We all know the struggle of trying to take a decent photo together without a hundred strangers in the background. Sometimes, you just want a photo that captures the two of you alone in the pure beauty of the place you’re visiting. After all, those are the photographs you’ll share on your Instagram and hang on your living room wall. My boyfriend, Stephen, and I have been to over 30 countries and counting, so we’ve learned a thing or two about how to capture those moments. Here are our top four tips for how to take couple travel photos without others in them:
1. DON’T SHOOT AT PEAK TIMES
When Stephen and I arrived in Osaka, Japan, we knew we wanted pretty photos at Osaka Castle and Nara Park, so we had a few problems. First, they’re some of the biggest and busiest tourist attractions in the area. On top of that, everywhere was even more crowded because it was the peak of cherry blossom season. During the day, people blanketed the two parks–sightseeing, picnicking and enjoying the sakura. It only got more crowded at night, when locals got off work and met up to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms.
That’s why you have to get an early start. To get the best couple travel photos, you should arrive at your chosen location just before sunrise. (And make sure to check the train timetable, charge all your camera equipment, pack a jacket for the chilly morning air and plan it all out the night before!) You might have trouble getting out of bed when your alarm goes off at 5 a.m., but you’ll be so glad you did. Not only will you capture beautiful photos, but you’ll get to experience some of the most beautiful places in the world with no one around but each other. By the time others show up, you’ll already be eating breakfast in a cafe, excited about the photos you captured together.
2. EXPLORE LESSER KNOWN PLACES
Sometimes, you have to get off the beaten path to find the best places. When Stephen and I visited Beijing, we were most excited for the Great Wall of China. To walk along an ancient wonder together… what could be a better adventure? But I knew from experience that every other tourist feels the same. Ten years ago, on my first trip to Beijing, I visited the Badaling section of the wall because it was the shortest drive from the city. Even though it was amazing, it was crowded.
In order to escape the crowds, we decided to venture further out to the Jinshanling section. It meant a few hours each way on a chartered bus and some serious hiking. We don’t normally like tour groups, but we signed up for one that essentially dropped us off at the Jinshaling entrance and picked us up a few hours later at a spot miles further along the Great Wall of China. It was steep going, with parts of the wall crumbling away, but that only made the experience more incredible. After the first few minutes, we fell away from the handful of people we’d came with, and were able to explore a wonder of the world all to ourselves. We could stop, set up the tripod, and take as many couple travel photos as we wanted without anyone to bother us.
3. TAKE ON THE GREAT OUTDOORS
You can be in the same place and have such a different experience depending on which route you choose. On the first night of our first trip to Hong Kong, we visited Victoria Harbour to see the city skyline. While it was fun, it wasn’t picturesque. A few days later, we hiked to Lion Rock. Now, there isn’t that much information out there about hiking in Hong Kong like in other destinations. But we found an old blog post and decided to go for it.
The hike was tiring, but we found an expansive view at the peak in relax in front of before hiking back down. We were able to take a ton of photos together, then sit back and enjoy each other’s company while watching the sunset. We found that the best perspective, for not only photographing Hong Kong’s skyline but also experiencing it, is from a mountain top.
4. GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SHOTS AND EDITS
You can’t always get a place to yourselves when traveling, but you can capture it that way. The aerial walkway at the Supertree Grove in Gardens by the Bay is a fun and beautiful must-do in Singapore that’s only open during certain hours, so we weren’t the only ones there. We were able to get a picture without others in it by going around closing time so it wasn’t too crowded, letting others walk ahead of us, and then turning around to take this “follow me to” style shot. Plus, you can often use your body position in the photo to block out an unwanted person in the background.
If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to make a little editing magic happen. It’s best to try the tricks above, but sometimes they don’t work. A person might step in the background of your shot right as you take it. It helps if you set up a tripod, then take multiple photos as people move in and out of the shot so you can layer the different areas from each photo that isn’t blocked by people. Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop both have free mobile versions that I often use to edit photos directly on my phone. I choose my favorite shot, apply a photo filter from the CTC preset collection, then make any needed Photoshop tweaks. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a pro to make small editing fixes (just patient).
Stephen and I often get asked how to take couple travel photos without others in them. The truth is that you can too. These are the four ways we capture our best travel photos together. Let us know your own tips in the comments!