I have four types of travel poses: the ones I take at arm's length, the ones with sunglasses staring into the distance, the ones with my head resting on a surface, and Mighty Mouse.
Allow me to explain...
The "Arm's Length" Shot (aka selfie)
The majority of my travel portraits consist of this pose out of necessity and choice. When traveling alone, I have trouble both trusting a stranger to not steal my camera (or damage) and to not take an off-balanced, poorly-framed photograph of me next to something cool. If I have a motive to document a moment, I usually envision the exact composition I'd like to have.
When I hand my camera to someone who thinks I want half my face cropped and a stranger's confused red eyes in the background, I always feel embarrassed taking my own self-portraits after-the-fact. What a slap in the face to their skills - I tell myself - and wait out their departure to take my own shots. Sometimes I feel embarrassed regardless when taking an arm's length shot, because so many people tend to outwardly pity the solo traveler, making one feel a little lame even though the choice was probably deliberate.
The "Sunglasses Staring into the Distance" Pose
It all started in Denmark. My brother and I didn't think smiling for the camera was an authentic documentary technique if we weren't smiling beforehand. Though we were having a great time exploring Tivoli, we stood firm on our no-forced-smile policy, making all our photographs look like this.
Applying the same logic to my Big Journey, I approached my self-portraits thinking, "What was I doing right before I pulled out the camera?" Why, staring off into the distance, wondering where the hell I was! Hence, I created my ultimate, easy-to-remember, useful-in-any-scenario, travel pose.
With this body language, I don't claim to be any certain emotion but pensive, as every traveler should be. I think it's quite the winner for a Ray-Ban endorsement, wouldn't you say?
The "Head on Surface" Shot
This is to hint to those confused viewers that I am either exhausted from a climb or loving the relaxation of the destination I'm in, as if bathing suits, blue skies and mountaintops aren't enough indication.
The "Mighty Mouse" Pose
An innate passion within me, a muscle-borne desire, an inkling in the back of my mind - I never realized this was an interest of mine until I said it aloud to a friend,
Every time I'm suspended in midair, I do this...
It made total sense upon hearing it, but it sure affected my friends with giggles and disbelief. An alteration to the often-attempted jumping shot, my Mighty Mouse pose is used only on rare occasion when I feel truly inspired...or there's a small precipice off which to jump.
What does your travel pose say about you?
The Captain Morgan Pose
You shouldn't have started at 9:00am, but you sure don't mind if people know that.
The Opposite Emotion Shot
You often poo-poo the norm, scoff at the every-day, hate the standard pretty shot. You'll do just about anything to throw off the mood of the photograph.
The Self-Deprication Shot
You know Models, Inc. isn't calling you anytime soon, so you might as well make your low self-esteem known. If not that, you may just be attempting to make the photographer's potential shot less appealing.
The Classic Jumping Shot
Not to be confused with the more enlightened Mighty Mouse, this effect is either to make a mundane picture somewhat less so or to amp up an already iconic/overdone shot. Jumping shots are used all too often and piss off - to no end - the stranger you wrangled to snap the moment over and over until everyone is adequately suspended in time. You may or may not be very creative. Don't worry; it was probably a temporary lapse of judgement.
The Open Mouth Shot
Whether you're legitimately having a good time or not, you want the viewer to believe your happiness and fun-o-meter go unmatched. Hopefully, you have nice teeth and brush them often.
The Peace Sign Pose
You have no idea what else to do. Or you're from the Eastern hemisphere.
The Thumbs Up Pose
You're far too cheesy for your own good.
The "What What" Pose
Throwing your arms up in the air as if to say, "I think I'm pretty cool," or "Look who's gangster in this photo;" truth be told, I don't think people who are actually gangster ever pose like this. We imitators should probably take a page from their book. This pose now causes me to recoil and look away. If you were really gangster, or cool, you'd be doing the Mighty Mouse pose instead.
The Bottom Line on Travel Poses
I pose as I please, and so should you. Obviously, consider the culture your in and make sure what you do doesn't offend the masses (e.g. the peace sign, seen from the back of the hand, or the "okay" sign).
Are your photos for Facebook stalkers to peruse, or will they be published as headshots under your written work? I certainly need to work on taking presentable portraits, after hearing one too many media personnel say, "Could you send us a photograph of you without sunglasses and standing on the ground?" It's also become apparent to me that taking the shots of yourself doing the every-day travel occurrence could be quite valuable in telling a visual story later.
Give some thought to the reflection of your personality and emotions in your portraits. You could come up with the perfect pose, or multiple poses, that makes sense to your traveling philosophy. And if the standard smile is all you can bother to muster, I recommend Crest Pro-Health and circular brush strokes.