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Photography 101: Take better photos with these tips

This post is dedicated to M, who isn't interested in photography even a bit, but would make so many people happy if he improved his skills. Yes, you would benefit from it, too!

First of all: I am not a professional photographer. In fact, my technical knowledge is fairly basic. I don't even use a (D)SLR. I use a small point-and-shoot. Heck, for three years, I mostly used smartphones to take pictures. So when I talk about photography, it's all within the limits of simple means. No talk of aperture or numbers. No additional gadgets. Actually, I will keep this so short and handy, I'll talk in bullet points! Also, I will focus on pictures with people in it. And with people I mean me. Maybe others, too. But mostly I mean me.

#1. – Lighting
  • Avoid using a camera's in-built flash.
  • Avoid backlight.
  • Avoid direct sunlight.
  • Indirect sunlight is best.
  • Artificial lighting straight from the top or from the bottom is unflattering.
  • Lighting anywhere from the side is good. Position yourself or the object accordingly.
  • In low light, hold very still! Or turn up the ISO, but the more ISO, the more noise/snow.
  • A good white balance is key to color accuracy. If the camera can't handle it, photo editing is a must.

Notes:
Flash is the single most unflattering lighting for photos, not only because it's an unflattering light. The bright, frontal lighting kills all shadows. But we want shadows to give objects a plastic feel. Without shadows, they will look flat. That's why we want the lighting to come from the side, because it'll create shades.
Direct sunlight is so bright it washes out colors and contours. You'll either have a well-lit object but overexposed background, or the other way around. Choose.
I edit pictures with Adobe Lightroom.

Flash also lightens up objects in the foreground although the background is supposed to be more relevant. 

#2. – Composition and angles
  • Make sure the picture is straight!
  • Take the Rule of Thirds as helpful rule of thumb
  • Be clear on what you're aiming to shoot and focus on that.
  • Crop out the rest.
  • Move! You have legs, you can move. Look for a better angle, a better cutout.
  • Condense the information in the picture: if it's about two people talking, get it from an angle where you really see them interacting with each other, don't have too much space come in between them. If it's about the contrast between two objects, get it from an angle where they sit side by side.
  • For interesting pictures, 95 % of the time, eye-level won't cut it. Climb on top of something to take a picture from above, or lower yourself down.
  • Careful, however, about pictures taken from below. Can make faces look unflattering!

Notes:
This picture isn't straight, I ignored the Rule of Thirds, and I chose a terrible cutout of the scene with part of a advertisement poster showing in one corner and none of the nice building entwined with greens in the background. Also, I had my friend stand right in front of the other object of interest, covering it to most parts. Terrible picture, don't you agree? 

#3. – Object
  • Look for scenes that make great backgrounds for a photo!
  • Great scenes can be serene, or super wild and powerful.
  • Look for eye catching colors or patterns. The more contrasts between them, the more exciting the picture becomes.
  • However, standing in the middle of a lively scene, it's possible I get lost in it. In this case, you either have to come up close to get me larger, or tell me to get out of there altogether, and focus on the scene.
  • Portraits benefit from more quiet backgrounds anyway.
  • If you see interesting objects, don't prop myself right in front of it, but a bit to the side so that me and the object can both be seen well in the picture. 
  • Please don't be so random. Only take pictures of me when I'm doing something interesting, or am somewhere interesting, or am with someone interesting, unless I tell you otherwise. Train stations are not interesting.

For more about better picture composition, I thought this guide gives good tips. This one as well.

I hope this guide was helpful.

My favorite make up brushes

Haa, I love make up brushes. Little feels more luxe than swirling around your face with a soft bristled brush. All the better if it improves your make up application!

I'm into foundation and powder brushes in particular. I own several, and still want more. But so far, here are a few of my favorites.



#1. – Bobbi Brown Face brush
This small kabuki brush shed hairs at first, but now it seems fine. It's so soft and cute. I think I love it for that alone. In addition, it's great for powder application, but can buff out cream foundation, too.

#2. – Japonesque Blush brush
I've had this brush for a year, and unfortunately it still sheds. Yet, I love it nonetheless. It picks up color well, and blends it out almost by itself. Of course, it works with many different powders as well.

#3. – Shiseido Foundation brush
This is so high quality, and it truly works! Streak-free cream foundation application in a matter of seconds. It's more than a year old now but has never shed a single hair. This is one of my must buy brushes.

Ways to eat instant ramen

Why did the Asian hipster kids burn their tongues? Because they slurped instant noodles before they were cool.

