Pom Pom Bouquet

Wanted to share this fun DIY pom pom bouquet I made for our Beach Room.  (Yes, I named many of our rooms because…well, why not?!!)

I made pom poms with my kids, collected sticks around our neighborhood, washed a bottle from a drink I had, and used shells the kids gathered on the beach last Summer.

I love the result!  The bouquet gives the room a touch of whimsy and fun!

East-Bay-home-photography-DIY-home-decor-pom-poms  East-Bay-home-photography-DIY-home-decor-pom-pom-bouquet-2


How is this related to Photography?

Well, it isn’t.  But it turned out to be because I decided to photograph it.  So it became a mini shoot of an item, like a Product Shoot.

If you’re ever needing creative inspiration or have time in your busy schedule, I encourage you to try it on an everyday item or a special item, if you prefer.  It can be anything, even a fork.  Really.

Task yourself with finding a way to shoot that item to make it look its best.  Give yourself a time limit.  What kind of light will compliment that item the most?  Where can you place it?  How would you arrange it?  What angle would you shoot it at?  What settings would you have?  How would you compose the image?

This is a great 5 minute activity that can be helpful for any experience level!  I’ve been doing this for years to spark creative juices, and these mini shoots have helped me on my client photoshoots.  :)

Favorite Images of 2015

Votes started coming in the minute I posted these albums onto my Facebook business page!  Thank you to all who chimed in.  It is always a lot of fun for me to see what people like because there are always a few surprises.  This is me when I’m looking through the votes:  “Ooh, interesting…why this one?!!  Wait.  What?  Why not this one?!!”  hahaha.

Without further ado, check out the results of people’s favorite images — as of today (voting is continuous).  The #1 images in both categories, however, won by landslides, so those are pretty secured in their stately positions.  :)


Photos considered in The Most Delicious Light category were images where light played a significant role in the overall image.


The sweetness of this mother-baby moment wouldn’t be the same if the sunlight was “hard”.



The golden sunlight warms this engagement hand-holding image.



Found an abandoned farmhouse for this shot!  Love the thin stream of hard light.



The sunlight is what brings attention to the streamers and her face…and creates even more JOY in the image.


Tied for #4

Love how the sunlight points out the boy’s long baby hair and lit up the tree in the background.




A “moment” can be a split second in time, or it can be a moment that tells a story — whether sweet, emotional or humorous.  Or all of the above!


Dancing with Dad



It LOOKS like candy.



The laughing rocker and her sister.



The moment you help your brother fly like an airplane and the wind blows your hair into beautiful lines in the sky.



Contrasting layers of an emotional human interaction with a city reflection.  Soft and hard.  Warm and cold.  Curves and hard lines.

[This image also won the "Everyday Life" photography contest with iheartfaces.com in March 2015!]


Want to see more?

Here is the entire selection of images for The Most Delicious Light of 2015.
Here is the entire selection of images for Best Moments of 2015.
Favorite Images of 2014
Favorite Images of 2013

A Giant Love

When you both love — and I mean L O V E — the Giants baseball team and will become a blended family when you tie the knot, well, you integrate all your loves into one gorgeous Bay Area Engagement Photography session.

Congratulations Peter and Fanny on your upcoming union.  Seeing you together is like seeing real life Love poems… <3

East-Bay-lifestyle-engagement-photography-couple-hugging-while-woman-holds-heart-baseball  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-woman-with-long-hair-holding-small-dog-in-baseball-glove


The good things in life
are better with you.


East-Bay-lifestyle-engagement-photography-family-wearing-Giants-jersey-with-wedding-date  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-family-of-four-wild-mushrooms


Everyone says you only fall in love once,
but that’s not true because every time I see you,
I fall in love all over again.




You will Forever
be my Always.


East-Bay-lifestyle-engagement-photography-man-twirling-woman-at-golden-hour  East-Bay-lifestyle-engagement-photography-man-holding-laughing-woman-at-golden-hour


Every Love Story is beautiful,
But ours is my favorite.


Eggnog and Cookies

How do you  make  bribe  encourage your kids to get along, look happy, AND look natural in front of your camera when you photograph them all the time and they are not having any of it???  You work the entire shoot around drinking sweet thick eggnog and eating fresh out-of-the-oven, melt-in-your-mouth gooey chocolate chip cookies you made from scratch.  That’s how!  :P

So for my Styled Christmas Shoot of my kids, I am proud to say that all my props (excluding ingredients for the food) cost $8.  The basket, bottles and straws were in the dollar section at a local store.  The baker’s twine I already had, and the large glass bottle was a gift.  Clothes were a mix of things we already had and a few items that tied everyone’s colors together.  Total cost was $50.

