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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!

art, travel

Art – Oslo Street Art Photo Diary

March 28, 2016

I’m still working through a backlog of nice photos that I haven’t shared here yet. These were taken with my phone (Samsung Edge S6) when I was wandering the streets of Oslo back in September. As someone who appreciates street art, I couldn’t have left these cool photos out. I have no idea who the artists are (except maybe for one of them) so if you have any inkling of who made these, please drop me a comment. Enjoy!


Pez from Barcelona

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Guest Post – The 5 Most Haunted Destinations in Europe

March 16, 2016

This week I have a guest post by Jess, who is a travel blogger over at, who kindly offered to contribute some ideas on some creepy destinations in Europe. Enjoy!

Are you a spook freak even when it’s not Halloween? Or do you just fancy a tour of Europe that’s just a little off the beaten path?

While many ghost tours around Europe are perfectly aware of their cities potential to scare—anywhere people have lived for a couple of hundred years are bound to be spooky—it’s not all Dracula tales and costumery; some of these tales will genuinely give you a fright. With castles and torture, tunnels and murder, there’s plenty to intrigue in these creepy destinations.

So be you a bear or a mouse, test out your nerves on these five haunts in Europe that are bound to raise the hair on your neck!

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