Hello there!

My name is Annie Tao. I am a photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I specialize in lifestyle photography where you get to play, hang out, and be yourself. I capture the moments, real emotions and stories that occur during our time together. Check here often or subscribe to my blog (RSS feed) to see what I am up to or get creative inspiration. Thanks for visiting!

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The Buzz

My Philosophy

To create this video, I scoured through thousands of my client photos and pondered my philosophy on photographing people.

What I realized was that my philosophy was incredibly simple.

Looking at all these gorgeous faces and families, my heart melts a little.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.   ~annie

Dreaming About Baby

The beautiful Arezou and her husband, Pedram, are expecting a baby this Spring.  There are many thoughts and emotions that expectant parents have during this time (mostly excitement and love!!!), and I feel so fortunate to be the one to document this amazing time for them.

This San Francisco Lifestyle Maternity Photography session could have run into a bump in the road (see what I did there?!!  hee hee) because the weather forecast slated that day to be rainy with periods of HAIL!  Instead, we had gorgeous weather and had a ton of fun because this lovely couple were relaxed, ready to try anything, and enjoyed their time together.

I loved walking around with Arezou and Pedram, hearing their love story and how they met when they were at school, and getting to know them.  I know they will be incredible parents, and I can’t wait to meet the little bundle of joy who will be loved endlessly.  <3

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Every image from this shoot is a “favorite”, but these two images below have a special meaning because they were taken in unlikely places!  (They were both next to heavily traversed areas.)

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*PHOTOGRAPHY TIP*

When you’re in a highly photographed location, look for different ways to see it.  :)

One More Minute

The trick is to enjoy life.

Don’t wish away your days

Waiting for better ones ahead.

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** UPDATE (March 11, 2015) **

This image is a Top 10 winner in the “Everyday Life” photography challenge.  Woot woot!

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The Secret About BxW

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I love BxW images so much that I asked our photographer to shoot Lawrence and my engagement portraits entirely in BxW film.  This was a long time ago, but I remember it vividly.  The photographer responded politely:  “Usually when people come to Hawaii, they want their photos to be in color, so they can see the beauty of the island.”

Hmmmm…he has a point, I thought.  “Alright, take a couple shots in color and the rest in BxW please.”   :D

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What does this have to do with my lesson on BxW?  Not much, but it was a funny story.  All true, by the way.

Alright, let’s get to it…. Secret #1:  NOT ALL IMAGES LOOK GOOD IN BxW!

Shocking, right?!!  The problem is, not everyone realizes this bec they are learning with a digital camera.

With digital photography, it becomes easy to adopt the philosophy of shoot-NOW-think-LATER, because it uses technology where you can view your images a second after pressing the shutter and many rely on post-processing to fix something or change a photo to BxW.  All with a few clicks of a button.

This process leaves little reason to need to think very much before you shoot.

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Secret #2:  SHOOT INTENTIONALLY FOR BxW

When I shot entirely with a film camera, one of the things I learned very quickly was looking out for imagery based on what kind of film was loaded in my camera.  I’d shoot differently with BxW film versus Color film.

If I had a roll of 100 speed color, then I’d bring my camera somewhere sunny and colorful, like a beach boardwalk.  (FYI:  The speed of a roll of film is like a digital camera’s ISO.)  If I had a roll of 800 speed BxW, then I’d look for a shady area or shoot at night… and I’d look for interesting textures, patterns and variations of light.

With BxW images, I think about how light and dark would shape the image.

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If you still think “BxW rocks and everything looks great as BxW”, then let me give you an example of why that’s not true…

* REAL LIFE EXAMPLE *

A few months ago, I took Lawrence’s relaxed, lifestyle-esque headshots in color to be used for color.  So I chose a location that had cool indoor lights for a colorful backdrop and a small window for natural light on his face.  Recently, he needed a BxW headshot for something else.  For the sake of time, I took the existing photos and converted them to BxW.

The Problems:

1. There were too many colors with the same tonality, so when I converted this color image to BxW, my subject no longer stood out as he did in color.

2. Some of the colors blended into each other, like his shoulders and hair.  EEK.

3. In BxW, the lines in the background became irritably distracting.  One line even cut through his head — Oy!

This photo did NOT translate well into BxW.

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The Solution:

We did another shoot — but this time, it was intended for BxW images.  (I shot as if I had a roll of BxW film in my camera.)

To prepare, I had to pick a good location.  I knew my subject has dark hair and would be wearing a black suit (because I picked his outfit!), so I chose a location that would provide contrast to my subject.  In other words, no dark backgrounds!

First stop was a garden for a textured backdrop.

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Now there is definition between my subject and his background!

Below is another image taken at the same place.  I angled the camera slightly downward to give less emphasis to his jaw.  (I also made him laugh, so this image is my favorite.)

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Before leaving this location, I found a giant cream-colored door.  Voila, the “clean” light backdrop!

The thin lines, in this shot, provide context to my subject without being distracting and makes the headshot feel more lifestyle than studio.  The fact that the door was cream translated to a light grey, which works perfectly because a white-white would be too stark.

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Nearby, there was a garage.  I like the industrial feel of the cement and hard lines of the building.  So now I have a texturally interesting background for BxW!

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TAKE-AWAYS:

~ Not all color photos should be changed into BxW; and not all BxW photos should be color.  Some images look best only one way.

~ There are different things to look out for when you are shooting in color versus BxW.

~ With BxW portraits, you need a background that will be contrasting to the person.  (Sometimes you can’t control this, like if it’s a Lifestyle session with children, but it’s something to look out for.)

~ You also have to consider tonality of colors (e.g., medium shades of red and green may look great together in color, but when changed to BxW, they will both look like a medium grey).  Things with similar tonality will blend together in BxW.

~ Especially with BxW images, you can use light and shadows to shape or define your subject.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Is my husband lucky to have a photographer for a wife, so he can get free photoshoots — OR — is he UNlucky because it also means I get to blog about him?!!  :)

HOMEWORK:

If you have a DSLR, change your setting to “BxW”.  (Most cameras will have that option.)  Then go out there and shoot with intent to create a good BxW image.  You will end up training your eyes to notice the background, tones, etc.

If you have access to a film camera, even better.  So leap in the air and cheer “HOORAY”!  heh heh.  Afterwards, shoot two rolls of film, one in color and one in BxW.  Use both rolls in the same location and same time of day, so that most factors are equal.  Shooting with film, even for just one day, will improve your photography skills.  I guarantee it.