16 things I’ve learned in 16 years

Hi everyone,

Today is my sixteenth Birthday!! FINALLY! I’m a summer baby, so most of my friends are already 16, and today I’ve finally caught up. Most people say that your sixteenth birthday is definitely one to remember, so I decided to do something special for this one. For this Birthday I wanted to do something meaningful, I didn’t want to receive lots of fancy gifts. I asked anyone who was going to get me a gift, to donate what they would have spent on me to UNICEF on my fundraising site instead, because that’s something that really makes a difference to people that need it. Along with the fundraising, I also wanted to write this post, and share 16 of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in 16 years of being alive, so here they are:

  1. Always be kind, whatever the situation. Even if someones hurting you, stand up for your self, but in the wise words of Selena Gomez ‘Kill Em With Kindness’.
  2. Everything happens for a reason, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment. Life’s path twists and turns, sometimes you don’t realise it, but what may seem terrible now, can lead you to the best place.
  3. Live in the moment and savor it. You’ll regret missing out on it later on. Don’t get too caught up in the small details of life, don’t stress and worry instead of enjoying. Opportunity and experiences only happen once, so put your all into them.
  4. Don’t do things to make others happy, do them because they make YOU happy. You don’t have to be a specific person, or do things to make others happy if you don’t like them, because in the end where does that take you? Your first loyalty is to yourself.
  5. However bad today is, it won’t seem as bad tomorrow. I like to think of it as ‘there’s always calm after the storm’ after the heat of the moment it always calms down, and sometimes there’s even a rainbow.
  6. Don’t do things to ‘fit in’ just be you. This needs no explanation.
  7. Find your ‘happy thing’ something that you love to do, and keep doing that.
  8. Look for the silver lining in a bad situation.
  9. Don’t forget to be happy, smile, laugh, life is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t stress out all the time, don’t worry all day, remember to just enjoy yourself sometimes.
  10. It’s okay to let go of things if they don’t bring you joy. You don’t have to hold onto things forever, especially if they hurt you or don’t make you happy, it’s okay to let them go.
  11. Always be the bigger person. This can be so hard, but in the end, the bigger person always comes out less harmed. Take pride in your maturity and be the bigger person.
  12. Don’t hold grudges, it takes so much effort. By giving someone that space in your mind, you’re already giving them power over you.
  13. You can’t fix everything and everyone. You can’t do it, and it’s not your responsibility, sometimes there are things that can’t be helped.
  14. Be creative. While I always live by my planner, it’s good to have a creative outlet as well, it makes you grow.
  15. Do things that are out of your comfort zone once in a while. No one’s destined to live a boring life, go on an adventure and be spontaneous.
  16. Watch sunsets, eat good food, read books, talk to people, do the things that make you happy. There’s no point doing things that don’t.

I hope you enjoyed reading 16 of the most important things I’ve learned in 16 years. Let me know down below if you would add anything to this list, or which ones your favourite.

See you next week!

Little Miss Expat

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How to take the BEST flat-lay photos

Hey everyone!

I hope you’re all having an amazing summer so far! Since you guys enjoyed my last photography guide so much, I decided to write another one specific to flay-lays. People are always asking me how I take my flat-lay photos, and, in my opinion, they are the hardest photos to get right. There are so many aspects that go into making a good flat-lay shot, and I’m going to take you through them today as well as giving you my specific tips and tricks.

If you haven’t already read my last photography guide, you can find it here. I am no professional photographer, but these are all the of the tips I’ve worked out through experience, which means that you don’t have to be a photography genius to get the ‘perfect flat-lay’. These tips can be useful for a beginner, or just anyone who wants to up their flay-lay game.

