Behind-The-Scenes of a Maternity Shoot

I love Maternity Shoots because I get to capture the magic that is creating a little human!  There is also fun in documenting the soon-to-parents and their excitement about what is to come.  Here is more insight into how I handle these specialized sessions…


Photographing pregnant women is unlike my usual Family Shoots where I am chasing after little kids and being more of a “fly on the wall”.

First, I turn into a big sister (I can’t help it!) and will ask her repeatedly if she is feeling okay to walk up a staircase or if she needs to sit down.  Then, I am more intentional with my shooting angles because I want to show off the baby bump.  So typically, that’d be directly from the side or from the top.  If I’m feeling adventurous, I may shoot from below for an upward view of the belly.

The type of light I look for is backlight that creates a golden outline around the belly, which emphasizes the beauty of pregnancy.  I also like even light (like shooting in an open shade) for portraits of my pregnant mama because that is flattering on the skin.  I’ll avoid harsh shadows at all costs.

In a Maternity Shoot, I have more luxury to craft the images I want to create.  ❤️

Check out these BTS (behind-the-scenes) images to see what I mean.  Thank you to Christine’s husband, Kevin, who took these photos during the shoot.

Behind-the-Scenes #1:

I chose this area because it was a quiet spot at a popular park.  There were tall trees that intercepted the bright sun, which softened the light.  I had Christine stop in the brighter spot on the path for a side profile shot of this gorgeous mama-to-be.


What I shot:


I took most of this series in color to show the golden sunlight.

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Behind-the-Scenes #2:

Kevin probably thought I was cray-cray when I was leaning over Christine from behind.  If you were there, you’d hear me say:  “I promise I’m not taking a photo down your wife’s dress!”  It was pretty funny.

There is definitely an element of trust that needs to exist when you’re on a photoshoot, especially for Weddings, Maternity Shoots, Newborn Shoots… and Lifestyle Shoots in someone’s home.  Okay, so that’s most every kind of photoshoot!  You also need chemistry between the photographer and subjects, which I talk about here.


What I shot:

Baby bumps are unique to each woman and each pregnancy, so I like to capture the shape of the belly from different angles.

A side view would show how round it is, while a top-down view would show if the bump is narrow or wide.


If you want to learn more, you can select Photography Tips under the Blog menu or click here.  Don’t forget to say hello!  I read every comment.  xo annie

Most Delicious Light of 2017

Here is Part 2 of the Favorite Images results!


Photos considered in The Most Delicious Light category were images where light played a significant role in the overall image (i.e., if the light was different, the quality, mood, or story of the image would change).


Diagonal shadows and light at bath time

[FYI:  This image isn't originally cropped this way; I cropped it more at the bottom out of respect and child safety.]


The parting fog under the bridge



Fantasy-like glow on the beach



Brown reflected light from the forest floor



Pure white light
[Commercial Photography]



Light from above



Sun after weeks of rain lit up the moss on the trees


Tied for #8

Morning fog rolling across the lake


Sun-kissed tree swing



perfect storm of sunlight:  reflected light on the family, sun streaming through the trees to light up the background, and a ray of light as backlight!


Click here if you want to see last year’s Favorite Images.  Don’t forget Favorites of 2015 too!
Are you still reading this?  Ooh la la… okay, here is one more:  Favorite Images of 2014:)

Best Moments of 2017

Each year’s Favorite Images results are always surprising to me.  This year, we had the most ties.  It was also a year that had the most Commercial Photography images selected.  The list is long, so I am splitting it up into two parts.  Here is part 1:  results of the Best Moments of 2017!


A “moment” can be a split second in time, or it can be a moment that tells a story — whether sweet, emotional or humorous.  Some images could fall into both categories of “moment” and “light”, so the decision was based on the weight each factor had on the individual image.

Tied for #1 

Pink Unicorns


Music Class
[Commercial Photography]


Tied for #2

Parental Guidance


Sibling Affection


Tied for #3

Dudes Dancing


Love and Laughter
[Engagement Shoot]


Tied for #4



Biggest Smile


Tied for #5

Educators Do More Than Teach
[Commercial Photography]


Golden Color Cast (from a blade of dry grass that blew in the wind)



Friendship and Support
[Commercial Photography]



You know that David Bowie song, right?  It’s a classic.  “Ch-ch-ch-changes…”  It’s a good thing no one is in hearing range of me because I am now singing it!

So a lot can change in a year, but in TEN years, the changes are even more obvious.

This morning, I started scrolling through some photos I took in 2008, just to see how things have changed over a decade.  I like doing this activity every few years because seeing concrete changes means I’ve continued to learn, which is what I want.  To my surprise, there were also some things that remained the same — such as, photographing children in their natural state and seeking out emotional moments.  That tells me I’ve stayed true to who I am, which is something I tell my kids to do, so it’s good to know I do it too.  (Phew!)

