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

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

Want to see more?  Yippeee… here’s a video on why you should choose Lifestyle Photography.

Back Light vs. Direct Light

My favorite time to shoot is when the sun is low in the sky.  I can shoot with the sun behind me, so the light is shining directly in front of my subjects — called direct light.  Or I can have the sun behind my subjects, so the light shines behind them — called back light.

There are also many other types of light, but today I am only talking about these two.

Which one to use is mostly about artistic preference.  And sometimes, you don’t have a choice, like if you’re shooting an event with a designated time, so it’s important to know how to shoot in both kinds of light.

Okay, with that said, I have a preference

Who knew?  Apparently, my clients!  haha.  When I’m on a shoot, I don’t shoot with my head as much as my heart, so I usually look for moments and images that tell a story or create beautiful lines and shapes.  I didn’t think I had a preference in light direction, until…

My recent Boat Shoot.  I was boarding the second boat and heard my clients tell the captain to get into a position where my clients’ boat was backlit.  The captain quickly turned to me like that must be wrong.  I just nodded in agreement and probably wore a surprised look on my face.  Gosh, my clients know me well!  :)

Here are some recent side-by-side examples of back light versus direct light (displayed in that order) of the same subjects, during the same shoot, shot within minutes apart, so you can see the differences.

Example 1

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Example 2

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San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-sailing-sama-in-bay

Example 3

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Example 4

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*PHOTOGRAPHY TIP*

As you can see, there are significant differences between back light and direct light.

There are also merits in both kinds of light!  Back light is more moody with softer colors, but also have softer details.  Direct light has more vivid, saturated colors with greater details, but also has shadows.

If you could choose, which light do you prefer?

Personal Brand Photography

Guess what?  I now offer Personal Brand Photography!  This is THE funnest niche of business photography ever, so I am very excited.

What is Personal Brand Photography?

Think Executive Headshots on vacation.  Or Commercial Photography meets Instagram and had a baby – haha.

In a nutshell, Personal Brand Photography (PBP) is photography that produces a series of storytelling images of an entrepreneur.  It covers a part of the entrepreneur’s life while embodying their personality and includes detail shots.  Unlike a headshot session, not every image will contain the entrepreneur’s face, and you’d get a greater variety and number of images to use for your online presence.

East-Bay-personal-brand-commercial-photography-hair-dryer  East-Bay-personal-brand-commercial-photography-hair-stylist-with-trade-magazine

Who is Personal Brand Photography for?

Personal Brand Photography is perfect for entrepreneurs who want a plethora of fresh images they can use for regular posting on Instagram or other social media sites or for using multiple images on a webpage.  Entrepreneurs such as, consultants, makeup artists, stylists, bloggers/writers, social media influencers, web designers.

East-Bay-personal-brand-commercial-photography-hair-stylist-laughing-BxW  East-Bay-personal-brand-commercial-photography-hair-stylist-necklace-BxW

Why do you need PBP?

Because doing business means connecting with your customers, and that means having photos that convey who you are, so others can relate to you and want to work with you.

Your brand needs to be clear as well as eye-catching.  Customers are more photo-savvy than ever before, and they can spot stock photos or staged photos from miles away.  Be real!

For businesses that do better with social media platforms, you have to post regularly to get traction, visibility and solid brand identification.

East-Bay-personal-brand-commercial-photography-entreprenuer-leaning-on-rail-BxW  East-Bay-personal-brand-commercial-photography-hair-stylist-closeup

How does PBP work?

Each shoot is different, and always fun.  It can be of you working or walking around town or your morning coffee routine — whatever story you want to convey.  Nothing is stagnant, so your images aren’t stuffy.

Each session includes a consultation so your shoot will be specific to what you need, unlimited images taken, edited high resolution photos of storytelling images, images of you, and detail images.  You’d also have Usage Rights of those photos, all delivered via a cloud site, so you can retrieve your images lickety-split.

The INTRO price is $750 for your first session, which is 1 hour long and will garner about 50 images.  This would provide you with approximately one image to post on social media each week for a year, or if you post everyday M-F, it is about 2.5 months worth of imagery.

Think of the Marketing boost you’d get!

Now what?

Start by booking your first shoot (do it now while it is at the Intro price!) and you can always book more later when your business needs another boost.

Or, book a few shoots throughout the year right now, so you can secure the price and dates, and we can shoot in different locations or different seasons!

How to Shoot in Low Light

I love light and airy images.

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Sometimes the weather doesn’t provide glorious sunlight like the one above.  Womp womp.  (That’s the sound of the wrong answer in those old game shows – haha!)

Maybe it’s foggy with no sun.

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Or it’s evening.

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Sometimes my shoot is indoors, and most venues don’t have glass ceilings like this one.

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In fact, some places will be dark, like really dark.  Think small apartment in the city with one window.

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Or an indoor market packed with people on a rainy day.

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Or in a dark corridor of gum.  Okay, that’s just gross.

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I took most of these example photos during my trip to Seattle a few months ago.  This is how the photography tip came to mind…

We went inside Chihuly, an art museum of glass installations, and the only lights were ones carefully positioned towards the artwork — so it was very dark.

I watched visitors photograph the gorgeous delicate glass…with flash.  They’d look at their photo at the back of their cameras with disapproval and take the same shot again.  I wished I could’ve said something, but it wasn’t my place.  So I closed my mouth and popped my eyeballs back into head, and decided to put this tip together instead.  LOL

This tip is simple and can even help phone camera photos!

*A SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON*

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EXPLANATION

Image A = AUTOMATIC.  In low light, your camera will detect it is dark, so when it is in Auto, it will want to brighten the image to what it thinks the exposure should be on a regularly lit day.  By doing so, it can trigger the flash or reduce the sharpness of your photo by slowing down your shutter to attempt to let in more light.  The result = a photo I’d delete.

Image B = No flash and PARTIAL AUTO (ie, shutter-priority or aperture-priority).  I let my camera guide me to what it thought was “proper exposure” for the art installation without the use of flash.  The result was pretty good.  However, if I look closer at the image, I can see some detail of the glass was lost.

Image C = MANUAL, no flash, and slight UNDER-exposure.  To capture the most detail in the glass work and the true shade of the artwork’s color, I under-exposed the image by 1 or 2 stops.  The result is a more dramatic, striking image.

 

LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY TIP

Start by taking your camera off Auto, so you have more control of the settings.  [If you're using your phone, you can turn off your flash.]

When there is low light, consider underexposing your image to get your desired result.  You can do that by changing one of the elements in the exposure triangle — such as, decreasing your aperture (increasing your f/) or increasing your shutter speed.  If you want a refresher, here is an article I wrote many moons ago (with cool drawings from my daughter):  Understand Exposure in Under 10 Minutes.

[You can even do this on your phone!  When you have the image you want to photograph, using your iPhone, touch the screen, and then carefully move your finger in a downward motion on the screen to lower the exposure.  Other smart phones work similarly and also allow for some manual setting changes.]

 

Want more tips about light?  Here are a couple more:  Low Light+No Time and Editing with Different Light Sources.

If this tip helped even 1 person, I’d be thrilled!  xo, annie