How Your Subject Feels


Portrait Photography is not only about having CAMERA skills, but also PEOPLE skills — specifically, knowing how to make her subjects feel comfortable during a session and guiding them into the most flattering light and positions.

Here is an example from the other day.  I had an Executive Headshot session, which is typically 30 to 40 minutes.

The first set of images below were images taken in the very beginning of the shoot.  They are nice portraits and, for some photographers, the session would have ended right there.

Instead, we kept going and after some talking (for fun, not about the shoot) and some guidance… the images went from “nice” to “LOVE!”

First Few Shots ==> Nice

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Shots Later On ==> Comfort ==> Gorgeousness

Taking aside the difference in the background and jacket, just look at her face.  Even her eyes are smiling!

You can’t instruct someone to “look relaxed” or “smile with your entire face”; they do that when they feel at ease with and trust the photographer.

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How your subject feels during the shoot ends up being attributes a viewer perceives when they look at the photo.

Just look at the comparison below.

When you look at Image A and Image B, you may feel different things about their abilities, their competency and even their personalities.  And they are the same person!  That is the power of a headshot.

Who would you hire?  Who would you call?  Who would you prefer to work with? 



That doesn’t mean the last few shots are always the ‘money shots’.  Some photographers may choose not to take a single image until their subject is relaxed and ready.

For me, I go right in and start shooting because I think the longer people wait, the more anxiety or nervousness may build.  Then I talk to them and guide them throughout their session.

We all have different styles, but the goal is the same.

Understanding Exposure

An article I wrote for DPS last month was just published, and overall, it seems to be helping a lot of people who are ready to take their photography skills to a new level.  And THAT is exciting!!!

Once you have a basic understanding that Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO work together, you can control the look of your images!

This article was written for beginners, so if you’re an advanced photographer, keep flipping and I’ll chat with you later.  :)


[Note:  The adorable fish drawing that illustrates Aperture was drawn by Mia, my super creative girl who was 8-year old at the time.  She also came up with the term "Moonglasses".]

Tips for Lifestyle Newborn Photography

I wanted to share an article I wrote that was published on DPS today.  It’s Newborn Photography with my LIFESTYLE twist!  Yeeha!

I’m a city girl, but thought the “yeeha” was appropriate for some odd reason.  :)

Anyhow, if you photograph babies or are about to have a baby and want to do a newborn shoot, you’ll wanna read this.  Enjoy.


The Power of Perspective in Photography

I have had this article topic in the works for probably 2 years!  That’s taking procrastination to a whole new level!  Oh boy.

Well, as they say, better late than never, right?  ;)  Hope this article (not the procrastination) will inspire someone.  Happy shooting!  ~annie


If you don’t read DPS (Digital Photography School), you should go check it out!  It’s one of the top Go-To websites for photographers who want to keep learning!

Interesting Locations (Part 2)

My list of interesting locations where I’ve had client photoshoots continues!  Click here to see Part 1.

[Some of these images have my old logo as the watermark.  Sorry for the inconsistent branding in these 2 "Interesting Location" posts.  I don't have the time to redo all of them with my new logo and thought you wouldn't mind too much.  Thanks, guys!]

Train Station

Train stations are great photography locations when you are with kids who love them.  You can watch the trains go by….



…or walk on the tracks.  (Just listen out and be careful, if it’s an active track.)









Tunnels have great light.  You can shoot people inside for a silhouette or just outside the tunnel to light them up.



If that’s where your little one wants to hang out, then that’s where I’m gonna shoot!  :)


Garden Nursery






Teams of Architects put a lot of thought into the design of school buildings and campuses, which make schools a great place to have a shoot!

It could be a small school…

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…or a large university.

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Ice Cream or Gelato Parlor


Farmer’s Market



Be it a bookstore or an antique store, you can get unique images from the colors, textures and natural props.

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Next time you are deciding on a shoot location, you may want to think beyond the typical ones.

Let me be clear.  There is NOTHING WRONG with shooting in a place that is considered “common”.  I love shooting in parks, gardens and client homes!  My point is, don’t be afraid to mix it up once in awhile.  Step out of the norm.  Be adventurous. 

You may find that you love it.  I know I do!

Interesting Locations

I believe you can have an incredible shoot anywhere.  What makes a successful shoot isn’t as much about being at a picturesque location as it is about having your subjects feel comfortable and relaxed….and of course, having great light.

Most of the time, I don’t choose an atypical location right away because I realize my clients will probably think I’m kidding or worse, think I’m crazy.  Rather, my crazy/weird ideas usually come up during the shoot.  :)

It usually happens when I spot “good light”.  To me, it doesn’t matter where exactly that spot is because good light is good light!  Maybe it’s in the little “island” in the middle of a busy city street (see first photo below).