The reason why I’m mentioning this is to show that you don’t need to spend a lot to have props in your shoot.  Props can provide you with something to do, something to hold, and basically, a reason to not look at the camera — in addition to providing a secondary purpose, like being good bribery material (hee hee).  [To see another Styled Shoot created on a dime, see my Train Station Shoot.]

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones this holiday season!



East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-basket-filled-with-bottles-of-eggnog  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-branch-with-maroon-leaves


East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-girl-happy-holding-cookie  East-Bay-family-lifestyle-photography-bottle-of-eggnog-and-chalk-signed-straws


East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-interesting-dried-nature-balls-haha  East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-boy-seeing-through-glass-bottle


East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-profile-girl-holding-cookie  East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-young-boy-with-glasses-by-bush


East-Bay-family-lifestyle-photography-mom-hugging-son  East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-three-laughing-sibling-children-arm-in-arm



I don’t hide the fact that sometimes I come up with (*ehem*) interesting ideas during a photoshoot, but hey, it’s because I am working really hard to craft the image I’ve envisioned in my mind.  What is especially impressive, however, is most of my clients don’t even blink an eye at some of my requests!

I can neither confirm nor deny that I said the following things during Sara and Brian’s Lifestyle Photography session this weekend….  ;)

  • “I know that’s a cemetery and a freeway, but can you hang out right there?”
  • “Can you sell me some ice cream?”
  • “Is there something else he can hold that’s prettier than a tissue?”
  • “Sit here and snuggle up to him.”
  • “Saaaaaandwich!!!”
  • “Pretend that’s a mistletoe!”

Hey, if there is something that looks like a mistletoe and it’s above you and your loved one’s head…why not?!!  <3 is <3.



East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-boys-hands-holding-bouquet  East-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-woman-holding-smiling-son-on-lap



East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-couple-looking-at-each-other-on-haystack  East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-boy-running-to-kick-red-ball





East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-woman-sitting-at-picnic-table-in-woods-BxW  East-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-father-giving-son-shoulder-ride-leans-down-for-kiss-BxW




Rinse and Repeat

Why do shampoo bottles have instructions that tell you to “rinse and repeat”?  How many times are you supposed to shampoo your hair?!!

Well, I can’t answer those questions, but I will say this:  Rinse and repeat is what came to mind when I was editing images from last weekend’s photoshoot!

Here was my thought process (bear with me!):  If you are using good shampoo, you shouldn’t need to do multiple rounds of shampooing and rinsing.  However, if it’s REALLY good shampoo, you may want to do it all over again during the same ablution just for the sake of enjoyment!  :)  The same goes for other things.

When I look at The L Family’s images, I forget that it was only 30F degrees and how we only saw Dex’s hands half the time because we had to keep them inside his coat sleeves.  I forget it was so cold that my fingers hurt, so I had to rub them together to get feeling back in order to change settings on my camera!  I forget that Danny and Emily had to play games with their kids to help them survive enjoy the cold.  Games like “Let’s hear the crunch of the frozen leaves when we step on them!” and “Let’s pretend we have hot tea for a tea party!”  :)  It was adorable, and it worked.  Not once did Rory and Dex complain.

These images makes me smile and makes me want to do it again because it was so much fun and there was so much laughter, despite our frostbitten fingers.

So, when you love something, I say:  rinse and repeat!


Bay-Area-lifestyle-children-photography-laughing-toddler-boy-in-winter-coat  Bay-Area-lifestyle-photography-flowers-by-fence



Bay-Area-lifestyle-family-photography-father-cracking-up-while-he-holds-daughter  Bay-Area-lifestyle-family-photography-daughter-cracking-up-while-father-holds-her


Bay-Area-lifestyle-family-photography-young-girl-laughing-and-running-away-with-mom-and-baby-brother-watching  Bay-Area-lifestyle-photography-iris




Aside from it being Thanksgiving week, I feel incredibly grateful for having a business that I love.  ATP (Annie Tao Photography) is like my fourth baby that I created out of a passion for Art and a love for children.  It began with a vision and took years of nurturing to help it grow into what it is today.  I am really proud of each of my kids:  Mia, Ian, Ava…and ATP!  :)

And get this:  I have THE best clients in the World.  I love them!  They are like little nuggets of gold that you find in a creek.  (Well, if you’re panning for gold, back in the day!)  Anyhow, I feel so fortunate.

Take this last Sunday, for instance.  Pete and Erin… they are the kind of people everyone wants to be friends with!  They are smart, fun, artsy, kind, humble, and true to themselves.  These qualities also make them a joy to photograph because their “stories” are like beautiful melodious songs that I get to capture in imagery.  (You’ll see what I mean below!)

