Let's be real, no one is ever too cool for a good picture of yourself during your travels. I'm not a fan of selfies because they never really justify the places I visit because, for starters, you can't even see it. But sometimes, it's quite a challenge to capture the ultimate Instagram photo for certain reasons. And trust me when I say that behind every cute travel picture is a person who struggled and has done at least one of these ten things. It's a little more serious and definitely less candid than you think.
1.) The art of lurking and getting inspired.
One of the things I do to hype myself up for an upcoming trip is by utilizing the Instagram "Places" feature. I like to refer to it as research. By searching the location you're going to next, you're given hundreds, even thousands of photos to get inspiration from. This is how I scout for Instagram worthy locations. Keep browsing to get ideas. I'm not saying copy it, but get inspired from the beautiful shots that catches your eye! Study how the photo was taken- take notes on the angle, analyze the subject, and then picture where you see yourself in that very photo. The cool thing about lurking on people's Instagram posts is that if you're lucky like me, you learn about hidden little locations that actually turn out to be the perfect spot for a great photo.
You can also find plenty of inspiration in Instagram accounts that features travel photos like @dametraveler, @passionpassort, @darlingescapes and many more. You can even get inspiration from me @girlunspotted ! The photos they feature are so charming and lovely so let yourself be inspired. Learn some new poses, perhaps? Maybe get some new outfit inspo for your next hike? Like I said, you don't have to be such a biter. Just get some ideas that you like, tweak it, and add your personal touch to it.
2.) The art of utilizing your self timer.
Once you've committed to a camera of your choice- whether it's a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, point and shoot, a GoPro, or a smart phone- learn how to use its features. I recommend mastering the art of self-timers because if you're traveling alone, this is the most reliable photographer you have. But remember, when you set your tripod in a public space or when you hand your camera to a stranger, you're doing it at your own risk. Do this with caution and be extra wary. For instance, I would never try to pull off tripod photography in the streets of Manila or Saigon. A little research on the area will give you a better judgment.
I'm very dependent on my GoPro self-timer when I'm on a solo adventure. I also have the three-way mount, which serves as a tripod as well. I set mine to multiple/continuous shots so I have a bunch to choose from later on. Here's a fact: for every 20 photos you take, you only get 1 perfect shot. So here's why you need to learn #3...
3.) The art of timing.
Take your time, but not too much time. You're traveling, remember? Don't see the world through the lenses of your camera. You've got to find balance. That is why #1 is pretty essential to picture obsessed freaks like us. It will save you a lot of time wandering around trying to get a cool picture.
So don't be too rushed! Walk around and let creativity flow. Let the things around you spark even more inspiration. Savor this precious moment whilst scouting at the same time. Visualize. Take your shots from different angles until you have something you're happy with. Let the people pass by until you have the area to yourself. And then get to clickin'! But don't be annoying! Be mindful of other travelers. Take your time, but only when it doesn't make it inconvenient for others.
Speaking of timing, plan ahead. Weekends and holidays are obviously a busy time. But if you must go on those days, you can go extremely early to avoid the crowds. It'll give you amazing lighting too. I find lunchtime to be less crowded too so go for a heavy breakfast because you can utilize that extra quiet hour for plenty of good shots.
4.) The art of "candid" photography.
Smiling photos are cute, but pseudo natural snap shots are better. Today's most cliche pose just might be the one where you're facing against the camera while looking at a gorgeous view. Let's face it, it's a little artsy, it works, and best of all, there are less chances of it being awkward. But unlike pseudo candids, it does get a little repetitive. And don't even get me started on duck faces.
So how do you take the perfect candid shot? Simple. Look away from the camera and laugh. Or don't laugh. Do a serious face. Or look pensive. Maybe a little smirk or giggle? I personally prefer fake laughs because my chronic bitch face doesn't always look pleasant. Either way, it works. Also, if you're on self-timer, you can even add variety by doing different pseudo actions. Walk a little, put your hands up, touch your hair, the sky is the limit. You may look a little silly having your own little photo shoot, but at least you'll have a few shots to choose from.
5.) The art of not giving a damn.
Thou shall not have shame. Whether you're posing in front of a tripod, asking strangers to take multiple shots of you, and especially taking your time for your self portrait, you will be low key judged. And that's okay. The more carefree you feel about looking like a fool, the better your photos will turn out. The less you care about other people staring, the more natural your facial expressions will seem. So, be yourself and let your happiness radiate within you, and the ultimate Instagram shot will come naturally.
