Hey there fellow traveler!
Let me begin this lengthy posing guide by prefacing that the way I pose in my travel photographs is my own style. It suits me, it flatters my body shape and I’m definitely not saying that this is the only guide to posing that will suit everyone. Use my recommendations as suggestions during your next trip or photography session.
Speaking of photography sessions, for the past 10+ years I’ve been learning and practicing in the field of portraiture, engagements and family photography. Posing is a very big part of creating beautiful images for my clients and my posing tips have definitely helped me to flourish my photography business.
In addition to photographing others, I also enjoy being in front of the camera, because it helps to practice the poses which I later ask my clients to copy. Also, how unfair would it be to subject my clients to the typical vulnerabilities and unease that most people feel in front of a large DSLR camera if I also didn’t experience it myself. In truth, posing naturally and acting photogenically in front of the camera is not an innate skill (at least not for me). It takes practice!!!
Do you need to spend the next 10 years practicing? Not at all!
Read the guide below, pick a handful of poses and try them out. Like what you see? Keep doing them and doing them and doing them and doing them until they feel very natural and make you feel great when you see your own travel photos. Because if you take them in different locations, no one cares if you do the same pose, it looks different because the background is different.
Then pick a few more poses and REPEAT!
Table of Contents
How do I take a great picture of myself with a camera/phone in my hand?
When the camera/phone are in your hand, you’re limited to:
Taking a picture of your body part (arm, legs) while still holding the camera
Taking a picture of your reflection in something – could be very artistic and unique if done well (more about this later)
Taking a picture of others and using your new posing skills to pose them
Taking a picture of yourself with a hand still holding a camera/phone – aka the selfie. I’m not a huge fan of this perspective as it usually covers up most of the background and hardly flatters the face (emphasizing blemishes, double chin, nose hairs, and just looks forced). I believe that when we go on vacation, it’s less about you in the location, it’s the location with you in it (emphasis on the location).
How do I take a great picture of myself with a camera on a tripod or on something?
Bring your tripod!
On the other hand, the world is your tripod, but you can’t dictate the exact location of this tripod, so bring your own! (I personally recommend this one from Amazon for price, weight, and functions)
Learn how to use the timer function on your camera/phone
Alternatively, get a remote control or use a phone App or an Apple watch to set off the shutter (take the picture). I like to use the remote control in my hand that communicates with my camera grip, which has a shutter release function.
The hardest part is setting your focus, so find something or someone to focus on then stand next to it/them. Or set your camera on Auto and that should do a pretty good job for stationary subjects.
Some cameras/phones have face tracking functions, so if you know where to locate that function, use it and your focus should be on point! WARNING: This function does drain the battery faster than normal, so keep extra batteries handy.
Check your finished result and repeat! Change your orientation to Vertical or Horizontal (you may never know what type you may need for your album/feed/template) and take another shot!
How do I take a great picture of myself with someone else taking it?
Set your camera/phone to Burst mode (multiple shots are taken at the press of a Shutter Button).
Pre-take the picture to show the composition/orientation you’re going for.
Ask them to hold their hands steady to avoid blurriness. Don’t hesitate to provide more explanations to achieve your desired results.
Explain where you want to be placed in the picture and how much of your body should be showing.
Explain about focus (focusing square or dot) that it should fall on your face/eyes.
Make sure your settings are on Auto for ease of function and quickness (no one wants to take 10 shots for a stranger).
So now that we got logistics out of the way, let’s finally get down to the different photographic poses that you can try while on vacation:
How do I look more natural in photos?
Laugh out loud/fake smile
Remember that our travel photographs will be our only memories a long long time from now. Would you rather see yourself pouting, serious or annoyed or would you rather see yourself enjoy the moment and smile from ear to ear? I’d argue for the latter! So to achieve this fake smile look, my tip is just to laugh out loud as though you’re imitating a villain in a movie HA-HA-HA (or a very happy, elated villain at that).
The trick is that even though it feels fake and forced when taken in a burst mode, your laugh-out-loud face actually looks authentic because you eventually start laughing at the idea of laughing-out-loud and start smiling sincerely and naturally.
