Behind-The-Scenes: Little Princess

As part of my 1 hour Styled Session of my 5-year old’s birthday, Ava changed into her flowy pink dress and wore a handmade glittery gold crown that I ordered from etsy.  (She wanted a Princess theme whereas I wanted The Train Station theme, so we compromised by doing both.  Actually, she had 3 outfits, but that’s another post!)  :)

The fog had rolled in, so the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the wind picked up.  I knew this leg of the shoot needed to be really quick.  It was a time to just “get the shot and go”!  We were there for about 15 minutes, including walking to/from the parking lot.

My oldest daughter held my reflector when I needed it, and she took a couple behind-the-scenes shots with my phone as you can see here.  Thanks, Mia!


Ava’s dress had a gauzy layer that kept getting caught on the prickly wild flowers, so I had her stand on a stool.


I had waited til the end of the day to get the “golden hour” light, but didn’t anticipate the fog that rolled in after we started.  With the dense fog, you can see that we were running out of light quick!

My poor girl was so cold that she used her arms to hug herself to keep warm — which actually looked pretty darn cute, so I shot through it.


What I Shot:

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You can’t always control every aspect of your shoot, like the weather.  So find ways to make the most of what you have.  Sometimes that means finding an alternate light source.  Sometimes it means shooting through the cold and having artistic “thoughtful” shots of your subject rather than “happy” ones.

Use the resources you have, think quickly, and have fun!

Commercial Photography: Duchesne Academy 2

Now that you’ve seen Commercial Shoot days 1 and 2 of Duchesne Academy of The Sacred Heart, I wanted to share a peek of day 3… “The Dry Day”.  You can just imagine how I hopped and skipped around campus that morning when I saw the glorious sunshine!  :)

In this blog post of the all girls’ Catholic School shoot, you’ll see students who show self-confidence, curiosity, respect, friendship…

…and beauty from within.

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Commercial Photography: Duchesne Academy 1

I had the pleasure of flying to Houston, Texas last week to photograph Duchesne Academy of The Sacred Heart, a Pre-K to 12th Grade Catholic school for girls.  [FYI:  Duchesne is French and is pronounced "doo-shen".]

I was blown away by the tremendous amount of kindness that exuded from the students and faculty during my 3-day visit.  There were students who helped put away furniture that we moved for the shoot and did it even after we said they didn’t need to help.  People held doors for us and welcomed us with big, genuine smiles.  When we asked for directions to a room, there were students who didn’t just point, but rather, they took the time to walk with us.

That may sound small, but I don’t think any amount of kindness is ever “small”.  And they never went unnoticed or unappreciated.

The emblem for this school is a heart, which I think is perfect because, from what I experienced, this school is full of HEART.  <3

Since I have too many favorites to share on this 3-Day Commercial Photography project, I divided them up into two blog posts:

Part 1:  Days 1 and 2, which were the wet days.  Yep, it was raining.  On Tuesday, there was even a thunderstorm and the darkest sky I’ve ever seen in the day!
Part 2:  Day 3, which happened to be the dry day.  Wahooo… and there was sunshine!

Below is Part 1.  Enjoy!

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Crackers and Caterpillars

When you have three young boys — ages 2, 5 and 7 — there is a good amount of activity, volume, and adventure.  “There’s never a dull moment,” says James (the dad).  :)

Crackers and caterpillars were the main attraction for Nathan, Evan and Logan, but for me, it was all about their soulful eyes and sincere smiles.  (And lucky me, I get to watch these boys grow up!!!  I’ve been photographing them since Nathan was in diapers and was the only child!)


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The Joy of Family Life

The joy of family life is not about having everything “perfect”, but rather, being able to roll with whatever comes your way and having fun no matter what.

The C Family encountered a couple injuries, car sickness, soiled clothes, wet shoes, dirt on faces… and it didn’t stop anyone from having smiles on their faces.

They were also in a fabulous area of San Francisco with the beautiful Bay as their backdrop, yet were completely happy playing on building ramps, signs, bike racks, spider-infested basements and the edge of streets!  Jason and Emily wanted to do whatever their girls, Jules and Audrey, wanted to do… and it was awesome.

This is what family JOY looks like!







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Train Station Shoot

This East Bay Styled Photography session was of my very own angel who just turned 5!  (I celebrate each year of my monkeys with a photoshoot.  Lucky them!  heehee.)

Here is how the planning went down…

I picked up this cute little suitcase from a local store for $10 a year ago because I thought it would be a great prop for a child’s shoot.  I then found the perfect dress while browsing at Nordstrom’s that match the ‘look and feel’ of the suitcase.  Before running out the door the day of the shoot, I grabbed my 10 year old daughter’s straw hat.

As for the location, I needed a reason for my subject to be holding a suitcase, so I thought, “Aha!  A train station!”  Then I remembered a restaurant area that reminded me of an old train station, which I drove past earlier that day.  Voila, our location!

Since this was a public place and it was a Saturday evening, we were only here for 15 minutes.

So you can see, you don’t need expensive props, a lot of time, or complicated details.  The location can be in your own neighborhood too.  You just need a vision!

Check out my little Ava who was at “the train station” this weekend…. :)

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If you liked this, then you’ll want to check out my Fairytale Shoot from last year!  It was also a windy day, but the light was completely different.  It was full-on sunshine!

Dreaming About Baby

The beautiful Arezou and her husband, Pedram, are expecting a baby this Spring.  There are many thoughts and emotions that expectant parents have during this time (mostly excitement and love!!!), and I feel so fortunate to be the one to document this amazing time for them.

This San Francisco Lifestyle Maternity Photography session could have run into a bump in the road (see what I did there?!!  hee hee) because the weather forecast slated that day to be rainy with periods of HAIL!  Instead, we had gorgeous weather and had a ton of fun because this lovely couple were relaxed, ready to try anything, and enjoyed their time together.

I loved walking around with Arezou and Pedram, hearing their love story and how they met when they were at school, and getting to know them.  I know they will be incredible parents, and I can’t wait to meet the little bundle of joy who will be loved endlessly.  <3












Every image from this shoot is a “favorite”, but these two images below have a special meaning because they were taken in unlikely places!  (They were both next to heavily traversed areas.)

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When you’re in a highly photographed location, look for different ways to see it.  :)

One More Minute

The trick is to enjoy life.

Don’t wish away your days

Waiting for better ones ahead.


** UPDATE (March 11, 2015) **

This image is a Top 10 winner in the “Everyday Life” photography challenge.  Woot woot!


The Secret About BxW


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


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.



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.


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…


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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!



~ 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.


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?!!  :)


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?


“Um, how do I get down?”

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


“I need to work on my tan.”



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“Hike, 1, 2, 3…”


“Weeeee, this is fun!”