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.


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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


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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

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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.





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After the Rain

To be honest, rain can wreak havoc on photoshoot plans.  Rain can also lend some really great light immediately after it stops.  There is soft, even light from the large “softboxes” overhead (a.k.a. CLOUDS!) and if you time it just right, the clouds will part and allow the golden glow of sunlight to spill through.  It’s can be pretty darn magical.

The H Family had just that sort of experience this weekend!  We weren’t quite sure if the shoot was going to happen until that morning, and thankfully we stuck with it and benefited from all the beauty that is seen after the rain.

[Fun fact:  Sabrina started Kindergarten this year, so we had the shoot at her school!  It isn’t just a big step for Sabrina, but also, it’s a milestone for the entire family because they now have a school-aged child!]




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If you want to see more Rainy Day Shoots, check out this one from 2013 that was published by The Indie Tot.  Or look at this one from 2009 where it was actually still raining!  OMG, and I’ll never forget this year’s Commercial Shoot when I had to travel to Houston and there was a rain storm.  I had to think fast!

If you want to see more examples of that magical golden light that peeks through after the rain, you have to have to see this beach shoot in Half Moon Bay and this one in San Francisco where the family danced next to a building and a race:)

A Bittersweet Move

When every where you look, sit, lay and play triggers a happy memory.

When asked when you built, planted, or remodeled something in and around your home, your answer is often tied to the birth of one of your children.

When you are going to move and though the move will be a positive step, it feels bittersweet.  <3

Lifestyle Family Photography sessions at home are dear to my heart because they have incredible meaning.  The way families move around and inhabit space within their home tells a unique story.  And the comfort of being at home for children produces relaxed faces, which is more consequential than a scripted smile.

Check out The F Family’s home shoot to see exactly what I mean…






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Up In The Air

I met The A Family for the first time this Sunday, and their little 1.5 year old daughter, Akira, was so full of personality that she was bursting with things to say and couldn’t wait to explore the next new area.

Akira liked playing peek-a-boo, seeing the “fishy fishy”, flying in the air, and catching bubbles.  Her parents, Aunkur and Tina, made the morning in a Japanese Tea Garden a great joy.

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A Morning Walk

I’ve photographed The L Family for seven years, so when Julie told me her idea of sticking to her own neighborhood, I was like a little kid in an ice cream shop being asked if I want something:  “Yes, yes, yes, YESSSSS!!!” with my long hair flying everywhere because of the repeated nodding.

There is nothing better for storytelling images than when you’re in and around your own home.

So Chris, Julie, Callie and Ian went to the farmer’s market to buy flowers and their favorite farm-fresh foods, sat down at the train station to relax (and for the kids to do funny photobombs), then walked to the fancy patisserie for some nonfat lattés and delectables.  What a fabulous way to spend a weekend morning!




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If you want to see how different a shoot can be for the same family or see the evolution of my photography, you can see it here with The L Family’s sneak peeks:

You Can Dance (2014)
The Wizard of Oz (2013)
Shadow Family (2012)
Who’s Reward Is It? (2011)
Boo and Pie-Man (2010)
Models in the Making (2009)

I’ve gotta say… this walk down memory lane with Callie and Ian reminds me how important it is to capture all the little details of children’s personalities and family dynamics because so much changes year to year.  Thank you, Julie, for giving me the opportunity to make this journey with your family.  :)

Magical Woodland Forest Shoot

This shoot makes me want to have every shoot in the forest.

We were there early in the morning, so the forest was a private setting, and the sun was just rising, so we had a gorgeous golden glow and streaks of sunlight between the trees.  At certain times, it looked like it was possible for a glittery fairy with a magic wand to appear from afar and swirl around us.  The place felt magical.

I love the setting, but even more, I love working with The C Family because they are cool and fun, and they laugh at my jokes.  ;)  And my jokes are usually pretty bad, so this means they are VERY polite!  Tim and Jenny have worked with me for several years, so they understand the importance of “good” light, which meant they were open to moving again and again without hesitation.  And their kids are just delightful.  Madeline has infectious giggles, Matthew wrote my name out of sticks, and one-year old Marissa has fuzzy hair and is a good sleeper.  <3

Enjoy this magical Woodland Forest Shoot…


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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!