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Getting the background right: I think this has to be the most important part of taking a good flat-lay photo. After all, in a good flat-lay you want to focus on the subject and have a nice clean background (you can have props), but you don’t want the background to be distracting. Unless you live in a house with lots of pretty background areas, there are some tips you can follow. Sometimes I’ll use my kitchen counter as a background, but other times if I’m doing a photoshoot, I’ll want something different. At first I used to try taking photos on a rug, or on my bed, but they just kept turning out creased. So… I came up with a genius solution. If you take a roll of wrapping paper and lay it out, you can get any color background you want, no need to spend lots of money, and you probably already have wrapping paper at home. For my Evolve Beauty post I took the photos on a roll of brown paper, and for my Travel Essentials post, I took the photos on the white side of wrapping paper. If you get into photography more seriously, you can invest in a blogging board. I actually asked for one for my birthday this year, it’s from Soularty, and I’m so excited to use it for lots my flat-lays and photography posts.

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So here’s my best flat-lay hack: Use a roll of wrapping paper as your background, you can use any color you want, and it’s really cheap and simple.

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The big question: Should I use a tripod? So, before we get into this question let me just clarify, in my opinion, there are two different types of flat-lays: The ‘on the go’ flat lay, where you’re taking a photo of food in a restaurant or something like that. And then the actual ‘scheduled in’ flat-lay that you can design, decorate, and take at home. In this post, I’m only going to talk about the ‘scheduled in’ flat-lay, but obviously if you’re in a restaurant, ‘on the go’ you’re not going to take a whole tripod with you. But when you’re at home, you do have the option to use a tripod. Like I said in my last photography post, if you’re just starting out with photography, I wouldn’t invest in a tripod until you’ve worked out if you need one or not. Personally, I got a tripod about a month ago, and I have found it really useful in taking photos, but it’s not necessary. I’ll insert some examples of photos I took on a tripod, and some by hand, so you can compare them side by side.

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Using a tripod

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Taken without a tripod

 

Telling a story in the photo: I think this is the tip that gets overlooked the most often when taking flay-lays. Sometimes the style you’re going for is minimalistic, but you can’t just have white backgrounds, and one subject in the middle of the photo, every single time, otherwise your photos will get boring. Instead, try telling a story with your photo. You can use props to try and create a vibe for your photo, and make it visually appealing. If you still want to go for that minimalistic, delicate photo, you can try using some flowers or petals in the shot. Just anything that will make the photo a bit more interesting and eye-catching. I’ll put some of my examples in below.

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You can see I’ve added in some oats and flowers around this set-up to make it more interesting and eye-catching.

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Instead of just taking a photo of flowers, I spread the leaves and petals all over the shot.

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Similarly, in this photo, I added some flowers and petals to make the shot of the products look more unique and interesting. It would have been quite boring without them.

Lighting & Shadows: So this is the make or break factor in taking any flay-lay photo. No flat-lay photo looks good if it has shadows covering it, or if it’s not bright enough. I have no idea how to use professional studio lights, and honestly, I don’t think they’re necessary. But when I take a flat lay, I only use natural light. I turn off all the lights in my room and only use the light coming in through the windows. My reasoning for that being, that with artificial lights there are too many aspects to control, such as reflections and glare, whereas it’s just easier to use a natural light source. I’ll always set up my photo in an area, that is not right in front or next to the natural light source, otherwise the shadows might be weird. And I’ll take a test photo before I set down all the products in the way I want them, just to see how the lighting looks and if there are any shadows, and then I’ll adjust it accordingly.

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So there was no natural light in this restaurant, and as you can see the photos weren’t turning out well or doing justice to the food.

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Here I tested the lighting before I took the photo, and got a nice bright photo, without shadows.

How to arrange your objects: This is the thing that I found the most daunting when I first started taking flat-lays because I had no idea how I was meant to set out all of my subjects that I wanted to photograph. And honestly, it can still be a bit daunting. I think with flat-lays you have to use your imagination and experiment a bit. Something that I do before I take a flat-lay photo, is look on Pinterest for some ideas, and sketch out roughly what I want the photo to look like. I think this works well, because then at least I’m not going into to taking the photo with no idea what I want it to look like. There are also a few basic techniques that you can use: (I’ll insert examples of them below) There’s the layering technique which makes your photo more interesting with more textures on top of each other. Then you have the photo with one big subject in the middle, and lots of smaller ones around the edges. But mostly, I think you just need to mess around and experiment with the way you lay things out to get interesting shots.

