I’ll be the first to admit that taking photos of yourself in public, especially using a tripod, can be really daunting at first.

In fact, the first time I tried was during COVID in Montreal

I thought that since the city was still partially locked down that it would be the perfect time to learn by trial and error without a giant crowd of people strolling through my photos.

It wasn’t long until I had a few people milling around watching me attempt to put my camera on a timer while running, even tripping a couple times, and quickly striking poses.

The entire afternoon was so nerve-wracking, and I only got one decent photo out of it.

Cut to three years later and I’m traveling the globe with my trusty tripod shooting photos I love much quicker than when I was in Canada struggling to get everything set up.

I’ve learned so much through trial and error over the years, including my preference to shoot on my iPhone over my bulky camera.

Read on to find out all of my tips on how to take photos of yourself, including everything you need to know about how to take good pictures of yourself while traveling solo.

Follow my lead, and you’ll be shooting beautiful solo travel shots perfect for Instagram in no time!

Tips For Taking the Perfect Travel Selfie Using a Selfie Stick

Ally - Tuscany - Selfie - August 2022-2

I won’t lie, I was mortified the day my ex suggested I invest in a selfie stick because he refused to help me take photos for my website or socials (to be fair; he helps me with a lot of other technical stuff). 

Apparently he found being an “Instagram boyfriend” too embarrassing—which I get, but I believe anyone’s significant other should want to help at least try to take one or two nice shots in special places.

The big takeaway from this story is to never rely on anyone to help take photos, even partners and friends whom you’d assume would happily help.

Turns out this was a blessing in disguise, because we broke up later that year when we ran out of time in Canada, and each had to go back to our separate countries until borders opened.

Obviously, our dreams of traveling the world together faded, so the plan quickly turned into me traveling solo full-time when borders began opening again during the summer of 2021.

That’s when I had to really embrace my new selfie stick, and let me tell you it took some practice, and a fair bit of public embarrassment to get photos and videos I loved.

Below are all the tips you need for taking the perfect travel selfie. 

Invest in a Selfie Stick

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I know I’m not the only one who avoids using a selfie stick because it draws a ton of attention.

Thankfully, the good news is now everywhere you look in touristy locations there are people running around with selfie sticks, so it’s not that embarrassing.

The one I got is the Zhiyun Smooth XS. It’s compact, and even transforms into a small tripod by attaching a small attachment to the end of the stick.

Zhiyun Smooth XS Selfie Stick

The Zhiyun Smooth XS selfie stick is lightweight, easy to use, and best suited for beginner gimbal users. While its two-axis gimbal doesn't always lead to a stable shot, it's a step above a basic selfie stick at an attractive price point.

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It was great for learning on, but I still had to be creative, since the tripod setup is rarely tall enough to get the shots I wanted.

There were even times I’d balance it on ledges or rocks, and just pray that it wouldn’t fall over.

I still take it with me on trips. It’s the perfect mini tripod/selfie stick for adventuring, since it’s easy to fit in a purse or backpack.

I also occasionally shoot with my GoPro instead of on my iPhone, especially if I’m somewhere where the elements might damage my phone, like in the middle of the ocean on a boat.

In that case, I always default to using the small extension pole that came when I got their accessory bundle.

GoPro HERO10 Black Accessory Bundle

With snappy performance, responsive touch controls, and beautiful video and photo capability, the GoPro HERO 10 is a great investment camera for frequent adventurers, especially this bundle that comes with lots of extra accessories!

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Hold the Camera as Far Away as Possible

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One of the things I still hate doing is taking a typical selfie shot. It always takes me ages to find an angle and lighting that I like.

The best thing you can do when attempting a selfie is to hold the camera as far away from your face as possible.

These days everyone takes selfies, so don’t let yourself feel insecure, raise that arm up as high as it will go and check out your angles and lighting before snapping. 

Or better yet, get a selfie stick like the Zhiyun Smooth XS that doubles as a small tripod and set it up a few paces away from you like I did for the shot above.

Find Your Lighting

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Lighting can make or break a photo. Whatever you do, don’t rush. Twirl around a bit with your camera in hand, and pay attention to where your lighting is.

Embrace the lighting, or move to a new spot if you can’t find decent lighting where you are.

It’s true you can always play around in editing with the lighting of the photo, but there’s only so much you can do to correct terrible lighting.

Save yourself the energy of editing and get the lighting right on the first try.

Pay Attention to the Background

Ally - Santorini, Greece - Sepetmber 2021-

One thing that drives me crazy is when people post selfies on social media from a bathroom, especially if the toilet is in view.

Honestly, it’s not cute.

