Plus Size Travel: How Travel Photography Changed My Self Esteem

plus size travel -- How to take better photos and improve your self esteem - picture of traveler enjoying the moment

Sorcha Porter-Holmes is a full-time traveler and professional photographer. She is the co-owner and creator of the brand “Sorcha and Matt’s Grand Adventure” a travel and lifestyle website that provides tips and information to aspiring digital nomads who wish to learn technical skills in order to gain financial and location independence.  Sorcha shares her story about plus size travel and how learning how to take great photos changed everything for her. 

There are exactly 3 photos of me at my youngest sisters wedding. Three. There are almost none at my middle sisters wedding. That is how much I hated having my picture taken. I look back now and it makes me sad to think I hated my body and myself that much that I could barely step in front of the lens to commemorate such special occasions.  But my feelings are not uncommon amongst plus size women. 

plus size traveler Sorcha shares her story

When my husband and I decided in April of 2019 that we would leave the US for an indefinite period of time to travel the world I said, enough is enough. I WANTED pictures of this, even if I hated myself in them. So I bought a proper camera and took some photography classes.

I began to fall in love with photography. I started taking pictures of whatever friends would let me pose them in front of my camera. I learned about what looked good through a lens and how to pose a subject.  But I rarely stepped in front of the camera myself… and if I did it was with a full face of makeup and a carefully planned outfit. Still… I loved the medium. I started taking photos for small amounts of money and would (and still) spend hours in adobe Lightroom and Photoshop creating presets and telling stories with pictures. 

 When we left the U.S. for Scotland in July 2019 that passion only deepened. 

The first leg of our journey we camped/ road tripped through the Scottish Highlands for a month. I remember vividly the sight of the mountains rising up out of the Scottish landscape like purple, black and gold tsunami in a rolling green sea made of grass and pine trees. I must have made my husband pull the car over a thousand times to take photos. 

plus size travel - how to take great pictures

One day we pulled over alongside a random lake on our way from Inverness to Oban. I was so taken aback by the beauty of the place that I did something I had never done before.. with no makeup, and my hair a hot mess, I set up my tripod and stepped in front of the lens. 

I wanted to remember this beautiful place and ME in it, with my partner. 

When we sat down to work the next day I opened Lightroom to edit and I literally cried. 

I cried because I was looking at myself for the first time in years and I was actually happy to see ME. 

My hair was in a frizzy, I was wearing comfy athletic clothes and I had no makeup on. I braced myself for a grimace… but none came.  

plus size travel - Couple traveling in Scotland

I think in that moment I saw myself through kinder eyes. I saw rosy cheeks that were bright from the breeze coming off the water, thighs that I used to think were too fat I now saw as strong. They had just carried me all over the Scottish Countryside, up stone castle staircases and across green hillsides.  I saw a GENUINE smile on my face because for the first time in my life I was living my actual dreams. 

I expected to meet a lot of people on this journey, but I didn't expect to meet myself.  I sure wasn't expecting to LIKE meeting myself either.  It was in Scotland that I started to realize that photography was really more about artistry, clever angles, and perspective than it was about being physically skinny or fit. It wasn't until I stepped out in front of my own lens that I started to see that I was part of all the beauty around me.

A photo is designed to capture a moment and not all moments are ones we will remember forever.  But if we never take that step in front of the lens we might miss the really special ones. 

Here are my 10 tips to take better travel photos

1: Tilt your head 

Tilting your head slightly and angling your forehead slightly towards the camera reduces the appearance of “double chin.”

2:  Create triangles

Triangles are visually appealing in photos. By using the landscape to create triangles and angling limbs to make triangles it breaks up the solidity of a picture and creates attractive negative space. So for example put your hand on your hip and pop your elbow, or point one toe and pop your knee out. Stand with your legs slightly apart. This helps to create triangles in the image that are organic. 

3. Try placing your subject off center 

While it can be visually appealing to place someone in the center of a photo when shooting travel photos it's often more visually appealing to place the subject to one side and and have them faced slightly in the direction of the landscape you're trying to focus on. This draws the viewers eye across the landscape.

4. Move your feet (or tripod) around

 Ya know what is boring? 50 photos of the same person from the same angle. Many rookie photographers make the mistake of standing still and moving the subject around. But try moving yourself around first! 

5. Overhead space creates the illusion of length

 When it comes to both portrait and travel photography you usually want to stay the viewers eye upwards. By creating space above the subjects head it make the eye look up and down rather than side to side so it makes your subject seem taller and leaner. 

6. If there are two subjects in a photo space then out slightly

 A lot of times we put our arms around each other in photos or push couples together in a romantic embrace. That can look good too, but negative space in a picture is visually appealing and being glued together doesn't always equate to evoking a sense of intimacy. Hold hands, stand slightly apart and look at one another. It allows you to see each subject more clearly. 

7: Avoid the piggy nose 

In general (not always) shooting a pic right up someone's nostrils isn't cute.  Level and photos from a slightly higher angle tend to be most flattering. Try standing on a chair or using tools like Mono-pods and Tri-pods to get height on your subject if you are short. 

8. You don't always have to be looking at the camera 

While looking at the camera is good so is looking out over a landscape or at a person or object that is also in the photo. When your subject appears Interested in their surroundings the photo viewer will be more interested in them too!

Sorcha enjoying the moment not looking at the camera

9: Lighting is everything 

When possible avoid direct sunlight. The rising and setting sun creates soft golden light that is very flattering in photos. Additionally overcast weather is great for shooting! Or in this case, drinking a whisky dram with the lighting from a whisky bar  was the perfect light for this one! 

impvoing lighting in Scotland

10. Not everything SHOULD be photographed.

The mark of a truly great photographer is to know when to put the camera down and be in the moment. A picture is worth a thousand words but experience is priceless.

Thanks for reading, whether you are a plus size traveler or any kind of traveler, travel and life experiences have the potential to open you up in ways you never imagined.

Thanks Sorcha for sharing your story and living consciously.

For more posts about conscious living you can find them all here. 

the story of plus size travel - creating photos in Scotland

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