Best places in Istanbul for photos

The moment I set foot on the land of Istanbul, I know an adventure was going to happen.

1. Mosques

How colors and composition predetermine the ‘feels’ of a photo


The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the New Mosque…. you name it. Mosques are such an integral part of the Turkish culture that there is almost one in every few streets you pass by. Mosques are a good place for pictures primarily because of their peculiar architecture, but the people they house definitely add to the richness too.

Locals and visitors alike, everyone must abide by a set of strict dress code before being allowed into Mosques– you should not show anything more than your head and hands, and women in addition must wear a headdress to cover your hair.

The combined effect of the above is the vibrancy of subjects within Mosques. Once inside a Mosque, look for people in brightly colored dresses, because when viewed against the backdrop of the walls and pillars, a profound contrast can be shown which makes an interesting photo.

2. Streets in the Balat/ Fener area

Ever wondered where those colorful houses are found? Now you know the answer


Ever since I started my blog on Instagram, I have been drawn to countless shots depicting some mysterious, narrow streets lined by exotic colorful houses on its sides. The houses are arranged in an irregular manner, giving off a very raw, authentic ambiance. I later learned, through the geotags, that they belong to the streets of Istanbul.

But where exactly in Istanbul?

Before departing for Istanbul, I did some more research. It turns out what I was looking for– the district of Balat is one of the recommended places to see, and so my destination became slightly clearer– Balat, Istanbul. But still, where exactly is that street?

The street that we were looking for in Balat, Istanbul by Belinda Jiao Photography

On the last day of my stay at Istanbul, I set off to Balat with a friend. We hopped off the bus some distance from the residence, and walked our way up the hills. Here and there we saw really pretty streets that caught our eyeballs. But there was this one shot– the one we had always seen and were determined to get– that was still nowhere to be found. With no GPS nor wifi services with us, our chances of finding that particular street by blindly guessing was pretty slim. We grew desperate and could only start asking the local people about it.

To our surprise, the local people were extraordinarily amicable. We pointed to the shamefully low quality screenshots we had on our phones, asking for the way. Owing thanks to the generous help from a few strangers we met, we went the right way and were led to the very street we wanted to see, by a team of photographers working for TIME. Seeing two confused Asian girls, they cordially invited us to tag along and helped us with the search on their phones. Shout out to the group of photographers, as well as the art curators whom we met–you know who you are!

We continued strolling down the streets, heading towards Fener– another residential district adjacent to Balat, also with beautifully painted houses. As the clock strikes 12 noon, the city was wide awake. Shops opened doors, motorcycles roamed the narrow streets, music filled the air, and the city of Istanbul became ever so welcoming and lively.

3. Galata Tower

Towers can’t go wrong

The Galata Tower was nothing like a skyscraper built deliberately to impress as you may notice, but nonetheless the view was breathtaking. Looking down, it was a totally different perspective. The picture was hard to understand– houses were built in such  unorganised manner, but every single one fit perfectly into the cityscape. There were shrubs of green here and there, but they rested in harmony with the red rooftops. People commuted along interlocked roads, as if there were black dots moving to and fro as seen from a distance.

Located at the peak of the hill, it takes some effort and stamina to reach the tower. There are many ways up and down the hill, all of which are worth a visit. Alongside paths are antique coffee shops offering traditional Turkish coffee and tea, as well as boutiques with exceptional craftsmanship. The district of Galata has, in my humble opinion, the best streets one can ask for.

See also: Istanbul

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