Traveling & Photography: The Selfie

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Het is alweer een tijdje geleden dat ik iets postte, maar aangezien het mijn doel was om dit jaar nog elke week minstens 1 update schrijven, ga ik even heel snel aan de slag ;) Nadat de vakantie er op zat, begon het echte leven weer en had ik eigenlijk zo’n drukke week dat ik helemaal geen tijd voor mijn blog gehad heb!

Maar hier is ie dan, het laatste deel van mijn fotografie tips reeks. En hier bespreek ik denk ik wel mijn specialiteit: de selfie! Overigens vind ik selfie een verschrikkelijk woord, en technisch gezien gaat het hier helemaal niet om selfies maar gewoon om ‘zelfportretten’, maar selfie dekt misschien wel goed de lading. Maar eigenlijk is het natuurlijk de bedoeling dat het helemaal niet op een ‘selfie’ lijkt ;) Afijn, hoe maak je de beste zelfportretten op vakantie? Aangezien ik al 10 jaar lang met enthousiasme ladingen zelfportretten op Flickr upload, heb ik ondertussen denk ik wel genoeg ervaring om er wat over te vertellen, haha.

De rest van de post zal in het Engels zijn, het wordt echt te verwarrend om alles daar ook dubbel te moeten typen, sorry!

Oh en een hoop foto’s van mij en mijn hoofd, sorry, dit wordt een beetje een narcistische post vrees ik!

P.S. Misschien oogt het wat rommelig, ik heb er af en toe nog wat in geknipt en geplakt de laatste tijd.

English: It’s been a while since I posted something, but it’s my goal for the rest of this year (which isn’t too long anymore) to write an update once a week. So, just in time, another update!

Here is the last part of my photography tips series, and it’s about a subject that might just be my forte: the selfie! I really dislike the world selfie, and technically these aren’t really selfies, but the word is so common nowadays that it just feels right to use it. After many years of uploading selfportraits to Flickr, I feel like I have some useful things to say about this subject! So, without further ado, a short guide to how to take the best self portraits while traveling.

P.S. Will contain a lot of pictures of me and my face, be prepared. Sorry.

P.P.S. I’ve been cutting and pasting in this quite a bit lately so might look and read a little messy. Sorry!




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Okay, let’s start with a few basic things you really need. The one thing that makes everything a lot easier is the remote! Seriously though, it makes it so much easier and faster to take a proper picture. It’s also amazing for focussing, as it will focus when you push the button, so it will most likely focus on you. Without a remote, it means you’ll have to find a focus point to near were you will stand and run every time when you push your camera’s shutter and just hope for the best. For example, this happens when you don’t have a shutter:

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See how I am not in focus, while the rest of the picture is? Annoying!

That picture was taken with my Olympus Pen, a micro third camera that I have no remote control for. I have no idea if they make them, but as my DSLR is my standard ‘selfie’ camera, I have no intention for buying one for my Pen. I do know there are plenty and plenty of (wireless!) remote controls available for DSLRs. You can buy an official one from your camera’s brand, or if you’re cheap like me, get a bunch of remotes from eBay. There are also remotes for your smartphone nowadays, so plenty of options. I can not stress enough how much a remote is worth the ‘investment’. You can buy one for just a few euros online. So. Worth. It.
You can even buy one for your phone nowadays!



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Can you guess which picture was taken above? Hint: it’s also in this post ;) One the most important things is finding a stable spot to place your camera on. Here is another tool that comes handy with that: the Joby Gorillapod! I always use this tripod, even at home, as I just really don’t like normal tripods. They’re so heavy and huge and just basically annoying, I really love my Joby Gorillapod. It’s small, weighs barely anything and you can use it basically everywhere, anytime. Well, you can’t use it for EVERY spot, but you’ll become a pro at finding a place to clutch your Gorillapod onto.

As these are quite expensive though, I can understand you don’t necessarily want to buy one a.s.a.p. Fair enough! I often also just use my bag, or a rock, or a fence to just place my camera on. Or sometimes a combination of both, if I want my picture to be vertical instead of horizontal, then I might just use my Gorillapod for a little bit more grip. This is also handy when it’s veeeeery windy, like it was in Scotland.

