Whether you’re star struck by the Northern Lights, in awe of the crystal-clear waters of the Maldives, or lost in the endless views of rock formations in Utah, you’re going to want a keepsake from your travels. For most people, that means a photo—especially a selfie.
Sharon Latham is a professional photographer with more than 30 years of experience. The former Manchester City FC club photographer has recently launched the Selfie Guide, an app (iOS, Android) to help users take the perfect picture at locations around the world for those unforgettable memories.
Latham shares her top tips for the perfect selfie below. Follow her rules if you want to capture a moment to cherish from your travels.
One of the key things to think about when you’re taking a travel selfie is to remember what’s behind you. If you’re taking a selfie with the Eiffel Tower, you don’t want to place yourself where the tower looks like it’s growing out of your head. Make sure your background is straight, too—you don’t want to make the Colosseum in Rome look like a downhill sledge.
Position yourself correctly to make sure you have all of what you want in the background. For example, if you’re missing part of the pyramid off your shot in Egypt, think about walking forward to ensure the whole of the shot with your face fits in.
Be mindful in a busy environment of other people in your shot. In a lot of cases, busier tourist locations will have lots of people—it’s unavoidable, I’m afraid. Just make sure you don’t have anyone making any nasty hand gestures or pulling any funny faces. Trust me, I’ve seen it done too many times; you think you have the perfect shot then up pops a random tourist with their tongue out and ruins your picture—not a good look.
Angles are important to ensure you capture the best you and the best background. If you want all of the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa in your shot, you may have to think about holding the camera lower down so that the angle faces up. It’s something to be aware of when looking at taking portrait selfies with tall monuments or buildings. Be creative; try tilting the camera slightly to fit everything in. Sometimes with portrait selfies, quirky is good.
There is nothing better than natural light, not only for a good selfie, but for a good photo in general. Using flash in any form on a selfie will lose vital parts of the picture. Position yourself so the light will catch your face without making you squint and be careful not to shoot into direct light or the background and your face won’t match up. Good natural sunlight can even blur away dark circles and lines under your eyes, so natural is good. Sunrise glow and sunset light are also very good for making everyone look naturally beautiful, along with your background. Always be conscious of light as a bad shadow on your face, which can be a game changer for any selfie. Natural expressions are far better than pouty posed ones in this situation.
There is nothing worse than taking a great selfie and then looking back at it and it’s blurred and wobbly. It can be difficult to keep the phone still and push the button on the screen at the same time. If it’s possible, use your external button (depending on what phone you have). That way, you are not trying to do hand yoga with you camera while trying to take the image.
Too many times I see pouting or over-posed selfies. In a travel selfie, we are trying to capture a memory. You might never get back to this special location again in your life, so the last thing you want is a picture of a wonderful moment and location with you pouting or pulling a funny face. Relax, smile naturally, and remember where you are. Take in the wonder of that special location and enjoy who and where you are at that time. The picture will reflect you, if you are truly natural and yourself.
If you’ve managed to get the best light for your selfie, then in reality you won’t need to edit it. Remember you are trying to take a picture that encapsulates the memory of your travel experience, so over-editing can actually make that memory completely different or false. If you feel a little extra saturation may be a help, or changing the image to black and white will help with over exposure, then these are the only things I would edit, along with a little cropping.
Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules to take a selfie. Over time and practice, you will develop your own style. Remember, you are taking a selfie to encapsulate a memory, especially a travel selfie. Like I said before, you may never visit the destination again, so it would be great to get it right. I have loved taking selfies all over the world and I love looking back at them and remember the enjoyment and emotions I had at that destination.