7 ways to take epic photos without touching a camera

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Kenya Giraffe Centre, Kenya, Giraffe Centre, Nairobi, Kiss

Have you ever felt like you’ve taken too many photos on a trip or have been too focused on getting the perfect shot to enjoy the moment? Professional travel photographer Sharon Matthews-Stevens recently told me that on average she only uses about 10 per cent of the photos she shoots and as a budding amateur photographer, I typically use far less.

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
-Gilbert K. Chesterton

To help you truly immerse yourself in your next trip, here are my top seven ways to take epic photos without ever touching a camera.

1. Hire local photographer
In a recent post, I talked about making a huge mistake on a trip to Costa Rica with my wife. I took hundreds of photos of plants, animals and the scenery, but only a small handful of photos of the two of us. I needed Flytographer. Operating in more than 175 cities around the world, Flytographer connects local photographers with travellers. Their team is trained to discreetly capture candid photos, while sharing insider tips about their hometowns. Flytographer helps travellers capture stunning vacation photos as they make their own memories.

2. Pick up postcards
Want a perfect picture of a historic site or national treasure? Pick up a postcard! They’re cheap, available in virtually every gift shop and feature stunning photos. The next time you find yourself in front of a crowded monument and feel the urge to snap a hundred photos, dig your hands into your pocket, pull out some change and support a local business by buying a few postcards.

A photo posted by Postcard View (@postcardview) on

3. Travel with a photographer
Okay, this is admittedly a little more work, but if you want a break from snapping photos, travel with someone who’s into photography. Take turns being on “photography duty” and make sure to snap lots of photos of each other!

4. Surveillance photography
There are thousands of security and webcams broadcasting live feeds around the world right now. Jens Sundheim, an artist based in Dortmund, Germany, has become an expert in surveillance photography. Beginning in 2001, Jens made it his mission photograph himself on hundreds of security cameras around the world. When he arrived at his destination, he’d phone a friend at home and have them take a screen shot of his security camera appearance. If you’re interested in getting travel photos from a unique perspective, give Jens’ technique a try. 

Jens Sundheim, security camera, web camera, Surveillance, Surveillance photography

5. Hashtag your adventure
Can you spot someone with a smartphone? Ask them to take your photo and post it on Twitter or Instagram with a unique hashtag for your trip. You may have done this at weddings or special events, but why not while travelling? It’s a great way to chat with new people while taking original photos.

A photo posted by Jon MacIndoe (@j_macindoe) on

6. Spook your trip!
Candid photos are often the best photos, which is why photos from haunted houses and rollercoasters are so fun to take and share. Stow your baggage and camera gear and take delight in the fright.

7. Narrative Clip
Just clip and go. With Narrative Clip, you can capture unexpected moments without any bulky camera gear or effort. This tiny camera can be clipped on to your shirt or bag and takes eight megapixel photos every 30 seconds. No fuss. No muss. Photos can then be accessed on the Narrative smartphone app.

Narrative Clip 2, Arctic, White

The next time you’re visiting a new city or exotic town, try to be a little bit less of a tourist and more of a traveller by putting away your camera and taking in your surroundings.

13 Comments
  • psychologistmimi May 7, 2016, 10:14 pm Reply

    awesome tips.

  • Flytographer (@Flytographer) April 4, 2016, 11:17 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for featuring us, Jon. We are a community of over 350 creatives around the world who truly love meeting travelers and sharing local tips on their city. It’s great to see travelers realizing the value professional photograpers bring to capturing the moment, after all some trips deserve more than selfies! – Nicole

    • Jon April 4, 2016, 11:36 pm

      Congrats on establishing an amazing company! I hope to use your service on a trip in the near future 🙂

  • janikaberridge April 4, 2016, 9:09 am Reply

    I didn’t know a Flytographer was a thing! I will have to look more into that. I was recently thinking about this — how it’d be nice to travel with people to take their vacation photos for them. And regarding number 3 — my friend and I just took a trip, and apart from a few photographs with a waterproof camera, she took none. So, my photos have now become her own memories of the trip.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Jon April 4, 2016, 9:35 am

      Thanks so much for checking out my blog! Like your friend, I’m usually the one stuck behind the camera, so it’s great to travel with someone that’s comfortable snapping a few photos as well!

      • janikaberridge April 4, 2016, 11:30 am

        Yes, definitely nice to have other photo enthusiasts in the group!

  • thatswhatmonsaid April 3, 2016, 8:21 pm Reply

    Great post! This was on my mind a lot during my recent trip – felt like most people around me were looking at everything through the screen of their phones or cameras rather than in person … Which seems to kind of defeat the purpose of travelling!

  • the4x6 April 2, 2016, 1:21 pm Reply

    Great post jon! I’m always on camera duty so am very rarely in the pic. But my all-time favourite pic is a #6 one – candid ride photo of hubby and I on one of those drop rides. Two people on complete opposite spectrums – sheer joy (me) and eyes-wide screaming fear (him).

    • Jon April 2, 2016, 2:42 pm

      Thanks for checking out my latest post! I’m in the same boat as you – usually stuck behind the camera snapping photos of everyone else. Clearly we all just need to visit more theme parks and haunted houses 🙂

  • aslin kirkpatrick April 2, 2016, 12:51 pm Reply

    These are brilliant suggestions! I’ve never actually hired a professional photographers but it’s definitely something worth considering. They are after all, PRO! As for the postcards, I collect 3 every place I go to – part of my travel reminder. Especially like the hashtag idea! Gonna use that next England trip! 😀

    • Jon April 2, 2016, 2:44 pm

      Same here – never really gave much thought to hiring a professional photographer, but it could be a great way to mix up your next trip!

  • Mario April 2, 2016, 9:40 am Reply

    Jon, these are all good ideas! I especially like the narrative clip. That would be kind of cool to have when kayaking – guess it depends on the quality of the pictures it takes. I have the same problem when traveling as you describe. I carry my camera always and I tend to focus on trying to get the “perfect” picture instead of putting it down and just enjoying the moment. I tried not to do it as much during our trip to Rome and Malta this past September but I still managed to come home with almost 6000 pictures loaded on my camera card! But, you know what? I’m not sorry. I enjoy taking pictures and the challenge of trying to get that “great” shot! Even the professionals (as you have pointed out) will tell you that they take hundreds of pictures and save only a small percentage of what they take. I do the same. This morning the sunlight was just right and as I stood looking out the kitchen window into our backyard I saw our friendly Chipmunk and a Tufted Titmouse on the bird feeder. I grabbed the camera and a minute or two later I ended up with 174 pictures. I’ve only saved 5 but I really like those five. The other thing I appreciate is being able to go back and look at them again and again. It is also my hope that someday my children and grandchildren will also appreciate the pictures I’ve taken. So, despite my efforts or Susan’s desire that I sometimes put the camera away I know that I will continue to carry it with me when traveling or just going out for a walk! The perfect shot could just be around the corner and I would hate to miss it!!

    • Jon April 2, 2016, 10:47 am

      I get nervous for you when you have your camera out on your Kayak – but you do catch some incredible photos on the water!

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