I love that Erin planned a scavenger hunt in the woods, and that she and Pete embrace how their youngest daughter loves dirt.  Hee hee.  I love their nicknames for their kids — CJ and Gigi — and that their real names are unique and classic — Clara and Greta.  I love that when CJ was having “a moment”, Erin casually said with a smile, “Well, at least we’ll get to capture her personality!”  I love that there were 12 or so other photographers at the same location that afternoon (I know, right?!!!), but they were okay with it all and never doubted that I could still pull it off.  I love that Pete can throw his kids up in the air with ease as if they were light playground balls.  I love that little Gigi was shy at first, so she hid behind her parents, but flashed heart-melting smiles at me throughout the afternoon.  <3

I love photography, but the photoshoots themselves are enjoyable and fun because of my clients.  They are amazing.  And I am so grateful to be surrounded by them.  Truly.


San-Francisco-lifestyle-photography-interesting-plant-in-Presidio  San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-parents-walking-with-daughters-on-Andy-Goldsworthy-installation









San-Francisco-lifestyle-children-photography-preschooler-girl-leaning-on-hands-BxW  San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-father-catching-youngest-daughter-BxW





Close To Home

What I enjoy most about photographing families with teenagers is the parent-child dynamic.

Sometimes disagreements, dissents or disinterest may surface, but when you peel off those outer layers, you get parents who BEAM with pride when they speak of their children, teens who hug their parents when they least expect it, and perhaps, when they’re Seniors looking into Colleges, they apply to one that is nearby home because that’s where they are loved unconditionally…

…and being close to that, they realize, isn’t so bad.   <3


South-Bay-lifestyle-teen-photography-senior-boy-leaning-on-school-sign  South-Bay-lifestyle-pet-photography-cute-white-puppy-sitting-on-sign




South-Bay-lifestyle-teen-photography-girl-in-rose-bushes  South-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-boy-sitting-profile



South-Bay-lifestyle-photography-pink-rose-bush  South-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-family-of-five-posed-by-tree


South-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-senior-boy-hugging-his-mother-BxW  South-Bay-lifestyle-photography-arrow-on-road-BxWSouth-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-mom-cleaning-teen-sons-shoes-at-car

Silver Lining

There are always silver-linings to anything that goes not as expected or originally desired.  “Problems may suck, but they are gifts.  They provide us with opportunities to learn.”  This is the annoying statement (haha) that I recently told my children.  I am still trying to figure out what some of these gifts are to my problems, but I guess I’m an Optimist because I do believe this!  And, get this…

Sometimes, these “problems” allow us to find solutions that are even better than the original!

So last Sunday, it was raining.  Scratch that.  It was pouring.  Well, only the middle of the night and in the morning, but still.  My photoshoot of The S Family was scheduled for early morning!  In addition, there was a 5K race with a running path that overlapped part of our location.  This meant a lot of issues for our shoot, including parking challenges, bridge traffic and pedestrian traffic too.  So we moved our shoot to a “backup location”.

This backup location was stellar.  The kids had room to play.  There was natural light in the covered areas.  Their wonderfully coordinated outfits stylistically fit the new location better than the original one.  There was also no traffic, no parking issues, and no pedestrian traffic.  In fact, we had the location to ourselves for most of the shoot!  We also had less stress, which meant a more relaxed shoot.  Silver lining!

If that isn’t already awesome, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  BOOYAH!!!  :D

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-children-reading-a-book-on-bench  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-branch-with-raindrops


East-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-son-listening-to-father-talk  East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-leaning-on-gold-rail



East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-ducks-swimming-toward-me-cuz-they-think-I-have-food-wrongo  East-Bay-lifestyle-family-photography-family-pretending-to-be-ducks-on-bridge



East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-metal-installation-in-water-surrounded-by-ducks  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-woman-in-neutral-outfit-walking-at-shopping-mall


A Shining Light

There is beauty in the light that shines within people when they are around those they love.  Those that make them happy.  Those that make them feel good about themselves.

Sophia and Peter just moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles.  A move, regardless of the actual distance, is always a “big move” because you have to uproot your lives and start over — a new job, new friends, a new home.  It can be hard, but The C Family did it with style.  Look at their Lifestyle Shoot with their adorable little Koa who is turning ONE this month!  And I think it’s glaringly obvious, Koa is their shining light.





San-Francisco-lifestyle-photography-yerba-buena-gardens-before-paris-vigil  San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-couple-walking-down-ramp-with-baby




San-Francisco-lifestyle-photography-two-autumn-leaves-on-grass  San-Francisco-lifestyle-family-photography-family-preparing-to-go-down-slide