Chicken Soup

I have a best friend.  She is also my sister… not blood-sisters, but trust me, we’re sisters in every other sense of the word!

My latest epiphany is that she is also my Chicken Soup.

Whenever we are together, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.  Even after two decades, we laugh like children…giddy and loud!  And we understand each other and feel each other’s excitement, joy and pain.  I feel soothed and ready to conquer the World — or at least my little World — after we spend time together.

And thank goodness because sometimes I reeeeeally need my Chicken Soup!  🙂


I know I am fortunate to have her in my life and I won’t ever forget it!  xoxo

Heading East

Yesterday’s San Francisco Bay Area Senior Photography session was of an independent and intelligent teen, Asako, who will be heading out East for College. (Congratulations, Asako!!)

We walked and talked during her session, and let me just say… this girl really impressed me!

Asako in the Garden

It’s All In The Name

This 3-year old furry friend is named Spot.  Yep, you read correctly… it’s Spot!

As you can see, he has absolutely no spots anywhere.  (So funny!)  However, he does have a natural mohawk on the top of his head.


The Meaning of Light

Sunlight changes constantly, but it is the most noticeable in the beginning and end of the day.  In 5 minutes, or even 1 minute, I can see the difference it makes on an image.

This was my favorite light during the session, and I thought it was a perfect representation of her bright future.

Among the Stars

Alright, so they’re not really stars, but these plants looked like stars, so I shot through them.  And with the way her eyes sparkled, the title seemed fitting!

Senior Photography

Happy and Proud

I love images that show emotion.  I can definitely feel the purity of emotions between Asako and her mom in these shots.  *tear*

Keep in touch, Asako!  I know you have a bright future ahead of you.  Don’t forget us “little people”, okay?!  🙂   ~Annie

Editorial Boudoir

Boudoir Photography doesn’t have to be all bow-chica-bow and va-va-va-vooom!

It can be editorial.

It can be vogue.  It can have an edge.

Boudoir Photography is not about taking photos of women in their underwear.

It is about capturing images of women in a very vulnerable state that exposes not just their skin, but the essence of their being.  It reveals their inner beauty in an artistic way.

A Taste of Boudoir

Yep, I knew it.  I had my first San Francisco Bay Area Boudoir Photography session today, and I loved it!

First of all, there is nothing “natural” about being in a boudoir shoot or being the photographer in a boudoir shoot.  Boudoir shoots are 99% stylized.

So I needed to conceptualize my artistic vision for each of my subjects prior to the shoot, and then decide how and where to carry out the concepts, on the fly.  I haven’t been to the location before or know what the lighting condition will be until the moment the shoot starts.  It was also so much fun to highlight different women in their own unique way.

Here is a little taste of how Boudoir Photography can be tasteful, fresh and modern…

I had a different vision for each woman.  Edgy and editorial to come!

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Better than Barbie

In the first 10 years of my adult life, I made a point in devoting myself to helping the community — namely, children — while I “drove in Automatic” in my career.  I would work 9 to 5 (okay, more like 8 to 6 or 8 to 8, sometimes longer) and then volunteer on the weekends, such as being a Big Sister or volunteering in the Pediatric department of a hospital.  That was how I kept things in balance.

Once I left the Corporate World, I was a teacher for a few years.  My desire was to teach in a public school in an economically challenged urban area.  I viewed my role as a Teacher to be far more than just infusing academia into the lives of my students.  I made it my goal to use my time with them as a special opportunity to help them in their lives.  Whether it was to help them navigate through a particular hardship, teach them to make good decisions, or believe in themselves.

It is similar to how I find parenting to be now:  you do what you can to give them life tools, but then you let them go… and pray they learned something!


The Barbie Project

When I taught Middle School Math, my spin on my lesson plans was relating Math to the “real world”, so students could see how math could be applied in different jobs as well as life concepts — beyond simple arithmetic.

For my older students, I focused on business and had a project on the stock market.  For my younger students, we had a project on scale, ratio and measurement, called The Barbie Project.

Yep, I subjected all my students to working with Barbie dolls for a couple weeks!  They had to measure them and draw them (with the same proportions), but scaled to a real life size.  The results were astonishing, and the students were just as puzzled as the adults when they saw the results with their own eyes.

What people interpreted as a gorgeous representation of an American beauty — Barbie — turned out to be something of an Amazonian freak of nature!  I can’t remember the exact measurements because this was ages ago, but she was something like 6 feet tall with a 10.5″ waist, 44″ chest, child-size head and child-size feet!


My students and I enjoyed discussing what Barbie would be like if she were real.  Hmmmm….she’d probably be in a wheel chair because she wouldn’t be able to stand up or even hold her head up.  We all agreed that Real Life Barbie would be highly UNattractive!

We talked about the definition of “beauty” and how it shouldn’t be defined by the media or even the people around us.  We talked about how there are many different definitions of beauty.  And the most important definition is our own.

