Guest Post – 10 Tips on Taking Perfect Travel Portraits in Exotic Destinations

January 23, 2017
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Back when I was starting out as a travel photographer, I would eagerly take so many photos of famous landmarks and the beautiful scenery that I overlooked the true essence of each place I visited—the people. I might have captured a piece of a country’s culture by snapping its natural and man-made wonders, but seeing that culture come alive through the locals’ demeanor is the real deal.

Opportunities to shoot portraits when traveling are endless, so take advantage of them. With the right photography gear, techniques, patience, and a lot of positive vibes, you’ll surely be able to snap interesting travel portraits, especially in exotic destinations.

Here are 10 tips that can help you take perfect portraits on your travels:

1. Pack the right photography equipment.

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Any DSLR camera is good for shooting portraits, as the quality of your photos actually depend on the type of lens you use. For many photographers, though, the best camera for portrait photography is the Canon 5D Mark III because of its fast autofocus and ability to produce crisp, high-quality photos (with shallow depth of field) even in low-light conditions.

The recommended lenses for portraits are those with long focal length (50-70mm), as they emphasize the details of the face by blurring the background as soon as the subject gets focused.

A portable flash and a tripod can be very helpful when you’re shooting portraits in low light, so be sure to bring them, too.

2. Show interest in your subjects.

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Express interest in what your subjects do in their daily lives by asking questions. Great travel portraits show the locals in action. For instance, the best-tasting food in Bangkok, Thailand can be found not only in malls or restaurants but also on the streets. If you order street food, local vendors will prepare it right before your eyes. It’s the perfect opportunity to score spontaneous and expressive portraits!

3. Take candid photos.

Tell the story and culture of a place by taking pictures of people without directing them to pose in a certain way. But be respectful as well—always remember to ask permission from your subject first before taking close-up shots.

In Nepal, people are often dressed in their traditional clothes. That alone says a lot about their country and is worth a few snaps.

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If you’re going to visit Vietnam, you’ll see street peddlers wearing the traditional Vietnamese conical hat called the non la. Aside from capturing the essence of Vietnamese culture, create an emotional impact by snapping your subject while she’s smiling and looking away from the camera.

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4. Avoid shooting in harsh sunlight.

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Harsh lighting will cause your subject to squint, so find a location that’s under a shade. This can eliminate distracting shadows of the portrait. The challenge in doing so is that photos come out bland and boring. To overcome it, set up a reflector so that the light can bounce back, making the color of your subject look lively. However, if you must shoot in harsh sunlight, a good workaround is to take portraits using portable flashes.

5. Put your subject at ease.

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If you want your subject to pose for a photo, remember that not all people are comfortable with having their pictures taken, especially by a stranger. Make your subjects pose naturally in front of the camera by putting them at ease. Smile and politely direct them to pose. Don’t forget to show your appreciation like simply saying “thank you” (better if you can speak it in their local language) after snapping their portraits.

6. Outsmart the tourists.

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Photo by Joanna Penn / CC BY 2.0

Iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal in Mumbai, India (which is one of the most photographed structures on Earth) are usually flocked by tourists. If you and your travel buddy want to take portraits with the majestic structure and breathtaking colors of the sky as background—without any photobombers—the best time to visit Taj Mahal is at sunrise. Get there early to avoid the crowd.

7. Shoot in manual mode.

Shooting in manual mode lets you control the outcome of your shots. The manual setting is a process of trial and error. It’s okay to adjust the setting from time to time depending on the location’s lighting conditions. Play with it and you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

8. Compose your shot properly.

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You can’t just aim your camera and start taking photos of the subject! Make your portraits look interesting by composing them properly. Use the “rule of thirds” and other portrait composition rules for a great visual impact.

9. Focus on the eyes.

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Eyes are the windows to the soul, so they say. The eyes are the most striking element on the face and the first thing that the viewer sees in a photograph, so make them the portrait’s focal point. If you focus on the eyes, the lens tend to soften the other details of your subject’s face.

10. Be aware of your subject’s background.

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Aside from composing the shot, always be aware of your subject’s background, too. You may have composed the subject perfectly, but if it has something off in the background, it can be distracting. Look for a spot that can add depth to the story you’re trying to convey. Who would want to have portraits that have messy power line cables or “Keep Out” signs in the background, right?

