How to take that Ultimate Jumpshot photo when you travel solo

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If you’ve been following me on my instagram @theoccasionaltraveller, you’ll know that i can’t resist taking a good jumpshot. I love being able to catch a good dynamic photo of me in mid-jump against a picturesque background. A lot of people have asked me how on earth I take some of these shots, especially because I’m a solo traveller and basically have no one to take reliable shots for me. I thought I’d demystify things and show you how to take a good jumpshot photo when you’re travelling solo.

If you’re concerned about photography as a solo traveller, I have another article I wrote about not being shy to take that solo selfie.

Taitung Beach Jumpshot
Alone on the beach along Taitung Beach in Taiwan – I really liked this dynamic shot of me jumping off the rock because it shows what a gorgeous day it was as well as the formations of the coastline. It was also the day I got bitten by a gazillion sandflies though >_<

Why take a jumpshot?

Or in Singlish, why so action one? The simple reason – it’s fun!

To me, a good jumpshot makes what your ordinary postcard-like picture that much more interesting when executed well. It imparts a sense of dynamism and movement to draw the eye and I feel it captures a person’s poise and energy in a way static photos don’t. More narcissistically, it shows off my athleticism, a reminder of my youth when i am older and less fit :p

Kenya Kilifi Beach Jumpshot
Jumping on Kilifi Beach in Kenya – On one hand I wish my thighs look a little less chunky, but on the other hand… damn the light is making me look pretty athletic :) Also, I love this bikini because it does miracles for my butt :)))

Jumpshots really aren’t too hard – you just need to catch that one perfect moment in time, which requires a bit of patience and some practice to do easily.

Bosnia Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled Running Jumpshot
I took this at the Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled area in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s kinda different from my usual jumpshots – was inspired by the idea of sport and running, which I think draws focus to the abandoned track

Best camera for a jumpshot photo

My personal camera of choice is the Casio Exilim FR100, which sadly isn’t in production anymore because Casio stopped making cameras, but is my favourite outdoor camera as well. I like the FR100 for jumpshots because I can control it remotely when jumping without having to fiddle with phone apps or timers.

Some times I take one well-timed shot, but more often than not I use the 30s High Speed Burst mode to guarantee a good shot. It snaps 30 shots in a second so as long as you don’t screw up the timing, you’re guaranteed to get a decent photo, perfect for the solo traveller.

Naoshima - Yayoi Red Pumpkin Casio Exilim FR100
The FR100 splits into two pieces – I usually set up the camera piece as such on the ground and use the screen piece as the remote control. Look closely at my hands in the jumpshots and you’ll notice me holding it!
Flores Kelimutu Casio FR100
Not a jumpshot, but here you can better see how the camera splits up. I hold the rectangle half which has the screen so I can frame my shot easily – the GoPro is great but man that screen is tiny.

For those armed with just their phone cameras or your point-and-shoot cameras, don’t worry, jumpshots are possible too! You will need:

  • a tripod or something to hold your phone in place when you jump
  • a camera app/function with a timer or a bluetooth remote – I prefer the remote as it gives you a bit more control over the photo taking, while setting the timer means you have to be quite precise about when you actually jump

If there’s someone around who will take the picture for you, great! But relying on other people’s photography ability is always a bit dicey. If you have to, set up a multiple-burst (many shots in a few seconds) for the highest chance at a good shot.

For those with iPhones, that means getting them to hold down the shutter button as you jump to take a burst mode picture so you can select your favourite shot after. Tell your photographer to start pressing the button as you bend to jump to ensure they catch the whole jump.

How to jump for a jumpshot photo

Contrary to what the picture may seem, you aren’t suspended in that pose for very long at all. The jumpshot photo is all about that split second shot with that one good move! It takes some practice or enough jumpshots to get the hang of it, but some general tips:

How to look graceful

Always point your toes – you just look so much more graceful when you do. Also, it gives your leg muscles better definition so you look more toned, and makes your legs look elongated.

Keep your face happy or neutral. The point is to look effortless when you jump to exude that sense of grace. If you are prone to constipated expressions because of all the effort it takes to a jump, do a pose that has your face turned to the side or away, or stick to silhouette shots, though low light shots tend to be a bit grainy.

