How to Take Great Selfies on Vacation

Doha, Qatar. January 2019

Doha, Qatar. January 2019

“How do you take photos of yourself when you’re on vacation, and how do you edit them?”

This is the most common question I get asked.

So I thought why not share the process with everyone.

My favorite thing in the world is to travel, explore diverse cultures, and photograph them. I used to carry a heavy DSLR camera and a clunky tripod with me whenever I traveled, but since I bought my new Huawei P10 Plus phone, I haven’t touched that beast at all. The latest mobile phone technology has changed the game. My phone has a built-in Leica lens, and with the help of a few kickass apps, I can create an image that looks like it was taken with an expensive professional camera.

Here are my Five Tips to help you get the best self-portraits during your travels, especially if you are traveling solo.

Tip #1. Research & Explore.

I always research before I leave for my trip. It’s great to checkout the most photographed spots in your destination city, but that is not what’s going to get you the best shot. Sometimes, you need to think outside the box; because the most unique spots to be photographed in are usually not mentioned on travel blogs, or maps, or tourist guides. So how do we find them?

One of the things I do is search my destination related #hashtags on Instagram.

Fenghuang, Hunan, China. August 2018

Fenghuang, Hunan, China. August 2018

You’ll find some amazing spots that people have already discovered, which are not mentioned on any blogs. What I really love to do is explore on my own, I usually pick out a few areas based on my research, and then just wander around (I always keep a map on me; a hardcopy, an app, or both) - this is one of the best ways to find hidden gems.

Tip #2. Play & Experiment

Remember the time when you were in kindergarten? You did things that made you happy, you touched objects that peaked your interest, you put stuff in your mouth because you were curious. This is one of the secrets to living a happy and content life, it comes natural to us - but overtime, as we grow, we leave all that behind. We start to follow the herd, we try to please everyone, we make duck faces, we buy selfie sticks (more on that later.)

When I’m traveling, I turn into a kid who is curious about anything and everything.

Shenzhen, China. November 2018

Shenzhen, China. November 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina. February 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina. February 2018

When I see my shadow on colored cobbled street, I take a photo.

When I see my reflection in a church window, or a street mirror, I take a photo.

Tip #3. Say no to Selfie Sticks.

Don’t get me wrong, selfie stick is a great tool for big family shoots, tourist group photos, and especially for daredevil selfies. But it also limits the potential of our creative abilities, because we get dependent on it. You may ask, “So how the heck do I take a photo without a selfie stick? Because I’m traveling solo, and I don’t wanna give my phone to strangers.” Well, there are a few creative ways to get great self-portraits.

Look around, and you’ll find a natural tripod somewhere in your surroundings - a crook in a tree trunk, edge of a wall, a groove in an iron gate, a big rock, etc.

It’s part of the creative process; sometimes the only available natural tripod is what makes your portrait different from anything you could have imagined, and that’s a bonus.

Mirissa, Sri Lanka. August 2017

Mirissa, Sri Lanka. August 2017

Once you locate a natural tripod, compose your shot, use the self timer feature on your phone (every phone has one). You’ll have to experiment and do a few shots to get the desired look, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel like a pro!

Tip #4. It’s all about the Light

If you ask a professional photographer what’s the most important thing in photography, they’ll tell you it’s the light. The source of light makes or breaks a photograph. You don’t need to become an expert in lighting to take great travel selfies, but it’s good to know a few basic things:

Buenos Aires, Argentina. January 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina. January 2018

  1. The Golden Hour - it’s the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, when the light is almost perfect. When you’re traveling, it’s not always easy to follow this rule but if you can, take advantage of this time period to get your special self-portraits.

  2. The Direction of Light - you should try to face the main source of light; meaning the sun should be behind your camera, and your face towards the sun. You can experiment and play as to where the light falls on your face for a more dramatic shot.

  3. Using a Flash - DO NOT use the built-in flash in your camera, or on your phone. Those flash lights spoil the natural tone of your skin.*

* if you’re concerned about the availability of natural light, don’t worry, in the next section I will show you how you can enhance your dark images.

Tip #5. Use the Magic Wand

The latest mobile phone photography apps have made it so easy for anyone to enhance their images and turn them into masterpieces. There are hundreds of apps out there and they all offer something different. One of the best apps to enhance your dark images is Snapseed.

Use the HDR Scape filter to enhance any photograph that needs extra light, in the most natural way.

You can download the app for iPhone HERE and for your Android devices HERE

Hope this breakdown helps you during your travels. I would love to hear from you guys about your experiences. Please let me know if you have any specific question related to taking selfies during your vacation. You can comment below, and I will do my best to answer your questions. Happy traveling!

travel, fashionAlex AshmanComment