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In this photo I placed my ingredients on small plates, and sort of arranged them around and on top of each other.

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In this photo, I used lots of layers by putting the clothes on top of each other, and then the leaves on top of them.

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In this flat-lay, the spoons with the spices are the focal point, and I placed all the jars around them.

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This was a more minimalistic photo, with two items on food layered on a menu.

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Here, I tried to make all the plates and dishes fit together, I think it worked rather well.

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In this photo, you have the large object, the bag, and then all the smaller products spilling out of it.

 

My number one editing tip for flat-lays: If there’s one editing tip that I would be sure to use when taking flat-lays, it would be using the skew buttons on VSCO. I edit all my photos on the VSCO app, and there are these tools that allow you to tilt your photo left, right, up, and down. Which is really useful when you’re editing a flat-lay because you want the camera to be parallel to the set-up, so you might need to adjust your tilt slightly.

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So in this photo, the difference is only slight, it’s tilted a bit towards the right, so the objects on the right seem larger than they actually are.

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I used the x-skew tool on VSCO to even out the proportions in this edit.

So these are my top 6 tips for taking photos, they’re pretty much all the tips that have really helped me with my photos. If you would like to see more of my photography you can check out my Instagram @Little.Miss.Expat I really hope that you could take something away from this post and that it helped you with your photography. If you use any of these tips I would love to see your photos! Just DM me, or tag me in your photos. Also, stay tuned on my Instagram for a big announcement really soon!

See you next week,

Little Miss Expat

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Happy first birthday to this blog!

Hi Everyone,

Today marks exactly one year since I started the Little Miss Expat Blog!! And I wanted to take some time to reflect on this year and to say thank you to all of you guys.

It was a dream of mine to start a blog for a really long time, and more than that I just wanted to help other expats who were going through the same thing I had just experienced. But it took a lot of courage to start this blog and share my writing with others because I was scared of what other people would say and of their reactions to my writing. But I am so happy that I decided to share my experiences on this blog, and your positive responses, messages, and comments have really made it all worth it.

Any blogger knows how much time and effort it takes to have your own site. Writing weekly posts, uploading to Instagram every day, replying to comments, taking photos, scheduling collaborations: maybe these don’t sound like hard jobs, but trust me, on top of everyday life, it’s a lot of work. It’s been hard to keep everything up, especially during really stressful weeks, but having an audience as responsive as you guys has made it worthwhile. Knowing that you appreciate my posts and that you like reading what I have to say, as well as inputting your own thoughts, has made me inspired to work even harder on this blog. I know it’s cliché, but we’re kind of like a family. You guys support me in everything I post here, and I do my best to support you guys with my blog posts.

I wanted to say thank you to all of you who follow this blog, my Instagram, or my Facebook page because you have allowed me do this, and experience this. Thank you for letting me know when you like something, telling me your own stories, and showing constant support for what I do. Also thank you to my family who always supports my blog, even if I force them to stop and take photos! And to all the companies and brands who have given me the opportunity to work with them. I can not thank you all enough!

I’ve loved doing this for you. Sitting in my bed in the evenings, pouring my heart into these posts, and reading your comments which just brighten up my day. And I thought that it wouldn’t be a true reflection post without me sharing some of my most favourite blog posts with you guys, so here they are:

Conquering Homesickness

Okay, so I wrote this post for myself, as much as I did for you guys. Because even though I’ve been an expat for four years now, I still feel homesick sometimes. I like this post a lot because this was raw, it was me thinking about ways to work through what I was feeling, and sharing it with you. I think there are some really good pieces of advice in there.

Words From Inspirational Women

I LOVED this post because there are just so many amazing words in here. I loved writing this one because I got to share some of my women inspirations, and some of the quotes that are the most powerful to me. I would really recommend reading some of the words in this post if you haven’t already.

Finding Happiness

So this post links to my expat story a lot because it has taken a while to settle in and become accustomed to my new surroundings. I finally feel at ease and happy with where I am, and I wanted to share that with you guys.

Clean Beauty – the guide to what it is, what to buy, and how it works

I was so excited about this post, and it was one of the most fun posts to write. Because I am so so passionate about using clean beauty products, and they’re something that has really made a huge difference to me, I wanted to share all of my advice on this subject with you guys.

