Creative Angles: Interview with Varun Thota

Here at Refe we are focusing on top talents in mobile photography industry providing top-notch photos for any project in the world. If you have ever wondered how these people became who they are today you will like this interview with Varun Thota, a UX designer living in Macau/Hong Kong.

You can find more about Varun’s work by visiting his website at Varun is active on Instagram and on VSCO Grid.

(If you would like to be interviewed and published on Refe, please send an email to, and we’ll get back to you.)

Tell us a little bit about yourself and when did you get into photography?

Well, I’m originally from India but grew up in Macau and will soon be moving to Hong Kong to work as a UX designer.

I’ve been on Instagram ever since it started, which was my first foray into mobile photography, but didn’t get serious about it till after my first Instameet in HK (#hkinstayay17) in Dec 2012. Now, I try to spend weekends exploring new parts of Hong Kong or rediscovering old parts of Macau through my iPhone lens and experimenting with different apps and processes.

Varun Thota

How has the environment you live in influenced the way you photograph?

I spend weekdays in Macau and weekends in Hong Kong and both have provided a very unique environment when it comes to photography. Macau has some very old architecture and streets mixed in with the new, mammoth sized, brightly lit casinos and resorts that cannot be found anywhere else.

Varun Thota

In Hong Kong, I can choose between taking pictures of vertically stacked buildings and the dense concrete jungle or head outside the city limits for some mountainous landscapes and peaceful fishing villages.

What inspires you the most?

I would have to say it’s the people I surround myself with. Through them, I learn about new techniques in mobile photography and get inspired from their creativity.

Varun Thota

Do you have any favorite photography scenes or subjects?

Not really. I tend to go through phases when it comes to scenes or subjects that range from architecture and sunsets, to minimal shots and repeating patterns. It just depends on the mood I’m in and the weather outside.

Varun Thota

Varun Thota

What apps do you normally use for taking photos?

I use the native camera app on my iPhone 5s. For long exposure shots or light trail shots, I use either AvgCamPro or SlowShutter.

Where’s your favourite place to shoot and why?

I don’t really have favourites places to shoot. Rather, I like to explore different places and then use them either as the main subject or backgrounds to subjects like people or things.

Varun Thota

Tell us a little bit about your photo editing workflow. Which editing apps do you use the most?

My workflow for the most part has been:

1: Take multiple shots of a subject, mostly with Auto HDR on, on my iPhone.
2: Import shots into VSCO Cam
3: Choose the shot that I liked the most out of them all and begin editing/processing the image.
4: Save shot in VSCO Cam
5: Flag shot to post later to either Instagram or VSCO Grid.

What advice do you have for new mobile photographers who are just starting to explore the creative possibilities of their smartphone?

For new mobile photographers, there are 2 things I learned personally that helped me become more creative. Firstly, I would take part in instameets or photowalks as they are a great way of meeting other creative people in the same space. Talking to them and learning about the apps they use and the processes they follow helps you explore different possibilities on your phone.

Varun Thota

Secondly, I would get outside, explore and experiment. Download different apps and see what works for you. There are lots of interesting apps that add text, shapes, more filters, etc. There are apps that help you take long exposures and light trails, etc. The cameras on your smartphone are amazing, but some of these apps can give an added creative spin to your shots. It also helps to explore new surroundings or rediscovering existing ones through your mobile lens.

Do you edit images on your mobile devices or do you prefer to use a desktop or laptop computer?

On my mobile device. I spend a lot of time editing images on my iPhone and hardly any on a desktop or laptop as I’m rarely at a computer and instead prefer to edit shots right after taking them.

Where do you see the future of mobile photography?

Mobile cameras are already quite good and it’s amazing what we can already do with them. What I do see happening is mobile photography becoming even better in terms of picture quality, inching closer to DSRL type cameras as technology becomes better. We’ve already seen add-ons for mobile photography from additional lenses, to cases for underwater photos and now ariel shots through drones. In a sense, mobile photography is growing up, becoming something more than just a quick point and shoot device to a tool and platform used by photographers of all levels of experience.