How To Feature Yourself In A Dope Instagram Photo When Traveling Alone: Part 1

I’m often asked how I’m able to take such amazing pictures of myself while traveling alone. (I threw in “amazing,” because I’m sure most people were in such a rush to type, that they left that part out.) People will say things like, "Who’s taking that photo for you?" "Do you travel with a team of hairstylists and makeup artists?" "I touch myself when I'm looking at your Instagram pics." And the most common, "Your pics saved my marriage. They make me feel sexual and alive again." 

Thank you. Thank you. All very humbling. Now I want to pass on my gifts to you. I mean, you will never surpass my skills, but you may get close. Like Rocky Balboa, I'll teach you, my naive Tommy Gunns, all that I know. Except for the best things. That way I can best you if you ever come into my bar and punch one of my older friends who probably shouldn't have pushed you to begin with. 

As a predominantly solo world traveler, some of my pics baffle the mind. Did I use a drone? Do I have a tripod? Do I bribe young children with candy to take my pics? Do I use a filter? Do I use photoshop for my abs? Do I have to buy shirts that are specially made for body builders? All of these questions will be answered, as well as many more questions you didn’t even ask or want to know about! 

My mom taught me a very important lesson early on. She told me to feature myself in more pictures. What’s the point of taking a picture of a landmark without taking at least one with you in it? You could just take a much better picture from a magazine, or the internet, if you aren’t going to be in the picture yourself. I took that advice to heart. I began to take pictures of myself everywhere. Landmarks. Beaches. Restaurants. Pools. Streets. Jail. Doorways. Parole hearings. Bathrooms. Bail Bondsman Offices. Hand pics. Feet pics. Dick pics. You name it. I have a picture of it. 

Now, I normally wouldn't start with "who to ask (to take your picture)", but since this is a four-part series (like George R.R., I may never finish the other parts), and this is the number one question I get from everyone, I figured I wouldn't keep dragging you along, leaving you hanging like an episode of Westworld. 


This is a delicate situation, because you are asking someone to do you a favor, who may be tired from sightseeing all day, or is in a rush to get to the next destination, or is suffering from debilitating ball or underboob sweat in sweltering heat. Through the years, I’ve asked hundreds of people to take a picture for me — and that’s just at the gym as I flex into the mirror! — and I can conclusively tell you that these are the people you should ask to take a picture for you (in order of importance, but keep in mind that combinations can supersede the higher ranks -- like a straight flush can beat a four of a kind, or twins are better than Emily Ratajkowski):

1. Fancy Camera Tourist – This tourist cares about photography. Not only have they purchased a nice camera, they have also bought a lens that can be unscrewed from that camera. Which means they have to do careful, EXTRA work! They also have an impressive carrying case, and sometimes a tripod, telling anyone in the vicinity, "come rob me! I’m a target!" It’s also telling you, "hey, I am in this picture-taking business for the long-haul, and am probably very patient in order to capture the perfect picture." Bingo! Ask this person to take your picture, particularly if they have already set up their equipment and are just waiting.

This below pic at Moraine Lake at Banff National Park (most photogenic lakes on earth) can be attributed to just such a patient photographer.

He even encouraged me to do some different poses! Here's another option below he sent me home with. You gotta love travelers and nature-lovers. They're maybe some of the nicest people you'll meet around.

2. Men with Girlfriends – You’ll see countless men these days taking hundreds of thousands of pictures of their girls (and vice versa) at landmarks. Gone are the days where dozens of men sit on department store couches holding several shopping bags, with nothing to do but think about the decisions they’ve made in their lives. Today’s man has FAR MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO! Namely, take Instagram-worthy pics of their girlfriends! Because of repeated demands to retake a picture, this training (aka, look of disdain) makes these men well-versed to take a picture for you with just the right angle and lighting. And guys, don't feel bad asking someone to take a pic for you. If I had to put a number to it, I would say that 90% of the boyfriends (could be guy friends too) had their girlfriends take the same solo pic for them.

