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How to Take Better Travel Photos of Yourself

Thanks to Instagram, we live in a world where life imitates art, and art imitates life. With over one billion active users sharing 95 million photos a day, if there’s one thing fuelling our wanderlust into 2020, it’s those endless pictures in far-off destinations. According to one opinion, “[we’re] now less than ten clicks away from seeing an image on Instagram to purchasing a ticket to go there.”

underwater photography of man
Don’t just re-create the same pictures as everyone else, be original | © Sebastian Pena Lambarri/Unsplash

And once we get there, we all want to re-create that beautifully composed image, don’t we? So, how to take better travel photos of yourself when on an adventure? Well for starters, it’s time to start being more original – and here are several ways to just that!

1. Get creative

While it’s great to be inspired by Instagram to visit new places, why re-create something that’s already been done? Whether you’re hiking and trekking, exploring culture or sailing, no one else can see the world through your eyes, and that’s worth keeping that in mind.

man showing his tongue while riding on ATV
Choose moments over poses | © Kal Visuals/Unsplash

A lot of people reach for their phones or cameras as soon as they arrive at a location. Try this instead: take some time to take things in, walk around a little, and look at your surroundings. As you get a feel for where you are, you’ll feel more creative and eventually find a shot that tells a story about you at that moment in time – where ever you may be. It may or may not end up being Instagram-worthy, but that shouldn’t matter. After all, it will be a meaningful picture for you.

2. Be mindful of your surroundings

Pictures are the best ways to capture our memories, but are we treading a thin line? There’s a dark side of Instagram – and the environment is often collateral damage of our picture-taking.

We’ve heard stories of situations where nature has been trampled by hoards of travellers arriving to get their “shot” or individuals tragically plummeting to their deaths for the sake of a selfie. Some travellers ignore official signage or go as far as sneaking in shots at sites that forbid photography. Take better photos of yourself by taking pictures more responsibly and don’t destroy the environment for the sake of Instagram.

Be safe while taking pictures and mindful of your surroundings | © Lucas Favre/Unsplash

To be more responsible while taking pictures, consider why you’re travelling to a place. If you’re visiting something or somewhere only to mimic someone else’s photo with no regard for how it’s affecting the ecosystem of a location, it might be time to take stock of things. Is this really how you want to travel? It’s better to explore and to find your own experiences and share those stories instead.

3. Tell a story

Travel often presents us with an opportunity to seek out the extraordinary, and yet most people just seem to be looking for more selfie opportunities. We should use pictures as a way to tell the real story of a destination and go the extra mile for it.

The picture below may look cool, but I wasn’t trying to make this picture happen. I was actually trying to get a close as is humanly possible to this rushing milky glacier water in the foothills of the Himalayas – it just so happened that someone managed to capture the real moment I was having.

Use captions to share the story behind your pictures and amplify their impact | © Ahmed Omar

If you can, share the story behind your picture – that’s the beauty of an Instagram caption, especially if you break away and do something special to get your image. Or maybe you want to keep it to yourself, and that’s also okay, it’s still a story you’re creating instead of imitating.

4. Practical tips for how you can take better travel photos of yourself

Okay now that I’ve impressed upon you the need to be more mindful and responsible while taking pictures, here are some practical tips to help you capture all those incredible moments from your adventures!

There’s more than one way to capture yourself in a picture | © Kseniya Petukhova/Unsplash
  • Lighting: If you want picture-perfect lighting, the afternoon is when the sun is usually at it’s harshest, and your photos won’t look as great. Early morning or golden hour is the best time for snapping photos. I also love overcast weather for taking pictures, that may sound gloomy, but the soft lighting can work wonders.
  • Arrive early: The best way to get your dream shot is to get there nice and early – especially important if the places you visit are popular tourist haunts. This way, you won’t have to battle crowds, and you can also take your time. I like being at a spot at the crack of dawn, and early morning lighting is usually much better anyway.
  • Ask someone else: Selfie sticks will only go so far! If you’re travelling solo, don’t be afraid of asking someone to take a picture of you, they’ll most likely ask you to return the favour. If you want something different, tell them what you’re going to do and guide them on how to capture it.
  • Be natural: Think moments and not poses – candid shots are the best! These are kind of pictures you would see in travel magazines and newspapers, people just captured off-hand. Of course, this is harder to do when you’re taking pictures of yourself, but if you have someone travelling with you, it’s much easier to get these kinds of images.
  • More than a selfie: There’s more than one way to shoot yourself in a picture, it doesn’t always have to be an actual shot of you. You could capture your feet dangling over water or your hands holding something or your shoes in the sand. If you think outside the box and really savour the moment, your creativity will flow!

Do you have any tips for taking pictures while travelling? Share it with the rest of our readers in the comment section below.

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

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