How Your Subject Feels


Portrait Photography is not only about having CAMERA skills, but also PEOPLE skills — specifically, knowing how to make her subjects feel comfortable during a session and guiding them into the most flattering light and positions.

Here is an example from the other day.  I had an Executive Headshot session, which is typically 30 to 40 minutes.

The first set of images below were images taken in the very beginning of the shoot.  They are nice portraits and, for some photographers, the session would have ended right there.

Instead, we kept going and after some talking (for fun, not about the shoot) and some guidance… the images went from “nice” to “LOVE!”

First Few Shots ==> Nice

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Shots Later On ==> Comfort ==> Gorgeousness

Taking aside the difference in the background and jacket, just look at her face.  Even her eyes are smiling!

You can’t instruct someone to “look relaxed” or “smile with your entire face”; they do that when they feel at ease with and trust the photographer.

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How your subject feels during the shoot ends up being attributes a viewer perceives when they look at the photo.

Just look at the comparison below.

When you look at Image A and Image B, you may feel different things about their abilities, their competency and even their personalities.  And they are the same person!  That is the power of a headshot.

Who would you hire?  Who would you call?  Who would you prefer to work with? 



That doesn’t mean the last few shots are always the ‘money shots’.  Some photographers may choose not to take a single image until their subject is relaxed and ready.

For me, I go right in and start shooting because I think the longer people wait, the more anxiety or nervousness may build.  Then I talk to them and guide them throughout their session.

We all have different styles, but the goal is the same.

Fairytale Shoot

I am the kind of parent who wishes she could stop time, so I can enjoy my kids while they are young… for a little longer.  So you can imagine how I feel when my monkeys have their birthdays!

On Mia and Ava’s birthdays last month (they turned 9 and 4, respectively), there was smiling and hugging, singing and cheering, gift-opening and cake-eating.

But when the days ended, I would reminisce by looking at their baby photos and share with my husband some of my memories of when they were babies.  For the zillionth time.   ;)

A luxury (or is it a consequence – haha) of having a Photographer for a mom is having photoshoots.  I have a dedicated shoot for each child after their birthdays to commemorate their year.

This year, I combined the girls’ birthday shoots into one styled shoot.  I had a fairytale theme in mind for months, so I began planning long ago.  I started by making floor-length princess skirts, then added elements that represented each of their interests.

[Note:  As with every shoot, there are always things that you can't plan for that happen, so you have to learn to roll with it.  In this case, it was the Super Wind, which messed up their hair and blew flowers right off of Mia's head!  omg.]








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Though I am a bit sad to see them grow so fast, even more so, I am proud of who they are and flooded with joy that I get to be their mom!

Having these annual photos helps me remember all the details, which makes me smile.  Always.

A Love Story

Once upon a time, there were two people named Louisa and Jeff who both went to UCLA.  In their first year at school, they started dating and fell in love.  Years later, they got married and recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  Now they are in love….again.

This time, with little Jacob.   <3

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Congratulations, Louisa and Jeff! 

Thank you for welcoming me into your home for the afternoon to photograph your life with little Jacob.  I can see he is surrounded by love!



The Worst Client

[Before you read this, please know that my husband and I joke around... a lot.  Have you read The Unlucky Spouse?  I'm saying this off the bat because I don't want someone to be offended by this post.  He is no ordinary "client"!  :) ]

Yesterday, I took time out of my morning to take some updated head shots of Lawrence.

I posted some of my favorites on my blogsite, as I do with my regular clients, and then excitedly texted him at work, so he could see it.

Here was one of the head shots I posted:


My witty husband responded with an email that read:

“Thanks for the photoshoot this morning, but can you…”


You see, he found it utterly amusing (insert eyeroll here) to be “a bad client” with his Photoshop demands.  He knows I keep things real in my images and wouldn’t normally make these kinds of edits.  I guess this kind of humor is the result of being married to a Photographer.

I considered retorting with a serious response or no response at all, but this joke deserved a joke in return.  So…..


I sent him this email reply:




With this attachment:



We both had a laugh-so-hard-we-wanted-to-cry episode after he saw my skilled Photoshop work!

What’s life without some good laughs, right?  :)

[If you found this remotely entertaining, you may want to check out my Worst Photoshoot Ever!]

A Change is Coming

A change is coming to the corporate world in terms of photography.

Businesses are moving away from stock photography for their websites and marketing materials, and corporate head shots are also getting a makeover.

The new chapter for head shots is to have them look and feel more personable.

From a marketing standpoint, you want to know whom you’re going to work with when you look at a photo of someone. You don’t want to see a person standing or sitting in front of a sterile blue or stark white pop-up background, for instance.  Nothing stiff or stale.  You also don’t want to see a low quality selfie taken with a phone.  There’s nothing professional about that.

This morning, I photographed these two men in the lobby of a hotel.

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This is what it entailed:  They brought their morning coffee, their smart phones, a newspaper, printed workflows and a pen.  Then they chatted with each other across the table.

The result:  relaxed and natural head shots.

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By the way, this was my other view:  a cute little girl playing with my iPad!

My littlest monkey came with me to this super short shoot.  (Can you say that 10 times fast?!!)  I am the luckiest girl to get kisses during the shoot and get to hold her hand afterwards.  :)


A Spy In The Woods

Eight-year-old Nicholas shared his reservations of Lifestyle Photography by declaring that it’s sort of like SPYING!  hee hee.