Just sneak in after it looks like they're done snapping away and go, "hey man, do you mind taking a quick pic for me too?" Or, sometimes I'll break the ice with, "you want me to take a picture of you two?" And then afterwards I'll exchange some witty banter and ask them if they wouldn't mind taking a pic of me as well. And then after that, I'll steal the guy's girlfriend and live happily ever after. (Sometimes I steal the boyfriend, but it depends...)

This pic below came courtesy of a guy who, literally, spent 20 minutes taking pics of his girl nearby.

3. Solo Travelers – I love these people, because I already know I can relate to them. If you can travel by yourself, it pretty much tells me that you're comfortable (or getting there) in your own skin. You are open to talking to those around you and have an enlightened perspective from shunning society's stereotype that if you do things alone, you either have no friends or are a loser. (I happen to be a loser, but that's not relevant here.) Almost every other solo traveler I've met is as nice as can be. They have a worldly perspective and are often also looking for someone to help capture a picture for them. Oftentimes this may lead to some good conversation and/or the further exploration of a destination together. Sometimes I exchange Instagram handles with these people, as I like seeing other people's travel pics. Honestly, if you want to show me a slideshow of your vacation pics, I would love it.

This pic below came from another solo traveler (who also fit the age range from #4 below!).

4. 30 to 40 year olds – Most people assume that the best people to take pictures for you are teens and early 20-somethings, since they have grown up broadcasting their lives on social media. I have found them to be the worst picture takers. If you want someone to tell you which filter is best for a selfie, or how to make Honey Boo Boo Child dance during your IG story, then they are probably the best. But for pictures that immaculately capture the scenery behind you, along with proper framing and spacing, I'd go with someone in their 30s. Younger people just don't have the patience or the attention span to leave their own phones for that long. And older people don't have the patience either. They're tired from walking around. They also are not going to go to one knee to take a pic of you from a lower angle to capture, say, the Eiffel Tower behind you.

5. Asians – These days, in the U.S., you can't say anything about any race, unless it's your own. It's annoying AF. That's why I go travel so much, so I can talk sh*t about every race openly. (JK! (but not really)). Anyhow, with that said, if all of the above are checked off (or unavailable), I'll go with the Asians as #1 pick in the race draft. Have you ever been to a tourist spot and seen Asians (predominantly ones that live in Asia) taking pics? They'll even take pics in front of the signage at a landmark! And I'm always thinking, when would you ever use a pic of yourself in front of the sign that says "Machu Picchu" over a pic of you ACTUALLY standing inside of Machu Picchu?!? Besides that, the point is that Asians are experts at taking pics that capture themselves AND whatever landmark (or signage) that is behind them. Also, the Asian culture is largely brought up with empathy and taking care of those around you. Because of that, if you make a connection with one, they'll take a picture for you and even stay around to ask whether it's okay -- or if you need another one. Mad respect.

Here's a picture that I asked a non-Asian (also in his late 50s) to take of me while snorkeling off the coast of Hurghada, Egypt. Isn't it great that he captured none of the background of the Red Sea? I might as well be standing in the wave pool at Mandalay Bay in Vegas.

Now, these tips aren't saying that ALL my pics come from asking strangers to take them. I'll often post that I'm going to a certain region of the world and a friend will come meet up for parts of that trip.

And then they'll quickly leave when they realize they have to take thousands of pictures of me from sunrise to sundown and beyond. "Now take a pic of me reading this book while it looks like I'm about to fall asleep. Hold on. Let me do some push-ups first, so my shoulders look more buff. Do you think I should spray tan before doing this pic?" (Normal conversation...)

For the next parts of this four-part series, Daenerys Targaryen dies as the end. You're welcome, George R.R. Martin. What end could be more shocking and more disliked than that one? You're also welcome, GoT fans. Seek therapy now. As for travel, I'll also cover how I find out WHERE will be the best place to take a pic from a landmark, devoid of tourists standing in the back of your pictures, as well as the best time to go to a landmark, and how to properly frame your photo and take a unique picture.

Until then, yellow swim trunks for life!

Kevin Leu