I don't know about your usual go-to lazy snack when you were young, but instant noodles rank high on my list. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, we kept instant noodle packages in our cupboard most of the time. In my family's home, it was mostly Yum Yum noodles from Thailand. Now, M and I always keep a carton of Shin ramyun from Korea ourselves.


The thing about instant noodles, or instant ramen, or instant ramyun, is that it gives you artistic and culinary freedom without requiring actual cooking skills! Such taste, much good.

Let's explore all the possibilities.

As a teenager, I always used Yum Yum noodles with Tom Yam shrimp flavor, added minced meat, and Chinese cabbage.

My aunt usually cut some slices of steamed pork, and added fresh herbs such as cilantro, and scallions to hers.

With the advent of M, so came Shin ramyun into my life. Shin ramyun make M, the white bread ham and cheese boy, feel so Korean. His Shin ramyun version regularly features cheese, and an egg.


And whatever he can find.


The magical thing about Shin ramyun is that it goes well with everything from garlic, roasted seaweed, dried shiitake mushrooms, SPAM, cut up sausages, soy bean sprouts, tofu, corn, pork belly, pak choi, canned tuna, deep frozen dumplings, to seafood, and more.

Did you know that when you see ramyun, or ramen, on a restaurant menu in Korea, it's most likely just good ol' Shin ramyun with an add-on of your choice? You can get the classic, or you can get cheese ramyun with cheese, or kimchi ramyun with kimchi, and so on.

Talk about refined.

While my mother always warned me not to eat instant noodles too often, and I've always considered them poor college student food, in Korea it's held in high esteem. And in this regard, I think Korean culture is unique. As much as they love their ramyun, they've never even bothered to develop a more sophisticated, serious ramyun culture, like that in China or Japan. They not only consider instant ramyun good as it is, but also as good. It's the kind of comfort food a Korean mother would make for her child as a sign of love.

My mom would just be like, "no."

Wishlist Wednesday: beauty

When it comes to shopping for clothes, I yak about restraint a lot, don't I? And when I preach about keeping it simple, I do mean it! Don't give in to impulse buys! Prioritize!

When it comes to beauty products, though, I get weak like anyone. Not much restraint here. Whoops..

#1. – Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder
This powder is supposed to be the perfect contouring powder: matte in finish, easily blendable, and cool in color. It is said to really look like a shadow on skin. For a round face like mine, I see it working wonders already!

#2. – Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stains
Purchasing one of these was an impulse decision. It took me a few tries to get the application right at first. But now that I know how to work it, I am hooked! In combination with opaque, vibrant colors, the glossy look works even for me.

#3. – Laura Young LY34 Foundation Brush
love make up brushes. There's little more luxe than applying your foundation with a good, soft-bristled brush. It's really not like I needed more foundation brushes. But the ease of use and efficiency this is supposed to offer is hard to withstand.

Toca Rouge

If you're into Chinese food, but are not feeling the same ol' sweet'n'sour, do check out Toca Rouge in Berlin Mitte. They do Chinese fusion, and they do it well! M and I had lunch there couple weeks ago, and we thought their food was tasty!

I had catfish and shrimps with a lemon curry sauce, while M had crispy chicken with apple. The latter was basically your typical sweet'n'sour I admit, but a particularly delicious one at that. My catfish and shrimps were super juicy, the sauce tangy and a little spicy. Very good! Can definitely recommend. I am curious about the other dishes, though. Will make sure to try out more.

Prices are not expensive either. Very affordable in fact, though portions aren't big; we only got a rather small scoop of rice for lunch. It could be different for dinner, though.

Torstraße 195
10115 Berlin Mitte
Homepage

Grumpy cat


Warmer days are coming.

I'm still super bummed I'm allergic to the Clinique sun screen. It applied so nicely, the price was right, I liked the texture... :( sadface.

After saving some money and selling my old Olympus Pen E-P1, I finally purchased a new camera on the weekend, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100! Finally indeed.

I use a photo sharing gallery website where I save and backup all of my pictures. Some of them date as far back as 2005. Lately, I took to browsing through them, reviving old, funny memories. That's when I noticed something: from all the cameras I ever used, the Olympus took by far the worst pictures. It also hit me that I used to love taking pictures, and I did so all the time. But almost as soon as I got the Olympus, I had begun taking less and less. Instead, I'd rather take photos with my smartphones. Most of the pictures from South Korea are smartphone pictures! Although I had purchased the camera specifically for blogging, in hindsight, it might have almost ruined blogging for me. Now that I think about it, I can't believe how long it took me to realize that I h a t e the way it takes pictures! Yes, it's that bad. So I'm glad I decided to finally sell it, and get myself another camera at last.