Here are some examples of what I found…


Different:  I’ve changed how I process my images.  Goodbye over-saturated colors.  Hello warmer, natural tones.

Same:  I still love photographing kids being kids.  No forced smiles or posed shots.  They are free to be themselves.



10 Years Ago



Different:  OMG, the light!  I now know how to ‘find’ the light and know how to control it.  This results in a lighter, brighter image, which makes my heart sing!

Same:  I still love family photos where everyone is bunched together — group hugs, big kisses, and snuggles are the best!



10 Years Ago



Different:  Slanted images are now equivalent to fingernails-on-a-chalkboard to me.  I wish I were kidding, but it’s true.  I also love shooting with backlight now, whereas a decade ago, my preferred light was in the shade.

Same:  I always look out for authentic moments and interactions to photograph.



10 Years Ago



Different:  Over the years, I’ve trained my eyes to notice distracting elements in a frame.  Some images can have many environmental details, especially in pulled-back images that include the background, but those details cannot distract from the main focal point.  The two images in “10 years ago” feature adorable kids, but the photos probably wouldn’t make my cut now.

Same:  I still shoot at different angles to get interesting perspectives.  I also still love tight shots where subjects run off the edge.



10 Years Ago

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Different:  I lean towards creamier whites and warmer washes of light than before.  I also include images that are hazy and “imperfect” if it captures a mood or a tone.  In other words, I let myself be artistic more than before.  :)

Same:  I still seek out joyful moments because if they make ME smile or laugh, then these images will surely bring emotion to the family.



10 Years Ago



Different:  No more artificial glow added in post-processing.  (I don’t know why, but I REALLY liked that effect back then!  I also used makeup bronzer back then, so maybe that was a window into my editing style — haha!)  I now have cleaner edits.

Same:  I still love shooting at a distance where I give my subjects some breathing room to forget I am there, and I get to capture the family with some of their surroundings.  The San Francisco Bay Area is just too beautiful to not include!




10 Years Ago


What is MOST amazing is that many of my clients have been with me from the beginning of my business!

It still blows my mind.  I’ve known some kids since the first day they came home from the hospital.  I’ve watched little kids grow up into teens and go off to College.  I’ve photographed families in various houses that they’ve moved to and made their home sweet home.  I’ve witnessed couples become parents… and families expand in number, along with their hearts.

This compare/contrast activity over the past decade reminded me how lucky I am for being in business this long and how blessed I am for having a business that I am proud of and clients whom I love!  ❤️

In Full Color

Like the many hues and shades of colors, there are many feelings to sense, people to meet, and experiences to have.  To live a full life is to have as many of these as possible.

Priti and Rachad know how to live life in full color!

Last year, we had a sunset shoot on a boat in the Bay, and last weekend, we shot early morning in the Mission District between garages, litter, and bikers.  We embraced the contrast.  Regardless of when and where we shoot, this family has all the feels.  You may even be able to tell we had a little bit of fun too!  ;)

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Once in awhile I have a family shoot that floods me with mushy feelings of how blessed I am.  This weekend’s family was one of them.

I’ve been photographing Dave and Winnie since 2009 when their only baby was Colby, their puppy.  We brought Colby all around town and even into a bookstore (shhhh, no one saw).  And then I saw them in 2011 to photograph their darling baby girl who wore a little tiger onesie for her one year old birthday.  I remember “Bina” smiling through all the outfit changes.  Her little face was — and still is — heart-melting.

To watch this family turn into a family of four (five, counting Colby) and then see the kids grow up makes my heart swell.

Alright, let’s get to the photos!  We have to start with this series of Dave and Oliver because I can’t stop looking at them without smiling.  ❤️

San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-father-and-son-looking-at-each-other-and-smiling-downtown  San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-father-and-son-dancing-downtown

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Commercial Photography: Be Distinct

It’s funny that when we are young, we find it important to blend in.  Myself included.  By the time we reach adulthood, we realize that it is — and has always been — best to stand out.

Choosing the right graduate school is the same way.  You want a school that is positively distinctive, so you can continue to be unquestionably distinct too.

That’s why it was such an honor to return to Rice Business School for a one-day Commercial Shoot.  There were so many new bright faces with even brighter minds.  They were proud and thoughtful and….



Houston-commercial-photography-rice-business-school-back-view-through-trees  Houston-commercial-photography-one-blade-of-grass-on-green-lawn







Houston-commercial-photography-rice-business-school-side-view  Houston-commercial-photography-business-school-students-walking-on-campus-distant













One of a Kind

No two shoots are the same.  Whether I am photographing the same family multiple times or a different family in the same location, every shoot is one of a kind.

Just like the families who are unique in their relationships, interests, goals, achievements and struggles… their photoshoot images should represent their uniqueness too.  That’s why I will always shoot in this style of portraiture.

