I am not a professional photographer. As a matter of fact, I don’t even own a camera. This post contains my advice based on personal experience. My advice may not run parallel with that of someone who owns a nice and expensive DSLR. On a few occasions I tried to sit down and learn about ISO and FPS (or is it SPF… wait no), and and by the next morning all was forgotten. Perhaps it is just not meant to be for me. Nevertheless I still want some beautiful pictures when I travel without having to pay an arm and leg for them! Is that too much to ask for ? If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I manage to somehow create decent content without being a professional. This post is for you, the camera-less, hopeless photographer; the iPhone user, the Android user, the solo traveler, and the creative dreamer that just wants a nice photograph.
The Solo Traveler
If you follow me on Instagram you are probably wondering how the heck I have all these pictures of myself. So here’s the thing – if you want great pictures, you really have to go the distance. No pun intended. Look, my advice might seem like a lot of work for a photo … but the reality is, you don’t really have many options and if you want a truly great pic, you need to have a little patience and you need to go the extra mile.
- Ask actual photographers to take photos of you. Once you get past the stage of feeling nervous or awkward – seek out the guys and gals with the fancy cameras. In tourist-dense locations there will certainly be many photographers around. These people know what they are doing and you can really get a great picture if one of them takes it. Don’t be scared to ask them to take a couple – usually if I ask someone to take a picture I say “Would you mind snapping a few shots ?” They’re humans, they understand. And hey, if one seemingly professional photographer doesn’t do the job well then ask another one. There will be plenty more around !
- Go EARLY. I was literally in disbelief when I saw someone take a picture in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome with NO tourists around. There are always hundreds of tourists by that Fountain. BUT, not at 6 AM. If you ever wonder how many travelers get amazing pictures virtually no one around … they simply go there very early (or very late, however as a solo traveler you should avoid going somewhere late).
- Get a tripod. As a solo traveler, I think this is a phenomenal investment. Not only does a tripod allow you to take as many pictures of yourself as you want from virtually any height and any distance … but it also comes with a remote control so you don’t have to put a timer and run in front of the camera to get a good shot. If you are embarrassed to use a tri-pod, refer to point number 2.
The Camera-less Traveler
Its ok if you don’t have the budget to purchase a DSLR right now … neither do I. I bet both of us still want nice shots.
- Newer smartphones come equipped with some very high quality camera’s and you should take advantage of them. Consider getting props for your smartphone such as the DXO One or an external lens. The majority of my pictures are actually taken on an iPhone 7 plus.
- Update your camera settings to show a grid when you’re taking a photo and follow the “rule of the third.”
- Think about what you really want to capture … if you are in a scenic place, do you really want someone to zoom in on you or do you want the whole background to be in the photo too ? Make that clear.
- SYMMETRY. Symmetry creates such a powerful impact in your photos. An article I read a long time ago said that people with symmetrical faces tend to be more attractive and that humans are wired to find symmetry attractive. Same goes for photographs – symmetry creates a sort of mental harmony in our brains.
- On an iphone you can use the exposure meter to lighten or darken a photo in a designated area.
The Social Media Connoisseur
There is nothing wrong with showing off your amazing work to others. Although I wasn’t very into it initially, I am now so inspired by social media channels like Instagram, Youtube, and Pinterest. I have added so many new destinations to my bucket list thanks to social media. I am so blown away by peoples creativity. Below are some tips to help you build a nice page!
- Think twice before posting. Ask yourself how much would you care if someone on your feed posted a picture like yours. Don’t make your social media account a diary of your every day activities. Post something that will inspire me, something that will make me hungry, something that will make me buy what you have or go to where you are.
- Tell a story ! What did you feel when you took that picture ? What led to it ? I love reading peoples stories, I love reading small anecdotes that bring the scene to life.
- Apps: VSCO, Snapseed, PhotoWonder, Lightroom, and iMovie are my favorites ! On VSCO you can preset filters and use the same one over and over again.
- Consistency. This is so important because it makes your work pleasing to the eye. Did you ever see the cool instagram pages where all the pictures have similar tints and colors? There is actually a trick to that ! Download the VSCO app and set up some presets using the examples below. You can save the preset and use it on future photos too.