Five Tips for the Traveling Photographer

Yesterday, I read a great little article by Real Simple called 10 Things Every Traveler Should Do. After thinking about the ins-and-outs of being a travel photographer, I decided to write a blog post for the traveling photographer in you. These tips are relevant whether you’re an expert photographer or novice, or whether you’re traveling to a tropical island, main city, or remote village.

{All the images seen below are from my recent excursion to Delhi, India and taken during a 2 hour window of time. I hope you enjoy.}

5 tips for the traveling photographer

1. Let jet lag become your friend.
Say what!? I mean it. Instead of lying awake at 4am, staring at your ceiling fan, get moving! Explore the streets with your camera while rarely-seen, early-morning life happens. Not only is the light buttery and soft, but you are bound to see something that few other travelers will see.

delhi india spice market travel photographer delhi india spices wholesale bags of cinnamon

street scene in Delhi India travel photographer

2. Walk the city with your camera or take the local transport.

Where I’d never recommend walking down a dark alley where you might not feel comfortable, there are some incredible things to see and photograph when you get off the main strip. Sometimes (okay, most often) that means walking down that little side street or taking the unbeaten path. This first image was captured off the main road in the old city, where life was a little calmer, and there was a chance to really take my time photographing people.
Plus, I found the BEST chapatti (flat Indian bread) from an outdoor vendor that sticks the bread to the walls of a clay oven beneath him. I would have never otherwise experienced this little piece of heaven if I didn’t let myself roam.

delhi india couple travel photographer documentary delhi india rickshaw street photographer

3. Get low.
As you are on foot, noticing and observing life around you, don’t just snap scenes from the same angle. Physically getting lower to the ground can help create a more intimate image, even on a busy street.

delhi india travel photographer Delhi India street travel photographer

4. Shoot from the hip (or higher) to get something unique.
If you really want to capture something different, try shooting from your waist or above your head. Photographing from your waist will ensure you don’t disrupt real life moments. Nothing says “stop what you’re doing and smile for the camera” like a big lens pointed right at you. Shooting from your waist can help avoid loosing the realness of your scene as people carry on in a normal fashion. It may take a few tries to get it right, but usually worth the effort. Shooting from above your head might seem silly, but I have come to love the results. This technique really gives a unique perspective, and allows you, as the photographer to get an image that you might not have otherwise thought to capture. Take this scene for instance. From the perspective of my rickshaw, I had very limited visibility, but from over-head, I was able to capture a typical Delhi street scene from a unique vantage point.

travel photographer Delhi India

5. Tell a story or find a theme.
Drinking chai is a quintessential part of life for most Indians. It happens often, and it happens pretty much anywhere. Capturing a few images during my walk that relates to the making and enjoyment of chai lends for a nice story to fully capture this part of Indian culture. If possible, shoot a diversity of imagery, ranging from wide angles to close details. It helps your audience feel more connected and have a better understanding of these real life moments. Don’t be afraid to interact and ask for portraits too.

chai delhi india street travel photographer chai travel tea delhi india photographer travel chai story travel photographer delhi india travel photographer chai story delhi india

Don’t be rude. Respect the culture. Although I would like to think this little bonus tip would go without saying, you’d be surprised. On a recent trip to Nepal, I was walking around the famous Boudhanath (Boudha) stupa, when I noticed a very interesting thing happen right in front of me. An elderly Tibetan nun was doing her circumambulations around the stupa (holy, prayerful walk in a clockwise direction) when a young tourist came up to her face with his camera and snapped a photo. There was no interaction, no asking of permission, and no thank you afterwards. As I was thinking how rude this was, the scenario that followed was priceless. As the young guy happily walked off, obviously pleased with his new photo, the old woman shot her walking cane up in his direction as if trying to whack him with it. She was so displeased that she kept trying to catch up with him, despite her slow limp, and continued to wave her cane in protest. The young man was clueless.


//Keep this discussion going. I’d love to hear if this information was helpful or if you have any travel photography questions or suggestions you would like to share. Feel free to comment below.//

Young Monks.

Young Monks.

Don’t miss your chance to enter the drawing to receive your favorite image from this series.

All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment, and we will randomly select TWO people to receive their print of choice.
(US mailing addresses only, sorry)


young monk imagery Tibet buddhism

emotional young buddhist monk from Nepal

young Tibetan buddhist monk in classroom

Tibet buddhist monk from Nepal

young boy Tibet buddhist monk Dharamsala India

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Refugee Status. A Documentary Project for Tibet

Tibetan refugees, India, Tibet, Documentary Photographer, Current Affairs, Culture

“Being clear about what we’re doing and why is the first step in doing it better. If you’re not happy about the honest answer to this question, make substantial changes until you are.” Seth Godin. Jan 15, 2013

Not a day goes by when I don’t have the extreme privilege of hearing stories of young Tibetans fleeing the Chinese government’s occupation of their land. The stories are shocking, filled with bravery, a fight for freedom and many times, end in tragedy.  Just today, a friend of mine told me his story of crossing the Himalayan Mountains (as they all do in order to get to India). He told me of being captured by the Chinese government the first 3 times he tried to escape, put in prison and then returned him to his home. The fourth and final time, he travelled for multiple weeks over the mountains, with some dying along the way. Food runs out, the temperatures are freezing, there are unmarked paths with dangerous cliffs. One young man fell to his death during their journey.

