Proof Books

Cute and little.  Just like my monkeys.

One of the products I’ve had for awhile, but realized recently that I haven’t blogged about yet, is proof books.  You can get one for any type of shoot: family, newborn, maternity, event.

The proof books I offer are bound with a heavy spiral and have a thick flexible backing and cover.  It’s like a little brag book.

I love these little books so much that I order them for my own personal photos, like the one shown here, is of my pregnancy and birth photos of my little Ava.  I have a bunch of these books and flip through them all the time.

The reason why I print proof books for myself, in case you’re wondering, is because I have soooooo many photos of my family.  We’re talking six figures!  There is no way I can make albums of all of them or even attempt to find a select few to place in an album.

So instead, I print each “event” into these little bound books.  Voila!  A mini album for me to gaze at lovingly.  🙂

With most images being digital these days, it is really important to have your favorites printed.

Whether the images are in an album or as artwork on your walls, there is something so much cooler about being able to touch a physical product.

Metal Prints

Presenting one of the coolest print products around:  Metal Prints!

Metal Prints are sleek.  Modern.  Unique.  They render colors beautifully.  They are Gorgeous with a capital G!

Metal Prints are photographs that are printed directly onto metal.

Once you hold one in your hands, you’ll want to touch it over and over, I swear!  That’s what I did.


The corners are rounded for heightened coolness… and I SUPPOSE for safety too!  😉

For the holidays, I created 6×6 and 5×7 metal prints and added a magnet in the back.  They make terrific gifts!  You can also display them with an easel for these smaller sizes too.

*NEW Metal Bracket*

For larger sizes (8×8 and larger), there will be a metal bracket added to the back for a super cool way to hang it on a wall!

(You can still opt to have a bare metal back, if you know you’d like to display your metal print on an easel or leaned against something for a table or shelf display.  Just let me know when you order it.)


Annie-Tao-Photography-products-metal-print-with-bracket-5  Annie-Tao-Photography-products-metal-print-with-bracket-1

There is an opening with teeth for stability when hanging and rubber feet on the bracket to protect your wall from scratches.


[For pricing and size information, email me or to see the full product list, click here to go to my Products Page.]

HO-HO-HOliday Cards

Tis the season to start thinking about holiday cards! I know, I know… it’s only October.

Believe it or not, I am already shopping around for my family’s holiday card design and figuring out which images I want to feature this year!  So I thought it was time to update my Tinyprints Storefront with my favorite designs!

Check them out by clicking here:

It’s never too early to plan.  The holiday season will be here before we know it!


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Size Matters

When you are displaying photos on your walls — whether they are prints, standout mounts or canvas wraps — size matters!

There are still a few people who think 8×10 is “large”… gasp.  Unless you are hanging a collection of photos for a wall gallery, you should consider a MINIMUM of 16×20.  Minimum.

Here is another example…

This is a corner of my office.  Last year, when I chose a canvas wrap to go over the chaise, I thought I’d go huuuuge and chose a 30×30!

After I hung it up, I was surprised to see just how dwarfed it looked hung up.  This is a small space with a narrow wall, yet a larger size canvas would have looked better here.

If you are an ATP client and need help with sizes that best fit the walls in your home, contact me and I’d be happy to help!  I want your home to look dazzling because, well, size matters!



Hoorahs and Boo-Hisses: The Lytro Camera

So today, I got my paws on the highly anticipated, largely discussed, revolutionary new product:  Lytro.  This Light Field camera was released earlier this month and retails for $399 (8 GB) and $499 (16 GB).

Since there are tons of information about the technology behind the Lytro and techie product reviews, I won’t go into that stuff.  Instead, I wanted to give more of a friend’s perspective and answer questions, such as:  How did I like it?  Was it fun to use?  How easy was it to upload?  Will I buy one?

Let’s start with some images!

To get an idea of image quality, I took shots with both the Lytro and a DSLR.

(Caveat:  I wanted the review to be based on first impressions, so I only played with the camera for a couple hours today.  Thus, my photos are not very exciting, but I wanted to give you some examples!)

Lytro vs a DSLR

Below are some shots I took of my girls this morning.

