Does Location Really Matter?

You can spend countless hours coming up with the photoshoot location, but let’s be honest.  Does the location REALLY matter?

This is one of those questions where different photographers may have different answers.  Here is my opinion as a Lifestyle Photographer.  (This answer would be different if I were a traditional portrait photographer or a landscape photographer, for instance.)

The answer:  It does and it doesn’t.  I know, I hate it when people say that (haha), but it’s true.  Let me explain.

When location MATTERS:

  • You want a meaningful spot (ie, where you got engaged, your home, your neighborhood park).
  • You want “good light”.
  • It makes the subjects relaxed (ie, a newborn will be more comfortable in their warm home, a family with young children may be happier at a quiet playground than in a city).
  • It provides you with activities (ie, you have a toddler who loves to pick flowers, so you choose a garden or you have a couple who loves dining out, so you choose a chic restaurant).

When location DOESN’T MATTER:

  • You want someplace “pretty”.

Here are examples of the last point.  I took these images this weekend with long-time clients whom I know very well.  We started at a park near their home, and towards the end, I took them to the parking lot next to an open field.  Though it may look picturesque, I guarantee that 98% of people who drive to the parking lot don’t stop to look at this.  Then we walked over to our cars, and I captured a few sweet hugging shots right in the middle of the lot.

Point is, parking lots aren’t usually considered “pretty” areas, but you can get great shots just about anywhere.

So don’t just look for “pretty” when you are deciding on a shoot location.

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Shooting in the parking lot and other interesting places is not foreign to me.  You should check out my blog post part one  and part two!

Seeing The Light in People

Mateo and Anea are the same ages as my first two kids, so watching them grow up is like being in a parallel world in many ways.  I adore these children and their parents, and seeing them every year is one of the blessings in my photography career.  During their shoot, there is talking and reflecting with some playing and gentle laughing.  Our time together is soothing to my soul, like drinking hot chocolate with mini marshmallows on a cold Winter day.  Niiiiice.

Something happened during their shoot that is rare:  I sat down, put down my camera (I know, right?!!), and chatted about their latest worldwide journey and shared funny stories about rat attacks.  No kidding.  An aggressive rat leaping at you is never good.  Just ask Joe — haha.  At that moment, it felt more like we were friends reuniting and I happened to bring my camera.  :)

While I was editing their photos the following day, I felt a wash of comfort and love.  Then I remembered what another client said to me once….

She told me that I “see their love” and therefore, only I can photograph their family’s special bond because “you can capture something only if you can see it.  And you can see it!”  She went on to explain:  “Not every photographer spends the time to know their clients enough to SEE what makes their family special.  And some can spend a lot of time, but still not see it.  You have a gift — not just in photography, but in how you see people’s light and the uniqueness of each family.”

I love that.

It’s not just about seeing THE LIGHT at a location, but it’s also about seeing THE LIGHT in people!


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The M Family’s last two photoshoots were so different than this one!  Last year’s was at a hiking area that had a farm (The Impossible), and the year before that, it was at a Japanese Garden (How Do I Love Thee?)  No matter where they are and what year it is, I can see their family’s light.  <3

Made With Love

Rachad and Priti look at each other in such a way that I swear I see cartoon hearts come out of their eyeballs while loud horns sound!  Okay, so maybe I’ve been watching too many cartoons.  ;)  They have these two adorable kids who hug each other for no reason, play “choo choo train” with sticks, and can do a mean dance to “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” that resulted in me singing the chorus without a care in the World while dog-walkers and joggers moved behind me!

Maya was like my shadow that day as she kept finding interesting things to tell me, and she’d hold my hand periodically during the shoot as if she had forgotten I was there to photograph them.  :)  At the end, little Samir, whom I’ve known for three years (I did his Newborn Shoot!), gave me this squeeze-like hug that made my heart swell.

The entire shoot — including the beautiful picnic spread with yogurt parfait in personalized mason jars and fruit kabobs — was made with love.  Love was everywhere.  Not even the dense fog that blocked our view of the Bay and the morning’s surprise running event could spoil the great morning we had together.

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Breathing at the Beach

I met The L Family for the first time over Labor Day weekend.  During our half mile stroll to the beach, Julie told me how they haven’t had a photoshoot since Brandon and Drew were 6 and 4 years old!

We have all been there before — work, meetings, never ending task lists, smart phones, a calendar packed with events.  They fill our days.  But what’s cool is, it’s always okay to stop what we’re doing, take a cleansing breath, and be in the moment.  Forget about yesterday and tomorrow.  Right now, what do you see and smell and hear?  How do you feel?

I’m not a guru at this being-in-the-moment stuff, but from time to time, I make a point in breathing intently and ‘taking it all in’.

I am so glad that Julie and Rob didn’t get stuck on how much time had passed, and instead, took their boys (including their furry baby, Bodie) to the beach to have me capture their family moments.  <3

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It was a beautiful sunny day…the sky was true blue and there was a gentle breeze…we could see two whales spouting water through their blowhole…the sand felt coarse under my feet…and the salty air was filled with sounds of giant waves crashing, music, and laughter.



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IS UNCERTAIN.    ~unknown


First Birthday Cake

Luke may have turned one year old the very day of his photoshoot, but as some say, age is only a number because Luke can walk, run, dance, escape (haha), and eat his first birthday cake like a pro!

