Yo Bren if you’re always travelling alone, who takes all those cool photos of you?
I guess they’re talking about photos like this:
I actually don’t take that many photos of myself while travelling, but there is always a time when I’m alone, sometimes completely, completely alone (as in, 1,000 miles from anybody) and I still manage to get cool candid snaps of myself. All the photos above I took of myself while travelling alone, sometimes in the middle of nowhere.
So how do you do it?
Well, there’s no real big secrets, but there are a few basic camera tricks and some sneaky travel tools.
Really there are only two ways I take my own photos:
1. Asking other people
The most obvious way to get snaps of yourself while travelling is…ask somebody. Pretty obvious. But not a lot of people like to do it. I guess it can be a little embarrassing when they line you up in a shot and then you do one of your Calvin Klein poses. But still – if there’s anybody around I usually ask someone. And there are actually a few good tips that will get you much better photos from a stranger.
Tip #1: Compose the photo yourself first. Find out exactly how far you want to be, what angle, where you want them to stand. Then when you finally manage to convince the poor stranger, just hold the camera in place and say “Could you take it just like this?” Then all they need to do is hold it and push the button. It seems most people actually prefer being guided like this – it takes out all the guesswork for them.
Tip #2: Find someone with one of those huge cameras around their neck. You know the ones I’m talking about it – they look like they cost ten million dollars. You already know that person is going to be an absolute fiend with the camera. Often those people actually enjoy taking other people’s photos, some of them will even start directing you! “Just move a bit to the left, oh wait, let me stand over here a bit, push your hat up there’s shadows on your face, let me get a few more..” That’s always cool when you get one of those.
Unfortunately, that’s bit of a rarity. That’s actually the reason I rarely ask strangers nowadays: So many people still have no freaking clue how to use a camera! Can you believe the number of people who still don’t know how to focus? Or who will take an absolutely terrible photo of you and just think it’s okay. I’m not a supreme photographer or anything, but I always try and take some amazing snaps if someone hands me their camera. And I know it’s a rarity because they usually thank me endlessly.
The other reason is, I like to direct my own pics. Meaning I like to set them up, compose them, think about the kind of caption or story I’ll have behind them, and then take my time trying to get it right. When you interrupt someone’s day to get a photo of you, you kind of need to hurry up – you can’t have them standing there for five minutes trying to trial-and-error the right shot for you.
You can still get good shots if it’s something basic like this:
This is some street art in Lisbon, I think my brother took this in just a single shot. But even with something like this I prefer to take it myself and try to get it the way I like. So, how do we do that?
2. Getting the right gear and taking them yourself
Taking photos of yourself requires a little practice, but you actually don’t need anything fancy. You don’t even need a camera. Your smartphone will do just fine. And you definitely don’t need one of those floating drone things that only Forbes Listers can afford. There’s actually only one piece of equipment you need and it costs about thirty bucks. That is…
I currently use this tripod from the people at Camrah.
I bought it about two years ago and it’s come everywhere with me since then! Here’s what’s cool about it:
It can stand up anywhere
The Camrah tripod has these bendy legs that let you create any angle you want. If you want your camera to be looking up, down, lopsided, whatever you want, just give the legs a twist until you get it right. Quite often you get a ledge that’s a little uneven or you try to balance your phone on a chair but there are some curves that don’t let it sit right. With this thing it doesn’t matter, the legs are like wires, so you can make it stand however you want.
That’s how we took this photo in an abandoned house in Finland. I remember I had to balance it on some stuff, but it came out great:
If there’s nowhere to stand it, doesn’t matter!
Probably my favourite thing about this camera is you don’t even need a surface to stand it on. Whenever I have a picture I want to take, the first thing I do is look around for a wall or ledge to sit my phone on, but often there’s nothing. These tripod legs are so limber though that you can just wrap it around something – a tree, a pole, a fence – any standing structure basically.
That’s how I managed to get this snap on my train up to the Arctic. I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but I do remember I was fiddling with it for a long time. I think I ended up wrapping it around a fire extinguisher.
You can take pictures remotely
Back when I was a rookie, taking a photo of myself went like this: I’d balance my camera wherever I could find, I’d set the timer to 10, and then I’d sprint into position and strike a pose.
