If you’re one of those people that hates selfies, well I’m not sure how you found yourself here, so if you stumbled across this article by accident STOP RIGHT NOW, and check out 10 Things to do in New Zealand instead. You’re going to see a lot of my face! If you appreciate a good travel selfie, ie in a great setting, not a posing pout from the bedroom or a photo of you in the bathroom mirror (these really aren’t selfies) then let me continue. Actually whilst we’re on the subject of defining a selfie, or specifically a travel selfie, I personally believe a selfie is basically a photo of you by you, in a location or setting of interest. Other people can be in it, in fact I encourage them to be.
✔ Thumbs up for Group Selfies!
Also, if you’re thinking, how are you an “Pro“? Well I gave myself the title, as far as I know there are no qualifications for taking selfies. There should be, due to the huge amount of terrible selfie-takers out there. We are all friends with someone on Facebook or Instagram who posts bloody awful selfies. So if there ends up being an appetite for one, I may look into running the worlds first selfie masterclass.
In solo travel, it’s hard to get photos of yourself these days. And personally when I look at travel photos, or follow a travel photographers, I like to see the person behind the lens occasionally (there are some exceptions). Let’s get started.
1. The Sunglasses
Don’t wear them! OK first off I break this rule sometimes, it’s OK occasionally (see exceptions below), just not every time. In everyday life the majority of us love a bit of eye contact, it’s polite, and shows you that we are friendly and interested in you. So your selfie should be no different. Further to this, you could get a reflection of your arms in the mirrored sunglasses. Just be careful not to squint if you have the sun in your eyes, and if you have a preview of the photo look at the lens not the screen.
Exceptions to this rule: (when you can wear sunglasses)
✔ If your sunglasses are REALLY cool
✔ When you are VERY hungover
✔ When on a moving vehicle making it dangerous to remove sunglasses
✔ When the sunglasses match your hat or helmet
✔ When you are drunk and have an awesome moustache
✘ Thumbs down for Mirrored Sunglasses
2. The Horizon
This can take a little practise, but after a while your main goal with your travel selfie should be keeping the horizon straight! It’s always easier to shoot in landscape rather than portrait, and for point and shoot camera’s hold the camera firmly in your left hand as that’s usually the side that has the button on it. Don’t forget you can always edit a horizon later, but you’ll lose valuable space at the edge of the image when you rotate it slightly! It also helps to use both arms, please refer to 6. The Arms…
✔ Good Horizon & eye contact
✘ Bad Horizon, sunglasses and messed up hair
3. The Face
Remember that this is a photo of your face, pretty much a close-up! So there’s a few things to consider…
The Pout – Quite simply, no pouting! This is reserved for teenage girls who need a confidence boost from, well teenage boys!
✘ Silly Pouting is for teenage girls
Exception to this rule: When pulling Magnum, see below.
Double Chin – people have a habit of pulling back from the camera as far as they can, as they’re worried it’s too close. But they don’t realise doing this gives them a horrible double chin. My suggestion is to angle the camera down a bit so you look up at it, and give it the puppy dog eyes.
✘ Awful Double Chin, try to angle the camera from above
Face the Sun – or wherever is brightest, try to get as much natural daylight on the subject (you) as possible, but to avoid squinting, try not to look directly at the sun.
✘ Squinting due to looking at the Sun
✘ Did not face the light
4. The Background
Actually have one! As I mentioned earlier, a true travel selfie needs to be in front of something interesting, not in your bathroom mirror. And you need to actually see it! Make sure you angle your camera towards whatever it is your shooting, and try not to get too much of you. It is always a good idea to warn any people actually in the background too! See 5. The Focus for more… And if you have a dark background, use a soft flash.
✔ Use a soft flash for dark scenes
✔ Interesting background
✔ Interesting background and straight horizon. Sunglasses excused due to hangover
✘ Always warn people who are behind you so they don’t look at you like you’re an idiot. A polite “Wait. Let me take a Selfie” should suffice
5. The Focus
It’s imperative you keep your face in focus. So try to press the shutter half-way down, whilst pointing at your face, but then consider that you may need to move it slightly off centre and up to get the scenery in, rather than your big head blocking what we really want to see! We are not just focusing the lens here, but also the camera’s exposure and ISO settings so your face doesn’t appear too dark.
✘ Camera is focused on the Las Vegas background, not my face
✘ Camera has set exposure setting to the background
6. The Arms
Use both arms when possible! This is a personal preference but this adds symmetry to your selfie, it also helps keep the camera steady AND straight. The main exception here is when you are doing something with your other arm, like holding something, or gesturing “look at this amazing view” to your selfie-loving audience!
Exceptions to the rule:
✔ Showing your audience something, ie “look at this”
✔ Holding a live animal in your hand
✔ Holding a beer in your hand
✔ Holding a New York Yankee foam finger in your hand
7. The Equipment
Compact Cameras – These are my personal favourites for selfies. Phone selfies are hard as often the button is on the screen, but u do get a preview. However the quality still isn’t quite up there unless you have perfect lighting. A DSLR is bulky and you’ll either be too close to the lens or struggle to hold it so mess up the horizon. I’m a big fan of the Casio Exilim but I’m not sure they’re stocked much outside of Asia. Some campacts (Exilim included) even have a flip-out screen, but that takes it too far and you will really look like a tit (if you didn’t already!). If you use a GoPro or action camera, you will get a lot of the view due to the fish-eye lens, but will have a curved horizon unless you know how to correct it using editing software.
Flip out screens take it too far and you will really look like a tit (if you didn’t already!)
✘ Taken on DSLR, great quality but not far enough away
✘ Taken on GoPro, giving a curved horizon
Wide Angle Lens – aim for a 25mm or better otherwise you will have to have really long arms or a really small head!
✘ Too close to subject, no wide angle
✘ Too close to subject, no wide angle
Lose the Selfie Stick – I’m a fan of these for video, they can be really handy for getting the camera in places you can’t usually, and they make great group selfies shots. But your typical selfie will be ruined by the pole and you don’t need it unless you have really short arms. However… If you insist on using a Selfie Stick, use it properly! Take a look at this guide from Wimdu, which has very important do’s and don’ts: The Modern Travellers Guide to Selfie Sticks.
✔ Selfie stick is OK only for group photos
✘ But not really necessary for one person
If all else fails, you forget the rules above, or you’re simply too embarrassed to smile to your own camera, give it some Blue Steel or Magnum (Zoolander reference). This pose is completely acceptable and does not contradict the No Pouting rule what-so-ever! And just remember guys, things don’t happen overnight, it’s taken me a long of time to get to where I am today, so if you’re prepared to put in the effort and learn from your mistakes, then one day you too will take the perfect travel selfie.
✔ Blue Steel
✔ Blue Steel
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