Fun fact:  Luke’s mommy and daddy — Kelley and Oren — got married five years ago, and I not only witnessed their union on a gorgeous beach at sunset, but also, I was their photographer!  (Lucky me!)  We’ve been friends since then, so it was such a delight to see them again and photograph their newest addition, this handsome and courageous boy whose fuzzy golden head I HAD to rub!  :)

Happy birthday, Luke!  And congratulations, Kelley and Oren, for reaching the first year of drooly kisses and cuddles that melt your heart.  <3


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I Can’t

It seemed like a lifetime ago when I had to drag myself out of bed to go into an office, and at the end of the day, I’d go home feeling glad I did a good job, but my zest was dimmed and my passion for creativity was collecting cobwebs in the recesses of my soul.

Let me clarify.  I’m not saying a corporate job is bad in any way and it certainly wasn’t like that for me every day because I made some great friends, learned A TON about business, and grew personally.  In fact, I know that I couldn’t have leaped out of the Corporate World had I not “put in my dues” to learn about marketing and small business.  Having managers who believed in me was a confidence booster that didn’t go away either when I left.  I am eternally grateful for my opportunities.

But now, wow.

Now I get to run a business doing all the things I love.  We’re talking the kind of love that makes me excited to get up in the morning, passionate to create Art and tell stories, and an all around happier person.  I have the kind of job that, even eight years later, makes me want to pinch myself.  Am I really doing what I love, every day?!!

My Lifestyle Shoot this weekend reminded me of all this.

I’ve been photographing The T Family since Kate was a baby and they lived in L.A.  I photographed Ellie when Michele was pregnant and the day she came home from the hospital!  I have watched Ellie grow into this walking, talking little person with a big personality.  And Kate… what a bright, shining star she is!  They both have these magnetic smiles that melt my heart.  And every time I see them, I feel like THE luckiest person ever.  <3

Alright, that’s enough sappiness and over-sharing for today.  You have to see some of their images.  I dare you to look at these and not smile!

I can’t:)




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Music, Flowers and Funnies

Sophia and Isabella crack me up.  I can’t imagine them in the same room without talking with each other or laughing or making a funny noise with their mouths.  Combine this dynamic duo with an interesting location and some props — like instruments, leaves on the ground and long-stemmed flowers — and you have a photoshoot full of fun and silliness!

[Fun Fact:  Their dad, Tim, used to play in a band I listened to when I lived in San Francisco!  No wonder their kids are musically inclined too!]

As they grow older, make new friends, have breakups with boyfriends (they’ll be heartbreakers, I’m sure), I know Izzie and Sophia will always be there for each other and will recognize they have an unbreakable bond that allows them to feel safe to be themselves.  These lyrics make me think of them…

Everybody wants me to be who they want me to be except you
All I wanna do is be with you
~Michael Franti, “I’m Alive”

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They got rained out last year, but if you want to see their artsy urban shoot from 2013, click here!

Arcade and Ice Cream

It was hot and bright even in the evening.  There was smoke in the air from the 7 fires just North of the city.  And there was what seemed to be hundreds of people everywhere we stepped!  Despite all of that, The F Family had a great time exploring an antique arcade, had a snack on a pier overlooking Alcatraz, and hung out in a swanky urban lounge in Fisherman’s Wharf.  If that sounds like fun, it’s because it was!

I love The F Family so much…  The parents are one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve met, and I’ve known (and photographed) their kids for the past EIGHT YEARS!

I get so excited to see them every year, and I feel a little sad when their shoot is over.  *Sniff* 

In any case, their shoots always have a nice combination of mostly True Lifestyle (where they do what they do and I photograph it) and a smidge of semi-posed family shots, as you’ll see below!  :)


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Animal Attack

Dani and Charlie have the type of bond that young adults think all siblings have, until they have their own kids.  ;)  And then they hear them arguing about the tiniest little thing:  “Give that back to me!”  “But you said I can play with it.”  “That was 5 minutes ago, but now I want to play with it!”  Okay, maybe that’s just at my house this last year.  ;)

But not these two girls.

They are genuinely sweet towards each other. All. The. Time.  We’re talking… cute whispers in the ear and holding hands every time they walk.  It’s funny because I see them every year, and every year they are like this.  And every year, I am in awe by them.  In fact, I remember blogging about it once or twice before.

Dani and Charlie also have parents (Alex and Roberta) who possess the perfect balance of giving parental guidance and being fun companions to their daughters.  So their shoots are usually just like that too.

Take a look at their latest shoot.  There was a bird in flight, some peek-a-boo action, and an animal attack!  heh heh.


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Starting with Pizza

This weekend, I met with Rebecca, Frank, and their kids at a beloved area of San Francisco:  Ghirardelli Square.  The H Family have had photoshoots before, every year in fact, but never a Lifestyle shoot.  So when we stopped for pizza at the start of the shoot, the kids — Kyle, Kelly and Kayden — were a little stunned.  heh heh.

When tummies were full, they walked around the city, enjoyed the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and sat in the sun to watch the beautiful bay rippling with sailboats and swimmers.  Then we finished the shoot with scoops of homemade ice cream.  Isn’t Lifestyle Photography cool?  :D

By the way, this shoot marked a very important chapter for the H Family that is worth noting:  Kyle just graduated from High School and will be headed off to College!  I am so honored to capture this slice of their family’s life.  What a big milestone!





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