Simple is Best

One of the life lessons my father instilled in me was:  Simple is best.

This is relevant in so many ways, including photography.  I had a couple years where I picked up trendy props and backdrops for indoor shoots.  What I found was my most favorite shoots were rarely when things were complicated with over-thought details.  My favorite shoots were usually when the location was simple, props were few, and my time together with my subject(s) was easy-going and free-flowing.

Take for example my shoot this week of my Mia who just turned 12.  (I do a photoshoot of each of my monkeys around their birthdays.)

We didn’t have anything particular in mind, other than Mia requested that her shoot be short.  (*ehem*  I will try not to take that personally.  smh)  We picked out her outfit just before we left, I told her to brush her hair, I made sure there was still battery life in my camera, and we headed out.

The area I had in mind for the shoot was under construction, so I kept driving.  After a bit of driving aimlessly purposefully, we stopped at a red light near a strip mall (classy, I know) where there was a parking lot and an unkempt hillside behind a row of bushes, which appeared to be planted to keep people out.  So obviously, I saw that as an invitation to climb over.  ;)

Voila, my mini shoot of my sweet Mia!

THE TAKEAWAY:  Sure, you should plan for your shoot, but you don’t need to overthink it.  Sometimes, my dad is right… simple is best! ❤️

east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-with-hat-climbing-up-hillside  east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-holding-hat-atop-hillside

east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-with-hat-laughing-with-hillside-of-wildflowers

east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-putting-on-hat  east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-smiling-with-hat

east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-hands-crossed

east-bay-lifestyle-photography-curve-of-a-bush  east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-with-hat-picking-wildflowers

east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-boots-in-bushes

east-bay-lifestyle-children-photography-girl-in-hat-trekking-downhill

Bathtime Shoot

I am slowly accepting the fact that my kids will continue to grow up (as much as I’ve resisted it – haha), so I wanted to capture my youngest the way she is right now for her 7 year old birthday photoshoot!  A Lifestyle Shoot will be a departure from the last few years of doing Styled Shoots — like the Train Station Shoot and the Fairytale Shoot.

When Ava is at home, you can usually find her sitting on my lap, snuggling with me, singing me a song, playing with me, or being busy right next to me.  She’s my small, cute shadow.  Thus, I realize a “regular day” would be difficult to photograph unless I shot through mirrors or with a selfie stick!  haha.  So I narrowed down the shoot to bath time!

Bath time would show how she is in-between the stages of “little kid” and “big kid” because she can do everything herself, yet she still finds bath toys and bubbles fun.  Some things I wanted to capture:  she started wrapping her hair in a towel; she lost her 4th baby tooth a few days ago, so now her smiles have holes; she has creations displayed all around, like her Dr Seuss-inspired Pig In A Wig doll; and she loves singing and dancing right after a shower or bath.  With a hairbrush.  And the towel still on her head.

I am thrilled with how the images turned out and wish I could share more images with you, but thinking into the future, I want to respect her privacy and don’t want to embarrass her, so I can only show you a few select ones.  You’ll get a feel for it though!

Happy birthday to my Ava Bear.  ❤️

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-pink-bath-duck  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-bath-tub-at-sunset

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-smiling-in-bubble-bath

East-Bay-lifestyle-home-photography-children-artwork-in-bathroom

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-looking-at-tub-faucet  East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-child-holding-up-ten-bubbly-fingers

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-child-in-bubble-bath

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-child-playing-with-boat-toy-in-bubble-bath

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-child-wrapping-head-with-towel  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-candle-on-counter

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-with-towel-in-hair

*BEHIND THE SCENES*

This is me with my Warriors shirt and messy ponytail.  I know, my bathroom has kids stuff E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E.  C’est ma vie. 

By the way, if Ava wasn’t in a bathtub, she’d be right there at my side, probably hugging my hip while telling me how pretty I look (even when I am looking ragged and tired).  Or she’d probably stick one of her little fingers in a ripped hole of my jeans and giggle.  :)

East-Bay-lifestyle-home-photography-selfie-in-messy-bathroom

Holiday Music

bay-area-lifestyle-family-photography-family-picnicking-in-tree-farm

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la!

A random fact about me:  I love listening to Christmas music.  I will turn up the volume and belt it out.  If you’re in my car, I will insist that you sing with me.  I can listen to it throughout the year, not only in December.