Hips 45 degrees to the camera + weight on one leg
If you place the hips square to the camera, they always look larger and bigger than how we perceive our body to actually be. To avoid looking that way, always remember to turn your hips 45 degrees to the camera, this visual trick shows only 3/4 of your body’s width and also looks more dynamic due to diagonal lines created.
The second tip in this pose is to place most of your weight on the back leg, putting the front leg gently in front of the body. If you’re not placing much weight on the front leg, it also appears slimmer and you’re creating an interesting visual line from your front leg to the rest of your body.
One of the easiest ways to pose naturally in your photos is just to walk. You’re not limited to just standing poses, change your camera settings to burst and sports mode (or increase your Shutter Speed), and get to walking! Since you’re traveling in a foreign location, look around you as you walk, look away from the camera, sway your arms naturally, or grab your hat/hair/glasses for angles and triangles (more on that later), you can also point towards something interesting (this will make the viewer of your photo always look in that direction).
Another dynamic-looking pose for your travel posing arsenal is the Jump. Again, put your camera on Burst and Sports mode (or increase your Shutter Speed), stand in one place, and jump high! Throwing your hands in the air, in different directions is GREAT! Letting your legs turn in different angles and directions is GREAT TOO! Take a few and then see which looks best on you.
Sitting down may appear like an easy task, but if not done correctly can end up looking very BLAH! Avoid that by creating angles and triangles with your legs and arms.
Find funny moments
Looking back to your photos when you’re older will be quite monotonous if all your poses are very predictable and safe. Change that by tossing in a few random funny moments!
While it is impossible for me to coach you on what is defined as funny at your travel destination, I can recommend keeping your eye always open and keeping a light and positive travel attitude. If you do find a great moment that you’re ready to capture in your images, don’t be shy or embarrassed to take it. I always remind myself that the strangers who surround me in this new environment are just that – strangers and their opinions of me don’t matter. In fact, by doing something silly or unique for your own picture, some of them may get the same idea for their own travel photography album.
Interact with your environment
Another great tip to look more natural in your travel photos is to interact with your environment. It could be copying/sitting/touching a statue (make sure you’re allowed to do that); walking; swimming; imitating a facial expression; pretending to do something; pointing to something, getting inside of something for perspective and others. Here are few examples:
Look away from the camera
A very popular trend nowadays on Instagram is looking away from the camera with your back turned towards the lens. I know the general idea behind the shot – IT MAKES EVERYONE FEEL THAT THE SUBJECT OF THE PHOTO IS ANYONE. This idea is supposed to make the photo more objective and timeless because you identify with the exploring traveler. On the other hand, I feel like when I’m looking back at those images of me, I won’t identify with them as much as with the ones that feature my more identifiable feature – my face. Personally, I almost never use LOOK AWAY FROM CAMERA POSE because in my photo albums I want to see what I looked like at that moment in time and not how my back/ass looked.
What do I do with my arms?
Arms can look very stiff or awkward in a photo, but once you know the three simple tricks, you’ll never worry about arms again.
Away from the body
If you’re standing, walking, sitting, or jumping, just remember to keep your arms away from your torso. Whenever photographed with arms by your sides, your torso looks as wide as your arms, but that’s not fair to your waist, which is (usually) smaller than your shoulders’ width. So unless you’re looking to appear wider than usual, keep your arms away from the body.
When standing, you can put them in your pockets, hold them out to the side like a Barbie doll, hold on to your hat, glasses, bag/backpack, point towards something, out to the sides showcasing the landscape behind you or showing size and perspective.
When sitting, move your arms away from your body by placing them on a chair, on the table, or hold on to your hat/glasses/hair.
When walking, sway your arms naturally forward and backwards as you normally would.
See information above but also try to bend your arms in addition. This makes them appear more natural, less forced.
This is one of my favorite posing tips – create triangles with your arms and if applicable with legs too. This eliminates that stiff look that robots have and instead brings diagonal lines and dynamic features to your otherwise flat 2D photograph.