Lifestyle Photography has always been my favorite.

Take Dai’s shoot this weekend, as an example.  This was their first professional shoot ever!  And it was my Nth time shooting at this location, but it was the first time I had a fairy princess cast spells there, the first time I found currants growing on vines, and the first time I had a little fella with suspenders eating benches and plugging daddy’s ear — tee hee!







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Say Nothing

I admit it.  I like to talk, especially when it is about topics I am passionate about — like art and photography, marketing, color and light, friends, meaning of life, parenting, life lessons, my family, my puppy.  But sometimes, I find it healthy to step back and say nothing.  (I can see my husband slowly shaking his head right now.  haha)

I met this boy, Henry, last weekend.  I have sooooooo much to say about him and his parents….how they interact with each other, what they did at their shoot, their relationship.

Instead, I’ll let the images tell their story.  ❤️



East-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-family-laughing-at-picnic-table-in-forest  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-closeup-redwood-trees






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Behind-The-Scenes: Jalin

It’s time to take a peek behind-the-scenes (BTS) of one of my shoots!

Here’s some background:

Jalin loves the city, so she knew she wanted to have the shoot in the city.  We started at the crack of dawn.  Nah, I’m kidding.  It was dark though because of the fog that is typical of San Francisco mornings.  The air was brisk because the fog that sat over the city completely blocked the morning sun.  I came in full Winter gear.  My childhood friends from Massachusetts would shake their heads if they saw me in my thick scarf and jacket with thumb holes because it was in the 50s.  :)

Behind-the-Scenes #1

We started at this restaurant that hadn’t opened yet.  I liked the outside of the building, so we walked around to find a good spot, and then…

I spotted the fog rolling under the bridge.  Knowing that the light changes every minute, I threw out the wall idea and had Jalin sit with her coffee.  There wasn’t much time to reorganize the tables and chairs; we only had time to wipe her chair from the morning dew and pull a couple chairs out of the way.  The disarray of the rest of the furniture ended up being a representation of life, and her stillness in the chaos was symbolic, so we loved it.


What I Shot


[Specs:  ISO 320, f/2.5, 1/8000 sec, morning sun, dense fog]

Behind-the-Scenes #2

The light was so cool because it was early enough that the sun was low in the sky, thereby providing a glow on one side of Jalin’s face; meanwhile, the fog acted as a diffuser, so the sunlight came in soft.

Once I captured the environmental shots (Jalin with the bridge and fog), I moved up to get some close-up shots of this beautiful High School Senior.


What I Shot

San-Francisco-senior-photography-teen-girl-with-coffee-in-morning-fog-closeup  San-Francisco-senior-photography-teen-girl-drinking-coffee-in-morning-fog-closeup

[Specs:  ISO 3320, f/2.2, 1/4000 sec]

Behind-the-Scenes #3

We walked over to one of the piers.  There were locals fishing at the end, the fog was clearing, and it was starting to get really bright.  Bright sun means shadows and higher contrast images, which isn’t ideal for portraits.  However, I love the lines on piers, and we wanted to shoot the cityscape.

To make it work, I used a reflector to brighten the shadow on Jalin’s face.  I also shot into the sun.


What I Shot


[Specs:  ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/6400 sec, bright full sun on the right of subject, reflector]


[Specs:  ISO 250, f/1.4, 1/8000 sec, bright full sun behind subject, intentionally 'blew out' the image to soften the shadows]


[Specs:  ISO 250, f/1.8, 1/8000 sec, full bright sun to subject's left, embraced the contrast!]

Behind-the-Scenes #4

Doopdeedoop….we’re just walking by a construction area and you know what they say about how life is about the journey, not the destination?  Well, that’s true in Photography as well.

I loved the urban vibe of the wire fence, and the “danger” signs were really cool.  They are symbols of life’s many crossroads, am I right?!!  ;)

The BxW BTS shot shows what is behind Jalin:  not much!  I angled my camera to completely miss the messy area and shot wide open to blur it out.

IMG_4744   IMG_4750

What I Shot

San-Francisco-senior-photography-teen-girl-leaning-against-wire-fence-closeup  San-Francisco-senior-photography-teen-girl-leaning-against-wire-fence

[Specs:  ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/3200 sec, open shade, late morning]

Behind-the-Scenes #5

I had this idea that Jalin could stand very still while crowds rushed by her, but that never happened.  We waited for awhile, but it was a Sunday, which meant less foot traffic.  The light was also not super interesting, so I found that BxW pulled the image together best and made Jalin stand out the most.


What I Shot


[Specs:  ISO 800, f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, indoors, low light]

Behind-the-Scenes:  Tada!  

We just finished, so we took a quick pic.  That’s the proud mama who is also my friend on the left, the beautiful Jalin, and yours truly.


If this is helpful to you, you can check out my BTS of Crystal or this one of Katy and Tammy!