How to Get a Stranger to Take Great Travel Photos (of you!)

Brooke Saward NYC
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Travelling around the world solo has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life and I’m sure you will find the same kind of sentiment on your own solo travels. But as someone who has to take a photo of everything to remember it as clearly as my memory will allow, I have learned that often you will need to approach a stranger to take your photo and more often than not, that has not produced the best photographs.

But what can one expect!? You are kindly asking someone you do not know if they can please take your photo and really, you have no idea if they can take their own photo let alone yours! But I have quickly learned a few tricks to help you pick the right person and how to get them to take the exact shot you’re after… because if you’re anything like me, you will have a clear vision of how you’d like that photo to turn out!

How to ask a stranger to take your travel photo

1. Look For the Right Person

Usually the kind of situation you find yourself in when you’d like help with a quick snap is around a busy tourist attraction or monument, so you’ll find yourself with plenty of choice for the selection process! I have found that the best people to ask are usually of my same generation, as they have a sound understanding of how technology works, how to hold a camera steady for a good shot, and the kind of frames we young people take photos in! Better yet look for someone holding a DSLR camera (that is, a big ‘ol fancy camera) as 9/10 they’ll know how to use said camera and should have no trouble crossing over on to your camera to take a great shot.

2. Introduce Yourself

The next step is so much more important than you might initially give it credit for. Instead of walking over to someone and hurling the words at them: “Can you take a photo for me?”, take the time to throw just a few extra words in there and introduce yourself in the process. This will allow you to break the ice, find out where they are visiting from, tell them where you are visiting from, and not catch them off guard with a mere photo request. Plus, you never know, you might make a new friend!

3. Set the Lighting for them

With your camera on manual you can pre-select all the lighting preferences before you hand over the camera, thus ensuring you don’t end up with an under or over exposed picture. If you don’t know how to use your camera on manual settings, you could invest in a camera like mine (Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II) which allows you to select a setting such as: sunset, inside, harsh light, etc.

4. Take a photo for them FIRST

Over the years I have found that whenever you ask a stranger to take a photo for you, nine times out of ten they will then turn to you and ask you to do the same. Instead of taking their photo exactly how you would have liked them to take yours after the fact, offer to take a photo for them first so that you can show them the frame you are looking to capture. Otherwise you might just end up with a photo of you and the eiffel tower popping out from your head or no eiffel tower in the background at all – which isn’t quite as exciting and believe me it does happen!

5. Give as much direction as possible

Even if you have already shown them the photo you’re looking to capture, be sure to give as many simple instructions as possible. Asking them to take a few different angles is going to give you more options to choose from and result in less chance for error! If you want to be on the side of the frame with the background taking up most of the frame, be sure to ask and you will receive!

6. Set your Camera on High-Speed 

Another great way to ensure you have plenty of options is to use the high-speed shooting setting on your camera and ask your new friend to hold down the button and let the camera click away as you jump around in as many poses as you wish! There’s nothing worse than getting one or two photos with your eyes closed in both.

7. Say Thank You!

Well this last point is really just good manners. Mumma always told me to say please and thank you and throughout the last 24 years of living I’ve learned these two words are the most powerful words in the English dictionary. Always, always, always say thank you in and if you’re really feeling like making a person’s day, throw in a “SO MUCH”.

Have you had some funny encounters with strangers taking travel photos with your head cut off? Share with WOW readers below! 

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    Clint Bertucci
    July 17, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Great tips

    the adventurer
    July 6, 2016 at 11:36 am

    These tips are great! I really dislike when I get bad photos from trips. Thanks for sharing =o)

    July 3, 2016 at 12:06 am

    If I’m somewhere touristy, I look for families taking photos and ask if they’d like me to take one of the whole group. That way, Mom, Dad, or whoever is taking the pictures gets a chance to be in one as well. They typically offer to take one of me too, and though I don’t really worry about someone running off with my camera, I think it’s extremely unlikely to happen when the photographer’s family is a few feet away, lol.