Croatia Vis Sunset Jumpshot
This was taken on a random dock on the island of Vis off Croatia. I loved the sunset colours, but as you can see the low light is causing a bit of motion blur on my front foot! This is a chief example of why pointing your toes is key (so many compliments for that), how kicking my back leg up and having the camera on the ground makes me look like I’m jumping super high, and how you can’t see me making any weird expressions because its silhouette

How to look like you’re jumping high

A simple tip to look like you’re making a spectacular leap is to bend your knees and kick your legs back to create the illusion of a very high jump. It creates more space between you and the floor and makes you look like you are jumping higher than you really are.

If you can, take a low angle shot where the camera is on the ground or a lower point and angled upwards. It makes it look like you have some serious air time. Although for the ladies, make sure you have pants/shorts on though or it’ll be a rather unfortunate upskirt moment for you.

Easy jumpshot poses to master

Can’t figure out what to do with your body in the air? Here are some poses you can try that I think are pretty easy for anyone to do, and you can create your own variations by bending or straightening your various limbs. I personally like to look at photographs of dancers for inspiration and try to impart some of that grace and control into my pix, but you do you and come up with your own crazy moves!

The Star

Kaohsiung Rainbow Jumpshot Star
Starjumps! About the easiest move to do. This was taken in Kaohsiung at a pretty rainbow arch which often features in wedding shoots

Face the camera, jump with your hands in a V above your head and your legs open in a V. Think about stretching sideways to create a big flat star shape, and not about putting so much force into flailing such that your limbs are all pointing backwards instead of sideways

The Running Man

Taitung Chishang Jumpshot Running Man
Mr Brown Avenue in Chishang on the east coast of Taiwan is a long straight road running through rice fields famous chiefly for the Mr Brown coffee commercials shot here. I loved the lines in this shot!

Turn to the side, lift your legs and hands into a running position as you jump up, with your knees and elbows bent accordingly so it literally looks like you are caught mid sprint.

The Back Arch (‘C’)

Lanyu Beach Jumpshot Arch
I had the whole beach to myself on the island of Lanyu off the east coast of Taitung in Taiwan. I tried to position this so it would look like I was jumping over the sun :)

Turn to the side, bend your knees and kick your legs back while throwing both your arms over your head backwards – make sure you have them behind your ears so you don’t block your face. As you jump, arch your back and tilt your head upwards for prettier lines.

Advanced Jumpshot Tips and Tricks

Lyudao Niutoushan Jumpshot
One of my favourite spots in Taiwan is Green Island aka Lyudao, and I found this spot Niu Tou Shan just as the sun was setting. This is also a key example of why doing a jumpshot in flipflops is a bad idea – they curl all funny when you try to point! I didn’t have a chance to take this again as the sun was going down really quickly and I wanted to look like I was jumping over it
  • Have some go-to poses so in the event you only have time for one shot, you can definitely get a nice one. Some inspiration from travel blogger friends – Keith from TravelInspiration360 has what he calls a KJS (Keith Jump Shot) in every place he visits; and while it’s not technically a jumpshot, Hendric from Pohtecktoes has a Piking Around The World series
  • Your best shot is normally when your jump is at its highest point because that’s when your muscles are usually the most engaged, but sometimes the other positions can surprise you, which is why a multi-shot burst never hurts. I’ve preferred some shots where I’m on the way up or down
  • Props can add some spice – throwing out a thin scarf as you jump can add movement/flow to a picture – best attempted if you are doing a multi burst shot

Other things to consider

Yourself

  • What are you wearing? A contrasting colour to your background makes you pop out more
  • Something more form-fitting tends to show off the shapes your body makes better
  • If you are in flipflops or any sort of heel, I suggest taking off your shoes when you jump both for safety and because flipflops look especially awkward if you are pointing your toes
Kenya Maasai Mara Siana Hill Jumpshot
Taken on the top of Kenya’s Siana Hill in the Maasai Mara area. The pink shoes really pop against the blue sky! Note how the low angle makes my legs look super long

