How (not) to take Self-Portraits
It is nice to have a picture of yourself while traveling. Unfortunately when traveling alone sometimes you have to take matters (or in this camera) into your own hand, stretch out your arm and click. I know you can ask others, but really I am both shy and slightly mistrustful of the photographic abilities of others, so often I prefer my own shots. Extra bonus that I can be goofy over and over without upsetting a tourist holding my camera.
Here are some things I have learned in the past few years taking travel pics of myself. A lot of these are similar to those of taking normal pictures, but bear repeating in the context of self portraits.
So you want to blind yourself for the best possible picture? Yup, sometimes that is a good idea. Sometimes though it isn’t worth it. My glasses like to reflect and I can’t keep my eyes open anyway, so that just ends badly. If you wouldn’t take a picture of someone else with a flash, then likely it won’t work out for yourself either.
That said, it’s digital. Take one with a flash and one without and see. I have found though, if it is dark enough background to need a flash, it is unlikely to be a good shot.
Sun and Reflections
Looking right into the sun isn’t so much fun anyway and although it means no worries about flashing, squinty eyes may be in your future.
Think sunglasses are the remedy? Sure there is a cool Matrix “take the blue pill” picture, but still no eyes to be seen. Not to mention, no way of passing this off as anything other than taking a self portrait.
Be mindful of the focus
Try to hold the camera still while pushing the button at a weird angle. It isn’t as easy as it seems, so it is worth taking a bunch of shots. Again digital camera, so bad pictures can be ditched easily. I find on the tiny screen on the back of the camera that it is hard to see if something is in perfect focus or not. So multiple shots will help raise your chance of a good one.
This is the hardest part for me. How to compose a shot that I can’t see. If your camera has a fancy flip out screen, then good for you. You have a chance. For me, I often know I want the camera pointed at my face AND something in the background. Just trying to figure out where those two things are relative to each other is a bit of a challenge.
As you can see I often end up with my face in front of the thing I want in the background. Or the other side, just barely in the shot at all. Although some of these pictures have turned out as my favorite shots from certain places.
I don’t know why I forget to smile. Maybe I think it is stupid to smile at my own hand holding a camera, but really a happy expression goes a long way to having a nice photo.
Number one recommendation from me about taking pictures like this is..
take a bunch.
Seriously, as much as I like some of these pictures, there are tons that turned out so badly. Even with friends around, this can be a fun and goofy way to record a trip. Check out more on the Facebook pages of both Grounded Traveler and Ctrl-Alt-Travel.
Travel like a 12 year old - Grounded Traveler
September 28, 2013 @ 8:28 am
[…] “You are a goof,” Ali tells me 100 times on average a day. Ok, maybe I am. I like strange things and sometimes find reality a bit too drab and constraining. […]
Pinhão Tiled Train Station - Ctrl Alt Travel
February 17, 2013 @ 9:41 am
[…] yeah, I like to take goofy self portraits while we travel. Somehow the idea of just aiming the camera at myself is fun. This is pretty much […]
August 19, 2012 @ 4:52 pm
The best is when you take self-portraits with the timer on and then you forget to shut it off for the next non-self-portrait shot. Then when you take the next photo, you’re standing there like a fool for ten seconds trying to hold your shot. It’s best when it’s an action shot and you’re trying to follow the moving object.
August 21, 2012 @ 11:54 pm
Hah.. Yes I often forget to reset settings like that on my camera. I have several of Venice that are all blue because I forgot to reset the white balance.
August 16, 2012 @ 12:11 pm
Haha- John loves taking these. His are generally photos of him making funny faces – we have some classics…
August 16, 2012 @ 6:26 pm
The ability to make funny faces is the main reason to do these even with other people you are traveling. Then you can do as many goofy things as you want, just enjoying being a place.
August 14, 2012 @ 10:41 pm
Jajajaja love this! I was thinking of writing a post like this at the end of my RTW trip because trust me I have many photos of me that are horrible…lol. Ahh the beauty of solo travel. I have done everything you mentioned in this post… sad but true. I think the whole world has been there…lol!!!
August 16, 2012 @ 6:26 pm
You really should do a round up like this. Alternate jumping and self-portrait pics.
Brooke vs. the World
August 14, 2012 @ 9:08 am
I have gotten a lot better at this over the years, but it’s not easy. I love the ones where the flash goes off and I look like a sick pale monster… or if you take from the wrong angle and your face looks fat and unrecognizable!
August 16, 2012 @ 6:25 pm
Hence always the last tip. Take tons and ditch the unpleasant ones. My problem with the flash is that it turns my glasses into shiny white circles.
August 14, 2012 @ 8:34 am
Yep, just screwed up photos of myself this past weekend – getting my head in the way of the object I wanted people to see in the background, cutting off my head, taking photos looking into the sun. I still do this stuff today.
This also reminds me of my “How to make a travel video while traveling” where I share all my mistakes, outtakes, and screw ups as I can’t get my words right. Yep, I can relate.
August 16, 2012 @ 6:24 pm
I like the head cut off ones usually more than the standard photos. Somehow just half of a head smiling is entertaining to me. Check out the ones on Facebook for my favorites.
August 13, 2012 @ 11:59 pm
Good tips! I am almost never happy with the photo when I ask some random tourist to take it for me. But I certainly have not mastered the self portrait either, even with my iPhone. Maybe I’ll give it another go with your tips.
August 16, 2012 @ 6:24 pm
Ali and I have that problem when people take pictures of us. Always seems to end up dark or light or something. I would think the iPhone would make things much easier. At least able to hold it straighter without getting fingers in the lens.
August 13, 2012 @ 11:48 pm
My wife calls them idiot photos- I left a link on your Facebook Page to the post I did about these last year!
August 16, 2012 @ 6:23 pm
I saw that link. Thanks. Funny how we all do those kind of things. Though “Idiot photos” sounds big harsh. I did them mostly when I was traveling solo, but I like the effect sometimes so will still do them when with Ali.
Kent @ NVR
August 13, 2012 @ 11:22 pm
This is great. Love the part on Positioning. Happens in NVR world all of the time.
August 16, 2012 @ 6:22 pm
Yeah, that seems the hardest to get right. Maybe need to mount a laser pointer to the top of the camera to help.
August 13, 2012 @ 10:25 pm
I know I saw you putting this post together, but reading it is so much funnier! I love this one 🙂
August 16, 2012 @ 6:21 pm
Thanks, my love. It was fun to do.