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I encountered some of these handy ‘poles’ in Scotland though! ;)




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This may sound obvious, but for a proper focused selfie it’s really important. The remote control will allow you to focus when you push the remote’s button, but there’s still a chance the camera won’t focus on you. Unless you use your camera’s focus points! For example, I mostly use the middle one, so it will focus at the centre of the picture. That way, I’ll know I have to stand somewhere in the middle of the camera’s lens in order to be the focused subject of the picture. You can always experiment with this, sometimes I use different focus points, depends on the composition I want! But it’s important, there’s nothing more annoying than having taking 10+ pictures without any outsider looking at you strangely and with the perfect poses, only to find out that they are all. out. of. focus. Aaargh!!




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Why? Because taking selfportraits can be aaaaawkwaaaard. Usually I just do like I’m casually enjoying the view while standing before a camera and when it shutters, I just very casually stroll back to the camera. When someone is too close for me to dare take a picture, I’ll just look intently at the camera for HOURS, waiting for people to GO AWAY. I guess taking a selfportrait like this takes a little patience. But sometimes you just have to say ‘screw it!’ and go for it. Specially while traveling: no one knows you anyway! Who cares if you look ridiculous?




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ikkkawkward

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Sometimes there’s no other way than ask someone else to take a picture of you. Like when there’s no place to put your tripod on, or when you’re at a very crowded, touristy spot where everyone is taking each other’s pictures anyway. I’m not a big fan of this, because most of the time people have no idea how to deal with your camera (my DSLR seem to be a mystery to most people, while there’s this really big button that you just have to push, you know?) and 9 out of 10 times the picture itself is horrible. I often thought everyone would be able to take great pictures nowadays, but I’ve learned the hard way that it’s definitely not true. And a lot of people don’t know how to handle a DSLR, or to see if a picture is out of focus or not. Don’t even get me started on the compositions! So no, I hardly ever do this. But sometimes it’s great if you just want a touristy picture of yourself, just for the memories. A lot of people will ask you to take their picture anyway, specially if you have a big camera like I have. They just assume you know a thing or two about photography, so they’ll always ask you. And you can always ask them to take a picture of you! It’s just as easy as that.
I always give them detailed instructions of what I want (annoying, I know) or sometimes even take a picture and show them what kind of composition I want.

I’d like to say that above pictures were taken by someone who actually understood photography and my camera, which you can see as they are nice pictures. It’s an exception though! ;)




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Well, this probably sounds a little obvious. However, it is really important. I’d rather take a self portrait at a not so touristy spot, one that’s not so cliché, so I’ll have a different picture than all the other tourists have. Of course, sometimes you’ll just have to get a selfie with the Eiffel Tower or a waterfall, that is only human ;) But being a bit more creative will give you a much more unique picture. As I photograph a lot, I see a lot of nice backgrounds and ‘selfie spots’ everywhere. You’ll get trained in that, I can tell you that!
But yeah, sometimes it’s nice to take a picture where you’re just casually strolling through the mesmerizing landscape, or facing a mountain and sometimes it’s just nice to take a cropped selfie against a colourful, graffitied wall. Find something that will make the picture pop, like a blue wall that will give a nice contrast with your red coat, autumn colours that match your copper hair or yellow backpack or just a beautiful landscape that is the perfect backdrop (I will talk more about this later on). There are so many options, and no rules, so make sure to just try everything out! Selfies or selfportraits are often treated as something narcistic, but you know what? They are just plenty of FUN. So, there, I said it. #teamselfie

Also, sometimes you’ll forget your camera batteries and you’ll have to improvise. Fear not, as you can still take selfies with the help of your phone and the self timer function! The options are endless.

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This just shows that even with some limitations you can STILL taken an awesome selfie even though the quality might not be that good. It’s all about intentions, creativity and your personal feelings and story you have with this picture. Remember: in the end you take pictures because you want to look back at them, you take them for yourself, not anyone else!




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Once you’ve taken the picture, it’s time to edit! Keep in mind that you can always crop the picture or straighten it afterwards. Sometimes you just have to be a little creative and try out a bit more in order to really make the picture special, use a filter to make it pop or make it black & white to look better. There are so many options!

As you can see, I really like to stare into the distance in my travel selfies ;) I’ve been doing that for quite a lot now, I like how it makes the person look ‘further ahead’, I made a whole project of it called ‘Wanderlust’ (which I, as usual, uploaded on Flickr). It seems to be quite the travel selfie norm nowadays? Whatever it is, I’ll stick with it. Just do whatever you like! And don’t forget the classic ‘mirror’ selfie:

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I had to take this one because it of the reflection of the colourful houses, and how they matched with my pink headphones and camera. Detail is everything ;)



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I just HAD to edit this old post and add something to it: the importance of colors. As someone who went to art school to study illustration, I’m OBSESSED with colours. I often buy things because the colour attracts me and back in the day I had all kinds of paint I hardly used because the colours were just so pretty.