The only exceptions for bathroom selfies are if it’s in a fancy bathroom like the iconic one at Chiltern Firehouse in London, where it’s basically mandatory to do a few mirror selfies.

When you’re shooting, pay attention to the background!

Don’t Forget to Smile

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This should be fairly obvious, but please don’t forget to smile. If you’re having trouble smiling, think about something funny that will make you laugh.

Or pretend you’re laughing over FaceTime with friends—after all, you should be happy to be wherever you are in the world exploring.

Obviously, the only exception is you’re trying to convey how overly tired, dirty, wet, cold, or hot you are. Because trust me, those moments are also part of travel.

It’s not always excitement and comfort, and those moments deserve a memorable selfie as well.

How to Take Good Pictures of Yourself Using a Tripod

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One thing that always drove me crazy was seeing these girls traveling solo and posting these absolutely epic photos on social media.

How were they doing it?

They couldn’t possibly be hiring photographers everywhere they went, though I know some people do this.

Turns out the big trick is to invest in a tripod and become a lover of waking up at the crack of dawn in order to get the perfect shot.

I’ll admit, getting up early and staging solo shoots isn’t always a ton of fun, but I’m so proud of all the “advanced selfies” I’ve shot this year.I bet some of you are wondering right now where I got the term “advanced selfie” from.

It’s a term coined by Sorelle Amore, who basically went viral years ago with these epic photos she was taking of herself all over the world.

If you’re not following her on social media, get on it. She’s such a cool and artistic woman, and someone I really admire.

You also need to read her book called Take Your Selfie Seriously. It was a gamer changer for how I was shooting solo while traveling.

Take Your Selfie Seriously: The Advanced Selfie Handbook

If you want to take better selfies, this book is a must-read! In fact, I still pick it up on occasion to refresh my advanced selfie skills.

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I know some solo travelers who love using a a Bluetooth remote to shoot photos, but I always just shoot using video mode, then screenshot photos from there.

Annoyingly, the photo quality isn’t always ideal using video screenshots, but unfortunately I’m just insanely awful at hiding the control in my hand, which ruins any photo I attempt doing solo.

I’ve also just been told about this app called Lens Buddy that will take your photo on repeat until you decide you’re done. I have a feeling I’m about to fall in love with using it.

Invest in a Tripod

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After spending a year trying to find places to balance my Zhiyun Smooth XS selfie stick, I knew I needed to find a better solution.

So, before I left for Europe last summer, I ordered four different iPhone tripods off of Amazon before I found a well-made one that I absolutely adore from UBeesize.

Having a phone tripod on my travels this last year has been an absolute game changer in terms of the quality of shots I’m now able to line up.

UBeesize Extendable Tripod Stand + Bluetooth Remote

This is the tripod I use to shoot all of my photos and videos as I travel the world solo. It's been a total game changer when it comes to shooting content, and works for both iPhones and Androids.

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I know some people prefer shooting on a tripod real camera, but I’ve found that traveling long term with mine weighs me down. 

Plus, these days, my iPhone shoots about the same quality I’d get from my older Canon Rebel T6, without taking up as much space in my bag.

In fact, the Canon Rebel T6 is a great camera for beginners if you want to start learning more about photography.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit

This was the first camera I began learning about photography on a few years ago and I absolutely love it. It's a great starter camera for beginners who want to learn more about photography and camera set up.

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This tripod is bigger than tripod selfie stick, so it’s not always the easiest to pack, but I’ve successfully backpacked with it, as well as easily tossing it in my normal checked luggage, so don’t be intimated by the size.

Seriously, just buy a tripod before your next solo trip. You won’t regret it, especially when you end up with epic “Advanced Selfies”.

Know Your Angles and Practice Your Poses and Facial Expressions

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One of the best ways to take good pictures of yourself is to get comfortable in front of the camera by learning your angles and which poses and facial expressions look best on you.

The best way to find this out is through lots of trial and error.

Relax your face, and work on having a genuine smile on your face.

My favorite trick for when I catch myself stressed and forgetting to smile is to stick the end of my tongue to the back of my top teeth, it helps force you into a genuine looking smile.

It’s also important to make sure you don’t have dead eyes in the photos. I always use an old acting trick a professor taught us, which is to think of a secret or something that will make you laugh.

To find your best angle take photos doing the following actions:

  • Looking straight into the camera
  • Slightly turned left 
  • Slightly turned left with your chin down
  • Slightly turned left with your chin up
  • Slightly turned right 
  • Slightly turned right with your chin down
  • Slightly turned right with your chin up

Once you’ve done that, analyze the photos and decide which you like best.

Then set up your tripod or selfie stick, and take a million photos, while slowly making your way through poses and slight angle changes, staying aware of how your body feels so that it becomes easier to recreate the look for photos in the future.