What are we doing to the Earth? – Earth Day 2018

I felt really strongly about this post, as our ongoing environmental issues are something that I do a lot of work to help combat. I’m so happy I could share my message with this audience, as it’s a message that should be heard by everyone.

The Most Important Life Lesson I’ve Learned

This post was my honest advice, things that I’ve learned through tough times. And if someone asked me to give them just one piece of advice, this would be it. Always be yourself. It’s all explained in this post, and this is the post I would recommend the most if you’re new to my blog.

In this one year of blogging, there have also been a lot of times I could celebrate with you guys! From reaching my first 100 followers on Instagram to almost being at 500 now. From going from 5 to 150 followers on the blog. Receiving my Liebster blogging award, working on a collaboration with Little Miss Honey, The Salad Jar, Evolve Beauty, and having my writing published by the Expat Kids Club! (my writing will be live on their site soon) It has been an amazing year for the Little Miss Expat blog, and I owe a lot of it to you guys.

So to all of you that read my blog posts, thank you for supporting this journey. It really does mean the world to me.

Lots of love,

Little Miss Expat

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The Ultimate Bloggers Photography Guide

Hi Everyone!

Today I am so happy to share my most requested blog post with you guys. I’ve had people asking me for this post for a long time, and I finally had time to write a super long and in-depth post that will hopefully be worth the wait! This post is all about my blogging photography, and some of my tips and tricks.

I’ve always loved photography, I find it so interesting how you can snap a moment, and have that photo to look back and remember that exact point in time. For a long time before starting my blog I had been taking photos, but I just didn’t have anywhere to put them. That’s why when I started my blog, one of the things I was the most excited about, was finally being able to take photos and have somewhere to share them.

To be completely honest, I am no expert in photography, I don’t take lessons. But I think my photos speak for themselves. Most of the tips and techniques I use, I have pretty much taught or worked out myself. I would love to learn more about photography in the future, so if you have any good recommendations for photography blogs or online classes be sure to leave them in the comments!

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This photography guide will include all of the tips I’ve been using in my 1 year of blogging, and I will go through each style of photo that I take, and how I take them. However, if there’s something that I don’t cover in this post, feel free to leave it in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

What Equipment Do I Use?

Okay, so first up, the most important thing before I get into all of my tips and tricks. What kind of equipment do I use? Like I said, I’m not a full-time photographer, so I don’t have all the fancy equipment. I think for a blogger it depends on what kind of photos you take, and then you can decide on what equipment you’ll need. Honestly, I think you realise what you need as you go along and see what you’re missing. For me, I started out with a DSLR camera that I had from before I started my blog, the Nikon DX VR. And I assumed that this is what I would use to take my photos. But really as I started getting into blogging I realised that it was much more practical for me to use my phone to take photos if they were on the go, and I only really used my DSLR camera when I scheduled in a ‘photoshoot’ which I’ll talk a bit about later.

When I’m taking photos for a specific blog post, or I have some products I need to get in a shot, for example in a flat lay, then I will use my camera. But, for most of the photos, you see on my Instagram (@Little.Miss.Expat) they are things I see as I’m walking around, or restaurants that I’ve eaten at, and I don’t really take my camera with me when I go out, so they’re taken on my phone. I do have some tips for getting good photos on my phone, which maybe I can write another blog post about if you like this one?

Recently I got a tripod, and that’s something that I’ve found really useful when I’m taking flat lay photos or product shots. My tripod is a Rollei tripod, and it’s super handy because I can pack it up to be really compact so I can take it with me when I’m traveling if I need to. But to be honest, for a beginner photographer, or a blogger who’s still working out their niche, I wouldn’t say that having a tripod is essential. If you find yourself doing a lot more food photography or product photography, then I would invest in one.

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One example of me using my tripod to take photos for my Travel Essentials post.