But what if your season ISN’T jolly?

There is nothing jolly about my heater breaking the other day and it was only 35F degrees out — and I have 3 kids and a puppy to keep warm.  I was struggling to stay sane with my husband, Lawrence, away on another business trip.  This past year, I had some health issues, which has effected us emotionally and financially.  And every Christmas, I feel the void of my dad’s passing because this was the holiday when I’d see him.

Well, get this…

I still love listening to holiday music even though it may sound contrived when there are things I’m worried/stressed/unhappy about.  You know why?

Because every Winter, there are cheerful holiday songs playing on the radio.  No matter what.  That reminds me that time never stands still.  Things are ever-changing, and that includes how we see things.

We had warm clothes to wear when the heater went kaput.  Whenever my kids found out I was cold, they’d rush over to hug me to keep me warm!  Lawrence travels frequently for work, but he always returns home safely.  I found some great doctors who helped me with my health issues.  And although I wish we could be spending the holidays with my dad (or just have my kids and Lawrence meet him!), I know that it was his sudden passing that gave me the kick in the pants to change my career to one that makes my heart happy.

The songs remind me that things will be okay, so why not be joyful.  Be thankful.  Be good to others because some have it worse than I do.  And enjoy the little things because time continues to move, and you don’t want to find out that the ‘little thing’ was actually a ‘big thing’ and miss it.

So last Sunday, I had my last shoot for 2016 with Leonard, Gabrielle, Christian and Livvy.  It was a Styled Shoot with a Winter theme, so we had it at a Christmas Tree Farm.

Everything about it makes me want to belt out holiday music.  <3

bay-area-lifestyle-photography-man-gleeful-while-sitting-with-family-in-tree-farm  bay-area-lifestyle-children-photography-boy-holding-jar-of-marshmallows

bay-area-lifestyle-photography-christmas-tree-farm

bay-area-lifestyle-family-photography-family-having-a-picnic-in-tree-farm

bay-area-lifestyle-photography-ornament-closeup-in-tree-farm

bay-area-lifestyle-family-photography-mom-helping-daughter-with-ornament  bay-area-lifestyle-photography-family-hugging-in-tree-farm

bay-area-lifestyle-family-photography-mother-playing-hide-and-seek-with-kids-in-tree-farm

bay-area-lifestyle-photography-young-girl-with-earmuffs-and-candycane-tree-farm

bay-area-lifestyle-family-photography-woman-sitting-on-haybale-with-kids-bxw  bay-area-lifestyle-children-photography-boy-being-silly-in-tree-farm-bxw

bay-area-lifestyle-photography-sitting-couple-laughing-in-tree-farm

The Wishing Shrub

For my Mia’s 11 year old shoot, we chose to concentrate on her love of creating with her hands, reading, and creative writing.

So she made 11 cranes out of origami paper — one representing each of the years of her life.  Then, obviously, we turned one of our hydrangea shrubs into a Wishing Shrub.  :)  Mia carefully placed each crane while thinking about the meaning of each year.  With the last crane, which represents this upcoming year, she made a wish.

Afterwards, she hung out on our swing bench and read a story she wrote.

It was so… “her”.   <3

East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-looking-carefully-among-bushes

East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-holding-origami-crane-behind-wishing-bush  East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-making-a-wish-with-origami-crane

East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-putting-11th-origami-crane-in-wishing-bush

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-girl-sandals-outside

East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-reading-on-bench

East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-on-bench-swing-looking-away  East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-smiling-on-bench-swing

East-Bay-lifestyle-preteen-photography-girl-reading-on-swing-bench

The Other Side of a Selfie

I ain’t gonna lie.  I take selfies just like the rest of the under 35 population — except I am allegedly above that number, but shhhhh!

Anyhow, what I find horrendously awful, yet funny are the stories I read about how some teens and 20-somethings spend HOURS, if not most of the day, taking hundreds of photos to get that one perfect selfie to post on social media.  It is to a point of addiction, but of what?  Self-promotion?  Self-consciousness?  Validation of self-worth?

I don’t know exactly, but I do think it needs to get under control soon because I’d hate for my kids to grow up in a society where their internal happiness is governed by how many views they get or how many people clicked “like”!

With that said, I thought I’d show everyone just how funny “the perfect selfie” can be…or more like, NOT PERFECT!  :)

[Note:  these shots were taken with my iPhone.]

