How To Have Your Own Photo Shoot While Traveling

Havana, Cuba, Travel, Photo Shoot, Free Download

I’ve been seeing ads on my Facebook newsfeed recently for travel-focused photography services, in which you can have a local photographer document a part, or all, of your trip somewhere.

I’ve seen this ad multiple times and every time I think, hmm, that could be an interesting idea for some people. Maybe it’s a special occasion that you want professional documented so you can have those grade-A photos for ever and ever. Even though I scroll past each time without clicking through, this got me thinking.

First, it had me wondering why Facebook thinks I’d be interested in this service. I do search for a lot of travel and photography things, so I guess it’s related. But if Facebook really knew me at all (seriously, Facebook, after all this time together?), it would know that I’m more of the independent type, and would rather do most things myself.

Second, it got me thinking about my recent trip to Havana, Cuba, where I had a mini-photo shoot with my partner, with just ourselves and minimal gear (only four items!). Read on to find out how you can have your own on-location photo shoot – without the photographer (or scroll straight to the bottom to sign up for your free check-list!).

Havana, Cuba, Photo shoot
A regular photo made dramatic by incorporating red curtains.

The Essentials

First and foremost, you need a camera (duh). I’m biased towards a DSLR with manual settings, to account for all the variations in lighting and desired mood/effect, but you could also use a point-and-shoot. Whichever camera you’re using, it should be able to be mounted on a tripod, and at minimum you should be able to set a timer.

I used my Canon Rebel T1i for this shoot, which is an older model of the Canon Rebel T6. I’m due for an upgrade (check out my 2017 Gear Wish List to see which camera I’m eyeing)!

If using a timer, I recommend the continuous shooting mode to save you time/effort of going back and forth constantly from behind the camera to in front of it, for each individual shot. Using continuous shooting mode will allow you to land on the perfect shot, and even try out different poses.

I recommend using a remote. Choose one with a decent range, so you can have some versatility in your shots.

For my photoshoot, I used the Hahnel Giga T Pro II, and it works quite well. The downside is that you will need to manually open the back of the remote to replace the battery (the transmitter opens easily, so it’s not an issue), so if getting this remote, make sure you also have a small screwdriver on hand for future battery replacements.

I used one lens for my shoot – the standard 18-55mm kit lens. There are better/more optimal lenses, for sure, but for the space I was shooting in, and in opting for minimal baggage, this lens was great. I’m also due for a lens upgrade (more lenses mentioned in my Gear Wish List post)!

Havana, Cuba, Photo Shoot
I rarely get pictures of myself when I travel, so I made a point to get some during our mini photo shoot.

You will also need a tripod to set your camera on. I used the Manfrotto BeFree Aluminum, which is excellent for travel because it’s lightweight and folds down to be very compact.

So let’s sum that up. For your own on-location, travel photo shoot, you only need four essential items:

  • One camera;
  • One lens;
  • One tripod; and
  • One shutter release remote.

If you have the capabilities and the desire to pack/carry additional equipment, you could also bring an external flash, or additional tripods/lighting equipment (i.e. reflectors, etc.). It’s up to you, but the key point of this post is that it does not have to be complicated for you to get great photos.

Post Processing and Photo Editing

I personally use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as my main photo processing and editing software, but if you’re looking for a great, free alternative, Google has some a couple of options. Snapseed is a feature-packed mobile app for convenient, on-the-go editing. If you want something on your desktop, the photo features in Google Plus are essentially the same as Snapseed.

Havana, Cuba, Photo Shoot
Getting romantic on a balcony in Havana.

The Pros and Cons

The benefit of doing your own travel shoot is that you have full creative control. What’s more – you’re not bound by anyone else’s time or schedule, and you don’t have to shell out any additional money (that you can instead spend on other things, like food, experiences, or more travel).

The downside is that you do have to put in a bit more effort – but only a bit! There is also a risk in leaving your camera set up and being physically separate from it. Use your own judgement in picking a location, and do some background research on theft. I personally subscribe to the notion that people are good, so my first assumption wouldn’t be that my camera will be stolen. But bad things do happen, so you have to be careful.

Free Downloadable Checklist + Tips and Tricks

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