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How To Take a Great Travel Selfie

|May 31, 2017
Finance educated, mountain and glacier loving, imaginary ski extraordinary and current resident of Reykjavik.

It's nice to see a friendly face when taking a walk down memory lane in your photo albums. Photos mean a lot to us, we take a lot of them over our life span. But how many of them really matter? Inga goes over the basics and how to get the best ones to treasure forever!

Pictures, they really are worth a thousand words and then some, at least once that remind us of good times, vacations, adventure, and unique experiences. The other day I was going through old photo albums, and what I found was a lot of pictures of landscape, just landscape with nothing else in them. For some of them, I could hardly remember where they had been taken, what that mountain was, that lake, that cliff.

As many of these were taken while traveling I’m sure that in the moment I must have been completely blown away by what was before my eyes, but somehow the value of what was in the photos had decreased. But there was an exception, pictures with people. Somehow as I was browsing through the picture, I kept stopping at pictures with people in them, some were hilarious (eyes closed, mid sentence … remember the good old days of film) others triggered good memories and there was a lot of, oh do you remember that time, we went scuba diving, when we hiked a volcano, that hot guy on the beach, that dog that we became friends with, the little cafe that had life music.

And then I started thinking about the modern day selfie and how, even tho it’s gotten some bad reputation, with things like self-obsession and narcissism being thrown around, there is actually real value to these “self-portraits”, value that may, in fact, increase with time. Like with any other photography these photos can, of course, be horrendous, but with a little thought and maybe even some practice, it shouldn’t be too hard to get a good selfie, even one so great it would make Kim Kardashian proud. Now let’s look at a few things that can help.

1. Get over it

When I first started working as a guide I sometimes would feel slightly uncomfortable watching people take pictures of themselves. It may be my upbringing or the introvert but something about it felt strange. Then I started looking at these pictures and a lot of the time they were fantastic, fun, creative and did a great job of capturing people enjoying themselves. A self-conscious selfie won’t leave you with much but an awkward photo. So get over it, don’t think about the people around and if you are like me it helps to remind yourself that you’ll likely never meet these people again.

2. Practice taking a selfie

Sound strange? A little bit, but practice makes perfect and no one knows your face better than you. Snap a few photos, try different angles, learn what is the most flattering angle for you. Tilting your head down and keeping your head slightly turned, seems to work best for most. Also holding the camera slightly higher than your face, no one needs to see your nostrils.

3. Get ideas and inspiration

There are a lot of creative people out there, you may well be one of them, but sometimes it helps to get ideas from someone that takes a completely different approach to things. Go on Instagram, search by hashtags and look up pictures tagged at certain locations such as Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, Thingvellir, Geysir, Solheimajokull to see what people visiting the places you’ll be going to are doing. This can be a goldmine of ideas.







4. Weather

Now the weather may not always be on your side, but even if the sun isn’t shining don’t get lazy, bring out that phone or camera and snap away. Some of the best travel pictures I have are of people (including myself) soaking wet, hikes in snowstorms, and glaciers on days where you almost couldn’t take off your gloves to press the camera button. If you are traveling to places where the weather is unpredictable, like in Iceland. Make sure to get a weatherproof case (or bag) that won’t impact the quality of your pictures.

5. Lighting

Take some time to learn about lighting. In short, if you can, make sure your face is turned towards the light. Try to avoid face shadows, these can get particularly bad if the light is shining right above you, and use that “just before sunset” soft light whenever you get the chance.

6. No face, no problem

Having a bit of a rough day. A selfie doesn’t always need a face in it. Hiking shoes with the landscape in the background is a classic go to, a hand holding a compass (or a beer), fingers pointing at things like rivers, buildings, mountains, maps, animals, the possibilities are endless.

7. Composition

Now as important as you face is, for a great selfie it’s important to notice what the picture is composed of. Are there things in the background that shouldn’t be there (trash, someone picking his nose …). Does the photo come out best if you are in the middle, or do you perhaps get a better view of your surroundings if you are a bit to the left or right? Are you getting everything you want in the frame?

8. The more the merrier

Get some more people in the picture, remember that famous Ellen DeGeneres Oscar selfie, just make sure the person snapping the photo is the one with the longest arm.

9. Accessories

Don’t shy away from these, there are some neat things out there to help you get better pictures. A selfie stick, or silly stick, isn’t so silly if you are the one getting the best pictures. If you know you’ll be taking a lot of pictures indoor with sub-optimal lighting a selfie ring light that attaches to your phone can be very helpful, a handy tripod for your phone and a Bluetooth camera remote can both help you get your shots to the next level.

10. Editing

In today’s world of internet and photo editing apps, there is no shame in slightly tweaking your photos. But don’t take it too far, you don’t want to tune your face so much that the next time people run into you all they can think is, what has happened to those pearly whites and that wrinkle-free skin. Also if you are in Iceland, with enough editing it can be hard to tell if Seljalandsfoss is actually in Iceland or a nice waterfall in Thailand. Use editing as a tool to improve your pictures, not to create new pictures.

10+1. Safety

Remember to be safe, that yoga pose on an edge of an unstable cliff may get you lots of likes but is it worth the risk? Try to use your imagination, that way you don’t have to be too much of a daredevil, use angles they can completely change the perception of surroundings.

Last but not least, don’t take it too seriously, remember to take it all in, enjoy your trip and come back with pictures, worth a thousand words, a thousand words that won’t be forgotten once a year has passed

A Guide to Safe Selfies | Iceland Academy

What is your number one travel selfie tips?

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