My Selfie

AnnieTao-selfie-May2016

The OTHER SIDE of my Selfie

AnnieTao-BTS-selfie-May2016b

BWAHAHAHA!!!   :D
I was about to step out to meet with my friend, and I didn’t do the dishes yet.  They’re not even pretty dishes…they’re kids’ plastic and melanine dishes that don’t break.  There’s also some trash on the counter.  In the background of my selfie, you actually can make out some plastic from bread rolls and a half bottle of a “one buck chuck”!  I think I didn’t finish putting on my lipstick either…or maybe I just ate something?!!  Well, this is where there was nice light, so I stood next to my dirty dishes.  And I needed to leave, so I didn’t fuss with anything.  Whole thing took about 15 seconds.

Funny, right?!!

Let’s keep it this way, folks!  Don’t aim for Perfection.  Aim for Realism!  Be real.  Be you.

And know that the only “like” you need is the one you give yourself.

xo,

annie

When I Grow Up

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-facing-away-with-pink-umbrella  East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-sitting-with-shadows

I remember crying in Kindergarten when my teacher insisted that each student announce what they wanted to be when they grew up.

I was a shy child whose parents split up when I was three and we moved around a lot, so talking in front of a group was far from being ‘fun’.  (By the end of Elementary School, I couldn’t stop talking, so there was a weird life symmetry there!  ha!)  Anyhow, I remember thinking to myself, “How would I know what I want to be?!!  I am only five!”

The result of the silence and all eyes on me:  tears.

Fast forward to 6th grade.

It was a similar situation, but this time, the teacher asked us to think about what we wanted to be when we grew up.  This time, I did.  I put a lot of thought into it.  I had friends who named the profession of their mother or father.  Some wanted to be what they considered a ‘hero job’:  a doctor, a firefighter.  For me, I had always loved Art.  Always.  Yet, I thought being an Artist meant standing on a sidewalk with my paintings and hoping to sell something, so I could have money to eat!  Thus, Art was never something I considered as a plausible career.

Instead, I came up with two things.  I was 11 years old, and I knew I wanted to be…

A mother.

Happy.

I’ve always loved kids and thought the coolest thing in the entire World would be to be a mom.  To have kids.  To hold babies.  To love them unconditionally.  To teach them skills and help shape them to be confident and good people.

And happy.  I didn’t know what job I wanted.  I didn’t think about income, industry, or position.  I didn’t care about the details.  I just knew that whatever my career would be, I needed to be happy.

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-with-line-shadows-on-face

So going full circle here, I am now a business owner of something I am passionate about:  creating art.  I am also a mother of little humans who test my patience sometimes (haha), but they make me grow and learn and teach.  They make me want to always see the World as a silver lining, to find good in people.  I can humbly say that I am happier with them in my World.

Thank you — yes, YOU — for sharing in my journey!

Now why on Earth am I thinking about all this?

Well, my littlest monkey just turned 6 years old.  (These photos are from her 6 year old photoshoot.)  She is in Kindergarten, and I remembered how I was asked that question when I was her age.  Unlike me, however, Avie knows what she wants to be when she grows up.  A singer.  Well, not any ordinary singer.  A Singing Baker.  So in a few years, if you hear about a bakery that just opened up where the baker sings, you’ll know it’s my child!  :)

When I grow up (hey, I’m still growing!), I want to be where I am now.  But just older.

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-leaning-on-rock-and-holding-umbrella

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-holding-umbrella-and-walking-through-Japanese-garden

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-girl-holding-umbrella-and-looking-away-with-sunflare

Pom Pom Bouquet

Wanted to share this fun DIY pom pom bouquet I made for our Beach Room.  (Yes, I named many of our rooms because…well, why not?!!)

I made pom poms with my kids, collected sticks around our neighborhood, washed a bottle from a drink I had, and used shells the kids gathered on the beach last Summer.

I love the result!  The bouquet gives the room a touch of whimsy and fun!

East-Bay-home-photography-DIY-home-decor-pom-poms  East-Bay-home-photography-DIY-home-decor-pom-pom-bouquet-2

East-Bay-home-photography-DIY-home-decor-pom-poms-topview

How is this related to Photography?

Well, it isn’t.  But it turned out to be because I decided to photograph it.  So it became a mini shoot of an item, like a Product Shoot.

