HOW TO GET A STRANGER TO TAKE YOUR STUNNING TRAVEL PHOTO

Who took this photo?
Who is taking your photos?

Two of the most common questions I get. Every. Single. Time! Every time.

Getting perfect photos. Everyone’s ultimate goal. Capturing amazing background, perfect lighting, and stunning composition. Especially, if you are at the location for the first and last time. But how do you do it when traveling on your own?

While traveling is an extremely rewarding experience in so many ways, there always are two sides of a coin. Solo travel has numerous amazing benefits but there are things that are a bit hard to do abroad without a companion. Taking photos is one of them.

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Stranger taking photos 1c three
Stranger taking photos 2a one

If you don’t have an ‘Instagram husband’, a professional photographer, or a very photography-skilled travel friend, then … occasionally, you will have to ask a random stranger to take your photos. It might be daunting and scary. I mean, to be completely honest, how do you know that the photos will turn out ok? 

Photos where you will;
1. Be on a photo (it happened before), 
2. Have a head and both legs (also happened), 
3. Not look ‘retarded’ (every time, all the time), and also where
4. Photos won’t come up blurry (countless times),
5. You and a famous landmark will be clearly visible? 

Not the easiest task you might say.
I do agree!

So, if you are wondering, how to get a stranger to take your stunning travel photo, I have you covered. In more than I could count failed photoshoots, on my past solo travels, I quickly learned a few tricks. Tricks to help you pick the right person and get that perfect shot you envisioned.
We will cover all of them in six easy steps. 

“Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. Remember that every good friend was once a stranger.”

Pin those for later! You never know!

Stranger taking photos 3b two
Stranger taking photos 4b two

1. Be ready

Look around, check for spots where you will stand, and envision your shot. Maybe even do a test one. But the most important one, have your phone or camera ready. If someone agrees, you don’t want to keep them waiting.

What I also noticed is, that people are far more familiar, when you give them your phone than a camera. And photos are usually nicer when you give them your phone as well. Smartphone era.

I used to travel with both. But then broke one camera in New York City, when I was about to take photos of angels in front of a Rockefeller center. And the second one got broken in Indonesia. Since then, I only travel with my iPhone. It is easier to carry. Allows me to edit photos on the go. And in this time and age, many phone cameras can compete with the real camera gear. Not in all cases but sufficient enough for good travel photos.

PRO TIP: Set your phone (or camera) to burst mode, so you have more chances to get that perfect shot. On iPhone, you do this by going to Settings > Camera and turn on the toggle Use Volume Up for Burst.

Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources;

FLIGHTS: I use Google Flights or Skyscanner to find the best flight deals. The destination everywhere feature is perfect to find some cheap deals!

ACCOMMODATION: Booking.com is my favorite site for finding great hotel deals.

TOURS & ACTIVITIES: I like to wander around on my own, but when I want to explore with a group I book a tour with GetYourGuide.

Pin those for later! You never know!

Stranger taking photos 5c three
Stranger taking photos 6c three

2. Find the right person

When deciding and looking around for someone to take that epic shot, choose wisely. Look for the tiny details, gestures, age … all the things that will help you make the decision. Trust your instincts and listen to your gut feeling. You will get better with it by observing and practicing.

On my trip to Dubai, I was waiting at the Wings of Mexico statue for a while. It was August, in the middle of the day and it was HOT. There was not a person alive to be seen outside. So I was like, ok… How I can take this shot?

If there is no one around. Take a selfie or improvise. Place your camera on the ground, flip it to have a wider frame, play with angles … Set it on your backpack, stairs, bench, rubbish bin … Improvise. If you are alone, no one will take your phone anyway. Plus all the phones have that amazing feature called timer. Set the timer and start taking photos.

If that happens to you and you don’t see many people, usually your best bet is to ask the first one that comes your way. That is what I did – so a police officer took my photos.

But when traveling in a tourist place, or with a group, there will usually be more potential candidates. Do a quick scan among the crowd and trust your intuition.

What I have found that works best is to look for;
– someone who is not in a rush (usually has the time to stop and help),
– someone that is in the same age range (have the knowledge of the technology etc.),
– someone who is having a nice camera (most probably they know a thing or two about composition and how to use it),
– how someone is taking their photos (waiting for the shot to clear or just clicking),
– someone traveling alone (you could help each other out), in a couple/family (take their photo),

When you start looking at the things mentioned above you WILL notice the difference. And the selection process will narrow down and be much easier.