Using a website called The Wirecutter, it didn't take me long to decide on my next. The website reviews products of a certain category for you, then recommends you the best of all choices by considering the results from reviews by other websites in addition! That's how I quickly found my Sony camera, which does get rave reviews almost everywhere.

So far, I am tremendously happy about my purchase. The pictures the Sony takes are sharp and vibrant in color. Simple things like white balance, which was a nightmare with the Olympus, are managed perfectly by it. Even under problematic lighting – think low or back light – it performs incredibly well. The camera is also able to take beautiful pictures with a shallow depth of field, which is particularly helpful for portraits or just in general really. Extra points go to useful functions such as the in-camera soft skin-effect, making portraits even better. In addition, it even has a self-timer function which allows you to set the timer off by simply pointing at yourself when you stand in position. This in particular will be helpful for outfit pictures. Don't be surprised if my blog becomes more picture heavy again!

Thaiwiese


In a small park, nay, on not much more than a wide lawn in the middle of a quiet corner of West Berlin, a number of Thai housewives come together here on Sundays if the weather so allows, bringing along their home country's food, and putting it on sale. Think exotic homemade goodness, better even than anything you can find in restaurants. Their food is utterly delicious! Bring a blanket, bring some friends, and have yourself a feast outdoors. As soon as the weather gets warmer again I sure will do so often.

See more pictures from the event on Finding Berlin.

Preußenpark
(Fehrbelliner Platz)
10707 Berlin Charlottenburg
Yelp

By the way.

How do you prevent panda eyes? Tell me a l l your tricks!

But also, I realized recently that a lot of assumptions I made about my skin are false. I don't have dry skin! Or rather, I do have dry skin, but it's also oily. It gets oily during the day. Last winter, my skin was so dry it was flaky and scaly on a whole other level. That's why I assumed I have dry skin and that's it. But with the panda eyes situation, I think it mostly comes from having oily skin, which melts away the pigments making it run everywhere.

My whole world is turnt upside down...
Oh no. I liked the Clinique sun screen a lot at first, but now I'm beginning to realize my skin is reacting with a strong allergy against it! This wasn't the sun, it was the sun screen :O

Review: Urban Decay Glide-On 24/7 Eye Pencil in Perversion

OK, so khol liner pencils and me, we do not work out.

I can't quite figure out what makes this get the rave reviews it gets. On me, it smudges, and comes off awkwardly throughout the night. And yes, pesky panda eyes alert!!! Let's say I looked terrible yesterday.

Had hopes this would at least perform a little better than the liner from Maybelline I reviewed some time ago. But no.
The amount of money I'm willing to spend on lipstick is utterly insane! It's out of proportions really. No matter. I love my new YSL stain gloss!!
Aw, shucks! Totally botched an entire batch of shortcrust, and now my entire lemon tarte is ruined. It's in the oven right this moment, but while it's baking, I realized my mistakes. Now I'm curious how it'll turn out.

Why do we choose to wear the things we wear?

The bottom line is, fashion and style are non-verbal language

I know that. Or rather, I've read that many times. But never have I understood what this means more clearly than I do now. Silvia Bovenschen, writer, explains it well in a tempo:

Translation: 

"The way I see myself plays a big part. The first blouse I see is out of the question, because for me, it is inseparably connected to an old fashioned, conservative type of woman. The next one is out, too – from experience I know that its color doesn't suit me. Another blouse is hopelessly unfashionable, while the other is way over the top. This one is too uptight, that one suggest sexual advances which I'm unwilling to make. And so on. We are unconscious of the most of it. However, we know, or at least we suspect it: clothing is readable [...]"

Furthermore, it is possible our style isn't always congruent with our actual personality. But it's interesting to see how we see ourselves and want to be seen by others. Finally I comprehend how much we really tell about ourselves.
Ever since sitting in direct sunlight a couple days ago my skin's being red, irritated, and bumpy :( I will not neglect reapplying my sunscreen ever again!!

Quick patterns

Quick outfit to go out for some ice cream at Rosa Canina.
Beauty bloggers often refer to their favorite products as deserted island items. What would you bring on a deserted island? Well, definitely not mascara! What do I need anything beauty related on a deserted island?! Think about it.
Some trend summaries are ridiculous. "Ripped jeans!" "White T-shirts!" "Floral!" Unless it's something really unexpected and new, it's really not worth pointing out items everybody in the world already owns anyway.

This month's best music

It's the end of the month. I feel like this was a fairly turbulent month. Hadn't much time to listen to a lot of music, but here are a few of my favorites.





And always and forever!