When I Grow Up

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I remember crying in Kindergarten when my teacher insisted that each student announce what they wanted to be when they grew up.

I was a shy child whose parents split up when I was three and we moved around a lot, so talking in front of a group was far from being ‘fun’.  (By the end of Elementary School, I couldn’t stop talking, so there was a weird life symmetry there!  ha!)  Anyhow, I remember thinking to myself, “How would I know what I want to be?!!  I am only five!”

The result of the silence and all eyes on me:  tears.

Fast forward to 6th grade.

It was a similar situation, but this time, the teacher asked us to think about what we wanted to be when we grew up.  This time, I did.  I put a lot of thought into it.  I had friends who named the profession of their mother or father.  Some wanted to be what they considered a ‘hero job’:  a doctor, a firefighter.  For me, I had always loved Art.  Always.  Yet, I thought being an Artist meant standing on a sidewalk with my paintings and hoping to sell something, so I could have money to eat!  Thus, Art was never something I considered as a plausible career.

Instead, I came up with two things.  I was 11 years old, and I knew I wanted to be…

A mother.

Happy.

I’ve always loved kids and thought the coolest thing in the entire World would be to be a mom.  To have kids.  To hold babies.  To love them unconditionally.  To teach them skills and help shape them to be confident and good people.

And happy.  I didn’t know what job I wanted.  I didn’t think about income, industry, or position.  I didn’t care about the details.  I just knew that whatever my career would be, I needed to be happy.

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So going full circle here, I am now a business owner of something I am passionate about:  creating art.  I am also a mother of little humans who test my patience sometimes (haha), but they make me grow and learn and teach.  They make me want to always see the World as a silver lining, to find good in people.  I can humbly say that I am happier with them in my World.

Thank you — yes, YOU — for sharing in my journey!

Now why on Earth am I thinking about all this?

Well, my littlest monkey just turned 6 years old.  (These photos are from her 6 year old photoshoot.)  She is in Kindergarten, and I remembered how I was asked that question when I was her age.  Unlike me, however, Avie knows what she wants to be when she grows up.  A singer.  Well, not any ordinary singer.  A Singing Baker.  So in a few years, if you hear about a bakery that just opened up where the baker sings, you’ll know it’s my child!  :)

When I grow up (hey, I’m still growing!), I want to be where I am now.  But just older.

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Why Photography Matters in Business

With the prevalence of internet usage and infusion of social media in our daily life, consumers have become more visual now than ever.

Not only do they count on a website or app to look appealing, they also are more inclined to notice — and judge — if an image is an authentic one or one that is a stock photo.  Does the image provoke a feeling?  Does the image look real?  Is it believable?  These are the questions that consumers answer subconsciously.  Unintentionally.  This is what happens now with visually-savvy consumers.

A content-heavy landing page is no longer desirable.  What is enviable are sites with eye-catching images that make the viewer feel something.  A connection.  A feeling.  A desire to buy it, to attend it, to be a part of it.  Whatever the business is, the images can make a consumer intrigued.  It is then up to the total content of the pages to seal the deal with whatever the business is selling.  Without the compelling images and a buttoned-up marketing strategy, consumers will exit the site.

You only have a few seconds to make a first impression.

So if you’re a business owner or you manage a business, take a look at your website and ask yourself, “What does my home page say about my business?”  “Does it command my attention?”  “Does it look modern and exciting, or boring and dated”?

As an example, I’ve attached print screens of Rice Business School‘s Before and After home page and program page.  This was a recent Commercial Photography project I worked on, and I am very proud to be a part of it.  I think you’ll agree that the Before and After are like night and day.

*HOME PAGE*

Before

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After

These are a few of the rotating images…

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*PROGRAM PAGE*

Before

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After

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Websites have been vital for businesses for eons, but with each year, I believe that Commercial Photography has increased in its importance.  What do you think?  Can you have a great business without a strong web presence and imagery?

My Candy Store

Quiet moments, laugh-out-loud moments, sweet tender moments, serious moments.  Having all of these things and beautiful sunlight in one Lifestyle Shoot is my “candy store”!  I am gasping in delight at the plethora of emotions and stories that unfolded that morning.  Take, for instance, this first photo below of the dad walking with his youngest daughter.  That was my first frame.  My very first shot.  When a shoot starts like this, it’s just…WOW.

There is no magic pill or fancy formula.  My advice to you, if you have a photoshoot coming up, is…

Relax.  Be yourself.  Have fun.  Don’t have an agenda.  Let your kids be kids.

Now come check out my “candy store” of moments from this past weekend!

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Commercial Photography: Rice University

I went back to Houston, y’all!  :)  This time, I spent a few days photographing the beautiful and prestigious Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.  (For short, I call it Rice Business School.)

All important projects have goals. 
One of my goals was to capture the personality and essence of Rice Business School in an authentic way.  My days consisted of attending classes, taking casual headshots of students within each MBA program, capturing images of professors collaborating with students, scouting locations, and sculpting images based on the light.  Putting someone in the stairwell because there was “good light” was not unfathomable!  ;)

All great adventures have obstacles. 
One that surfaced was the weather.  There could be sun and clear skies and then a half hour later, it would turn dark, rainy, and windy.  And no one would blink an eye… except me, a California girl whose State has been in a severe drought for years.  When it rains in CA, it’s reported on every news channel!

No obstacle was too big, however, even when we found out on Shoot Day 1 that there would be no students on Day 3 and few students on Day 2.  So yes, I had to photograph a school with limited students.  Meh, not a problem!  ;)  All kidding aside, I wholeheartedly believe challenges are opportunities for growth, so bring them on, I say!

Now take a look.

These are the faces of Rice Business School… the faces of the campus, faculty and students.  They have much to celebrate at this school, and I am humbled to be a part of their creative process.

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Want to see what I worked on the last time I was in Houston?  There was a dark and windy rainstorm then too!  Click HERE and HERE.

Urban Playground

San Francisco is full of urban playgrounds, whether it’s an actual children’s playground or cool things around the city you can play on!  With imagination and a free spirit, we can find fun things to do anywhere, right?!!  :)

My Lifestyle Shoot with The Y Family this weekend had both types of playgrounds.  Add to that, great people and nice weather during an El Nino Winter.  It was fabulous!

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One of the things I love about shooting in the city is having the contrast of nature and man-made materials, like a park in front of giant skyscrapers.  It’s a visual Yin and Yang!

IMAGE ANALYSIS

In the below image, I yearned to break up “the pattern on top of pattern” (shadow against the brick wall) with these two amazing women who describe themselves as opposites, so I stood them apart from each other for symbolism.

It’s one of my favorite photos of the shoot because of the patterns, coolness in colors, and compositional balance of the two women, who are obviously different, but in that second, their mannerisms mirrored each other!  <3

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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!

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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.  :)

MOST DELICIOUS LIGHT OF 2015

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

#1

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

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#2

The golden sunlight warms this engagement hand-holding image.

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#3

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

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#4

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

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Tied for #4

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

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BEST MOMENTS OF 2015

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!

#1

Dancing with Dad

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#2

It LOOKS like candy.

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#3

The laughing rocker and her sister.

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#4

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

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#5

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!]

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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

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The good things in life
are better with you.

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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.

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You will Forever
be my Always.

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

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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!

xo

annie

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Mistletoe

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.

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