Melissa's Guide

The solo traveller’s guide to taking the perfect picture

In this day and age, travel is almost invariably accompanied by friends, colleagues, family and randoms, begging to see your travel pictures. It’s all well and good to show them your hastily thrown together picture album you’ve been carrying around for weeks hoping someone will ask to see it; but you’re just noticing that all the pictures you’ve taken look like postcards or awkward selfies, not the cute Instagram aesthetic you were going for. That’s because you travelled solo and you only had your own arms, and potentially a selfie stick, to try to capture yourself in the magic of the places you visited. Sure, you’ll always have the memories, but most people won’t care about that time you became Snow White and led a procession of deer down the street. They’ll want to see the proof through pictures and videos. So, how do you take the perfect holiday snap, when you just have you, yourself and your camera. Well don’t worry, because I put together this another super helpful Melissa guide, this time on
“The solo traveller’s guide to taking the perfect picture (of yourself)”.


Option 1: the selfie

selfie one

selfie 3

selfie 2

What you’ll need:

– Your phone or camera,
– An arm (or if you’re being really cool, or trying to hold a heavy camera, you can use two arms).
OPTIONAL EXTRA – a selfie stick

What is it?

It’s a selfie, if you don’t know what one of those is, you’ve clearly been living a very sheltered life and I both feel sorry for you and very envious. Mainly envious because you’ll have never have had to listen to, “But first, let me take a selfie…”

When to use it?

When you’re surrounded by people and short on time or energy.
The selfie makes for a great quick picture. However, it’s major down fall is that it only focuses on your face, the scale of whatever you’re standing in front of can get lost, and it’s over done and boring. That being said I love using selfies to capture myself with anything that’s fast moving, like animals, because they’re a little rude and don’t wait around while you set up the other options.
I tend to take selfies on my phone, but you could also use your camera. My camera has this great flip out screen and live view mode, so I can get the perfect shot like 5 times out of 10 (because focusing my dslr for a selfie is a pain in the butt).
Also, if you do want a wider angle of view, you could always use a selfie stick. However, my arms are long enough to practically always reach the remote, even when it’s slightly out of reach, so I don’t really need one. Plus, I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard for the perfect selfie, so I don’t carry one around. Selfies should be spontaneous, not something heavily planned out.

Instagram aesthetic rating:

2/5 Instagram hearts

The selfie has its place but not on my awesome Instagram theme, and only on every second page of my travel photo album.

Option 2: self-timer and a stable surface

awkward rock picture2

awkward rock picture

What you’ll need:

– A camera or phone with self-timer capabilities
– Any available flat/stable surface
– Yourself
– And an awesome backdrop.
OPTIONAL EXTRA – camera shutter remote

What is it?

In this method of picture taking, you use a stable surface as a substitute cute boyfriend/picture taking best friend. By putting your phone on self-timer, you can set up the perfect shot and then get your daily work out by running into frame before your time is up.

When to use this method?

I like to use this method to show scale, grandeur, awe and my ootd. It’s a great method to show your entire body in proportion to whatever you’re taking a photo of but it has a heap of downfalls. The first downfall is that stable surfaces exactly where you want them are pretty much non-existent. Secondly, if you’re in a busy area, you might:
a. not want to leave your camera long enough to take the perfect picture or
b. Have to contend with crowds of people judging you and walking into your shot while you’re posing. However, the benefits are that you can set up the photo just how you want it and you’re not limited to just showing off friendly pimple bob and your face, in every picture.
Also, if you’re lazy and don’t want to waste energy running into frame, you can also invest in a camera remote, which activates the shutter remotely, negating the need for self-timer. Putting your camera on continuous mode also saves you the hassle of setting up the shot multiple times!

Instagram aesthetic rating:

3.5/5 Instagram hearts

When executed well, these make for awesomely instagrammable pictures. The problem is in the lack of solid surfaces to get that perfect shot. My new petition is for all tourist spots to contain one perfectly aligned post, so solo travellers can take the perfect picture. It’s a win win situation for all as the travellers get the images they desire and the tourist sites get free advertisement via social media. I’ll set up a go fund me page immediately!

Option 3: The trying to be professional tripod trick



What you’ll need:

– A camera
– A tripod
– Your amazing self
– Location location location
OPTIONAL EXTRA – Shutter release remote thing

What is it?

It’s exactly the same as option 2 but instead of relying on there to be the perfect rock or post to sit your camera on, you BYO post. By post I mean tripod, obviously. This method is basically the upscale version of a selfie stick!

When to use it?

As per option 2 plus or, when you’re trying to look professional or, when you’ve bothered to lug your tripod with you to whatever destination you think is worthy of being memorialised with a picture.
This is definitely my favourite method of taking the perfect travel picture. You can set up your tripod anywhere, at any angle and get at least one good picture. A problem with this method is making sure you set up the picture just right, to make sure you’re in focus. My trick for this is to focus my camera first on a post or something at the edge of my field of view. When I then run into the shot (if I don’t have my shutter release remote handy), I’ll make sure to line up with said post. That way I get a perfectly focused picture every time.
Another issue is the effort it takes to carry a tripod with you. Those things can get heavy fast! I mainly only use mine close to home because I’m ultimately a lazy person.