Portraits show the unique culture of each country you visit. A sincere smile and an effort to get to know the locals (and your fellow tourists) will definitely help you take great portraits when you travel.


Travel – Driving away from London #HiddenDrives

January 15, 2017

Driving in London is, I am told, an absolute nightmare. I say that I am told as I’ve never tried it myself. However, having taken driving lessons before I moved to London, I really enjoyed driving in the countryside around the small town where I used to live.

As I never got to get my driver’s license (it’s somewhat useless in London, especially if you can’t afford to run a car), it’s always fun when a friend decides they feel like driving somewhere. It has happened before and the last one I did with friends was a day trip to Brighton, to go see the sea, the sun, the street art and do some sticker bombing. That is always my first destination if I feel like a day out of London, as it’s also easily accessible by train from London and the train fares aren’t prohibitive.

Brighton, as lovely as it is, isn’t the only interesting place in Britain (thankfully) and there are many other places one can go to for a day or weekend out, without having to go abroad. Sometimes it’s nice to avoid all the airport confusion and luggage drama and keeping it simple.

Another driving trip I would love to do at some point would be down to Cornwall. I’ve watched way too may TV shows set in Cornwall and it really made me want to go and see it for myself, but really be able to go around and visit several towns and see all the beautiful beach scenery. Maybe even try surfing, who knows?


Also around the Southern part of the country, are the fossil hunts you can do in some of the beaches around Dover – it’s on my bucket list and I will have to do this someday, as it’s not that far from London either.

Avebury is also a destination that I hope to drive to at some point, as I would love to go see the Neolithic stone cromelechs (stone circles) and explore the area. Stonehenge would also be interesting but I’ve been told that you can’t get too near anymore so it’s a little bit disappointing.

All I need to find now are friends willing to drive and wanting to go to these same places. It shouldn’t be too hard, right?

PS: This post has been done in collaboration with Words and opinions are my own!


Lifestyle – Sing me to sleep #SleepExperts

January 15, 2017

Sleeping is one of my favourite activities, although I don’t seem to get a lot of quality sleep. I have found throughout the years that are a few things that will help me feel a bit better.

  • Change your sheets and pyjamas often – nothing like the feeling of clean sheets to help you have a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid electronic devices – or at least install apps that will diminish the blue light on your screens such as Twilight for your phone or f.lux for your computer.
  • Change your pillows often – to avoid allergies and dust mites accumulating.
  • Avoid spending time in your bedroom when not sleeping – it’s a tough one for me, though as I end up sitting around watching Netflix on my bed.


  • Nap if you must but not for long – go for power naps of 20 minutes instead to feel refreshed.
  • Get the best mattress you can afford – this is possibly the best money you’ll ever spend in your life. Be it a mattress for adjustable beds, memory foam, or springs, you need to find what works best for you.
  • Avoid thinking about work or problems before sleep – or insomnia and anxiety might occur.
  • Do some light exercise before bed – yoga or something that will relax your body.
  • Take a hot bath – since I started taking a bath in the evenings instead of showering in the morning, I feel much more relaxed when I go to bed.
  • Meditate – there are some great free apps out there to help you relax and unwind at the end of the day.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol – I have been avoiding drinking the odd glass of wine, particularly on school nights as I have noticed that it affects the quality of my sleep. There is a reason why this happens.
  • Avoid drinking too many fluids before bedtime – or you’ll be getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I keep making this same mistake!
  • Find the best positions for you – it is important to pay attention to your spine, to avoid pain and waking up feeling refreshed. The following video has quite a few good tips:

What are your favourite tips – what did I miss?

PS: extra points to anyone who knows which song the title came from
PSS: this post has been made in collaboration with, words and opinions my own.


London – Stand up Camden

January 14, 2017
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If there is anything I would say that I would like to do more often is going to comedy shows. I’m a big comedy fan and there is nothing better like laughing, I would say.

I headed down to The London Irish Centre with my bestie Ross, for an evening of drinks and laughs, and we got just what we wanted at Stand Up Camden. I even joked that all I needed to put on the review was that I laughed all night, it was that good!

We got a drink at the bar and headed to the function room. We sat right at the front as I didn’t want to miss any of the action and also have the chance to take a couple of pics for the blog post. I forgot that people in the front usually get picked on, haha!

Continue Reading…


Lifestyle – Burnout, depression and how I’m dealing with them

January 13, 2017
  • In the depths of Winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible Summer.