3 or 4. Ask the question

How you approach the person and ask the question can make a difference. From my experiences, only a couple of them said no. 

In many cases – when they see I travel solo – people offer to take my photos. So, I don’t even have to ask. But when I do have to ask, here is a process I usually use to approach a person.

Keep in mind 3 things; don’t rush, be polite and you may get a ‘no’.

Before shooting out your question, smile and make eye contact. Doing this will make you look more approachable and friendly. If they don’t engage with your eyes and smile, maybe move on to the next one. If they do, step closer to them, smile, and have your phone/camera ready in your hand. Be relaxed and welcoming so they will feel more comfortable around you. When speaking, be polite and use a friendly tone. Use please and thank you.

As a non-English speaker, I quickly learned that ‘Would you’ or ‘Could you’ sounds way more polite and friendly than ‘Can you’ and ‘Will you’.

So, I usually say something like;
– ‘Hey, would you mind taking a photo for me?’,
– ’Would you/could you, please, take a picture of me?’,
– ‘Excuse me, would you/could you take my picture?’,
– ‘Sorry to bother you, would you/could you, please, take a photo of me?’

PRO TIP: When asking a question I always point to my phone, myself and showcase the scenery that I want in my photo. It might look silly and stupid. I do this because I am not aware of other people language skills. Pointing did make a difference when I asked a deaf person to take my photo in Japan. You really never know.

3 or 4. Take their photo first

Without a doubt, you will see people taking photos/selfies. Instead of asking them to take your photo, offer to take some of their photos first. This works with other solo travelers, couples, and families. Make a couple of them and shot a frame you are looking to have on your photo as well. When finished show them the photos and ask if they like them. If they have any other suggestions, take a couple more. 

When I offer to take a photo of them first, I usually say something like ‘Would you like a photo? Or would you like me to take your photo?’ and then go along with their response.

Over the years I have found that once they see the photos you took – yes, put some effort in them, don’t only click – the initial ice will be broken and they will be more likely to offer to take your photos as well. They will be returning the favor and you will both be in win-win situation.

Plus, you never know, you might meet a new friend.

Pin those for a later read!

Stranger taking photos 6a one
Stranger taking photos 5a one

5. Set the shot for them and give direction

After a person agrees you will want to make sure that the other person knows what should be in the photo. You can do that by showing them the photo and giving simple instructions.

Show them a reference photo you saw online or refer to the photo you took of them. Set the frame for them alongside all the settings. Hold the camera in position. That way all they have to do is to press ‘click’. Describe what the photo should look like. Be descriptive but in a simple way. If possible, ask to take photos from different angles. This will give you more options to find that perfect shot.

In most cases, people ask if you are happy with the shots they took. I would strongly advise you to check the photos. Not being ungrateful but bad experiences teach you a thing or two.

Why do I always check photos on-site?
While still being on location, you can still fix the photos or get a better shot. You can not do that when you are back in your hotel room.

If you are happy with the shots, perfect!

After the photoshoot, check your photos, say thank you and return the favor. Be grateful and show you have manners.

But what happens if you are not happy with the shots?

There are two ways how you can fix this.
If you notice that they are in a hurry, say you like photos, thank them or return the favor. And after they leave ask another person to take more photos for you.
The second option would be to see if they are genuinely interested. Politely tell them what you like and what you don’t. What would you like to be different and HOW they can achieve that. Always tell them HOW they can do that; for example ‘move a bit forward’, ‘lower phone to your shoes’, ‘go 3 steps to the right’ …

These are a couple of ‘missed’ shots from Wings of Mexico that a police officer took.

But what happens if you are not happy with the shots?

There are two ways how you can fix this.
If you notice that they are in a hurry, say you like photos, thank them or return the favor. And after they leave ask another person to take more photos for you.
The second option would be to see if they are genuinely interested. Politely tell them what you like and what you don’t. What would you like to be different and HOW they can achieve that. Always tell them HOW they can do that; for example ‘move a bit forward’, ‘lower phone to your shoes’, ‘go 3 steps to the right’ …

These are a couple of ‘missed’ shots from Wings of Mexico that a police officer took.

6. Be polite

Whatever you do, don’t forget to say please and thank you! Always use a polite and friendly tone. Show that you have manners. A nice smile and please work like magic. And adding thank you, in the end, shows appreciation.

Say thank you when a person declines to take your photos. Say thank you at the end of the photoshoot. Even say it, if you are not 100% satisfied with the shot. If you are happy with what they did, you can always add ’very much’, or ‘so, much’.