Your Location

  • SAFETY FIRST. Make sure your jump doesn’t plummet you off a cliff or step on other people’s toes. Loose gravel and uneven, slippery and sloping surfaces can also be hard on your ankles. Soft sand cushions landings but watch out for weak ankles
  • For dubious surfaces, I cheat a little by doing a tiny one-leg kick back to give that sense of movement though I am barely jumping at all
  • If there is a crowd, don’t be a pain in the ass and spend an hour trying to take the perfect shot! Come back at a less busy time
Croatia Zadar Sea Organ Jumpshot
I took this at the sea organ area in Zadar, Croatia. The ground was pretty wet and slippery so I faked a jump by stepping off the top step and kicking up my back leg. The lighting was a bit too low at that time though, which is why there is so much motion blur! There were also a ton of people there so I couldn’t do too much or take too many shots, but some strategic angling made it look like no one else was around!

Your Background

  • I’ve found that plain clear backgrounds in bright light tend to work the best. My favourite is against the clear blue sky. You might get lost if the background is too busy
  • Are there landmarks or people in the background you can’t remove or want to show off? Use your jumpshot to highlight these for a fun photo. I like jumping ‘over’ things
Okinawa Zamami Furuzamami Beach Jumpshot
The blue sky of Furuzamami Beach on Okinawa’s Zamami Island is an absolutely beauty to photograph against. Also, I wanted to highlight the coral beach that I was on so I deliberately placed the camera on the corals. Let me just say that landing here was kinda painful and poky but the pic is absolutely worth it! I should probably have made it look like I was jumping over the hill in the distance though!
  • Silhouette shots work best during sunset when light is low, or if you are shooting against really bright sunlight. The pros are that you can make whatever faces you want, but the cons are that you might get more movement blurs because of the low light for sunset shots
Kenya Nairobi KICC Helipad Jumpshot 1
On the helipad on top of one of the highest buildings in Nairobi city. Lots of people all around but I kinda like how the silhouettes worked out :) This is the jumpshot at full height – I placed the sun such that it would be right behind me when I jumped
Kenya Nairobi KICC Helipad Jumpshot 1
But I kinda like this softer shot on the way down where I look a little like I’m floating upwards somehow. Which do you prefer? The burst mode gave me quite a selection to choose!

Your Camera

  • Jumpshots are great beyond just the static photograph. The iPhone lets you do slow-mo videos so you can create a really dramatic looking jumpshot, or you could do a boomerang shot on Instagram for a never-ending gif of your jump… get creative!
  • You need to know how fast or slow your camera reacts to best gauge the timing of the jump – that means knowing your camera well and doing some practice shots. Especially key if you have some random person taking the shot for you

And let’s go jumping! Hit me up with your best jumpshots in the comments, or tell me which pose is your favourite and what tips you might have for others who want to give it a go.

29 thoughts on “How to take that Ultimate Jumpshot photo when you travel solo”

  1. I love this post (and I love taking jump shots!!)

    My husband is amazing at pressing the shutter at the right moment to take perfect jumpshots. I’d never really considered how I’d take them without him!!

    I am so impressed that you took these by yourself! :)

    1. heh it’s a lot of trial and error, and having a 30-frame burst definitely makes it a lot easier to pick the right/nicest shot! You’re not seeing my string of failed shots here haha

  2. What a brilliant guide! Never managed to get behind the secrets of perfect jump shots before – will definitely give them another go with your tips!!

  3. Love this post – great idea! My favorite is the one from the Bobsled arena – so different and moody. I think I like it best because sometimes these jump shots are a bit too happy/forced for my liking and this looks more like a really cool Nike ad or such :)

  4. Obsessed with this post and your pictures! Even though you gave awesome tips, I’m pretty sure I would break something attempting this – and/or look incredibly goofy – but you look amazing! Love them all.

  5. I LOVE the bobsleigh track photo! I’ve been dying to visit there! Great tips! I was travelling solo in Belize this summer and wanted a picture of me swinging on a swing over the sea…I put my GoPro on a tripod and just took a minute or so worth of footage and then grabbed a still from it…was really pleased with the result!

    1. that’s pretty good as well because the GoPro images are quite high res! I’ve done that a few times but it’s a bit of a hassle to have to go through footage and pull out a screenshot haha

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