I found that funny, yet, in a way, it was somewhat accurate too!  Only thing is, I am not that stealthy.  I’d be a terrible spy.  :)

He was very astute in coming up with the comparison though.  Don’t you love how kids always say what’s on their minds?!!

Below are a few images from this weekend’s spy work…oops, I mean, Lifestyle Family Photography session with one of THE SWEETEST families!  We hung out and played among the redwood trees in the East Bay.



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The afternoon was relaxing and fun, as you can see, and there was lots of love!

Lisa and Steve:  I can’t wait to share your entire gallery with you!!  Stay tuned.  ~ annie

Sunrise Shoot

For goodness sake, I am not a morning person.  Wait, where’d I put my coffee?  ;)  Okay, let’s continue…

So why do a shoot at sunrise?  For many reasons!  Here are a few examples using images from my Commercial Shoot last Sunday…

To get outdoor images without cars and people.


To capture a building’s lighting of signs and storefront.  These lights are usually in key places and give an added dimension to photos.  They are usually automatic, just like with streetlamps, so once it is bright enough outside, they go dark.


To get even lighting outdoors.  There are no harsh shadows or blown-out details from the strong sun.


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To capture images of the beautiful day break.


Notice the amazing horizontal light on the bushes?  LOVE IT!

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To capture animals and people in their freshest, calmest state. 



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Next time, find out what time the sun rises in your city and bring your camera!

Fine Art Book

I’ve been in business for many years and encountered numerous nice albums — none of which, however, compare to the company I use for my Fine Art Books.  I’m not bragging; just tellin’ it like it is.  :)

My Fine Art Books are polished and modern, not stuffy and boring.  The images are printed directly on the pages — and we’re talking THICK pages, not the thin magazine-style pages  — and images can run to the very edge.  The paper is heavy like a book cover and MATTE like an art book.

[Warning:  Don't be upset at your friends when they can't stop touching the pages when you show them your book!]

Thick is Better

The thick cover is a laminated hard cover that is durable and washable.  It matches well with the super thick pages of the book.



Touchable Paper

The pages are matte, not glossy, which will make everyone want to touch it!  And don’t worry, the paper is smudge-proof and will not show fingerprints.

The special paper uses archival inks and enhances colors so every image looks vibrant.



Lay Flat Pages

My favorite feature are the lay flat pages!  That means, there are no ugly gutters (the white line in the middle of a spread where the pages bend).  When you turn each page, the pages lay flat.

With lay flat pages, you can really get photos to stand out by using the entire space… from edge to edge.  So in a 10×10 book, a full spread image like the one below is a 10×20 photo!  This is a terrific way to showcase a large quantity of artwork from your photoshoot in beautiful, look-at-me sizes.

Since there are no gutters, you can put important elements, like faces, anywhere on the page.  It is THAT fabulous!


Modern Design

My design aesthetic is simple and clean.  I will design your Fine Art Book to reflect this modern style.


More Details:

* Each book has 30 pages (15 spreads).

* Additional spreads can be added.  See the Investment page for specifics.

* Leather cover upgrades are available.

* 4×4 Brag Books are available with a 10×10 Fine Art Book order.  They are miniature versions of the larger book, and the quality is just as impressive.  Brag Books make the most amazing gifts!

Process once you’ve ordered:

* The creation process is simple.  All your images will be organized into 3 folders:
List #1:  Must Haves
List #2:  Nice To Have
List #3:  Definitely Do Not Want in the book.

* You provide me with List #1 and List #3.  List #1 (Must Haves) should be 20 or fewer images.  List #3 (do not want) is usually the smallest list.  List #2 (Nice to Have) is usually the largest.  I will make sure all the images in List #1 make it in your book, and I will source the remaining images from List #2.  On average, there will be 40+ images in your book.

Why does my Must Haves list need to be so small when I love so many more images?  Because I require some room for creativity when designing your book!  When you flip through your book, there needs to be a cohesive story.  So make sure that you’ve narrowed your Must Have list to only your absolute-favorite-favorites!  These are the images that will make you lose sleep if they didn’t make it into your book.  :)

* Once I’ve received your order payment and you’ve provided me with List #1 and #3, I can start designing your book!

* You can view a draft in about 3 weeks.

* You will have up to 2 edits, if necessary (ie, swap a photo for another, switch a photo position).

* Once I receive sign-off, I will fine-tune your book and send it to my book company.  It takes the book company about 3 weeks to craft the book, and an additional week for shipment.


Understanding Exposure

An article I wrote for DPS last month was just published, and overall, it seems to be helping a lot of people who are ready to take their photography skills to a new level.  And THAT is exciting!!!

Once you have a basic understanding that Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO work together, you can control the look of your images!

This article was written for beginners, so if you’re an advanced photographer, keep flipping and I’ll chat with you later.  :)


[Note:  The adorable fish drawing that illustrates Aperture was drawn by Mia, my super creative girl who was 8-year old at the time.  She also came up with the term "Moonglasses".]

Tips for Lifestyle Newborn Photography

I wanted to share an article I wrote that was published on DPS today.  It’s Newborn Photography with my LIFESTYLE twist!  Yeeha!

I’m a city girl, but thought the “yeeha” was appropriate for some odd reason.  :)

Anyhow, if you photograph babies or are about to have a baby and want to do a newborn shoot, you’ll wanna read this.  Enjoy.