If a client tells me they want to shoot in an atypical location, I would welcome it.  In fact, I’d probably do one of those jumps where you clap your feet to the side.  I have many talents!  ;)

Middle of the Street








Parking Lot

What can I say?!!  The light was perfect and cast a beautiful golden tone on her skin.


The next two images are examples that beautiful plots of land could be right next to where you park your car.










I stepped around broken glass by a dumpster to capture this shot.


My father-in-law (cute older gentleman below) probably thought I was nuts for stopping here for our 3-generation image.






Whether you are inside or outside, museums usually have beautiful architecture, sculptures and artwork that are beautiful backdrops for images.

[Note:  Some museums don't allow photography inside, so you will want to check first before heading there.]




Whether you’re getting in the car…


…sitting inside the car…


…playing outside the car…


…or people are divided inside and outside the car, car images can be a pretty fun place to shoot!




Stay tuned for Part 2!  (The list was too long to fit all in one post!)

Behind-The-Scene of Styled Shoots

Since I’ve heard from several people that they enjoy and learn from seeing my Behind-The-Scenes (BTS) images, I thought I’d share a few from my recent styled shoots. 

What you’ll notice in these BTS images is how styled shoots are conceptual.

As the Photographer, I am not only the Artist who produces the final product, but also the Designer who develops the scene.  Thus, when choosing a photographer for a styled shoot, you are buying into their VISION, not only their ability to operate photography equipment!  :)

[Note:  All the BTS images were taken with an iPhone or iPad, so you are warned.]


This is what 12-year old Katy looks like on a ‘normal’ non-styled photoshoot day (what a cutie!), so you can see the transformation.


What I shot



This location, though beautiful, had construction EVERYWHERE and holiday decorations were up.

To remedy this, I chose a few textured areas with good light and then did tight shots.

What I shot


This bedroom had fantastic antique furniture and decor, but it also had many extra pieces that we couldn’t move, like that big round table you see on the bottom right side of the image below.

I loved the way the light filtered through the sheer curtains and hit the middle of the bed’s edge, so, like in a cartoon, a lightbulb appeared above my head.  :)

What I shot

I also used the window light to carefully sculpt the light and shadows on Tammy.  *swoon*

The visual line of the wall enhances Tammy’s curves, which was my intention in the below image.


I loved the texture of this iron door, but didn’t want the wood around it.  With tighter shots, it gives the appearance that Tammy is surrounded by this, like she is in an old castle.

What I shot

Styled Shoots require more preparation before the shoot whereas Lifestyle Shoots are more about crafting a story during the shoot.

Styled Shoots begin with a concept, so look around and see what inspires you.  It may be an accessory, an outfit, a location, a book….anything!

The Sensitive Side of Newborn Photography

From my recent newborn shoots, I came up with a few tips that would help those of you just starting out who want to tap into Newborn Photography.

I see many articles out there about how to pose newborns, but not about the subtleties of photographing them.  I think this information needs to be out there to keep our little ones safe and comfortable.

Enjoy this DPS article!

Taste of Tuscany

Sometimes you choose a location and end up shooting somewhere else.  The reason for this is usually due to light, but sometimes it’s because of an activity that happened organically.  Sometimes it is to avoid a crowd.

In Sunday’s Bay Area Lifestyle Family Photography session, I spotted this little area next to the parking lot.  It had great light, and I knew the textures would photograph well.  Once my clients arrived, I saw that their outfits and hair color coordinated well with the location — bonus!

I was so glad that my first-time clients didn’t think I was crazy for proposing this odd location, given that we were amongst well-known spectacular spots.  Thanks for trusting me, Lucy!

[If you're wondering, I find a lot of inspiration in parking lots.  :)  You'll see parking lots in this shoot, this shoot, and this one!]

Glorious Parking Lot


I was standing IN the parking lot when I shot the image in the Top-Right!

Cheerful Sunshine

Little Arete smiled the BIGGEST smiles every time I looked at her.  She was cheery like the sun.

A Taste of Tuscany

I arrived early to scout the area, and I stumbled across this castle-looking building.  BOOYAH!  :)

We had to walk a bit to get here since it was tucked away, but it was worth it!


If you’re a client, trust your photographer.

If you’re a photographer, don’t take any location for face-value.  Explore.  Keep your eyes open.  You may find a cool spot where you are standing…or parked.  ;)

The Science of Selecting Photos

A recent photoshoot of my son reminded me of a lesson that applies to my business!  Check out my article that was published on DPS today.  If you’re a starting-out Pro, you’ll need to read it!

(Sorry for the poor job of cutting and pasting the article.  If you click on the link above or any of the print screens, you can read it on DPS.)