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Karen Lao

Advice Food North America Photography

Local Foodie Gems in Dallas (+ Food Photography & Flatlay Tips!)

Whenever I travel, I LOVE to try the local food. I’m even passionate about finding food right in Dallas, where I live. If there’s a new coffee shop – I’m there. If there’s a new restaurant opening up – I’ve RSVP’d! And I love documenting it all along the way. Here are some of my favorite spots and some tips on how to make your foodie shots and flatlay set up super appealing.

Cafe Victoria

Cafe Victoria is a new coffee shop in Dallas located near the American Airlines Center. It’s small, cozy, and perfect for dropping in for your daily cappuccino and pastry! I loved the colored patterns on the walls and couldn’t resist taking a photo. When taking photos, keep your eyes out for colors, shapes, and patterns! They often make the best backdrops.

Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar

Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar in the Knox-Henderson area of Dallas is a must-try for brunch! My favorite area is the enclosed patio on the side of the restaurant. It feels very rustic and charming – a great place to experience southern cuisine with elegance. I love having natural lighting for my food, hence the patio seating. But it really does wonders for food photography! Try asking for window or outdoors seating the next time you want a pretty brunch photo!

S&D Oyster Company

S&D Oyster Company in Uptown Dallas has amazing oysters. The crowd is definitely older, but older people sure do know their food! Oysters in landlocked Dallas can be a hit or miss, but this place always hits the spot. To make your flatlay food shots more interesting, try to capture some action!

Glazed Donut Works

If you’re craving donuts in Deep Ellum of Dallas, head to Glazed Donut Works for some specialty donuts. I love their signature pink color, maple bacon donut, and the fact that they stay open until 2AM on the weekend. Oh, they also serve vegan donuts! When taking photos on the go, I like to see if my surroundings will complement my food. Pink bench, meet pink donut!

Oak Lawn Coffee

It’s true. Everything is better with coffee. Oak Lawn Coffee is my favorite coffee shop in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas. You have to try their frozen latte (like a frappuccino but better) or shaken espresso (shot of espresso with simple syrup, half & half – or whatever you prefer – shaken over ice). Drink (and dessert) photos are always fun when held up to an interesting wall!





Guides Photography

How to Take Awesome Photos While Traveling

Hi, everyone! Karen Lao here. I’m based in Dallas, Texas, but I travel often and take lots of photos along the way. I want to share a trip I went on last May to Santiago and Easter Island, Chile. I was with a group, so the shots I wanted often had to be quick. I learned a lot about travel photography on that trip, and I wanted to share some of those tips with you today.

1) Walk and Shoot

I normally do this when I want to enjoy the scene around me without looking through my camera at all times. If you’re traveling, you’ve gotta enjoy the experience, right? Leave your camera on as you’re traversing the streets or trails. If you see something even slightly worth capturing, point your camera in that direction and press the shutter. I suggest that you have burst mode on so that you can take quick shots in succession. When you’re looking through your camera roll later, you can pick the best shot. I failed to do this and missed a lot of opportune shots, so I’ve taken a note of it ever since.

Snapshot of bicyclist riding past us on our way downtown

2) Rule of Thirds

Many of you may have heard of the rule of thirds. It’s a really good basic rule that makes your photos instantly better. “The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.”

Here are some examples. I try to eyeball the rule of thirds (elements placed along the lines or their intersections):

There are stray dogs all over Santiago, and the people of the city take care of them. These dogs joined us on our walking tour! But notice how during this quick snapshot, I placed the dogs in the bottom left intersection.

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When you’re doing the walk-and-shoot method, don’t worry too much about the rule of thirds. Just try to capture that photo. Cropping and editing can come after.

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3) Be Patient

A lot of shots happened when I had framed the image and was patiently waiting for someone to pass by. This can result in great candid shots with a bit of action. Fleeting moments are the best!

Cattle driver in the Andes Mountains


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oQGuYLMKBK4YxZ85n4T_4zZkTrXhOEp24WMi7WpMRqFsGUOpKCyaiQ25jEPDi4mIuQW3hQDNiidf5swu9cp_78N1xyakX9AD5fZfvKuVx14D0J3jqQnY2JewWtgpVB_3bTwgsjwI was way too close to this horse, and he was about to pass me by leaving me no time to change to a wider lens! But I decided it was a moment that had to be captured anyway!

4.) Be Aware

Be aware at all times! This goes for capturing photos and being safe. I actually lost my backpack with 2 of my lenses on Easter Island 🙁 It gave me an excuse to upgrade my equipment, but it was definitely a costly mistake.

5.) Take Photos of the Ordinary

Don’t be afraid to take a photo of something even if it’s not magnificent. If you’re on a trip, these memories are yours to keep. A few of my photos may be generic and ordinary to others, but it reminds me of what I loved about the trip.

I learned that I loved this fruit, especially as an ice cream flavor. I present to you: lúcuma.

Best friends on Easter Island

6.) Landscape/Cityscape Shots

As for scenery… go big and go wide. Nothing is more beautiful than huge landscape and cityscape shots. I still like to use the rule of thirds, mostly using the horizontal lines.

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7) Be Mobile

Ah, yes. My favorite part. I’m a huge Instagram fiend, and a lot of my travel shots are actually taken with my phone. You can apply the same tips I’ve mentioned above to your phone photos as well. Have fun!!

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Karen Lao Photography