Remember even when you know your angles you’ll still end up taking a million photos until you find a few you fall in love with.

All the bloggers and vloggers I’m friends with take tons of photos when shooting.

Also, don’t forget to take the time to sit down after every shoot and analyze what you could have done differently.

I’ve found that doing this is the easiest way for me to learn from my mistakes, and hopefully get better shots more quickly in the future. 

Practice Your Composition

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Look at both the background and foreground when setting up your shot. What’s behind and in front of you when you shoot the photo could determine the difference between an okay photo and an epic shot.

Ideally, you want to be wearing a color or make sure that people’s eyes are naturally drawn toward you. 

If you really want to get technical, you should also look at the lines of the photo. People naturally drawn toward lines and general symmetry. For an example from a master of this, just watch pretty much any Wes Anderson film.

Also, don’t forget to play with changing your perspective. 

One benefit of my first year of travel with only my Zhiyun Smooth XS was that I almost always had to shoot from low angles or higher ones, depending on where I could find to balance it on.

In fact, one of my favorite shots from that year of travel came after I stumbled upon The Vatican almost deserted. I didn’t have any equipment, or even an outfit that I loved, but I got a great shot from leaning my phone up against the bottom of a post and simply walking a few steps into the shot.

Pay Attention to Lighting

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Since you’re likely shooting in a location where you have no control over the lighting, your best bet is to time your photoshoot around either sunset or sunrise in most locations.

This is a type of “golden hour” because the lighting is good yet soft, meaning you’ll end up with glorious light.

There are some exceptions to this rule, like if you’re shooting inside a city, or if the sun is directly behind you in the background, causing a glare.

I had this happen when I went to Fisherman’s Bastion, in Budapest, during sunrise to shoot.

After I got there, I found that there was a wedding photoshoot taking place exactly where I had planned on shooting, meaning I had to quickly scout for a new location with an angle that would avoid this giant wedding party.

I found the perfect balcony, set it up, and by the time I could climb out the window of the balcony for the photo, the sun had moved and was creating a giant unavoidable glare over what wouldn’t have been an epic shot.

There’s only so much you can do before you just have to embrace the circumstances and move on shooting. 

I got a bunch of cool photos that morning, but funny enough none of them were the shots I’d originally set out to get because the wedding party was monopolizing all the most popular photo locations, which forced me to get creative and come up with new angles that weren’t generic and all over everyone’s socials yet.

Learn How to Edit Your Photos

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It’s really incredible how much you can edit in a photo these days.

And the best part is, you don’t even have to monkey around with a million settings on fancy editing software.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most tech savvy person, so using different editing apps has been a game changer for me.

Typically I use a Snapseed to play around with the lighting and general tone of my image. It was recommended to another blogger, and super easy to use on the go.

They even have an option called “Last edits” that automatically edits your photo, though I’d caution that it doesn’t always do the best job, so use your judgment and play around with all the options.

It’s also important to note that you should be editing with your screen brightness turned all the way up.

Trust me, the last thing you want to do is make an image brighter only to realize it was originally fine and is now overexposed because you were editing on a dim screen.

Another app that I love is ReTouch. I use it to remove objects or people from the backgrounds of my photos. Fair warning, like most apps, depending on the photo sometimes this doesn’t always work as well as you want it to, so don’t rely on it when setting up your initial shot.

I also like to dabble in Lightleap occasionally if I want to brighten up a sky, or am feeling lazy trying to quickly find a filter that brightens up a photo.

Tips and Tricks to Take Photos of Yourself When Traveling Alone

Ally - Bruges - Advanced Selfie - July 2022-2

Now that you know the basics to creating and posing for a fabulous photoshoot, there are a few other things to consider when setting up to take good pictures of yourself while traveling solo.

These are some some of the tips and tricks I wish I’d known sooner about shooting solo in new locations around the world.

Research Locations

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One of my favorite things about scrolling through Instagram is the option to save posts into folders.

I have separate folders for every city that I plan on visiting and will actively go through and save photos into it so that when I arrive at my destination all I have to do is scroll through the folder to see which locations I want to plan on hitting up.

You can also search the name of the city followed by the term “Instagram locations” and you’ll likely get some great tips and lists of popular places in the area to shoot photos.

But don’t limit your creativity to just the shots others have already taken.

Keep your eyes peeled for cool street corners, cafes, graffiti, or other spots that would make a cool photo background.

I always spend my first day in a new place walking around pinning places I want to shoot, and trying to picture what kind of outfit from my suitcase will pop the most.

Arrive to Your Location Early

Ally - Trevi Fountain - Rome - September 2021 - Advanced Selfie-2

I’ve always been a massive night owl, so this is still a tough one for me, but trust me, once you power through, you’ll be so happy you did.