Same goes for selfies, also when traveling. I choose the backdrop not only because of the majestic mountains or wonderful landscape, also because they might accentuate my yellow backpack a bit more, for example. When I go traveling, I have to admit I’m thinking about which clothes to take with me for WEEKS, in case a nice selfie moment will occur. Another example: when I went to Scotland, I knew I had to dress warmly and weatherproof. However, my warmest coat wasn’t really photogenic. It’s a bright blue hooded coat that I don’t even like anymore and I felt the bright blue would be to distracting on the pictures. I had a black one, but it wasn’t too warm. So I just wore a warm long woolen cardigan underneath it and you know what, it was just fine! (However, none of my coats are rainproof.. I need to work on that!) I’d imagined that with the majestic landscapes and my long red hair, I didn’t need much more, no bright colours. I was going for a sober look on my pictures. Heck, I always make sure to wear black sneakers so they don’t clash with anything else happening on the picture! Or if I wear a backpack on my pictures, I make sure it’s a pretty one and not just a standard grey thing with ugly strings and all. After years of taking selfies, I’ve become quite a pro in imagining things and how they’re gonna look like. Not always, of course, sometimes it’s all a big surprise that still works out perfectly, like in the picture below where my hair and backpack just matches perfectly with the copper coloured background. Would a bright blue coat and pink sneakers have worked with it though? No! It would be too distracting. My rule is basically: find a contrast. Either it’s with a bright colour and some black, or contrasting colours like blue and red, or yellow and blue. Confusing? Here are some examples:

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The contrast here is basically everything is either dark, black or bright, orange or yellow.


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The contrast here? The yellow with the blueish hue of the rest of the picture! Again, dark & bright. The yellow hat and backpack and the copper hair make the picture pop. The striped shirt gives a nice graphic detail.


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Here it’s simple: green and red! The black gives the person (me!) a nice silhouette. The different focus (person not centered) and the moving coat give this picture more dynamic.



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Here’s a different example: here’s one I don’t really like. The tree is amazing, with the crawling branches. But the colours are just off, it’s just not working. Can’t see why really, it’s just not it. The colours are too bright, they just don’t match well for some reason. Black & white made this picture better, but there’s still something off. The pose? The clothes? Look at those horrible sneakers!! Mmm..

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It’s a little better in black & white and a different crop.. but still not feeling this one! Might also be the emo pose, but I like emo poses! ;)



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Not really feeling this one either… there’s just too much going on! And the lightning makes me really dark, which doesn’t really help make me stand out. The backdrop is gorgeous though! I spent so much time editing this one, the colours were just off the whole time. Now my hair is too bright? Mmm..



I realize not everyone is as obsessed with getting the perfect selfie as I am, and that’s perfectly okay! I’m not really into looking the best, but just obsessed with getting the right pictures, the perfect colours, that great composition, that dynamic movement… This takes a bit of practice of course and I have to say I’m pretty good with colours. That’s just my thing, my talent maybe? It may seem now that I overthink my selfies a long way ahead, but it couldn’t be less true. My selfies are always taken in a spur of a moment: I might see a nice backdrop, or colourful wall, I can’t really explain it, but I’ll always get inspired immediately. I’m so trained in taking pictures, I basically see the world in pictures. There’s a great kodak moment every second! But if you’re not as obsessed as I am, that might only be good thing ;)


So, that’s about it! My little guide to a hopefully better selfie! Let me know what you think :)

P.S. Remember one thing though, the most important thing is creativity. This means you can still take an awesome selfie if you don’t have a tripod, or a DSLR, even the classic hand-held-selfies can be pretty, as long as you’re a little creative. Play around with the aperture, a little Photoshop, different point of views. A little creativity will bring you a looong way.

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An example of the classic hand-held-selfie that still looks kinda cool! Taken in Kyoto.

13 thoughts on “Traveling & Photography: The Selfie

  1. ik denk dat voor mij de beste oplossing gewoon Angélica inhuren om met me mee op reis te gaan is ;), ook al klinkt het zo best als iets wat ik misschien zou kunnen. op de “screw it!” na dan… bluh. maar, heel tof om te lezen!

  2. I love this post! I always wonder how you take such wonderful self portraits on your solo travels. Now I know! Time to invest in a remote I guess…

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