Dragon’s Lair

Sometimes my shoots take me to far away lands, like in a dragon’s lair where we were engulfed by the hazy breath of these mystical creatures.  We had to hide in crevices, climb up on boulders, and prepare to fight with long sticks.

Kim and Ashish kept their family safe and warm, as usual, and thankfully didn’t encounter dragons… THIS time.

Wishing you all great adventures – both real and imaginary.  xo 



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Fly on the Wall

Last weekend, I was THE happiest fly on the wall.

I followed around Erin, Pete, Clara, Greta and Lola as they walked around their neighborhood, visited a bakery, cut plants in their backyard, and hung up ornaments on their fresh Christmas tree.  I had the pleasure of capturing a slice of their life during this holiday season.

Home Lifestyle Shoots have a different pace than my regular Lifestyle Shoots because there is less direction and set-up, so the resulting photos are more storytelling images.  It was a lot of creative fun, but even more so, it was soooooo nice to see this family again.












After weeks of devastating wildfires here in Northern California, hazardous smoke choking the air, and now heavy rainfall, it is a visual breath of fresh air to look at these incredibly warm and sunny images from Courtney’s Senior and Family Shoot.


In fact, everything about this shoot was sunny, not just the sky.  The bond of these siblings; the laughter from poking fun at one another, like Ted and his inseparable bag (tee hee); the bold and playful family who danced, jumped, and pretended to be zombies — the funny kind.

Regardless of what is going on around us, feeling sunny sure makes things better!


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Meet KJ

Meet KJ.

He has squishy cheeks and soft golden brown hair.  He knows how to self-soothe his teething woes.  Swinging makes him sleepy.  His face lights up with the sight of a cutie orange.  He will look at anyone who calls out the name of a fruit.  He is an expert crawler, but wet grass is yucky.  He loves playing with dad and snuggling with mom.  His mouth is leaky, but he doesn’t mind because he’s a mellow fellow.  He loves his Air Jordan sneakers because they match his dad’s.

And today he is one! ❤️


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Happy 1st birthday, KJ!


Behind-The-Scenes of a Boat Shoot

I love tight shots of people because, as a viewer, you get a sense that you’re sharing in a private moment.


In every shoot, I also like to step back once in awhile to get an environmental shot because these images give context to a story.

Some locations, however, provide movement limitations, like a small room, a crowded location, or a sailboat in the middle of the San Francisco Bay!

So during my September boat shoot, Rachad carefully coordinated with a good friend to meet us in the middle of the bay.  His rescue boat was small and fast, so we could maneuver around my clients’ large sailboat.  It was thrilling FO SHO because — and I’m only spelling this out because I didn’t know this myself — the boat engines can’t be turned off on the water; the boats are always moving.

All this excitement brought me back to the days I jumped out of airplanes, dove into pitch-black caves underwater, backpacked in remote areas of Southeast Asia, and trekked through rainforests at night to find noctural wildlife.

Behind-the-Scenes #1

Getting on the rescue boat and back on the sailboat while both boats were moving was the most daring part of the whole shoot because there was nothing stable to hold onto, no area to step in the rescue boat, and the boats were at different heights.

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We zipped in front of my client’s moving sailboat, along side it, and all around it.  Salt water, wind, and my hair whipped against my face while I tried not to fall out of the boat whenever we hit a wave.  All the while, I was scrunched in the front of the boat and had to twist my body to get the angles I needed.

Think:  human pretzel!Annie-Tao-photographing-from-rescue-boat-BTS-instax-film

What I Shot #1



Behind-the-Scenes #2

Here we were along side the sailboat while Rachad’s family was getting into position.  We had to maintain the same speed and race around to get the perspective I needed.

You can see the waves we generated from zipping around, and also the smiles!


What I Shot #2

Rachad tilted his boat intentionally to show off the sleek lines of his new boat.


This is what it looked like on-board!


Behind-the-Scenes #3

Returning to the sailboat meant I was dryer and warmer.  Ahhhhh!

I stayed low to the boat — either sitting or squatting — as to not fall out when there was turbulence.  Here I am with little Maya, whom I’ve known since she was a baby.


