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.

Photography Projects for Kids

I love kids.  I just love ‘em!  A child’s laughter is THE best sound ever.  (Ocean waves come in #2.)  I love how kids are real with you, which makes “I hate (fill in the blank)” sting a little and “You are my best friend in the universe” mean so much.  I love running around with them, playing games, and making jokes.  My husband rolls his eyes when I show my kids “see-food” during meals, but it makes them laugh so hard!  I just tell them they can only do that with mom and that other people may think it’s impolite.  Fingers crossed that they’ll remember it.

So I probably don’t need to say this, but…  I love photographing kids and families because it combines two things I love so much:  kids and photography.

I also think it’s important that kids exercise their creativity, so I always encourage my kids to draw, paint, build, tell stories, write books, and now, experiment with photography.  My two youngest (they are 4 and 7) have children’s camera.  They’re more like a toy, but they practice composition and put thought into what they want to photograph.  My oldest (she is 9) has a digital camera, and she takes a lot of artistic photos with it.  We also have an instant camera (one that prints each image onto a small 2×3″ print) and we bring it on trips, so the kids can stick it into their journals.

The point is, kids can learn photography at an early age.  This doesn’t mean you should give them an expensive DSLR and pray they don’t break/lose/throw/sit on/drop it.  There are activities you can do together that can help them appreciate photography as an Art and a storytelling tool.

Here’s an example…

This past weekend, I had a “mommy date” with my son, Ian, who is 7 years old.  We bought…er, I mean, adopted a monster, named Domo, who looks like a furry chocolate bar.  My kids love him, as do I, admittedly.  (He’s especially cute in a mini Cal shirt!)

During our date, Ian and I got yummy drinks and then took Domo on a photoshoot.  Ian calls it a “Domo-shoot”!  Ian directed Domo and I pressed the shutter.  We laughed and laughed at all the things Domo could do.  (He apparently isn’t great at jumping, but he is super adventurous with tree-climbing and hiking up a hill.)  We had such a great time.

What kind of photography-related activities do you do with your kids?

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“Um, how do I get down?”

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*sniiiffff*  “Ahhhh, that’s nice.  WAAA-CHOOOOOOO!”

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“I need to work on my tan.”

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“Owww.”

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“Hike, 1, 2, 3…”

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“Weeeee, this is fun!”

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Favorite Images Of 2014

Thanks for all your Facebook votes the past few weeks on your favorite images.  I truly appreciate it.  I value your opinion!  It’s great for me to know what images resonate with others.

There are always surprises in how the favorite images shake out.  For instance, one of my favorite Light images (the one of two sisters with what looks like “fire”) hardly made it on people’s radar, but a simple headshot of a young female student got into the Top 5!  So interesting!!

So here they are… your Favorite Images of 2014 (as of today)!

BEST MOMENTS OF 2014

A “moment” can be a split second of time, which makes it extra special. Or it could be a moment that tells a story — whether sweet, emotional or humorous!

#1:  Brothers and Best Friends

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#2:  First Kiss

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#3:  A Quiet Moment

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#4:  Splish Splash

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Tied for #5:  End-of-Day Father and Daughter Moment; Miss Personality

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#6:  A Mother’s Job

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MOST DELICIOUS LIGHT OF 2014

The photos that made it into this category were chosen based on imagining the same image with different light. I asked: “Would I love it as much then? Or is the light so significant that it elevates the image, and it wouldn’t be as memorable otherwise?” If the answers were no and then yes, they made it here! :)

#1:

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#2:

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#3:

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#4:

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#5:

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Tied for #6:

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Tied for #7:

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Keith and Rosabel’s Engagement

There are some things that you “just know”!  Let me tell you about my cousin Rosabel.

Rosabel is intelligent, stylish, and charismatic.  She enjoys fine dining, a good laugh, witty banter, and a good pair of jeans.  More than anything, she is someone who doesn’t hesitate to share her opinions.  She is the opposite of the symbolic Disney Princess whose happy ending happens when a man saves her.  Rather, she is a strong, independent woman who doesn’t let anything stand in the way of her goals.  She is a force!

And then she met Keith.  <3

She is still all those things, but when she is with him, she turns into an ooey gooey sugary puddle of love.

From the first time I met Keith, I knew they would get married someday.  I really did.  Call it a sixth sense!  I could tell by the way they interact with each other.  The way he looks at her.  The way she allows herself to be ‘soft’ around him.  It is a side of my cousin that I’ve never seen before.  And it’s tearfully sweet.

For their Lifestyle Engagement Photography session, we walked around Rosabel’s neighborhood in San Francisco, hung out by a wine bar where they had their first date, and ended in the Presidio where Keith bikes.  It was a fun-filled afternoon that perfectly represented them.

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[Fun fact:  This diamond ring belonged to Keith's great grandmother!]

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Featured on Love+Wander

I’m so excited about this feature:  a travel-themed shoot of a loving family in a publication about LIFE, LOVE and WANDERLUST!

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Check out the entire article here!