Let’s start with shots taken with the Lytro camera. These are “Living Pictures”, so you can use your mouse and touch different parts of the photo to focus.  Go ahead, touch something!

Here are the same series of shots, but taken with a Nikon D7000.


This set of images tells me 2 things:  1) Lytro shots are more fun than a DSLR because the photos are interactive.  2) Image quality of the Lytro photos are TERRIBLE!  Yikes.

So I started in the brightest area of my house.  What if I took photos in a different location, one that is not as bright, which is more likely the case in everyday life?

Since Lytro cameras are basically point-and-shoot cameras because they don’t allow much user-control AND it does not have a built-in flash, how it performs in low light is something I want to know.  Let’s see.

Did you click on the Lego guy?  Cool, right?

Okay, now, shots taken with a DSLR…


What this tells me:  1) Since I was able to change settings on my DSLR to compensate for the low light in the room, I was able to get good exposure.  A DSLR will always take better images than a Lytro.  2) Considering the fact I can’t change the settings on a Lytro and there is no flash, the Lytro images are not that bad.  The camera’s shutter was surprisingly fast and the images are clear, as long as you’re okay with the graininess.

Lytro’s Strength

What makes the Lytro camera fun to use is it creates images that you can change focal points after you’ve taken the shot.  Literally, everyone who sees a Lytro image can have an experience with it.

However, you really only benefit from this by taking photos that have various levels of depth.  Below are a couple examples of this.

Click on the leaves in the foreground (below left photo)….and the tree in the background (below right photo).

There is no argument here.  With “Living Pictures”, Lytro has the ability to make these otherwise boring shots interesting!

Alright, I’ve seen enough Lytro images.  I’ve also uploaded, shared, and played around with the Lytro for a couple hours.  I’m ready for my review of this product.  Fasten your seatbelts, kids!  😉



HOORAH!  (The Good Stuff)

* Fun Factor = 9 (out of 10)

* Design = 10+!

The look and feel of this camera are SICK!  Though I’ve been reading about this product since last October, my expectations were still blown out of the water once I laid eyes on it myself.  All the controls are flush with the camera.  For example, the menu is a touch screen, similar to an iPhone and iPad.  And to zoom (yes, you can zoom in/out, but not much), you just slide your finger across the top of the rubber ridged area.  Wow.

The sleek white packaging reminds me of Apple.  Very nice.

It’s easy to hold, feather-light, and feels good in my hands!  For size comparison, I put my iPhone next to it.

BOO!  HISS!  (The Negatives)

* The compactness is great for portability, but the size of the screen is so small that I can’t really see what I’m shooting!

I know some may consider this as one of Lytro’s benefits because you don’t need to see what you’re shooting if you focus afterwards.  To me, that’s just shooting blindly.  Unless I’m super duper close to my subject, I can only see what’s in my frame and can’t see any details.  I wouldn’t be able to tell if my subject is smiling or frowning, blinking or has his eyes open.  Um…does anyone else see a problem with this?!!

* Editing control =  Boooo!!!

After years of shooting with an SLR and DSLR, having close to ZERO control in how my shots will turn out is torture!  Even when I take photos with my iPhone, there are numerous free apps that allow me to edit my photo after I’ve taken it.  With a Lytro, I can control only a couple things, from what I can tell:  cropping (though I don’t know how and where I’d do this) and shooting in Creative Mode, which only allows me to choose the focal ranges before I take the shot.  Even for amateur photogs, I think having this level of editing control is a bad thing.

* Image quality = 3.

This one is the biggest disappointment for me.  It doesn’t matter how fun the camera is to use if it doesn’t take great photos… or even decent ones (see comparison photos above)!  End of story.

* I don’t know how to categorize this.  Let’s call it Everything-you-do-between-pressing-the-shutter-and-interacting-with-the-image (like the ones I posted above) = 3.

