Sunshine When it Rains

When it’s foggy and drizzly, you have to make your own sunshine!

Jasper, Willa and Ansel, along with their parents, had fun running around Golden Gate Park in San Francisco last weekend.

Was it dark and wet that day?  *shrug*  We didn’t even notice!  :)

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The Freckles Shoot

My creative visualization for The Freckles Shoot started a year ago.  That either makes me an incredible procrastinator or an incredible planner!  Let’s just say it’s the latter, okay?  ;)

I’ve known Abigail and Sarah for a few years and have always marveled at their freckly faces.  More recently, I made mental notes on how to best photograph their individual features.

A week before the shoot, I started sketching and collecting items for this Styled Shoot.  Since my focus was their freckles, the images were tight shots of their heads or a portion of their faces, so I didn’t over-complicate images with a lot of props or patterned clothes.

The shoot itself took a little over one hour, which included walking around, changing hair styles and tops, and… making a turban!

While I was editing the photos the next day, I was like a kid in a candy store with my poorly-suppressed squeals.  There is so much satisfaction in creating images that I’ve had stored on my mind.  This calls for a ‘happy dance’!  I hope no one is watching – haha.

[Tip to Photographers:  When your job is also the thing you love, try to do at least one personal project each year to nourish your creativity.]



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The Personal Side of Photography

Lifestyle Photography is not only about the person in the photo, but about the person who is creating it.  Photography is dependent on more than the photographer’s skill and experience level, like I once believed; it’s influenced by how the photographer views the World!

How the artist views life leads them to their unique point of view during a photoshoot.  How do they interpret what is happening in front of them?  What do they define as important?  How do they feel about their subjects?  About themselves?

The answers will determine how they shoot the scene, what details they capture, and even if and when they press the shutter.

With this preface, I want to share a personal story with you…


One evening last year, I was having one of those need-to-refer-to-your-calendar-and-set-alarms-throughout-the-day kind of days, and when I got home, I started coughing.  I was sitting in my home office to finish some work, but the cough got so bad that I folded over to hold onto my desk.  I realized that in-between coughing fits, I had a hard time breathing.

Maybe it was an asthma attack, I thought, even though I don’t have asthma.  My 9-year old heard me, so he rushed over and asked if I was okay.  In what sounded like Darth Vader whispering, I instructed him to find his dad’s inhaler, which was stored away somewhere and collecting dust.  I used the inhaler throughout the night, but it was clear in the morning that the problem was not going away.


The next few days was a whirlwind that halted our busy life’s regular activities.  I went to Urgent Care twice, the Emergency Room (ER), and then the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  I was having a severe reaction that impeded my ability to breathe, and the usual methods of treatment brought relief for only a few short hours.  No one could figure out why.

Even with all of this happening, I wasn’t scared…. until these two things happened:

1.  One of the doctors talked about how she wanted me to live!
2.  The ER doctor told me I had to be admitted to the ICU because I had so much epinephrine in my body that I was now a cardiac patient.


Life is a journey and apparently, so was trying to figure out what was wrong with me.  This journey took a full four months of tests, medicines, visits to different doctors, and trips to the hospital.  It occupied all of my free time and impacted my family.

With the help of a few dedicated doctors and my husband’s determination, I finally got a diagnosis, found the right medicine, and started to feel better.  Things aren’t back to the way they were, but I can manage my symptoms.

I’ve always believed that everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and my strength was being grateful for everyday things.  However, this experience took gratefulness to a whole new level.  I am now grateful to breathe!  The first time I was able to take a deep breath after being discharged from the ICU almost stopped time.  I remember the clarity of sounds and smells around me…even the taste of the air.  I had to close my eyes.  So that’s what a deep breath feels like!

I still have busy days (hey, I have 3 kids, a husband, a puppy, a house, and my business) — but I will never forget that the “little things” are often the “big things” in disguise.

Here’s a little collage of photos I took with my phone during the months after I was out of the hospital.  I baked with my kids, went to the library, watched the Warriors win another championship, played with my puppy, held hands with my hubs, ice skated, received the cutest drawings from my kids, hugged them tight…

And breathed.


So how does my view of the World impact my photography? 

I find joy in a situation, which is why I gravitate towards bright, light-filled scenes and laugh often.

I pay attention.  A touch of a hand or a lean are more meaningful than some may think.  The soft nails of a newborn or the unruly wispy hair of a toddler will be missed before a parent may notice.

No detail is too small.  No stage in life is insignificant.  Every relationship has multiple facets of emotions and stories.

I value authenticity.  I’d prefer to photograph non-smiling people who are real than people faking it for their shoot.

Real-everything is always better than fake-anything. ❤️


[These are a few photos I took during our road trip after I was out of the hospital.  We went electronics-free and soaked in the beauty of nature and each other's company.  It will always be one of my favorite vacations ever, and hopefully one of many many more.]

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Take deep breaths.    xo ~annie

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.  ❤️

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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….



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