Traveling and photography have always gone hand-in-hand. Thanks to modern technology, every traveler these days has access to a camera of some form, whether it’s the smartphone in your pocket or a DSLR. But since the advent of social media, the game has changed.

Introducing: the selfie. You’ve seen teenagers taking them shamelessly, parents participating (perhaps a little self-consciously), and even grandma whipping out her selfie stick from time to time. The days of asking a perfect stranger to take your photo are over, but rare is the shot that stands out.

So how do you take a photo that is unique among all the rest? Our professional photographers here at Vacasa come to the rescue with tips on how to take a perfect selfie.

1. Hold your phone (or camera) properly.

photographer showing how to take a good selfie
Photo courtesy of Mink Mingle

Maureen Worrall, one of our seasoned Vacasa photographers, recommends the tried-and-true camera placement: with your palm aimed towards you, lodge your phone between your index and pinky finger.

For starters, try to hold the camera higher than your face—this tends to provide the best lighting, angle, and background. Maureen also mentions that it always helps to “experiment with different points of view (low angle, high angle, etc.). And don’t be afraid to rotate the camera—not all photos have to be shot straight on.”

If you’re using a smartphone, use the front camera so you can look at the screen. If you’re using a camera, a tripod and self-timer works best.

2. Use the rule of thirds.

A photographer using the rule of thirds
Using a grid | Photo courtesy of Kane Reinholdtsen

The rule of thirds is a technique that should be in every photographer’s arsenal. The idea is to use asymmetry, rather than centering elements, in your photographs.

Melissa Jones, a Vacasa photographer, explains this is effective because “asymmetry moves your eye around the image more than if things are exactly centered. When things are centered, rather than in thirds, your eye just looks and rests only in the center.” Using the grid setting on your camera or phone can be especially helpful until you get the hang of it.

3. Be mindful of what’s in the background.

Tourists in Paris taking a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Photo courtesy of Olivier Ortelpa

When you’re taking a selfie, it can be hard enough just framing yourself in the shot. Vacasa photographer Rommel Guerrero points out you should “try to have something interesting in the background so the viewer can see the location of where you are.” That’s how you make your selfie unique!

Also, try to avoid taking a photo with a tree or a pole coming out of your head—this is easy to overlook, but it makes a big difference.

4. Strike the right angle.

a family selfie with mountains in the background
Maureen’s family | Photo courtesy of Maureen Worrall, photographer at Vacasa

When taking a selfie, it’s important to get the right angle—which means striking the perfect pose. Melissa says, “you want to lengthen your neck, put your shoulders back and jut your chin out a bit. You’ll feel funny doing this, but trust me: you’ll look better in the photo.”

5. Keep the lighting balanced.

A selfie photo of a man in a tux holding up his arm to take a photo of himself above a grass field.
Sunlight filtering through the sky | Photo courtesy of Jesse Boomer, Lead Photographer at Vacasa

All of our photographers agree: lighting is one of the most important elements in any photograph. Jesse Boomer, Lead Photographer at Vacasa, says to “use natural lighting to your advantage. Have the sun hit you directly and position the camera off to the side to pick up more detail.” Alternatively, “you can use your head to block out the sun, as this will make you stand out.”

Maureen adds that “overcast light is ideal because it is diffused and softens the skin.” And Rommel says to “try waiting for sunset or get up early for sunrise to take photos. Those are generally the best times to take a landscape photo.”

6. Skip the iconic landmarks.

taking a group selfie in black and white
Photo courtesy of Ted Van Pelt

Sure, when you go to Rome you have to get a picture of the Colosseum, but Instagram has seen that photo a thousand times. Instead, Jesse suggests “finding a coffee shop or casual place to hang out and talk to locals. Ask them where their favorite places are to go… you’ll find more unique places off the beaten path!”

7. Take more than one photo.

couple taking a selfie on a lake
Photo courtesy of Duri from Mocup

“If you’re using a smartphone or digital camera to take photos while traveling, take many photos so you have a lot to choose from,” Rommel suggests. Sometimes they don’t turn out, and it’s better to have too many than too few. Unless you’re using a film camera, you can always delete them later!

8. Use a selfie stick.

using a selfie stick
Photo courtesy of gato-gato-gato

They may look silly, but a selfie stick can really improve your game. Maureen explains, “a selfie stick allows you to move the smartphone further away and reduces a lot of your arm extended in the image. It also helps you avoid having to hand your smartphone off to a stranger to take the shot. You will feel safer, as you never know when someone might just run off with your smartphone.”

Whether you’re visiting the Mayan temples in Belize or the Roman Colosseum, remember these tips on how to take the perfect selfie. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to score some amazing photos to remember your travels by.

Featured photo courtesy of Duri from Mocup

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Author: Kit Kingstad

When not writing about incredible vacation destinations for Vacasa, Kit can be found exploring every corner of his home state of Oregon. Other adventures include backpacking solo through Southeast Asia, scuba diving in the Caribbean, and one of his favorite trips to date: touring the Western states with his puppy, Nyma, in a campervan.