6.) The art of asking strangers.
When self timer is not appropriate in certain circumstances, don't be discouraged. A decent photo from a stranger is usually a hit or miss, but if you've come prepared, you might just get a picture frame worthy shot. With your advance research, creative set of eyes, and oozing inspiration, direct your lucky stranger kindly on how you'd want your photograph taken. Sounds easier said than done, but use your charm! Knowing the photo you want is vital when depending on a stranger. I like to take a sample photo of the angle that I prefer and then show the nice stranger where I would be in the picture. And then I tell them to just keep clicking away for a good 10 seconds once I'm in position. Or set it in continuous mode. Then I start busting my candid laughs and artsy back views.
Picking the perfect stranger doesn't have to be tricky either. Go for the ones in cute outfits. They'll know a thing or two for sure. The couple mimicking the Follow Me To shots will most likely know a good angle. Maybe offer another solo traveler a hand with a photo and get one back in return.
When I go on my solo adventures that includes hikes to waterfalls or something similar, a guide is usually required. When that's the case, I let my guide take pictures of me after giving them examples of my preference. So if you happen to have a personal tour guide, give them precise instructions on how you like the photos taken. And don't forget to tip well!
7.) The art of action shots.
Your candids might be staged, but action shots are as genuine as it gets. Regardless of what kind of action shot you have in mind, I recommend opting for a video instead. Burst shots are fun, but I find videos to be more reliable. But I do presume that you have a decent camera that takes good quality videos at least. Good enough that when you screenshot it, it doesn't look blurry or pixelated. After all, you'd want to remember those moments in high def, don't you? I really love GoPro's "Grab Photo" option. It downloads a screenshot from your video clip in high definition and you have the option to pick which shot you'd like.
8.) The art of selfie sticks.
Selfie sticks in my book are very dorky and lame. Personally, I think selfie sticks are only acceptable at least with GoPros. I know, I know, double standards. But if it works for you, own it, and do it with no shame.
Before the rise of selfie sticks a few years ago, my husband purchased one for our trip to Singapore. And while I was cringing the entire time, (and while people stared at us and our innovative paraphernalia) we actually got some pretty decent shots with it. Now I don't want to advocate it, but truth is, selfie sticks are real handy during desperate times.
Today, I only use my pole for my GoPro, and the key is simple: learn your angle! Size also matters in this case- the longer, the better. And finally, the most important thing you need to keep in mind is to be as shameless as possible. Remember, the less you care, the better your photos will come out.
9.) The art of minimalism.
I don't mean to get all hipster with you, but sometimes, less is truly more. You don't have to fit every thing in one picture. Space them out. Maybe go for a certain corner and focus on a good symmetrical shot. Don't try too hard to fit all those monuments in one picture, or all those buildings in one single shot. Mind how much of yourself you incorporate in your photo as well. Do you want to focus on your outfit or the background? Trying to squish everything in sight in one photo can be overwhelming, and sometimes, the photo may came out a little too cluttered. Clean shots are more appealing to the eyes.
10.) The art of being yourself.
"I just reread everything I wrote and I sound f*cking crazy.", I told my husband.
"I could have told you that.", he said.
I guess it's too late now to advise you not to try too hard...because well, normal people would consider everything I mentioned here to be the exact definition of trying way too hard. I'm afraid normal people might even think of this as a satirical article. Thank goodness for blogging because I now have an excuse with my obsessive ways with pictures because I swear, I'm not entirely that narcissistic and self-absorbed. So I guess in the end, just be yourself and have fun! The reason why I'm okay with looking kinda stupid and stuck up while I take my pictures is because I'm actually enjoying it too. I mean, there I am, traveling to foreign places and I have the technology to preserve this memory. So what if my husband is cringing in a corner or has completely stopped acknowledging me and committed to pretending he didn't know me.
Like I've said earlier, let your happiness show. If you're shy, be shy. If you're carefree, be free. If you're obnoxious, eh, maybe tone it down a little. Whether it's staged or not, you'll look back at the moment as you stare at your photo, and you will remember the feeling you had when you explored this new place. Not the awkwardness you felt when you tried to capture that memory. Happy clicking!
This article first appeared in Girl, Unspotted.