The Bear Family

My first photoshoot for this family was of their baby in a bear jacket.  My second shoot for this family was this weekend, and it included their newest addition who wore a full-body bear outfit.  And the cuteness didn’t stop there.  Christy endearingly calls her husband “Bear”!  Adorable, right?!!  (I love this family!)

On this cold and foggy Winter morning, Christy, Rich, Melanie (2 year old), and Audrey (5 months old) had many tender moments, memorable funny lines, and beauty.  Beauty was all around… The location, the kids, the interactions, the emotions.

It was everywhere.

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Baby Bear’s first time sitting by herself!!!

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“I am going shopping,” says Melanie.  “Shopping for broccoli!”

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Fun Family Moments

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Tender Moments

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Melanie leading the way

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Sisters sitting together — on their own — for the first time.

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Melanie showing me the contents of her purse, as all girlfriends do with each other.  (She is my buddy!)

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Happy baby

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Beauty at it’s purest:  a mother’s love.

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Day In The Life: Chris and Sinead

When you take two gorgeous people with magnetic personalities and plop them in a distant land — let’s say, Costa Rica — they will find each other.  That’s what happened to Chris and Sinead, but even more romantic than that.

This Styled Couple’s Photography session was in San Francisco.  It started at their home, which was in the same neighborhood where I lived before I moved to the suburbs!  It was so great to do an entire shoot in this special area of the city.

The biggest treat was getting to know these two charming people who are so obviously meant for each other.  Their love was palpable.  <3

For their photoshoot, Chris and Sinead hung out at their home, dressed to the nines, and whizzed over to a few favorite spots by the way of Uber.  It was the quintessential urban photoshoot!

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Best Of Lists

I am blushing. 

I am so humbled to have my work included in some of this year’s “Best Of” lists!  To be able to do what makes my heart sing is incredible, but to also receive recognition for my work from the industry and community is beyond words.  I’ll just say THANK YOU!

Love Inc.’s Top 10 Real Weddings from 2014  [Ranked #1:  Brooke and Emmy at San Francisco City Hall]

Best Photography Tutorials for Beginners in 2014  [Understand Exposure in Under 10 Minutes]

Top Portrait Tips of the Year  [How to Improve Your Portrait Photography in Five Minutes]

#1 on Love Inc. Magazine

I love Brittny’s (Love Inc.’s editor-in-chief) write-up about what the top 10 have in common:  “The love bounces off the pages and reminds us that, at the end of the day, a wedding isn’t about the bouquets or the signature cocktails — it’s about two people in love.”

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So exciting!  Here it is:

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Two of my articles made it onto Digital Photography School’s “Best Of” lists:

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A snippet of my article:  (Can hardly believe my article was shared over 46,000 times in just a few months!)

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A list specific to portraiture:  

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Here is a snippet of that article:

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I hope to continue creating images and tutorials that can help or inspire others in their photography journey.  If there is something you’d like to see more of or want me to write about, please leave a comment below on this blog post.  I read every comment!

Wishing you superfluous reasons to take out your camera in the new year!  xoxo  ~annie

All I Want For Christmas

Anthony, Elaine and Ian remind me of my favorite holiday song, which goes something like this:

(Imagine me singing this, but with a much better voice and a full band in the background!)  :)

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There’s just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true…
All I want for Christmas is you.

The C Family are just like that.  They are happy just being together and need very little to laugh and enjoy themselves.

It is a joy to be around people like that.  What a great photoshoot to end the year.

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And this NOW and THEN is for Anthony…  :)

Look at how much your little man has grown from our first photoshoot together in 2008 til now.

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Couldn’t Ask For More

This Lifestyle Family Photography session had fun activities that resulted in high-pitched squeals as well as quiet activities that were so beautiful that pedestrians stopped to look.

My favorite time was this peaceful moment when Sabrina laid with her mom on a hilly slope and watched the leaves fall over them.  It was as if time had stopped for this to happen.  Had 5 minutes passed or 50?  It was really breathtaking.

By the way, if I could give out awards, I think Dave and Winnie would win a “Coolest Parents Award” because not only were they totally fine with their well-dressed kids getting wet during their shoot, but also, they encouraged it!  Right off the bat, Dave put his hand in the fountain (filled with rain water from the day before) and then sprayed Sabrina and Oliver’s faces!  My jaw dropped when I saw that!  Good thing Winnie came prepared with a suitcase of “just in case” clothes because it wasn’t long before Sabrina was soaked to the bone.

Winnie and Dave’s intention that day was to let their kids have fun and be themselves.  And well, the kids love water!  :)

I couldn’t ask for more.

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Bay-Area-Palo-Alto-lifestyle-family-photography-father-sitting-in-tree-with-baby  Bay-Area-Palo-Alto-lifestyle-family-photography-father-sitting-in-tree-with-son

Bay-Area-Palo-Alto-lifestyle-family-photography-children-sitting-on-their-parents-laps

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Bay-Area-Palo-Alto-lifestyle-family-photography-dad-throwing-and-catching-baby-boy-in-air  Bay-Area-Palo-Alto-lifestyle-family-photography-parents-holding-their-children-upside-down

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Bay-Area-Palo-Alto-lifestyle-family-photography-father-holding-baby-and-watching-daughter-in-fountain