Instagram aesthetic rating:

4.5/5 Instagram hearts.

I’d give this option 5 hearts but the amount of energy I expend carrying my tripod around and setting everything up, means it loses half a heart rating. However, in my travel album of awesomeness this rates right up there with meeting Hello Kitty and the invention of sliced bread.

Option 4: the “friend”


fry the ends of your friends 2

fry the ends of your friends

What you’ll need:

– Camera or phone,
– An ability to make small talk until you have established “friend” status.

What is it?

The “friend” involves talking to a person until you’ve gained their trust enough to force them to take cute pictures of you. Now I know what you’re thinking, I’m a solo traveller, that means I’ll be alone, right? Not quite. You’ll likely be staying in hostels or going on tours and this means you’ll be surrounded by people. If you’re an introvert like me it’s a bit difficult, but not impossible, to start talking to these people and strike up a travel friendship. Once you do, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand to do your bidding, which is to take as many pictures of you as possible.

When to use this option?

At any time possible!!!  Travel friends are not only great for sharing your adventures with, they’re the perfect photographers. Generally, they’ll take a flattering picture of, or with, you. These make for the best memories because not only will you have the cute pictures, you’ll also have a new friend!

Instagram aesthetic rating:

4/5 Instagram hearts

Travel friends can take some amazing travel snaps, but the problem is you have to make the friend first. Refer to option 3 about my lazy nature. Therefore -1 point for effort on the Instagram aesthetic scale.

Option 5 – The “Random”


random 2

random 3

What you’ll need:

– A camera or phone
– A random person
– The capabilities to play charades at a grade 2 level

What is it?

The “random” involves going up to a random person at the location you’re at, shoving your camera in their hands, then posing until they get the point and take your picture (or run off with your camera but this hasn’t happened to me yet!).

When to use it?

Like the “friend”, the random is best utilized wherever possible, especially in crowded tourist places where there are a heap of other people trying to get the perfect shot.

How to approach/chose a random?

There are four types of randoms I like to approach to ask to take my picture:

The solo traveller
These are people like you. They’re alone, trying to get that perfect selfie. Go up to them and offer to take their picture. If you can’t speak their language, use English (it being the most universal language) and those charades skills to get the message across. Once you take their photo, give them your camera and get them to do the same for you. It’s the simplest exchange and trust me, they’ll be extremely appreciative for the picture, just as much as you are!

The couple 
Wherever you go there are always couples taking a million cute selfies together or taking cute pictures of each other. It’s enough to make any solo traveller sick! But swallow that bile because these are the perfect people to approach. Selfies get old after a while and they’ll be very grateful to you for taking a cute couple picture that they’ll do the same in return.
(This can also be applied for a group of friends)

The professional photographer
Look for anyone carrying around a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera. They’re also normally alone, and are your best bet for getting the perfect shot. You might feel a bit intimidated going up to someone like this, but most of the time they’ll be happy to take your picture, it’s what they clearly like to do after all. Just make sure you return the favour!

The selfie randoms
For me, this is a gold mine of cute travel pictures. Because I’m tall, blonde and mildly attractive, I can sometimes attract people wanting to take selfies with me, because they think I’m famous (probably, I actually have no idea why they want my picture). If I remember at the time, I’ll normally ask them to also take a picture of me. I’m also going to start asking for selfies with them too, because I don’t think you realise just how often this occurs.


The random who approaches you
These are my all-time favourites. Just like you approaching randoms, randoms can approach you. Sometimes they’ll see you struggling with that awkward selfie and decide to help out, sometimes it’s a photo exchange. Either way it’s brilliant for both parties. My all-time favourite random photo was when a little old Japanese man stopped to talk to my friend Louise and I, while we were wearing kimono. I managed to reply to him with some Japanese, and he was absolutely delighted. I noticed he had a very professional camera, so when I gave him my friends camera, he took one of the best pictures we have from that day. He also snuck in a few shots of us on his camera, so everyone went home very happy.
(By the way, I don’t actually have said picture, but when I do, I’ll upload it here so you can see it).

Instagram aesthetic rating:

3.5/5 Instagram hearts

This would get a higher Instagram rating if you could get the random to take a million pictures of you. Unfortunately, you normally only get one shot, one opportunity, these moments only come one in a while. However, for general purposes, these get a gold star and a million Melissa Money.

So, there it is, The solo traveller’s guide to taking the perfect picture. Did you learn something new? If you did let me know in the comments below!

I hope you learned something, even if it was just that Melissa has an amazing sense of humour and is rarely serious. If you like what you see here, there is more to come…Probably, if I get around to writing it. If you’re keen for more frequently updated content from me, you can check my Instagram where I post a picture worth 1000 words, then add 1000 more in the caption (gotta get that word count up!).

Until next time!

4 thoughts on “The solo traveller’s guide to taking the perfect picture”

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