I want to help. This has inspired me to start a documentary project of these young adults, coming from Tibet, as refugees, holding on to their culture, learning for the first time about their country’s history (as it is mostly banned in Tibet to learn of their own history), all the while trying to embrace their new surroundings in India, separated from their families and from the way of life they’re accustomed to. A beautiful mixture of tradition and modern appeals. Starting a new life…. with “Refugee Status”.

This is the first image of the series.

(Sengye, shown above, is a young Tibetan man from the Amdo region of Tibet. He wears a traditional fur hat and necklace, identifying him as Amdo. He was raised in a nomadic family (as most are in that region), breeding yaks, sheeps and goats. He fled Tibet on the same night of his father’s return from being imprisoned by the Chinese government for 14 years. They didn’t see each other.)

Please feel free to share your thoughts, input and comments.

The Taj Majal India

The Taj Majal India

Nick and I had the incredible pleasure of visiting the Taj Mahal again. Despite the incredibly offensive heat (about 45C or 115F), we had a great time exploring and visiting this “wonder of the world“.

Of course, as a photographer, I am always intrigued to get another opportunity to shoot images for my stock portfolio as well as think creatively for different shots, since, lets face it, every photographer who has been to the Taj, has taken the famous reflection shot. It’s hard not to though. The Taj is a very symmetrical building, with great consideration by Mughal emperor Shah Jahanin in all its fine intricacies, and this is one of them. The reflection shot proves this nicely as well as frames a nice image of the front of the mausoleum.

Hope you enjoy the photos! THANKS!

Taj Mahal travel photographer clear sky stock photo
Luckily, the sky parted for some nice contrast and interest in the clouds.

India Taj Mahal interesting beautiful photography horizontal

unique Taj Mahal imagery photographer stock image

Taj Mahal documentary photographer India travel

beautiful Taj Mahal imagery photographer India silhouette vertical

reflection image of Taj Mahal photographer


Today Magazine, South Africa | Travel Photography

Today Magazine, South Africa | Travel Photography

Photographing the world is my passion, my art, my worship, my joy, and my job. I am so blessed to be able to do what I LOVE for a living. Recently, Today Magazine, a Christian South African magazine, asked if they could feature me as their “artist of the month” and do an interview in their magazine with me. They asked questions about my art, but also what my heart is for raising awareness and impacting others with my photography. I hope you can read the article and, in doing so, get a better glimpse into my world of photography, work, and my heart.

U.S. African Indian Humanitarian Photo Journalist Paula Watts

World in Color Photography Gallery | Portland, Oregon

World in Color Photography Gallery | Portland, Oregon

Well, if you missed the big opening of the World In Color Photographic Gallery, you still have a chance to check out the art work. Not only is it hanging the WHOLE month of October at the Dyna Art Lounge in the Pearl District of Portland, I am also featuring the work right here on my blog. (although you truly can’t understand the beauty of an acrylic print until you see it in person). The gallery is open Mon-Fri, normal business hours and is located at 300 NW 14th Avenue, Portland, OR. The gallery is inside the Dynagraphics building, so go take a peak inside!

For special orders or purchasing details, please contact me directly at info@paulawattsphoto.com.

This gallery is something that has been such a journey for me and my husband. Not only did we spend 6 months last year traveling the world, photographing our hearts out, we have really been trying to find out what the best way to share the imagery is and hopefully impact people along the way. When I was given this gallery opportunity, I knew it would be the right step in the right direction. I long for people to see these images not only as beautiful pieces of art but also as a way of appreciating other cultures and hopefully spuring on a desire to travel to all corners of the world. I feel that only then can people truly understand the need that is so evident in places like Africa and India and finally realize our place in helping. This gallery is meant to be a call to action. Whether the first step is learning more about a place, a foreign land that might put us out of our comfort zone, or a place that our heart longs to visit. The world is small. We can help one another.


juxtaposition Chaing Mai Thailand Travel Photo Journalist

wat lok moli Chaing Mai Thailand Photographry

Angkor Wat Travel Photographer

Cambodia Angkor Wat Monk Travel Photographer

ta prohm Ankor Wat U.S. Travel Photographer

table mountain cape town s.a. travel photographer

Red Hill Cape Town South Africa U.S. Photo Journalist

Red Hill Cape Town Fire Photo Journalist Photographer

Hondural Travel Photographer

Jodhpur India U.S. travel photographer

pink city Jaipur india U.S.  travel photographer

gentle dignity Indian Woman travel photographer

Udaipur india travel photographry

India::A Photographers Delight
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India::A Photographers Delight

If you’re a photographer and you’ve never been to India… go! India is full of vibrant colors, rich culture, and beautiful people! I had an amazing time walking and exploring the streets of towns like Jaipur, Udaipur, Puna, Jodphur, and they all have something unique and beautiful to offer. For instance, Jaipur, is the Pink Town, so much of the old Jaipur is painted in pink! Jodphur, on the other hand, is the Blue City, so most of the town’s buildings are blue! Its incredible. Here are a few clips from my time in India! If you’d like to see more, don’t hesitate to ask! I am always a ham to show my photography!

Old Woman in Goa, Stock Photography

Pink City Jaipur India Stock Photography travel photographer