    July 2, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Bad photos has happened to me so often! Especially when I normally shoot with a 50mm fixed, I’ve had so many people try to zoom in and just end up unfocusing, and then they don’t know how to focus it again – now I just give them my phone haha!

    Kristen @ Muddle + Joy
    July 2, 2016 at 4:42 am

    I’ve gotten some pretty hilarious pictures from asking strangers to snap a few shots for me. Definitely a great tip to look for people already carrying cameras — those are the ones I think have always turned out best for me! (Plus, if you’re worried that someone might run off with your camera, look for someone who has a camera worth more than yours!)

    July 1, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Such a great post

    July 1, 2016 at 3:51 am

    My husband is that guy that everyone always asks to take photos. He has his DSLR & is always switching up lens & filter options. Usually we don’t mind, but I’d add that you should be ready for the shot when asking someone to take a photo. This isn’t the time to then mess with the setting or try and figure out your pose. Have your camera ready, ask nicely then be ready.

    July 1, 2016 at 3:12 am

    Haha love this article ! It’s always kind of touchy to ask a stranger to take a picture of you 🙂

    Kenza from

    July 1, 2016 at 12:33 am

    Yes I always ask the person with the DSLR, usually because if they have one they care about things like setting up the shot or making sure nothing looks overexposed. I’ve had hit or misses with asking. If it goes poorly, I sometimes just wait around the area until the first person has left and ask another!

    June 30, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Awesome post! I always wondered how solo travellers get really nice photos. Do you also use a tripod by anychance?

    Marta Sierra (MartaMademoiselle)
    June 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Great tips!!


    Jake Ryan
    June 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Haha, I always look for someone with a better camera than me.

    June 30, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Great tips! I am also so reluctant to bother people to take my photo, but recently I had someone ask me if I wanted them to take the photo (I was struggling to take a selfie). The photos turned out so well, it’s inspired me to be a little more outgoing to capture better memories and moments.

    Kate |

    sara mcavoy
    June 30, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I always get really nervous to ask people to do this in case they get a rubbish shot! I prefer to use the dread selfie stick or set my camera up on self timer, they are definitely not always the best option though!

    Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    June 30, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    🙂 yes, I often need to ask strangers for my photo when I’m travelling on my own. I always ask politely and say thank you but I’ve never actually tried to introduce myself. maybe I should:)

    Anne @
    June 30, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Great tips! At the risk of sounding paranoid, aren’t you afraid someone will just grab your camera (or phone, which is what I use to take pictures) and run away with it?

    Jessica C.
    June 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I follow similar rules and it’s always nice to meet someone else who is exploring the same place! And living in a touristy place, I often just offer to take photos. People seem surprised but we so often forget to get photos of the two of us when traveling. I’d hate for others to make the same mistake!

    June 30, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    This sounds so familiar! But what to do when no one’s around to take a photo? For example, on a mountain top? Probably the old selfie stick remains the only option. 🙂

    kate wilson
    June 30, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    I always offer to take someone’s photo when I see them struggling on their own, with or without a selfie stick, just because it seems like the right thing to do! I always make sure to take a few, from a different angles and with different lighting, just because it’s nice for them to have a choice 🙂 It’s great when people do it in return! x

    Andrea Luna
    June 30, 2016 at 8:41 am

    This is such an awesome and funny post! I’m definitely planning on using your tips the next time I ask a stranger to take a pic for me.

    June 30, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Haha, I usually get uncomfortable posing in front of a camera, and I use a tripod when I need to:) But thank you so much for these tips! I going to have to teach myself how to do that soon:)

    Edith Rodriguez
    June 30, 2016 at 7:05 am

    Tip number one is the best. My husband and I recently went to San Francisco and we asked a guy to take a picture of us. Turns out this guy started shooting at different angles, asked us to move according to the best shot, and even changed the settings on my camera. He took some great pictures with perfect lighting. Lesson learned? Always go for the person with the DSLR!! Haha