1) Do Something.
When I look at pictures that my friends and family have taken on vacation, I like for them to actually be in at least some of the pictures. Otherwise, I might as well just Google image search where they went. That said, it’s not interesting if every picture just has you just standing awkwardly straight (or doing hand-on-hip skinny arm pose) in front of a point of interest. Unless maybe you stood really stiff and did the exact same thing in every photo, then it would probably be funny. Mix it up, even if that means some selfies, some stiff poses, some jumping poses, and MAYBE EVEN some yoga poses (I thought I was above yoga poses but it turns out I’m not). Take this photo below, of me in the rainforest. It’s very weird, my legs look fake and the tree branch next to me looks like a creepy, shriveled, Tim Burton nightmare arm. But I still like it because it makes me laugh, which is worth something.
2) Get Help.
If you don’t have a selfie stick, have long selfie stick arms like me, or just want a normal picture taken of you (or you and your friend, or your giant group of friends), you might have to ask a stranger-danger to take your photo. I recommend finding someone who already has a camera because they probably won’t steal yours. Also they likely know how to take okay photos (bonus points if they have your exact camera model).
If you get someone who doesn’t take good pictures, maybe ask them to take one more, and then put them out of their misery and say thanks, the photo is great. Then awkwardly lurk around until they’ve left and ask someone else. I recently asked another solo traveler to take a photo of me while I was sightseeing alone in Australia. She tried once and wasn’t sure the picture took. It didn’t. I explained again and ran back into position. When she said she took a few, I got my phone back to find 5 pictures of her thumb. I told her they were great and moved on with my life.
On a related note, be considerate and don’t make your new photographer take five hundred pictures because you don’t like the way you look in them. Once again, get someone else when the coast is clear. A slick move is to find couples, ask them if they want a photo taken together, and then ask them to reciprocate (this also works with people taking selfies). One time I had to be really aggressive with this because the couple I selected didn’t really speak English, didn’t really want a photo of themselves, and didn’t really seem to like interacting with me in general. There weren’t a lot of other good photographer candidates, so I awkwardly soldiered on and managed to convince them to take the photo we wanted. See the fruits of my labor below.
3) Delete As You Go.
I find that it’s much easier to delete pictures during my trip, rather than have 3,000 photos to go through when I arrive home. Especially if you take 15 photos of the same thing. A good example is when you document a sunset/sunrise. You’ll inevitably take one picture a minute (at least) until the sun is down/up and then hate your life when you go through your pictures later. Think about what you want to remember, what you want to show people, and get rid of the rest.
When I do this it feels like I’m taking an eye test: Is photo A or photo B clearer? Now photo B or photo C? IMPORTANT: Only do this when you have some free time and a full battery, because you don’t want to be staring at your camera screen while fun things are happening, and you really don’t want to run out of battery when there are still photos to be taken! A good time is usually before bed so you can charge the camera up overnight and have space and power ready for the next day. I also enjoy listening to music and cleaning up my iPhoto library whenever I’m on a flight or long bus ride. It’s like watching a movie montage of my life. Below is one of ten photos I kept (out of about fifty) of the sunrise in Thailand. Spoiler alert: ten photos of one sunrise is still too many to show your friends and family, but it’s acceptable to keep that many for yourself (according to me).
4) Learn to Undelete.
Figure out how to recover deleted photos if you get trigger happy. Sometimes if you act quickly enough, you can recover photos from a digital camera if they haven’t been overwritten by new photos yet. On iPhones, deleted photos are kept in a deleted photos folder, which is helpful if you make mistakes, but annoying if you’re trying to get extra space on your phone.
I was on a deleting spree in Cambodia, and accidentally deleted a photo that Kate had taken of me at a temple, walking through a picture frame-like door. It was perfect and clever and the world will never see it because it’s gone forever. So if you are at risk for having butter fingers and deleting precious photos, just play it safe and wait till they are backed up to make cuts (then overwrite the backup, because it will feel like your deleted photos are ghosts that will never go away). Below is the cool picture of me in temple. Nothing is there because I deleted it and it’s gone forever.