[Please note:  This blog is not to frown upon Mattel or any other toy manufacturer, but I used this Barbie project as a segway to discussing how the media influences our perception of beauty.  How can our little girls (and boys) grow up to feel beautiful when they see images, drawings and dolls that have unrealistic traits and measurements that they can never live up to?]

Better Than Barbie

Now, let’s fast-forward:  I stopped teaching after 3 years, got married, moved and had a baby.

Fast-forward to yesterday:  One of my former students volunteered to be my model for a photoshoot.  I haven’t seen her for about 10 years!  I first met her when she was ELEVEN!

There are so many things that was cool about seeing her yesterday.  For one, I got to see how she turned out as an adult!  She is bright, charming, independent, thoughtful and creative.  I don’t even need to mention that she is beautiful.  Just look at her photos below!





What blew me away is what she told me at the end of her shoot…

She said that she thinks about my Barbie lesson during the times she doesn’t feel good about herself.  And that makes her feel better!

She said that the lesson is something she will remember for the rest of her life.  And she thanked me.

I am incredibly humbled and touched.

I think the most gratifying feeling in the World is to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.


Commercial-Model Photography Gina

Gina wanted some shots for her business to show her personality — which, to me, is fun, sweet, and friendly.  She said she didn’t want anything stiff.  The rest was up to me!  Yeeha!!

I love when I have the full creative vision for a shoot!  I picked out her outfits, accessories, shoes, location, backdrops, and props.

The shoot was so much fun.  It lasted 1.5 hours, which included coffee sipping, wardrobe changing, key searching, laughing about “va-va-va-voom”, chatting about our kids, and walking.  Oh yea, and shooting!  🙂

[Tip for Photographers: Talking to your subjects is very important.  It allows you to get to know your clients as well as makes your clients feel comfortable by letting them get to know you!  Talking to your subjects can also serve as a distraction if they are nervous or shy.  With portrait photography, it’s not just about taking nice photographs; it’s about the person behind the lens and how he/she brings out the best in their subjects.]

Enjoy my sneak peek from this morning’s shoot…



Breaking Up the Lines

I usually don’t like “set up” shots, but I do like this one!

The windows, plant boxes, chairs and brick are all straight lines — so, to have Gina sitting across with a jagged body position, it breaks up the hard lines.


Casual Reading

If only we all looked this glamorous when reading magazines!

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Infectious Laughter

We kept cracking each other up.

When she laughed, I would laugh.  When I laughed, she would laugh.  The stores nearby had to close their windows!



A brick wall, sun flare, and a happy model… Is this a dream?


Leather & Ivy



If you haven’t guessed by now, Gina is a hair stylist and makeup artist.   🙂

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San Francisco E-Session: Ivan & Irene [Hillside]

Alas!  The 3rd and last location of Ivan and Irene’s deluxe engagement session:  a San Franciscan Hillside!

As you can see, this part of the shoot was entirely different than [Vintage] and [Garden] — from the photography style and casual mood to the lighting.  Which part of their e-session is your favorite?

At the hillside, the two lovebirds got to relax and goof around.  I think it provided a perfect balance to the rest of the shoot, which was more styled and formal.

For me, this part of the shoot required quicker thinking because we needed to change plans due to the lighting and weather.  On the hill, it was very breezy.  And it got chilly at that hour of the day.  The sun was also too bright in areas, but low enough to not shine any light in other areas where we had wanted to shoot.  Since we were shooting this segment during the Golden Hour (the hour before sunset), we didn’t have enough time to drive to another location.

So we scrapped our plans of having a picnic on the top of a grassy hill, and followed the light!  This is how it all went down…

The Picnic

Since the grassy areas were completely shaded, we made due with a small patch of wood chips along a popular canine path!  No joke.  I don’t remember how many dogs (all unleashed, of course) sniffed their way past us.  Irene nearly tackled one of the dogs who got too close to her olive bread!   🙂

We had a few more fun props up our sleeves.  Ivan and Irene brought a cool antique camera.  If you look closely, you can see Irene’s eyes in the little square on the face of the camera!

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Mmmmm… olive bread.


Though I really couldn’t take “a bad shot” of this couple (they were beaming with love), I’ve become a bit of a Light Connoisseur — okay, a Light Snob.  So we moved…


The Fence

One of my top 5 faves of their entire e-session!  The framing, the light, the illuminated leaves, the couple’s undeniable make-the-single-folks-sick kind of love… 🙂


FYI:  This shot is straight-out-of-the-camera!  In all of the photos, there was no flash and no reflector.  Since I am a solo shooter and I like to capture the moment, I don’t have people holding poses, which can look unnatural — so I shoot fast and don’t fiddle with gadgets.

Can anyone guess how my subjects were so well lit?


Again, straight-out-of-the-camera…


The City Below

Anyone have a tissue?  I am drooling from the tasty light!

In the bottom left, I love how the light created a glowy outline of Irene’s hair and shined through the puff of her sleeves.

In the bottom right, I love how you can see part of the San Francisco streets and how the trees and street fill the entire frame, all the way to the top!

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Sweetest Couple.  Sweetest Light.