Planning My Photos

So something that I usually do, if I know that I’ll need a photo for a specific post, or some general ‘blogging b-roll’ (which I’ll explain later) is set up a photoshoot for myself. I’ll usually sketch out what I want the photo to look like in a notebook where I keep all my blog post ideas, and I’ll look on Pinterest for some inspiration. I also keep a folder of photos on my Instagram that I save as I see them, for inspiration later on. If it’s a photo with myself in it, I’ll decide on the ‘vibe’ for the photo, and pick out an outfit that I think will compliment it. I usually get one of my sisters to take the photo if I’m in it, and I either get them to stand in the shot first, so I can show them want it to look like, and after they take a photo we keep looking back and adjusting it to get the photo to look like the one I planned. I also pick out a few props for photoshoots, I don’t have a set collection of props, the things I use in my photos are usually things I have lying around, such as books, plants, flowers, glasses etc… But one thing to remember is that these photos that I get from a scheduled photo shoot, are usually specific to one blog post, and not really the ones you’ll see on my Instagram. Here are some examples of photos I’ve taken from planned photoshoots.

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What’s ‘Blogging B-roll’

Okay so this is actually something I made up myself, I’m not sure if other people call it this. But when you shoot b-roll for a video, it’s the supplementary clips that are extra, that’s why my ‘blogging B-roll’ is extra photos that I have stashed, readily available. I post on my Instagram every day, which, let me tell you, is not easy. And 5 out of 7 days a week I’m at school, so I’m not really going to take photos of my life that day to share on my Instagram. That’s why when I am out, I use the opportunity to take lots of photos of the things that I’m doing, and maybe I won’t necessarily use them that day, but I have them as extra photos if I need to post them one day. Things such as views, outfits, places I visit, and food, are all examples of my blogging b-roll. Here are some examples of photos I use as blogging B-roll.

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How To Up Your Instagram Photography Game

First off, having ‘insta-worthy’ photos should not be a thing you worry about. Post what you want to, and photos you love. But if you’re looking to up your Instagram game, there are some things that I would recommend you do. Firstly, take good quality photos (which I’ll give my tips on later) but no amount of editing can make up for a bad quality photo. Secondly, editing is key, but don’t overdo it (I’ll let you in on some of my editing tricks later), and if you’re trying to build a feed for your photos, I would recommend using an app like UNUM. I’ve tried lots of Instagramming apps, and in my opinion, UNUM is the best, I can plan out my Instagram feed to see how it looks, and the app also collects data from my account to see when the best times for me to post are. As a blogger who’s always looking to increase my following, knowing when to post, and when my audience will be the most engaged, is vital. I use the predicted times from UNUM, and I compare them against times from ‘WhenToPost’ and ‘Prime’, and then decide on the best time for the day.

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Onto The Tips…

Lighting is key. I can not stress this enough! In my opinion, lighting is the most important part of taking a good photo. I have no idea how to use professional studio lights or anything like that, but natural light does the trick. I’ll never take an Instagram photo at night, or in a room without any windows, because the photo just comes out grainy, or with shadows all over it. If you’re scheduling a photo shoot, or you know you need to take a photo, be sure to do it during a time where the sun is still out.

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In these photos, the lighting was just not right, and I could not get them to look better when I edited them, so I never ended up using them.

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DO NOT overdo the editing! The number of times I’ve been scrolling through my Instagram feed and seen perfectly good photos, over-edited and completely ruined is countless. With editing, less is more. I usually put my photos onto VSCO, and add a subtle filter to them, then I up the exposure and contrast a bit, and sometimes put in a colored tone. If the photo doesn’t look to promising when it’s raw, I won’t push the editing, because no amount of editing will make up for a bad photo. Editing is not a changer, it’s an enhancer, and it should be used like that.

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Learn how your camera works. When I went into starting this blog, I basically just knew how to take a photo on my camera, I had no idea how to do any kind of cool effects. Only recently did I read up on my camera, and learn how to change the aperture to blur out the background, and use the macro setting to take close-ups of wildlife.

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I used the macro setting to get this really detailed shot of a bee. 

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I changed the aperture to blur the background in this photo.