    -Albert Camus-

Happy New Year! I’m glad to see 2016 behind me, as it was such a difficult year personally. Ever since I got diagnosed with cancer in September 2015, I kept pushing forward to get back to normal and regain my energy and had so many plans for my life… But like heavyweight champion Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And what happened feels like it.

The last two months of the year were spent off work due to burnout. I had been feeling ran down physically and ended up having a lot of symptoms that turned out to be burnout.

It was easy to understand why: coping with a long-term illness, the treatment side effects and stress at work led me to a state of complete mental exhaustion. Turns out I’m not even on my own on this, and there are other countless women suffering the same things that I have been.

So, my GP upped my meds, sent me home and I had to find a way of pulling myself out of it. I am not one to think that positive thinking alone can resolve all your problems, especially when the problem is depression or cancer. If that was enough, anyone with depression would merely just think themselves better and that’s not how it works. But I also knew that I had to take active steps to get better.

The good news is that I’m back at work and feeling a lot better, after a couple of months of taking care of myself and taking steps to improve wellness in my life. Everyone is different and I don’t think that what I’ve done is an infallible recipe for everyone but if by writing down what I did gives anyone else some ideas on how to deal with their own situation, it will be worth it.


How I’ve been getting over it:

  • Reduced my commitments, social and work – rest is precious and if you are able to reduce hours at work, do so. I am currently working 4 days per week and although I don’t get paid as much, the extra time does a world of difference.
  • Took time off work – as long as I needed to feel better. If you’re exhausted you’ll only get worse and your productivity will dip anyway. Ask your doctor for help, they are usually understanding and happy to help you get better.
  • Sleep well and enough – sometimes it’s easier said than done if you’ve got a tendency to be an insomniac. Take naps when you feel you need to. I spent two weeks mostly sleeping initially and it did me a world of good. Don’t overdo it though, as you can’t just stay in bed for the rest of your life, as tempting as that prospect might be.
  • Pampered myself – Had my nails done at the salon and had myself a facial at Mayfair Aesthetics. As I had health problems, I am not allowed to do any laser facial rejuvenation treatments but I had a regular facial and it’s extremely relaxing. I’m happy that they were careful to advise me not to do anything more complicated that could have consequences.
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  • Went out for walks – now that I live in East London, it’s a lot easier to go out and walk for a bit to get the cardiovascular system pumping and the endorphins flowing by going street art hunting.
  • Avoided isolating myself – Even when I was mostly sleeping, I was using social media as a lifeline to not feel so isolated. Also have a lot of good things to say about my housemates, who were lovely and understanding during this low time. Slowly I started going out for short periods of time and seeing friends and that really helped.
  • Started eating better – I saw a nutritionist doctor (an actual NHS doctor, not just someone who read a couple of books about nutrition), courtesy of Mayfair Aesthetics. I did a food journal for a week and then together looked at the things I was doing wrong and doing well. At this point, I wasn’t interested in weight loss as much as i’m interested in feeling more energetic and just maintaining my weight, as the meds made me a bit heavier. I came back with personalised advice and feel a lot better for it!
  • Examined my priorities – I’ve started putting myself first and tried to eliminate superfluous sources of stress and complication.
  • Started doing more art – I’ve written before about how I got into street art and my therapist had advised me to spend more time doing art to help rebuild my confidence and sense of personal well-being. I did so and ended up doing an art market, getting a piece into an exhibition in a gallery in London and sold a few pieces to a couple of US Instagram friends. This did wonders for my self-esteem and confidence. Art really is the best therapy!
  • I am now kinder to myself – I avoid stressful situations and try to not be too hard on myself when I don’t accomplish all the items on my always endless to-do list. Taking it easy is my motto for 2017!
  • Simplifying my life – I love clothes and shoes but as before, I’m working hard to reduce the amount I own, by not buying as much as before and passing items on to friends or the charity shop. I still have too much for the amount of space I have but it’s definitely getting a lot better! Also, the Mari Kondo folding method is the best thing ever.


I’m sure there are many other things I could be doing to recover (if you have any great suggestions, please let me know in the comments) but these so far have been helpful. I’m not entirely well just yet as I have some difficulty dealing with stress still, but it’s a work in progress and I’m doing my best to help myself.

PS: I was a guest at Mayfair Aesthetics but words and opinions are my own.