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

How Your Subject Feels


Portrait Photography is not only about having CAMERA skills, but also PEOPLE skills — specifically, knowing how to make her subjects feel comfortable during a session and guiding them into the most flattering light and positions.

Here is an example from the other day.  I had an Executive Headshot session, which is typically 30 to 40 minutes.

The first set of images below were images taken in the very beginning of the shoot.  They are nice portraits and, for some photographers, the session would have ended right there.

Instead, we kept going and after some talking (for fun, not about the shoot) and some guidance… the images went from “nice” to “LOVE!”

First Few Shots ==> Nice

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Shots Later On ==> Comfort ==> Gorgeousness

Taking aside the difference in the background and jacket, just look at her face.  Even her eyes are smiling!

You can’t instruct someone to “look relaxed” or “smile with your entire face”; they do that when they feel at ease with and trust the photographer.

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How your subject feels during the shoot ends up being attributes a viewer perceives when they look at the photo.

Just look at the comparison below.

When you look at Image A and Image B, you may feel different things about their abilities, their competency and even their personalities.  And they are the same person!  That is the power of a headshot.

Who would you hire?  Who would you call?  Who would you prefer to work with? 



That doesn’t mean the last few shots are always the ‘money shots’.  Some photographers may choose not to take a single image until their subject is relaxed and ready.

For me, I go right in and start shooting because I think the longer people wait, the more anxiety or nervousness may build.  Then I talk to them and guide them throughout their session.

We all have different styles, but the goal is the same.

Fairytale Shoot

I am the kind of parent who wishes she could stop time, so I can enjoy my kids while they are young… for a little longer.  So you can imagine how I feel when my monkeys have their birthdays!

On Mia and Ava’s birthdays last month (they turned 9 and 4, respectively), there was smiling and hugging, singing and cheering, gift-opening and cake-eating.

But when the days ended, I would reminisce by looking at their baby photos and share with my husband some of my memories of when they were babies.  For the zillionth time.   ;)

A luxury (or is it a consequence – haha) of having a Photographer for a mom is having photoshoots.  I have a dedicated shoot for each child after their birthdays to commemorate their year.

This year, I combined the girls’ birthday shoots into one styled shoot.  I had a fairytale theme in mind for months, so I began planning long ago.  I started by making floor-length princess skirts, then added elements that represented each of their interests.

[Note:  As with every shoot, there are always things that you can't plan for that happen, so you have to learn to roll with it.  In this case, it was the Super Wind, which messed up their hair and blew flowers right off of Mia's head!  omg.]








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Though I am a bit sad to see them grow so fast, even more so, I am proud of who they are and flooded with joy that I get to be their mom!

Having these annual photos helps me remember all the details, which makes me smile.  Always.

A Love Story

Once upon a time, there were two people named Louisa and Jeff who both went to UCLA.  In their first year at school, they started dating and fell in love.  Years later, they got married and recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  Now they are in love….again.

This time, with little Jacob.   <3

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Congratulations, Louisa and Jeff! 

Thank you for welcoming me into your home for the afternoon to photograph your life with little Jacob.  I can see he is surrounded by love!