I’m not a person with the kind of patience a professional photographer has. When I was visiting D.C. three years ago, one of the travel friends, Rachel, literally stopped to take photos every few steps with her huge, scary-looking Canon that yells “pro”. I couldn’t understand her – in fact I was quite impatient with scenery photography because you snap the moment, and later it just became one of those background photos that you put in a folder you hardly ever open.

Portrait photography, on the other hand, is something I have patience and passion for. There’s a saying I remember distinctly: Without people in them, photos are just postcards; with people, they become memories. With that in mind, my main purpose of buying an above-average fancy camera (Sony Alpha a6000) is to take photos of people. Family, friends, strangers, crowds…

In Italy this skill has been put to use so many times because even a random street corner can produce a great background for candid photoshoots, not to mention all the historical monuments and natural beauty that this country bestowed on us. Now let’s cut the small talk and enjoy some pretty faces!

Urbino, Italy

This is one of my absolute favorites. The girl on the right half of the picture, Cece, is a cute, bubbly girl from Boston who has petite facial features. The blonde girl on the left is elegant in every means and basically no one can take a photo where she looks bad. When they were crossing paths I realized it was a perfect moment. The natural light hit against their hair, creating a halo effect, the kind that most portrait photographers like to take advantage of; i also zoomed in to make the background blurry, making sure the focus is on Cece’s deep-in-thought expression. I especially like how we can see the building and the green mountains afar, but very out of focus that they don’t take away from the people.


No.2 is a very well-balanced portrait of my friend and neighbor, Jenny, with her shades on. (In fact everyone with their faces in this picture have shades on. We a shady bunch.) I love how the color of everyone’s attires contradict with the color of the sky. Jenny also has a very wide, heartening smile that brights up the pictures she’s in. The randomly placed jackets and bags on the ground just add more to the relaxing ambience of this setup. Under the clear blue sky, we sit on the green grass, enjoy each other’s company and talk about the things that make life sweet as it is.


These two photos feature a quite attractive man, Andrea Ricci, the resident director of our program. As you can see in the photos he is not young, but his facial features stood the test of time that made him look at least ten years younger than he actually is. (You’d be surprised to know how old he really is) He is also a well-dresser, as many established Italian men are. These two things combined basically guarantee that he has his way with the ladies, which can be a little too much, as you can see from the second photo. But I’m not commenting on that part of the story. This post is strictly about photography and aesthetics. For the first photo I didn’t do the best job; I cut off his hand and accidentally included someone’s butt. His expression, however, was a must-catch. The frown, the light and shadow divide, the cigarette in hand, together make a moment worth recording. The other guy in the photo is Luca, an Italian American, who adds a certain young energy onto the canvas. The old and the young, the past and the present, the green and the blue – this picture is in perfect harmony.

Urbino, Italy

This features Sarah, another girl from Wisconsin. She has signature red hair, fair skin and very blue pupils. Her face gives people a sense of serenity and elegance. This is not my best work obviously; the way the castles are cut off and tilted really frustrates me. The background in general is a little blurry but not enough. Let’s look on the positive side, though; the mountains afar go perfectly with the azure sky, and Sarah’s blue sweater. She seems to be basking in the sunlight, which brings out her side face contour nicely.


This is another photo of Sarah, as you can see she looks really good under the sunlight. Also Jenny and her darker hair. My homie Dallas is low-key hiding at the back so he didn’t get the sunshine treatment, but he is also very photogenic and cute.


I took this photo of my friend Sally at Piazza del Duomo in Milan. The photo would fare better with a little lighting adjustment because her face is in the dark, but I just love how I positioned her in the center of the photo and the clear linear perspective of the structuring. Of course, the flying pigeons and the walking tourists bring the still photo into a moving frame. Sally is very stylish when she stands on the street and look back into the camera. I never need to tell her how to pose.

Urbino, Italy

Cece again. I love how she reaches out her hand because it breaks down the fourth wall between the photo and the viewer, basically inviting people to come with her into the scenery, into this magical Renaissance city that captured all our hearts. Not to mention her white off-shoulder outfit blends in perfectly with the clouds. The perspective is me half lying on the grass pretending to be a professional photographer, and the result ain’t half bad. It’s as if she’s saying “Come with me”. Good album cover idea. I’m very pleased with this one.

Urbino, Italy

If I have to rank, this is my favorite one. It features the two most attractive girls in our program, Bre and Naiara, who have very different styles but are equally charming. Their backs are skinny, stylish and classy, with a sense of movement because I took it when they were walkng forward. The best part, of course, is the color component. These two bring their own colors to the picture – Bre usually dresses in darker colors, like in this one, dark violet crop-top sweater, black dress and stockings, leather bag, all serving as the background of her shining, blonde, perfectly-curled hair. Naiara, a French-Spanish girl who grew up in America, definitely looks more European in her features. She usually wears loose and semi see-through tops and a pair of comfy, baggy pants, like in this photo; the green bag is definitely a plus, too. As for background colors, the flags on the balcony just completes everything I wanted for this shoot.

If you have stuck with me until this part, I would just like to conclude that every photo I took of my friends, I was not trying to use any specific photography skills or perspectives. I simply want to bring out the best side in them, make them glow, capture their most natural beauty but also lift them to a more artistic level. Everybody looks the best when they’re relaxed, feeling comfortable, and being themselves. Capturing people’s true colors through the camera lens is something I want to keep doing for the rest of my life.

Writing a commentary for each photo is exciting but also exhausting. From this point on I will let the pictures speak for themselves, so everything is open for interpretations!