Follow the lines of the photo. So this may sound a bit weird, but one thing to consider when taking photos that you want to look visually appealing is to make the photo look simple in the eye of the beholder. So if things are lopsided and skewed, the photo just isn’t going to look appealing to the audience because, at least for me, it doesn’t look organized in my brain. If you’re taking a photo of a building, make sure your photo lines up with the straight edges, instead of looking messy and unclean.

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There’s so much going on in this photo, that if all the lines were lopsided it just wouldn’t look clean.

X-Skew and Y-Skew are your new best friends. Some of my most useful editing tools are the X-Skew, and Y-Skew buttons on VSCO. Let me explain to you the magic of these two buttons. If I’m taking a flay lay, and my phone wasn’t exactly right over the table, or my angle of a building is taken from lower down and the proportions look a bit off, I can just whip out these tools and fix it up. The X-Skew and Y-Skew buttons tilt the photos up, down, and side to side, basically it’s an instant proportion fixer. I’ll put some before and after photos below to show you exactly what I mean by this.

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Before

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After

If all fails, just try again. Your photos are not going to turn out perfect every time you take them, that’s just a fact. Sometimes I put a lot of effort into a photo, but I just can’t get it right, maybe my pose is weird, or the background is off, but there’s just something that’s not right with the photo. Don’t be discouraged, pick out specifically what you don’t like about the photo, and next time you can make sure you change that. Some of the first photos I took for my blog, I can not believe that I uploaded. If I look at the progression of my photos on this blog, I can see how much they’ve changed by picking out the small details I wanted to change as I went along.

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I wanted to take a photo for my New Years blog post, but these just didn’t turn out how I wanted them. So….

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I went home and tried again, and got these great photos.

Capture the moment. As I said, photos are something special, you’re capturing a moment in a shot. And these moments don’t come around all the time. If you see something interesting, or a shot that looks really cool, don’t count on it being there tomorrow. Just take the opportunity today, go out and take the photo, because you never know if it will turn out the same tomorrow.

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Tomorrow this may not be there. It’s better that I captured that shot when I saw it, rather than waiting. 

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Take the photo as your eyes see it. Okay so this one seems pretty obvious, but this has to be the most useful tip I’ve worked out. How many times have you seen something, and thought, wow that would be a great photo, only to take it and realise it doesn’t really look that good? One of the things I do to remedy this is put my camera where eyes are, because if I’m looking at something and it looks great in my eyes, surely if I place the camera where I was looking from, I’ll be able to get that shot. And it really works! Sometimes all you have to do is step back and reassess your perspective to get a nice photo.

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I wanted to get a photo of this really cute restaurant, but it just wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to. So I went back and reassessed my perspective and got this!

Know where to place your subject. So this question was asked on my Instagram, and I think it’s actually a very interesting one. Most of us tend to put the subject of our photo in the center, but there are other ways to do it. I would say if you’re standing in an alleyway where your eye is naturally being drawn to the center because of the lines, place your subject there. But for other photos, if you’ve ever heard of the rule of thirds, that could be something cool to try. It basically means that if you placed a 3×3  grid over your photo, the subject would be in either the left or the right third, not the center one. This can be good to use if there’s a view behind you that you want to show in the picture, or if you want to mix things up a bit.

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In this photo, the archway draws the eye to the center of the photo, so that’s where I placed the subject here. 

Go out and search for the magic. In the end, if you use all these tips and you just take the same photos over and over again, there’s no point. Chanel your creativity into your photos, and open your eyes. I think one of the reasons I’ve been so successful with my photos, is because I can see the potential things.  I’ll see something when I’m out, and it may look like the most insignificant object, but I think, wow that would look great in a photo, and those end up being some of the best photos I’ve taken.

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Okay, so this has probably been the longest post I’ve ever written! But I had so many tips I wanted to share with you guys, as you’ve been asking how I take my photos for a really long time. If you want to see more of my photos you can take a look at my Instagram account (@Little.Miss.Expat). I will for sure do more posts like this, as I still want to share tips on how to take flat lay photos, and photos of yourself. But please let me know if you found this useful! And how about we all leave our best photography tip in the comments section so this can be a collaborative guide for anyone to use?

See you next week,

Little Miss Expat

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