How to take a selfie when travelling

Andrew Dickens

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Whether you’re a selfie-hater, selfie junkie or sitting on that selfie fence, if you value your social media game at all, you need to know how to take a selfie. Two Instagram stars give their self-photography tips.  

Love or loathe ‘em, it looks like the selfie is here to stay, with 24 billion flooding the internet in just one year, according to Google. Apple’s 2010 front-facing camera was the watershed moment, and now everyone from Barack Obama to astronaut Aki Hoshide (who captured the first one in outer space) are making selfies a defining part of modern culture. In 2013, the S-word was even added to the Oxford Dictionary.

Way before the advent of the smartphone, self-portraitists Rembrandt and Van Gogh were the original selfie masters and while paint may have evolved to pixels, but the self-expression has endured. Casting any digital narcissism aside, selfies can play a very positive role in people’s lives. Beyond them eliciting a feel-good factor (because who doesn’t need that dopamine hit every once in a while) they’re an extension of how we live and learn about each other.

By saying “this is me”, you’re not only connecting with your tribe, be that fellow foodies or mountain bikers, but getting to know yourself. And being a good friend to yourself is the ultimate act of self-care. According to psychologists at the University of California, regularly taking selfies uplifts your mood, confidence and makes you more appreciative.

There are few better occasions to whip out your selfie stick (or even selfie drone, these days), than when indulging in some solo travel, especially in a small group. So we picked the creative brains and rummage the kit bags of two adventurous travellers, Luke Morris (islandofluke) and Thuymi Do (thuymi) for the ultimate tips on how to take the perfect selfie.

Natural light is your best ally

… well, most of the time.

“Midday sun will create lots of shadow on your face” Luke says. “Softer light just after sunrise or before sunset I find to be best.”

Too orange? “If [the photo is] over-saturated knock it back in editing with Adobe Lightroom Mobile,” he adds.

Most importantly, make sure the sun is behind you, and if you’re a sucker for sun flare, hold your phone slightly above your head.

Read more: 6 reasons you shouldn’t travel with your friends

Thuymi says, “Many people just pull their phone out and snap the photo, forgetting they can actually control the brightness to make the photo ten times better.”

If you’re in lowlight situations, an iPhone LuMee case works wonders, emulating a ring flash used by fashion photographers.

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?? OUR SECOND HOME ?? Four days. That’s how long we have in our adopted home of Dubai before we are on the road yet again for an exciting campaign! Thuymi is heading to New York and then to Montreal while I am off to Vietnam and then to NY. So much travel, one of the joys of owning your own travel company, except the jet lag and lack of routine. We love coming back to Dubai, except it is a little warm this time of year. And when we say warm, we mean 45 degrees and 95% humidity. When you get back from a holiday, what are the first things you do? For me, when I return to Australia, we go and get a meat pie and iced coffee. When we head to Montreal, we go and eat Poutine and some Orange Julep. As for you? What are you up to this summer? If you are staying in #MyDubai and plan to go onto adventures, please be careful with the heat and bring lots of water with you if you really insist in doing hikes. To be honest with you, please go with a guide if you don’t know your routes. We recommend you to contact guys like @adventuratioutdoor ?? – ? @GoProME 5 ?? More photos of ?#AdventureFaktoryInDubai ? Travel guides & inspiration ➡ AdventureFaktory

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Remember your background

You’re travelling to some pretty epic places after all! You may regret blocking out the Eiffel Tower, so position the background first, then put your face in it to frame the shot. Thuymi relies on her Nikon Z7’s wide-angled 14-24 lens for selfies to get everything in the shot, whilst Luke is one of a growing wave of ‘dronies.’

“From a non-traditional perspective, I use my drone (DJI Mavic Pro) to get a type of selfie from further away, usually with much more impressive views,” he says.

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Don’t over-retouch

Unless you’re an aspiring beauty blogger, most people don’t want to see an airbrushed picture of perfection. More intimate and relatable, the ‘candid shot’ is what free-spirited solo travel and living in the moment is all about. Thuymi’s advice?

Read more: Up your ‘Gram game: Top travel photography tips from Instagrammers

“My rule is you must only Photoshop out what is temporary,” she says. “For example, pimples or a fly that accidentally flies by your cheek. Never fix your teeth, your scars, your body, simply because you are who you are.”

Instead, dedicate your editing time to the overall picture, with apps like snapseed (a favourite of Thuymi’s) and Lightroom mobile: Luke’s go-to app.

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?? CUVERVILLE ISLAND, ANTARCTICA ?? I don’t always selfie, but when I do it’s because there are penguins! This was taken today day 6 of the expedition prepared by the great team at @EduOutings w/ @Hurtigruten ?? #EmuTravels2018 ?? For the occasion of being on Cuverville, home of millions of penguins (literally that much on this island!) , I brought my @EmuAustralia to #Antarctica with me to celebrate its arrival in Dubai! [Collab] Get involved for a chance to WIN a travel pack valued at $3,500, plus we’re giving away a pair of EMU boots every week! Just follow these simple steps: 1. Follow @emuaustralia , @emu_me and @zsi_trading 2. Post a photo on your Instagram wearing your EMUs at your favourite iconic location and tag your friend that needs to see this great shot 3. Tag @emuaustralia and #emutravels #city or #location in your post Major price winner will be announced Tuesday 4th December 2018 and weekly prize winners will be notified every Tuesday.