I cannot stress this enough. Your life will be so much easier if you get to your locations at the crack of dawn, or whatever time they open.

Lay out your outfit early, toss on an enormous hat and or sunglasses if you want to skip doing hair and makeup, and just force yourself to roll out of bed and get going.

You’ll get photos with either no tourists in the background, or at least way less than you would during normal waking hours, depending on your shoot location.

Plus, you get the added benefit of getting to feel you’ve got the entire city totally to yourself, which is insanely magical.

Over the last two years, waking up before the sun rises has meant getting to experience the Trevi Fountain in Rome with only three other people around, which was still one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

I’ve been told I was super lucky to be there right when the city opened the fountain backup to tourists, because normally even at sunrise there’s always enormous groups around this area.

It was truly a once in a lifetime morning.

Over the years, I’ve had some major pinch me moments, including getting the Duomo in Firenze almost entirely to myself, plus Fisherman’s Bastion (minus a pesky wedding party) and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath in Budapest, and even the square in front of the Vatican almost exclusively to myself.

Trust me, aim to arrive at sunrise and by the time you’re done shooting, you’ll be so happy you did. 

Plan Your Outfit Ahead of Time

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Depending on how technical you want to get, I highly suggest planning your outfit to compliment whatever background you’re planning on shooting, especially if it’s a famous one you have to get up at the crack of dawn to have to yourself.

Trust me, you don’t want to go through waking up early and shooting only to find out that your outfit that day blends in too much with the background.

I accidentally did that when I went to shoot at The Duomo in Florence. I assumed a white dress would pop against the darker tiles in the church, instead I blended in too much with the dramatic white stones and lighter walkway.

That’s one case where I really wish I would’ve worn a more colorful dress.

Also, lay out all of your clothing and accessories the night before. Trust me, it really sucks waking up exhausted and not being able to find something as you’re rushing to get to your location before a million other people show up.

Oh, and don’t be shy about bringing outfit changes. Depending on how popular the shooting location is, you’ll likely find others shooting and changing clothes in random spots.

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When I was shooting in Mykonos, I shot three outfits in about two hours. I was changing in allies, behind construction, and even sometimes just in the middle of the street.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve done quick changes in public. It can be embarrassing, but just remember you’ll never see these people again, and who knows one day they might see your photo on socials and be proud to say they saw you out shooting.

Bonus points if you plan out the sequence of outfits in terms of how easy they are to change in and out of on the street. 

That was one thing I’d wished I had done in Greece, as I had to keep popping my bra on and off, which was awkward, especially when a delivery guy walked by as I was trying to re-hook my bra with a giant dress over my head—at least he got a laugh!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Others to Help You

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I know not everyone is outgoing enough to go up to a stranger and ask them to help take a photo. 

As someone who can be quite quiet, I know it can be tough, but it’s so worth mustering up the courage to ask.

Fair warning though, sometimes you have to ask multiple people to take shots before you end up with one that you love, since unfortunately not everyone has an expert eye for photography.

It helps if you show them beforehand the exact shot you’re trying to get before jumping into the frame.

If it’s really looking hopeless, I just tell them to shoot a video and do a couple poses, then screenshot the poses I like into photos later. I love to use this method anytime my parents come to visit and help me shoot.

I always look for someone else around my age who’s solo and try to strike up a conversation with them by offering to help them take a photo as well. 

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This way it’s easier to ask for multiple shots since most young people understand technology and the types of photos that you want.

This is also a really fantastic way to make new friends, and how I met my now good friend Dora, on the Spanish Steps in Rome in 2021.

She and I ended up talking for about twenty minutes while shooting, then spent the next two days hanging out and going to dinners.

In fact, we still catch up about once a month, and I even visited her in her hometown of Lisbon earlier this year.

Seriously, don’t chicken out, just ask people to help you.

Normally they’re more than happy to take a minute to snap a few photos, and who knows, maybe you’ll make lifelong friends!

Final Thoughts

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I’ll reiterate this one more time, even when you’re not traveling solo, always be prepared to take a good photo of yourself, especially if you’re visiting somewhere special you’ve been dying to get photos at.

The photo above is an example of what happens when you assume your friends are going to want to climb over boulders to get to see the famous Cape Town penguins up close.

My friends weren’t feeling it when we encountered the giant rocks, so they left me climbing over solo, in a dress, in order to make my dream of taking a photo with them come true.

I had to use my shoe as a makeshift way to prop my phone up in order to get this shot on my iPhone because I had left my tripod at our hotel for the day.

Learn from my mistake. Always be ready by carrying a small selfie stick or tripod with you.  

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