What I Shot #3

Being at the boat’s nose, I could capture multiple layers of imagery when facing backwards.


I also walked towards the middle to get closer shots, making sure to shoot through things in order to get cool foreground bokeh.


[If you want to see more Behind-The-Scenes (BTS) action, check out:  BTS of a Maternity Shoot, BTS of a Senior Shoot – Jalin, BTS of a Styled Shoot – Crystal, BTS of a Children’s Shoot – Little Princess.]

That’s all the Behind-the-Scenes I have for now!  Wishing you all a great week.  xo ~annie

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Festival of Lights

{Diwali:  A holiday known as the Festival of Lights to celebrate victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance.}

From planning this shoot with Renuka a year ago, I’ve learned so much about Diwali; and the more I learned, the more emotional I became.  This holiday spans beyond ethnicity, religion, or culture.  It’s about human kindness, community, our connection to one another, and standing together for what is right.

Photographing Renuka and Sandeep’s Diwali celebration was nourishing to my soul.  It’s something I will never forget.

I could feel the boundless energy as guests arrived.  Throughout the evening, one by one, candles were lit on the diyas, rangolis, and alter.  They provided a feeling of peace and hopefulness for our future and the future of our children. ❤️


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With You

Sure, some things I may ask you to do during your shoot may feel strange or even downright goofy.  To some.  Maaaaaybe:)

That’s where trust comes into play because I promise, there’s a reason for all of that.  During a photoshoot, images pop into my head based on what I see in front of me — the quality of light, patterns and textures in the environment, and the people I am photographing.  The best “directing” is when they feel more like spontaneous ideas between friends than directions.

Plus, it helps to know I am right there with you.  Through it all.  Laughing… being silly… being serious.

All of it.  ❤️


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Leaping into the Clouds

We loved last year’s pink unicorns, rainbow light, sounds of waves crashing against the shore, overly friendly bees, and the hot sun.  But this year, we threw caution to the wind and went for the opposite…

We hung out in a garden surrounded by a concrete jungle, thick fog, nagging gnats (ooh that is fun to say), sounds of people protesting in the streets, and the cold brisk air.

From beach to city, we embraced the Bay.  Olivia and Emma had smiles that made strangers take note and wave hello.  Emma climbed everything and had the ability to leap into the clouds — or so it felt.   And Olivia with her sweet face that turns silly at any given moment still makes me laugh.  ❤️


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Family Treasures

While I was cramming for midterms one ordinary College day, I received a phone call that broke a long silence.  It was a good friend who lived in the same apartment building.  She spoke so fast that her words blended together.  Huh?  Say that again?  When she repeated herself, all I heard were bits and pieces….

“Big fire”
“Coming towards you”
“Evacuated a long time ago”

In complete disbelief, my roommate walked outside “to see if she could see anything”.  She returned shaking.  The wildfire was not only in sight, close by, but also distinctly heading towards our building.

We gave ourselves one minute to grab what we could before running to my car.  Adrenaline was fueled by panic.  I will never forget what I grabbed:  my keys, wallet, a couple pieces of jewelry, and photo albums.  Every single photo album.  Those albums weighed like 10 lbs each, and I had to have them all!

What I learned from the Oakland Fire of ’91 is that I found photos to be one of the most important possessions I own.

That’s because a photo isn’t just a photo.  It’s something that makes memories permanent, so you can enjoy, share and hopefully treasure them for years to come, or even with future generations.  Each family I photograph has their own unique style, connection, and way of interacting, and I am grateful to have the important role of capturing this for them.  xoxo


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Coders are Creators

These quotes explain why this Commercial Shoot of The Coder School gets me excited every time:

“Coding is today’s language of creativity.  All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead of consumers of computer science.”
~ Maria Klawe

“I want to encourage more young women to get involved in coding, because it’s important for them to be able to help shape the future, and coding is the future.”
~ Karlie Kloss

“Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
~ Steve Jobs





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[Click here to see my first Commercial Shoot at The Coder School in Berkeley!  This shoot was of their Fremont location.]