After some snuggle time at the fence and a stroll down the hillside steps, we returned to the picnic area because now the sun was lower.

Do you see the difference in light?



Chalk Talk

I won this adorable set of handmade chalkboards from Holly McCaig Creative, so I brought them along for I+I to play with during their picnic.


“What is your favorite physical part of your fiance?  Keep it clean, guys!”

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“What is your favorite nickname for each other?”


My Surprise!

At one point, there was a lot of whispering among The I’s (catchy name, right?).

Then they presented me with this!  Awwwwww….  🙂


Thank you, Ivan and Irene, for giving me the honor and the pleasure of capturing images of your relationship, personality and style!  I hope to see much more of you as you begin your life together.



San Francisco E-Session: Ivan & Irene [Garden]

Here is Part 2 of Ivan & Irene’s engagement session in San Francisco:  In the Garden.  [Click here to see Vintage.]

Wall of Ivy


Garden Car 1

With Ivan and Irene’s vintage outfits and the antique car, these images remind me of those old films.

“Oh, mon dieu!  My car!”


Garden Car 2

“Sweetheart, what are we going to do?!!”  “Don’t worry one second, darling.  I’ll get help!”

(Are you laughing at my cheesy ad libs yet?)


Garden Car 3

“While I wait, I may as well water the garden!”  🙂


Garden Car 4

One of my faves.  The light pouring in makes this shot extra romantic.


The Arrow

“I followed the arrows and they all pointed to you, baby!”  (Cmon, can’t you see this on a postcard?!)



I absolutely love this one.  The colors, the different levels, the quirkiness of the poses, the variety of textures… love love love!


Okay, one more sneak peek to go!

For the last location, Ivan and Irene changed their outfits, and we just kicked back on a hill overlooking the city.  We did have to chase the light a little in the end, so you may see the shadows creeping in.

By the way, this is not your typical engagement session.  Ivan is a dear, dear friend of mine.  I’ve known him for over 15 years.  So if Ivan wants 3 locations and an extra long shoot, then how can I say no?  🙂  I also loved spending more time with Irene and think she is the yin to his yang.  Oh wait, that didn’t come out right.  Alright, how about this… They are madly in love.  I can see it.  I can feel it.  And I am truly happy for my dear friend for finding his true North.

Good night!



[June 6, 2011 Addendum: Ivan and Irene’s e-session made it on the almighty, super cool, ULTIMATE wedding publication, Style Me Pretty!  Wahoooo!  The article is titled “Wrap It Up Pretty”.]

Toddler Model Photography: Show Personality

I had an impromptu mini model shoot today of soon-to-be famous Kelsey!

Kelsey’s mom only needed one shot for an agency, and I intended on giving her three, but egad!  I just couldn’t narrow them down because Kelsey was soooo easy to photograph, so she got 14.  That’s almost three, right?!

Here are a few of my favorites of Kelsey, taken on a sidewalk next to a parking lot and a street…


Well, the shot to the left is set-up, but the one on the right is all Kelsey!  I like these two images side-by-side.  She is just so sweet!

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Show Personality

Most modeling agencies are not looking for child models who are just “a pretty face” anymore.  To stay fresh and modern, they want models who have personality and can translate that on film.

Doing a model shoot to update a portfolio or to submit to an agency is best done with a lifestyle photographer, not a studio photographer.  (Of course this is my opinion because I am a lifestyle photographer!  Ha!)

Especially with children and young adults, a lifestyle shoot allows for more room to play and thus, express their personality.  I also think outdoor shoots give images a fresh and modern feel.  Just my two cents about modeling images.

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I love the one on the lower left where Kelsey is looking up and pulling on her sweater.  It’s such a playful shot.  And I think the green door contrasts beautifully with Kelsey’s amazing hair!

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Jump Shot

[Photography tip:  Jumping shots of kids are great!  But beware of landing images because facial features and skin can get pulled down.  Eeeeeeee!  Not pretty!  Below is an example of a jump shot taken at the upward point.]


[Click here to see Kelsey’s mini shoot from 6 months ago.]

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Commercial Photography: Zoette Boutique

Thank you, Mother Nature!  A major rain storm that hit the Bay Area last night was suppose to last for 2-3 days, but it STOPPED for my commercial shoot for Zoette Boutique today!  The heavy rain started up again soon after I got home.  What a miracle!

Today’s shoot was split into 2 mini shoots:  babies and little girls.  That way, my little models will stay happy and warm because no one will need to wait around.  (Thank you, Karyn, for providing snacks and juice for our models and their parents!)

My vision for this commercial shoot was to photograph in an editorial way — capturing babies and girls having fun while wearing these gorgeous handmade hair products.  My goal wasn’t to take close up product shots, but rather to paint a brand image for Zoette Boutique.

The result?  The images are exactly as I had envisioned them when Karyn (owner of Zoette Boutique) and I talked about doing this shoot.  It is such a satisfying feeling.  Ahhhhh…  🙂

Enjoy the sneak peek…

The Baby Shoot


The Little Girl Shoot