Any other posing ideas?
I’ve lived in Asia for the past 10 years and this pose has probably rubbed off on me because of that. While doing “V” pose with your fingers may not be your go-to pose when traveling, it has its merits. It usually forces you to separate your arms away from your body, creating angles and screams cute when all your other poses are standard and predictable.
Face to the sun
Lighting in photographs is very important and while we can talk about lighting for days, I’ll leave you with this tip – TURN YOUR FACE TOWARDS THE SUN!
The reason behind this is clear – we want to emphasize our face when we travel and to do that, your face needs to be illuminated. Find the source of your light (sun, street lamp, window, etc) and make sure your subject’s nose is pointing towards it.
Clever shadow play
If you’re looking to make more creative images on your next vacation, start paying attention to the shadows around you. You can even use your body and the poses mentioned above to create an interesting shot. Remember, the shadows created by the sun create the most contrast when the sun is the highest in the sky – around mid-day – (11-3 pm depending on the season and your location). Just look on the ground, can you see your shadow? It’s time to photograph your clever shadow play!
Reflections are another creative way to make your travel photographs stand out. You can witness these reflections in glasses that someone is wearing.
Or you can photograph your own reflection in a mirror/ lake / art exhibit / reflective wall / car / etc.
Have someone take a photo of you while you’re taking a picture
This next photography tip helps to create a more 3D image with depth and layers. This is done by simply having someone else take a photo of you while you take a picture. Or you can take a photo of someone else taking a picture of some famous sight.
Copy someone or something
This tip goes along with INTERACT WITH YOUR ENVIRONMENT and FIND SOMETHING FUNNY tips above. Copying a statue or another person creates interest and entertainment in your photo. Don’t they say :
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Oscar Wilde
Another posing tip for great travel photos is to SHOW PERSPECTIVE. Because the images that we create are 2D, it is hard for the viewer to visualize the size of the buildings, mountains, or lakes. But this is easy to fix by placing a common subject in your photo. The size of your body placed in relation to the item in question should help the viewer to see the difference in perspective. So don’t just take a picture of the Great Canyon, stand in front of it to show just how enormous it is. Don’t just take a picture of the Eiffel Tower, if you view it from far enough away, you can even hold it, like a tiny souvenir. Examples below:
Have I mentioned that I’m 35 going on 15, or sometimes it definitely feels like that, especially living in a country where cute culture is always in. No matter if you’re an adult or a kid, cute shapes, signs, clothing, office supplies are never frowned upon in South Korea, so I started borrowing another silly symbol like the “V” (featured above), but this one is – THE HEART! Small, medium, or large, you can show your audience just how much you LOVE them with this easy-to-recognize symbol.
Back to the camera
I hardly follow the recent Instagram posing style of the face turned away, back to the camera because this fad will likely fade. Years from now I want to see my face in photo albums or my blog posts or my printed images and know that it was ME in the picture and how I looked (not my back or my bum) at that moment in time.
What’s your take on it? Like it? Hate it? Comment below.
If you’re looking to appear more flattering, less stiff and more creative in your next travel photographs, I hope that you pick a few of the aforementioned tips. Practice them regularly until they feel and come to you naturally whenever a camera makes a shutter sound.
They include but not limited to:
Keep your hips at 45 degrees to the camera and keep your weight on the back leg
Interact with your environment
Use reflections to your creative advantage
Have someone take a picture of you while taking a picture
Copy someone or something
Try walking through your photograph
Try jumping in your photograph
Use perspective to your creative advantage
Make a “V” symbol
Make a heart symbol with your hands
Use shadows to your creative advantage
Face the sun
Find funny moments
Back to the camera
Create triangles with your arms and legs
Separate your arms from the camera and bend them
Remember that it takes years and years of photographic practice, traveling, and posing, don’t give up if your first tries are not as successful as you anticipate. Keep practicing your favorite and most flattering poses and stay in touch about your progress. I’d love to hear from you if this guide was helpful during your next trip or photography session. Let’s find and follow each other on IG or Facebook!
Happy travels and happy shooting 📷!
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