If you’re ever needing creative inspiration or have time in your busy schedule, I encourage you to try it on an everyday item or a special item, if you prefer.  It can be anything, even a fork.  Really.

Task yourself with finding a way to shoot that item to make it look its best.  Give yourself a time limit.  What kind of light will compliment that item the most?  Where can you place it?  How would you arrange it?  What angle would you shoot it at?  What settings would you have?  How would you compose the image?

This is a great 5 minute activity that can be helpful for any experience level!  I’ve been doing this for years to spark creative juices, and these mini shoots have helped me on my client photoshoots.  :)

Eggnog and Cookies

How do you  make  bribe  encourage your kids to get along, look happy, AND look natural in front of your camera when you photograph them all the time and they are not having any of it???  You work the entire shoot around drinking sweet thick eggnog and eating fresh out-of-the-oven, melt-in-your-mouth gooey chocolate chip cookies you made from scratch.  That’s how!  :P

So for my Styled Christmas Shoot of my kids, I am proud to say that all my props (excluding ingredients for the food) cost $8.  The basket, bottles and straws were in the dollar section at a local store.  The baker’s twine I already had, and the large glass bottle was a gift.  Clothes were a mix of things we already had and a few items that tied everyone’s colors together.  Total cost was $50.

The reason why I’m mentioning this is to show that you don’t need to spend a lot to have props in your shoot.  Props can provide you with something to do, something to hold, and basically, a reason to not look at the camera — in addition to providing a secondary purpose, like being good bribery material (hee hee).  [To see another Styled Shoot created on a dime, see my Train Station Shoot.]

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones this holiday season!

xo

annie

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-basket-filled-with-bottles-of-eggnog  East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-branch-with-maroon-leaves

East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-three-laughing-sibling-children-hanging-out-on-picnic-blanket

East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-girl-happy-holding-cookie  East-Bay-family-lifestyle-photography-bottle-of-eggnog-and-chalk-signed-straws

East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-girl-and-boy-doing-robot-dance

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-interesting-dried-nature-balls-haha  East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-boy-seeing-through-glass-bottle

East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-girl-in-glasses-looking-at-drink

East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-profile-girl-holding-cookie  East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-young-boy-with-glasses-by-bush

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-leaves-illuminating-in-sunlight

East-Bay-family-lifestyle-photography-mom-hugging-son  East-Bay-children-lifestyle-photography-three-laughing-sibling-children-arm-in-arm

East-Bay-family-lifestyle-photography-family-of-bottles-with-eggnog-and-chalk-signed-straws

Growing Up Boo

I call my boy BubbaBooBoo Bear.  He is my favorite boy in the World.  And the World is a very big place, so that is saying a lot!

Boo turned eight, so I had his birthday photoshoot recently.  It was an hour where we got to spend quality time together doing whatever he wanted.  For this year’s birthday shoot, he chose his own outfit and decided to go to a playground to run around, so that’s what we did.

Boo has grown so much over the past year.  Just look at his face from last year’s shoot at a library!  He had missing teeth, no glasses, and rounder cheeks.  He still likes to tell me details about his day at school and appreciates a good joke.  He never turns down an opportunity to have a race or play Monopoly.  He still thinks I’m the coolest person in the World (YESSSS!!!) and is determined to live next door to me when he’s an adult.  :)  He still holds my doors open and carries my bags when we are out.  He tells me I look good in something, even when I am sure I don’t.

My Boo makes me proud to be his mommy, and these annual photoshoots are more than just capturing photos.  <3

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-smiling-boy-with-hands-in-pocket

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-dry-valley

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-smiling-boy-balancing  East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-smiling-boy-sitting-by-play-structures

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-boy-sneakers-climbing-rope

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-boy-smiling-with-overbite  East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-boy-running-alongside-dirt-hill

East-Bay-lifestyle-photography-dried-prickly-things

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-boy-swinging-feet-only

East-Bay-lifestyle-children-photography-young-boy-fixing-glasses

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?

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-buckled-in-a-car

“Um, how do I get down?”

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-climbing-a-tree  San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-by-daffodills

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

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-by-daffodills-closeup

“I need to work on my tan.”

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-sunning

“Owww.”

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-about-to-jump  San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-falling

“Hike, 1, 2, 3…”

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-domo-walking-on-path

“Weeeee, this is fun!”

San-Francisco-Bay-Area-children-photography-boy-holding-domo