My Horribly Awkward Travel Photos

To ask, or not to ask: that is the solo traveler’s question. Getting decent photos of yourself while traveling is really hard, especially if you travel on your own. Should you get a selfie stick? A tripod? Hire a professional photographer to follow you around all day like a fabulous travel model? I would so do the last one if that was an affordable option. My Horribly Awkward Travel Photos On my first solo trip to Taiwan, I ended up with almost no photos of me. Not only was it a problem for this blog, it was also a little disappointing I didn’t have any great photos of my face to remember my trip by. I guess I was used to friends taking photos of me with their own cameras, and then I’d just go steal them off Facebook.

I’ve always felt really uncomfortable asking other people to take my photo. Even friends! When I’m around others, I just want to live in the moment. I never want to be the annoying girl that spends 20 minutes doing different poses in front of a landmark… unless I’m with my Chinese friends. They love that stuff.

Tiger Leaping Gorge funny

This one is my fault

If I feel awkward asking my friends to take photos of me, imagine how awkward it is to ask a complete stranger! So instead I did what any normal person would do: I took selfies with my iPhone. Now.. I’m not very good at taking selfies, so they all basically looked horrible. Besides, I hate how large my face is compared to the background. Selfies are great if you’re not trying to fit anything else in the picture!

I’m already lugging around a purse and a giant DSLR, so there’s no way I’m also bringing a selfie stick or tripod. So, what’s a girl to do? Suck it up and ask a stranger or… force your new hostel BFF to take photos of you all day. Sometimes these photos turn out surprisingly amazing, while others are just plain horrible.

BLCU study abroad

Never take photos with a model. It won’t end well.

A Glorious Photo Essay of My Horribly Awkward Travel Photos

I feel like travel bloggers make their lives seem a little too glamorous sometimes, but can you really blame us? Why would I ever show you the plethora of awkward gems hiding on my computer? That’s a good question actually… I just figured we all have horrible photos of ourselves. Why not have a sense of humor about it?

awkward travel photos

Aren’t I beautiful?

Let me teach you how to use my camera

I have a Nikon D3100 DSLR that I use to take most of my travel photos. Whenever I ask others to take a photo of me, I try to look for other people with a DSRL. I hunt these people down like a hawk! I’m not kidding. I actually stalk them.

awkward travel photo

Let me teach you to work my camera.. while looking possessed?

Unfortunately, a lot of people who don’t own a DSLR have a lot of problems using them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m endlessly grateful that these people try to take a photo for me. It just gives me a minor anxiety moment every time I have to teach someone how to use my camera.

Even though I show them where to look and what button to press, many people still don’t understand that the camera must be held to your eye. Also, the whole zoom thing can kind of be a mess.

awkward travel photo

“Push the button down!!”

But by far the worst is getting people to actually push the button down all the way until the camera clicks. Most people think you can just lightly press the button and it will work, when you really have to hold the camera button down for a second while it auto-focuses.

I really don’t understand why it’s such an issue for people since I figured out my friend’s DSLR in about two seconds and then broke into a mini-photoshoot with her because it was so fun. Regardless, I have a lot of really awkward photos of myself trying to teach random people how to actually take a photo of me.

This woman tried so hard..

“Push it all the way down!”

awkward travel photo

This woman tried so hard…

awkward travel photo

“here let me help you”

awkward travel photo

“Hey we need to pose for this picture now, sir.”



Lighting Disaster

I’ve been trying to get much better about not positioning myself in the dark when the background is light, but sometimes it’s hard to tell unless you are actually taking the picture. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten a ton of photos back where I’m basically a shadow.

awkward travel photos

Well… this could have been nice..

awkward travel photos

DOUBLE WHAMMY: Let me teach you to use my camera while I’m a shadow

awkward travel photos

Isn’t Zhangjiajie beautiful?

awkward travel photos

Look it’s the pearl tower! Oh… and Richelle

awkward travel photos

Look at these shadows in front of a waterfall!

Why am I so blurry??

On a DSLR you can choose where you would like the camera to focus. This is great to take shots of things up close with a blurry background. However, sometimes when people borrow my camera, they accidentally focus on the background, and I’m a big blurry blob.

awkward travel photos

This would’ve been such a nice photo… womp womp

awkward travel photos

Fabulous beach shot in Xiamen

awkward travel photos

Look at that blurry girl in front of Angkor Wat!

Don’t put me in the middle

Anyone who has experience with photography knows it’s usually better to position your subject off-center. The rule of thirds is your friend, my friend!

awkward travel photos

Why do I crouch so weird?

awkward travel photos

Let me just cover this waterfall with your body

awkward travel photos

Yes, let’s just put you right in the middle

awkward travel photos


awkward travel photos

Oh god… why?

Hey can you take a picture of me in front of this?

Sometimes you just have to take a picture in front of a cool landmark. You set up the zoom exactly how you want it, you give your camera to a stranger and… you get a picture of you, and not much else.

awkward travel photos

I can take a picture of you, but not you and the mausoleum

awkward travel photos

I guess the ocean looks… nice… as do my goggle marks

Last summer I went to the Zhangjiajie “Avatar Mountains” and I was really excited to get a picture of myself standing on the suspended glass platform up in the mountains. Unfortunately… my photo didn’t quite go as I’d hoped.

