How to take great photos of yourself
Ever wondered how some creators can always have new photos available of them in different places? Have they got a personal photographer going with them everywhere? It is possible they just take photos of themselves. Let me teach you how to take great photos of yourself!
At this point about 80% of photos I post of myself on Instagram I’ve taken myself. My trips to Malta and Israel were both solo trips, so I took all my travel selfies there myself. Go have a look to see more photos that I’ve taken of myself.
It is not always easy to convince other people to get up at 5am to get out in freezing cold just to take some photos because it just looks so lovely outside. I’ve yet to meet more people who are just as crazy as me when it comes to taking photos at random times.
And that’s how I started taking my travel selfies. It is just easier to set the alarm, have a look outside the window to see if the weather is not too crazy, grab the camera and go! So since I often head out to take photos of myself, I figured I would share my tips with you for taking great photos of yourself.
When I travel solo, the easiest option is to ask a stranger to take a photo of you, but sadly this has never worked well for me. The stranger won’t be familiar with the aesthetic you’re looking for. And if you are looking for good quality photos to share with your audience, it is almost guaranteed that the photos taken by a stranger won’t meet your quality standards unless you spend minutes explaining to that stranger the look that are going for. But they probably won’t have the patience for that. And neither will you.
Use the right equipment
Just like with any other type of photography, you will need a camera and a tripod for taking photos of yourself too.
The camera that I use is a Nikon D750, which is a pretty decent full-frame DSLR camera, but, if you are just starting out, any full-frame or crop sensor camera will do here. You don’t need to invest in expensive equipment straight away. I often get asked for advice when picking somebody’s first DSLR camera, but that’s a whole new topic that I will need to cover in a separate post.
Having a good portrait lens for your selfies is also very important if you want to take great quality photos of yourself while traveling. I currently mostly use my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens, and I love it! It is one of the cheapest lenses you can buy, but it is perfect for portraits! If you are looking for something more advanced, go for a Nikon 35mm f/1.4 or Sigma 35mm f/1.4.
You will definitely need a good tripod to keep the camera steady. I have tried using walls and other flat surfaces, but it is a lot harder to shoot that way because you cannot adjust the height or the angle of the camera, so having a good tripod is really a must. You don’t want to take a blurry photo of yourself. There is a huge variety when it comes to tripods.
My very first tripod was a very cheap one and only cost me about $20, so if you’re only starting out, you can buy a cheaper one like this one just to see if you’re actually going to be using it. But with the cheaper ones you get what you pay for, and they may not be as steady as the more expensive tripods. You can also invest in a nice advanced one that will last you longer. This one is the closest one I could find to what I currently own.
Use the right shooting method
There are several ways for how to take great photos of yourself when travelling solo, but using a timer, remote or wifi function are the main ones.
A timer is a function available on pretty much every camera out there. Which technically makes it the cheapest option for taking photos of yourself.
You can use the timer on your camera, but there is a limit for how many photos can be taken at once. This is my least favourite method because I feel like you have the least control when taking photos using this method. You will have to do a lot of running back and forth to your camera. I like this method the least because I am never really be sure when the camera is going to start shooting and then when it is going to stop.
This is by far my favourite method to use. With a remote, I can decide what I want to see in the frame, put the camera on a tripod, turn on the remote and go and pose. It is very easy to set everything up.
I will usually take a few test shots to see if I’m in the right place in the frame, then take about 20 photos at a time and then go check the photos on the camera to see what needs to be adjusted – am I in focus, am I covering anything that I want to include in the photo, do I look OK, etc.
Depending on what remote you use, it might be easier or harder to hide it in the shot. The first remote that I bought was one of these ones which is ridiculously cheap and excellent for beginners. I probably used it for 2-3 years until I got fed up with it and decided to get a better one. It does work fine, but sometimes it is hard to get it to work because it only seems to work at certain angles, so sometimes this happens:
I now use this remote and I never have to find the right angles to make it work because it just always works and has plenty of options for multiple shots, long exposure etc. The only inconvenience is that it is significantly larger than the old remote, but I still manage to hide it in the photos.
Use the wifi function
Now this one is another great one! If you are lucky enough to have a camera with wifi function (like I do with my Nikon D750), you can download the camera wifi app on your phone, connect it to your camera and take photos on your camera using your phone.
This is a great method because you can see exactly what your camera sees when using the app, so there is no need to walk back and forth to your camera just to see what the photos look like, whether you are in focus or not or if anything else needs adjusting. You see everything on your phone! Plus you can tap on screen to get a certain part of the photo to be in focus, just like you would do with your phone camera.
The only thing I dislike about this method that it might be harder to hide a phone than a remote, so I either face the other way in photos or have the phone clearly visible. This method is also much slower than using a remote, and you can only take photos every 5 seconds or so because it takes time for each photo to load onto your phone. I often start off by using the wifi function and then move on to using the remote instead.
I took this photo of myself in Iceland using the wifi function. The phone is on my left side, and I could see exactly how I looked in the photos on my phone. I took many versions of this photo; you cannot see the phone in the other ones.
Find a good location
Once you’ve sorted out your equipment, it’s time to head out and take those photos! The first thing you need to do is find a location with a nice background for those beautiful photos. It could be anything from stunning architecture to breathtaking landscapes.
I love using straight lines when taking my nature portraits, including piers, paths and long roads. Photo from a foggy morning in a place near Cēsis, Latvia.
Can you guess which hand the remote is in here?
Pick the right time of the day
Ever wondered why I sometimes get up so early on a Sunday to go out and take photos? Well, that’s because there is nobody else around, and that means – I have no distractions, no one to crop out of my photos, no one staring at me wondering why I’m posing next to this random tree, and the light is perfect! Also, if you head out early enough, you might be able to see this wonderful fog and take some creative shots.
Shoot during sunrise or during the golden hour – that wonderful time of the day right after sunrise and right before sunset when the sun looks nice and golden. Again, most people will probably still be in bed, so you can enjoy those empty streets and take some photos. I took the bottom photo in Malta during sunrise while travelling solo. The only person nearby was a fisherman who didn’t seem too interested in what I was doing because, you know, fishing is far more exciting to him than watching someone set up their tripod and do some strange poses.
Find your best pose
Have you noticed that the same people repeat the same poses over and over again? That’s because they know what makes them look best in their photos. So go out, do a lot of posing, have a look at the photos and you’ll see how to pose to look your best. And the next time you head out focus on those poses!
Including movement always works best – it could be as simple as walking at a fast pace! I quite enjoy playing with my hair or just walking and looking to a side in my photos.
Oops, you can clearly see that I’m using a remote here in the beautiful Ziemeļblāzma park in Riga, Latvia. Well, this is awkward, let’s move on.
Just like everything in life – it will take time to learn how to take great photos of yourself. I never posted any photos of myself on Instagram for years because I just always preferred being behind the camera, but when working with brands, taking self portraits became unavoidable. All it takes is practice and actually heading out and taking those photos!
I hope you enjoyed my solo travel photography tips. Now go on, take your travel selfies!
Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any other question about taking photos of yourself during your solo travels? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
Nina | Lemons and Luggage
Thanks so much for this guide! I’m like you and prefer not to be in photos. But I realized that my audience actually prefers photos with me in them. My problem with using a tripod is that I’m always worried someone will go and snatch my camera. I guess that’s another reason to wake up early and take advantage of empty streets.
Thank you! So true, I don’t really enjoy using a tripod in busy places for the same reason and the fact that I feel awkward posing in front of people. The early mornings are perfect for this, and you get a lot of your photography out of the way and then can relax and enjoy the place!