A post shared by Thuymi Voyage ???????? (@thuymi) on, Namibia)

Get creative

Mix-up how you use your selfie stick: bury it in the sand, sling it over your shoulder, attach it to your ski pole or hold it (and your breath), underwater. Luke is a fan.

“GoPro is great for this, especially for swimming with turtles, mantas and sharks,” he says. Their fisheye lens is one solution to framing big things like a hot air balloon and you in the shot.

Reflective surfaces can be your friend too (experiment with keeping those sunglasses on), whilst putting your camera on the ground is a clever way to make people feel like they are right in the scene with you.

How to counter the embarrassment factor

Whilst we love to hate them, the much-maligned selfie stick does give a wider angle that’s worth those 60 seconds of cringe, unless you’re in Disney World or Rome’s Colosseum that is, which have outlawed them!

For all other tourist-mobbed locations, they come in handy for snapping far above a crowd or being “your eyes” peering over that cliff in more remote locations. If you’re still feeling awkward, use a prop like a flower in your other hand and invest in a Bluetooth-enabled selfie stick to speed things up. As Thuymi succinctly puts it, “you do it for you, who cares what people think!”

Timing is everything

Your camera’s self-timer is your best friend reckons Thuymi, who uses it “99% of the time”, together with interval shooting mode on her Nikon Z7.

“It’s a game-changer, it just keeps snapping tons of photos,” she says. “It’s like having a professional photographer snapping for me!”

Luke adds: “[In] more extreme situations I like to use the time-lapse photo mode on the GoPro and adjust it to take pics every second or half a second. Depending on the scenario you might come out with hundreds of pics, which although will be annoying to trawl through, will mean that you should get at least one or two that are pretty awesome.”

Face the facts

Yes the high-angle face shot is a little played out, but it’s only natural to want to intersperse our travel feeds with a few old-school selfies. Humans are hardwired to respond to faces, just read American Academy of Neurology’s January 2019 medical journal if you need convincing. Of all the selfie poses, the 3/4 head tilt is known to be the most flattering, supposedly elongating your jawline. Extend your arm out, position the phone down to highlight your cheekbones and voila!

Thuymi says, “I’d tell people not to have the face looking down for a selfie.”

Know your kit

Nowadays selfie aficionados don’t just rely on their smartphone. That said – the latest iPhone’s burst mode, which takes up to ten pictures per second with one tap of the screen, could change that. Add an attachable-style lens and you have the closest thing to a prof camera. For Go-Proers like Luke, downloading the GoPro app is a good idea so your phone acts as a wireless app and LCD in one. But what about the all-important accessories?

For Luke and Thuymi, the single-most used one for selfies is a gorilla pod. “It’s super handy for getting the right angle,” Luke says.

Read more: Christ, is is one epic selfie

Be a Storyteller

It’s what travel is all about, after all. How are you interacting with the scene around you? You want to capture (and remember) that rush of adrenaline when you encountered a herd of elephants for the first time.

“I think when animals are included they make the best selfies,” Luke says.

“I want my photos to be energetic and project happiness,” says Thuymi. “In a nutshell, my selfies must still tell a story.”

And that means no landscape or activity is off-limits, like kayaking in Antarctica, which she braved with her Nikon DSLR (“always with a wet-bag, though!”).

Beyond the tips ‘n tricks, what really underscores capturing a great selfie is having confidence, feeling comfortable and asking yourself why you’re doing it in the first place.

“I generally take selfies to convey extreme happiness and gratitude for being in such a beautiful location in that particular moment,” says Luke. Amen to that!

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?? ANTARCTICA ?? Can’t believe the journey is already going to an end. Antarctica is a complete other travel experience I’ve never been on before. It’s so much about learning about nature, ice, rocks, animals and most importantly, the conservation of it. So honored and literally blessed to be among the few that every year comes to this continent to witness something out of the ordinary. Also so happy to have been able to do what I love (sports and adventure) on this territory ! #WHMHME . [FR] ???? Jpeux pas croire que mon voyage tire déjà à sa fin. L’Antarctique … c’est une expérience de voyage complètement différent à ce que j’ai vécu auparavant . C’est un voyage d’apprentissage sur la nature, la glace, les rochers, les animaux et, plus important encore, sa conservation. Tellement honorée d'être parmi les rares à venir sur ce continent pour assister à un spectacle hors du commun. Bien entendu… le kayaking était incroyable, je vous le recommande énormément ! – ? @GoProME ?? More photos of ?Antarctica on @EduOutings & #AdventureFaktoryInAntarctica

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