in Wanderland) offered to be a true gem and drive me around outside of the city to see the gorgeous tulips fields. Her sweet friend Lizzie tagged along! Aimee was a true lifesaver that day because I had planned on doing the same thing all the other tourists do – figure out the best train stops and bike the rest of the way. I am exhausted just thinking of that option.

The day was magical. Getting to pass by the MANY colorful beautiful fields outside Amsterdam, visit Keukenhof Garden, share a picnic together, and even trek through some private hyacinth and daffodil fields where she knew the owners are what traveling is all about. We, of course, swapped photos of each other and they are some of my favorite photos from this year.

How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo in the Amsterdam tulip fields!
How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo in the Amsterdam tulip fields!

Hire a professional!

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, well that is because it is. It’s such a commitment schlepping the equipment everywhere, finding epic locations, taking what feels like a million photos of yourself where everyone awkwardly stares on, and doing the post-processing editing.

And sometimes when I travel, I want to be lazy. I kind of love the idea of letting someone else do the work. I did this in Santorini, Greece and boy how glad I was because Yuliya took me to some pretty stunning locations in Thira and I got some of those cliche blue-domed photos that I was DYING to have ever since I saw them in a calendar my Moma gave me for Christmas 10 years ago.

I wrote a detailed post on my tips and tricks to finding a professional photographer that suits your purposes wherever you travel! Check out my post below!

How to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo in Santorini, Greece!

And now you see just how to get incredible photos of yourself while traveling solo. It is so easy, especially with a little practice!

No matter where you are, just because you are alone solo traveling does not mean that you don’t deserve to have incredible pictures. The photos I take become some of my most treasured souvenirs and they are printed and hung on my travel gallery wall in my apartment because I don’t want to ever forget the memories attached to each image.

xx,
Sami

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Sami Mastrario

A small town, plus-sized Southern girl that loves to travel to cool places, eat unadventurous food, and take pretty pictures.

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25 Comments

  1. December 31, 2018 / 3:08 am

    Ye ! This Is A Good Blog!

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 1, 2019 / 9:37 pm

      Thanks! 💕

  2. January 12, 2019 / 9:36 am

    I always say if I had the money, I would just hire a photographer every time that I travel. I need to check out that other post of yours. I’ve also met a lot of other solo travelers when staying in hostels. Everyone congregates in the main areas and gets to talking. It’s wonderful.

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 12, 2019 / 9:47 am

      Yes – it can get costly getting a photographer but I think sometimes it is a little treat when you want those extra special pictures in a gorgeous place!

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 12, 2019 / 5:56 pm

      Thank you!

  3. January 12, 2019 / 10:38 am

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve always struggled getting good pictures while traveling solo. I used to use the ask strangers option, but you have to choose carefully which I didn’t always do! I will check out a camera and remote- I actually didn’t know remotes existed for cameras!

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 12, 2019 / 5:57 pm

      Literally will change your life to get a remote and tripod! I hate when I forget mine and have to find alternatives. 😂

  4. January 12, 2019 / 1:14 pm

    These are great tips, I definitely use the tripod and an app on my phone to take photos of myself when I’m traveling solo. Pinned it for later!

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 12, 2019 / 5:58 pm

      Glad you figured out a system that works for you! We all deserve great photos! 💕

  5. January 16, 2019 / 9:15 am

    Taking great “selfies” is always a challenge. This guide helps! I love using my Canon app so I can use my smartphone as a remote. It’s also a really helpful way to get photos from my camera onto my phone so I can post them online!

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 9:29 am

      I think you just taught me something – I have a Canon and didn’t know about the Canon app! 😂

  6. January 16, 2019 / 10:39 am

    These are great tips, even if you’re not travelling solo. We travel as a family and always struggle to get pictures with all of us. I have resorted to asking a stranger because we are terrible at selfies! We are slowly but surely discovering the value of a tripod, so thanks for confirming that!

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 11:22 am

      Oh you are so right – I have never thought of it from that perspective! I may have to add that it is perfect for couples and families too! Thanks! 💕

  7. January 16, 2019 / 10:46 am

    These are some wonderful tips!! I notice that I’m almost never in any of my traveling photos. And I rarely travel solo. It’s just that I’m more comfortable behind the camera. But I do like looking back on them and would like to see me in more. I don’t carry my tripod near as often as I should and I don’t have a remote, but I haven’t looked into whether my phone can do that job with my Sony Alpha.

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 11:24 am

      I am WAY more comfortable behind the camera myself too but I am getting better in front of it after some practice! I just treasure my images from my travels. Definitely look into using your phone as a remote – I have heard great success with it!

  8. January 16, 2019 / 2:59 pm

    I use a tripod all the time 🙂 One thing that my sister recently did on her solo travel to Barcelona was an “Airbnb Experience – Photography Tour”. The guide basically took photos of you while you also roamed around the city.

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 4:01 pm

      I have seen those “experiences” pop up when I check out Airbnb and oh it sounds great! Definitely am going to look into it!

  9. January 16, 2019 / 3:03 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I started using tripod for videos and pictures and getting better at it.

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 4:02 pm

      Glad you have found a method that works great for you! Practice makes perfect 💕

  10. January 16, 2019 / 8:42 pm

    This is amazing content. Loved your pictures you took by yourself too.
    You really have an eye for this.

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 9:27 pm

      Thank you so much! You are so sweet! I just really love traveling and photography and I hope it shows. ❤️

  11. January 17, 2019 / 2:07 am

    oh yes. Tell me about it. that is the most difficult part to do when I travel and I travel a lot. I you don’t want to wake up at sunrise it is difficult to get the photo without anyone else. Thank you so much for the tips ! good article.

    • Sami Mastrario
      Author
      January 17, 2019 / 7:36 am

      waking up early is literally the worst part about it! 😂

  12. January 17, 2019 / 6:37 am

    Your photos have good settings. They are quite nice. It is not so easy to make good photos on the road.

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