Zhangjiajie floating platform

THIS is what I wanted

Unfortunately… this is what I got:

Awkward travel photos

Best photo ever…

I’m ready for my close up!

Some people forget that you can change the zoom on a DSLR. Others like to zoom right up on your face for fun.

awkward travel photos

I guess this is what I get for making a duck face

awkward travel photos

My whole face didn’t even make it in this one

One time I wasn’t allowed inside a temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand because I’m a woman. The temple was beautiful and completely covered in silver. I really wanted to see what the inside looked like, so I asked the guy I was with to take a few photos for me with my camera… this is what I got. Horrible silver temple photos Horrible silver temple photos Horrible silver temple photos

It just keeps getting better

If I haven’t already scared all my potential suitors away, they’ll all be gone after these shots.

awkward travel photos

Somebody burn this

awkward travel photos

Oh my god why???

awkward travel photos

Oh no.

Awkward travel photos

What is this monstrosity?

awkward travel photos


awkward travel photos

Who doesn’t love a good poncho?

Well… that’s it for now. I’m sure there are plenty of other photos so horrible they were immediately deleted, but the rest have finally made an appearance. I hope at least some of these made you laugh.

All bad photos can be fixed.

All bad photos can be fixed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for photos

While I may have scared you here, definitely don’t be afraid to ask for photos while traveling. At least I have photos of myself to make fun of. When you’re old and in a rocking chair, you’re going to want photos of yourself at all of the amazing destinations you travel to. Invest in a selfie stick, buy a tripod, make a friend or get comfortable asking strangers. Just put yourself out there.

awkward travel photos

What is with my weird pony leg?

If you get a bad photo, you can laugh it off, or try again. Just ask another person if it’s not too awkward.

Ahhhh much better!

Ahhhh much better!

On a safety note, just be sure you’re careful with your camera. If someone steals your camera, they also steal all your photos!! Only set up a tripod in less populated areas, and be careful who you give your camera to. I usually ask parents with kids, couples on vacation or people with a tour guide.

I also go after Chinese tourists if I can, especially if I run into them outside of China. They’re always impressed I can speak Chinese, and they take a ton of photos at different angles.

What’s the most unfortunate photo you’ve ever taken abroad? Which one of mine is your favorite? 



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

29 comments on “My Horribly Awkward Travel Photos

  1. Absolutely LOVED this blog! Laughed so much…PS: another idea for you once settled in Beijing I just read about online – Offer a service where you accompany tourists for the day and take photos of them – you would be perfect at this!

  2. Your comments and your photos are just wonderful. I agree with all your comments on the photography. But even when they did bad, you looked really good. :) Keep living!

  3. Loved this post. So funny! I can relate to this so much… Specially the “subject in the middle”, which represents 80% of my photos taken by strangers.

    • Haha thanks! Yeah I can’t stress enough how awkward photos look if you put the subject right in the middle, especially if you want to include some background. Sometimes I can fix it with cropping, but usually I can’t.

  4. This was hilarious!

    I know exactly what you’re talking about, ‘coz I’ve got a bunch of photos I’d rather not show the world!

    Love your space over here.

    • Thanks Amrita! It’s so easy to feel bad when you look at all those horrible photos but then I just think of how many shots models have to take just to get one good one haha

  5. Omg I loved this! ‘Why do I crouch so well’ hahahaha. Your a legend!! Its also so refreshing to see a honest glimpse into the life of a traveler – its not all glamorous selfies! :)

    • Hahaha thanks so much! Yeah I would say for every ten bad ones there’s one good one. I always feel like I never have enough photos of me for this blog because they’re all so horrible!

  6. Haha, genius :) I have plenty of pictures of myself like this… At the same time I have no pictures of me in Japan, except for maybe a hand featuring in a picture here and there… Btw, where you write “What’s this monstrosity?” I think: “Why is the lady next to you travelling in her underwear??”

  7. These are great! Thanks for the chuckle. I think most of us travelers and photographers can relate. What a great idea for an article and also to make use of bad photos. I remember one photo of myself that was so awful my best friend and I were laughing so hard we were crying. It is the worst photo I have ever taken. I looked like a horrible hunched back monster! It was worth it though because it gave us such a great laugh.

  8. Fun post! I definitely have a collection of these as well. I have a few where the photo taker actually missed getting me in the picture…I was standing off center from the clock in the Musee d’Orsay and they only got the clock. Also happened at the Grand Canyon!

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  10. Haha these are great! (sorry for dragging up an old post!) I have a wonderful photo of a group of us in front of Sydney harbour bridge. I promise you we were in front of it, but you wouldn’t know because it ISN’T IN THE PICTURE. How the hell did they manage that?! I’ll never know lol.

    • No problem! Actually, thank you for commenting on an old post!! I hate it when you have to choose between being polite to whoever took the photo and being a diva who actually WANTS A PHOTO OF THE THING YOU’RE STANDING IN FRONT OF. I just check to see if it’s good… if not I wait and ask someone else hahahaha

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