After twenty seconds (just to be sure I gave it enough time), I’d run back to my camera, which was sometimes sitting miles away, check the photo, and then repeat until I got it right.
Obviously I don’t carry my tripod absolutely everywhere, so sometimes I still actually do this. Luckily though there’s a better way.
The Camrah tripod comes with a bluetooth remote, so you can simply set up your phone, connect the remote and then walk into position. Do your Kodak smile, flex your biceps, and then just click the button. This lets you take the photos remotely so you can just stand there and take a hundred if you want! All you need to do is click click click. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this is so much easier than running back and forth between your camera to re-take your shot every time.
I actually took this shot out in the Norwegian wilderness like this:
Took me a little while to get it right – but if I didn’t have a remote I would have never got it at all. You can’t actually see but there was a small stream in between myself and where I parked the car. So I would have needed to set the timer, then cross the stream, then run through that crazy thick swamp and do my cool Terminator pose, all within ten seconds. Then I’d have to run back and reset the camera to do it again until I got it right. Which of course would have been impossible.
You can use it as a selfie stick
The Camrah legs aren’t that long, but it’s still probably a good 8-10 inches. I use it quite often as an extender stick to get shots over a barbecue or a bird’s eye shot of something, or just to get a bit more height on my landscape photos. Of course you can use it for the obligatory selfie as well.
You can mount both your phone and your camera
The Camrah tripod has two mounts – a basic screw mount that fits most cameras, and also a clinch mount that you can use to hold your phone. I use them both quite often and they work great.
Super easy to travel with
It’s such an easy thing to travel with – it’s about the length of two passports and really thin. Plus you can mold it into any shape you want if you’re struggling to find space to pack it in. I just leave it laying in the bottom of my backpack, I barely notice it’s there. As most of you know, I don’t travel with a lot, so something lightweight and slim like the Camrah tripod is the perfect accessory for me. Plus, it’s so cheap! If you lose it or break it, it’s thirty bucks. Nothing to lose sleep over, just the way I like it.
Where to get one?
I bought mine off Amazon – they ship worldwide so you can get it anywhere. Lifetime guarantee too! It currently sells for $24.95 which is a steal of a price for something so versatile! I love it.
Click here to get one of your own.
Want to see what other cool stuff is in my backpack? Check out the full list here.
Great post – thanks! I always take terrible photos of myself. I’ll look into that tri-pod, great tip… BTW, I couldn’t bring up a bunch of your pictures, six of them were just white.
Ooops, operator error. Left your site open and came back and all the pics were there. Love your photos! 🙂
thank you for the suggestion! I travel with my hubby but he is terrible at thinking to take a pix of me so I am always doing it myself. I have a huge tripod, which is great for family stuff but I want one of these. My camera is big (also have my cell phone) and hope it would be strong enough to hold it. Also, not sure how the bluetooth would work on an older Canon camera.
I think I know the answer to this. sorry, the Bluetooth would only work for a phone. I would use my phone or a small Canon power shot camera. Thanks though, I’m going to order one!
My camera actually has wifi, and it has an app that lets me connect it to my phone, so I can use my phone as a remote. It’s quite common with the newer cameras actually. But otherwise yes the bluetooth remote mostly works with a phone.
thanks Bren. My camera is older so will use my phone for those further pictures. 🙂
Wow this will do for my camera as well. Thanks for this tip on camera stand.
Great post, thanks for sharing! I always take terrible photos of myself. I’ll look into that tri-pod, great tip…
This is a great post! It is refreshing to see that you take this much care into what you do. I tried to buy one online from amazon but they don’t ship to Canada! Haha, I emailed the company to see what they can do, but any tips for those of us in the Vancouver area? Thanks! Cheers!
Just try order it directly of their website. Otherwise I’m sure there are similar products in Canada, just Google around.
After having so many not-so-great photos taken by strangers, I bought a tripod just like yours. I love it to bits! My photos look as if someone was behind the camera.
There is someone, it’s you! 🙂
Smart ideas, thanks for sharing. Becoming a solo traveler