Steps that may sound like the obvious, but are what it takes.
When traveling alone, it is normal if you need a hand to snap pictures for you. Unless you want an album full of selfies, the easiest way is to ask someone for help.
Many solo travelers are either too shy or reluctant to ask; fearing others might think they are silly or narcissists. At the end of their trip, they return with many pictures of buildings and sceneries without anpersonal touch. Let’s be honest – no one wants to see an album full of inanimate objects. Your family and friends want to see you too!
Rejection is part of the game. It is rare, but they exist. Some people can turn a favor as simple as pressing a button, into a chore of pushing a boulder uphill – I’ve encountered an Australian man who pretended he didn’t understand English to avoid helping, a Nepalese father who literally just walked away, a woman from China dressed in Gucci who bluntly said “NO”, a girl who took the time to explain she didn’t have the time – but throughout all my travels, that’s all really.
If that happens, move on! Don’t let it dishearten you. The next helper you find, continue to smile from the heart or you’ll miss another chance for the camera!
You don’t need a professional photographer to follow you around. All you need is a good camera, your sunshine personality and the clarity in explaining what you want in your shot(s).
1. Pick a spot with good landscape and sunlight.
Two key tips: Try to avoid having people at your backdrop unless they are far enough to be blurred out. Make sure that the sun is always in front and not behind you.
2. Select potential helper.
I always go for other tourists like myself. From my experience, the people who are more prone to help are Asians (i.e. Japanese girls) and anyone carrying a DSLR. In New York, however, I discovered a completely different theory. I find that blue collar workers, bus tour staffs and African Americans to be friendlier and happy to lend a hand.
P.S. If there are no #2s at #1, change #1.
3. Ready your camera settings.
Don’t make your helper wait for you to figure the machine out. They are already giving you their time. For DSLR owners, use ‘Sports’ mode so that you will have many options to choose from later.
4. Smile and ask politely.
You could quickly explain that you are traveling alone and the kindreds will understand immediately. If they are tourists too, offer to take a photo in exchange because more often than not, it is as hard to take a complete group photo as it is for a solo traveler.
5. Explain how you want your picture to be.
Step #5 pays off tremendously. Do you want a close-up? capture the whole scenery? vertical or horizontal? It is a bummer going through step 1 – 4, just to realize that the result is not what you want. If possible, check the photos before your helper leaves. Not everyone gets it right the first time.
If asking for assistance from others is not your ‘style’, alternatively you can travel with a tripod and use the function of your camera’s timer. I like the GorillaPod from Joby (first image below). The thing with this option is that you’ll have to carry an additional gadget around but if you don’t mind, who cares? At the end of the day, you will return with awesome photos of yourself captured in beautiful moments.
In terms of cameras, I have been using my Canon EOS 600D for years now, paired with the awesome Sigma lens my geeky husband got me. Just one single lens can capture very macro objects to totally zoomed-out, flying birds. Investing in a good pair of these two is so, so important.