I usually say something along those lines; ‘Thank you very much. I really like this and this. You just made my day’.

If they were the first ones to take your photo, be kind and offer to take their ass well.

All of the above in a nutshell

On my past travels, some of my most stunning photos were taken by strangers. There were police officers, solo travelers, ticket sellers, receptionists, photographers, security guards, business owners … and all of them have thought me a lot.

The first and most important one is that looking good on photos is a matter of a person being photographed. Therefore, you. We all have angles that are flattering and ones that are not. It’s about learning how to use light and angles to your benefit. A slight tilt of the chin, looking up/down, can make a huge difference! No camera gear or a professional photographer can fix that. Once you figure out what makes you look like Victoria’s Secret model, learn the basics (at least) about photography composition.

Getting a stranger to take a stunning travel photo can be intimidating. But being respectful and kind, using please and thank you can really take you a long way. Having a bit of photography knowledge, combined with a vision, will make it easier for you to give directions and get your desired shot. 

Have you ever asked a stranger to take your photo?
How did the photo end up?


Let me know in the comments!

Pinning is winning and sharing is caring! What are you choosing?

Stranger taking photos 5a one
Stranger taking photos 6b two

Want more travel content?
ALSO READ:
HOW TO SPEND TWELVE DAYS IN ZANZIBAR: PERFECT ITINERARY
ZANZIBAR COST OF TRAVEL AND DETAILED BUDGET BREAKDOWN
92 BEST SUMMER CAPTIONS – ONE FOR EACH DAY OF SUMMER

Interested in Travel tips?
ALSO READ:

13 EASY WAYS TO MAKE YOU MORE SUSTAINABLE TRAVELER
GET OVER JET LAG WITH THESE 19 EASY-TO-FOLLOW TIPS
HOW TO BARGAIN ON YOUR TRAVELS: 17 ESSENTIAL BARGAINING TIPS

Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources;

FLIGHTS: I use Google Flights or Skyscanner to find the best flight deals. The destination everywhere feature is perfect to find some cheap deals!

ACCOMMODATION: Booking.com is my favorite site for finding great hotel deals.

TOURS & ACTIVITIES: I like to wander around on my own, but when I want to explore with a group I book a tour with GetYourGuide.


Skipped to the good part? Here is the gist

Strangers were the ones who took my stunning photos on previous adventures. They came from different walks of life and were willing to help me. It might be scary to ask a stranger to photograph you, but by being respectful and courteous, as well as utilizing the words please and thank you, you might get what you need. When asking be open and smile and have your camera ready. Describe what kind of photo you would like to have and give instructions. And above all, be polite, show you have manners and say please and thank you.

I hope you now know, how to ask a stranger for a photo.

If you found this blog helpful, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. Here you will find a lot of travel tips, itineraries, and packing hacks completely for free. If you want to see more of it and would like to encourage me to post even more, you can say thanks and buy me a coffee.


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About Anja On Adventure

anja on Adventure

Anja On Adventure is a travel blog, a collection of insider tips and information on destinations, that I visited as a solo female traveler, tour guide, teacher, yacht stewardess, and Survivor challenge tester.

Anja, is a thirty-something adventure-seeking, sun chasing, beach hopping, gin-loving, tropics enthusiast with a creative mind and sarcastic spirit, who loves coconut and mango but doesn’t like chocolate and sweets. I am passionate about all things travel, maps, and puzzles. Click here to learn more About me.

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7 thoughts on “HOW TO GET A STRANGER TO TAKE YOUR STUNNING TRAVEL PHOTO”

  1. Excellent tips, I often travel alone, but I get so embarrassed asking people but these tips are very useful, thanks

    Reply
  2. Such great tips for a shy solo traveler like me! I also think that getting ready and finding the right person is necessary before you start approaching them 🙂

    Reply
    • Agreed! It helps so much to tell them what would you like on a photo! I have learned that the hard way :/ plus also check the photo while you are still there

      Reply
  3. I often take photos for other people — if I see one person taking a picture of their friend/SO/etc I’ll ask if they would like a shot together. They are always so happy, and offer to take my photo. I usually decline as I don’t think I photograph well — I have to get over that!

    Reply
    • Well done Lisa! Strangers are way nicer than we think. And I am sure you photograph well! It is just about the angles… Most of the time I look like a fat hamster or I always have a weird look and strangely open mouth 🙂

      Reply

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