I found this process to be quite a hassle.  Here’s an example.  *deep breath*  Okay, let’s say I took a photo of my friend and want to email it to her.  Here’s what I have to do…

First I have to find the USB cable.  Since there is no memory card for the Lytro, like other digital cameras, I need to use a USB cable to connect the camera to my computer.  The connection will trigger the automatic uploading of these images into the Lytro software.  (The automatic part is nice.)  This software step is a pain if you use multiple computers because the images are software-dependent (ie, you can’t share/upload/play with them without the software).  I must also note that the image uploading process moves at a snail’s pace — OMG!  Each photo is a huge data file, so uploading 12 or so images took me about 20 minutes.  (It felt longer!) 

After my images have uploaded, I can add notes and categorize the images into folders.  (That part is pretty cool.)  Then — yep, there’s more — I need to send the images to Lytro’s website where it hosts the photos.  That is where I would view the photos, post them on Facebook or get the HTML code to embed into a blog.  I cannot email a Lytro image to my friend.  <Insert “WA-WAAAH” gameshow sound here!>

That leads me to…

* Ease of sharing = 4.

The Lytro software gives you 4 ways to share:  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or copy the HTML code.  Though there are 4 share options, you have to go through such a lengthy process to get to that point.  So unless I need my photos to be interactive, I would much rather take a photo with my iPhone and then email, post, tweet or text it all within 30 seconds!

* It is a niche product.

Though it seems to be marketed towards mainstream consumers, I can’t think of when I’d need to have interactive images with variable focal points.  I could only come up with a couple photographic instances where it would be better to shoot with a Lytro and not one of my other cameras (DSLR, point-and-shoot and iPhone).

* Versatility/Flexibility = 0.

It ONLY shoots this way, so I’d always need to bring another camera with me because I don’t want all my photos to be “living” (and in poor quality).

* Limited printing abilities = n/a.

I read on one of the Lytro forums that you can save it as a JPG, so you can print it.  Without following all the online forums and watching all the instructive videos, I have no idea how to do this.  Moreover, I don’t know if that even matters because the image quality is so poor that I wouldn’t want a print of it.  Shots taken with a Lytro camera are only cool in the “Living Picture” format.


Do I like Lytro?  YESSIREEBOB.  I think Lytro is a very cool gadget.  I think Light Field technology changes the way we experience photos.  

Am I going to buy a Lytro?  NO.  What it boils down to is poor image quality and limited use ability.  It is fun to play with, but that’s about it.  Once the novelty wears off, I wouldn’t use it much.  I’d rather put $400 towards a new lens for my DSLR.

With that said, I think Lytro is a product to watch because it will keep evolving and improving.  The technology is definitely a game-changer in the photography industry.  It just hasn’t changed for me personally.


If you want to learn more, I encourage you to search the web.  I know my review is highly opinionated!  🙂  Here is an article I recently read that was informative.

If you have a Lytro camera, feel free to share your experiences on this blogsite or my Facebook wall!

Before and After: Road Less Traveled

Since I haven’t posted a Before and After in almost a year (Part 5 was posted in February 2011), I think it is time!

My aesthetics is to have my images look natural, but polished.  They shouldn’t look over-processed, but they also shouldn’t look flat, which some straight-out-of-the-camera images can look.  Yep, even a “fancy camera” can produce images that look hum-drum.

A great image is a combination of so many factors.  It’s about how you frame and compose, it’s about the lighting, it’s about the camera settings, it’s about the emotion or the story you’re capturing, and it’s about the post-processing!

I know many pros who transplant faces from one image to another.  MANY pros do this.  The reason for this is because you may have a perfectly great shot of a group, but one person blinked or maybe doesn’t have a pleasant facial expression whereas everyone else looks utterly delightful.  So what do you do?  Discard that shot or transplant the eyes or the face?

Many remedy this by transplanting in Photoshop.

For me, I remedy this by shooting a lot.  I rarely get an image where I think:  “Shucks!  I wish I had gotten the second before or the second afterward.”  I predict situations where a lot of movement occurs — either by me or by my group of subjects — and I’ll shoot a lot at that time.  Shooting a lot means I take more time going through the images after the shoot, but I think it’s worth it in the end.  That’s just me though.  Many pros pride themselves on how few images they take per shoot.  So there are various methods of shooting out there.

My advice is: do what works FOR YOU.

Don’t worry about what camera you own, what lenses you have (or don’t have), what settings you used, how many frames you take, and what you do with post-processing.  If you love the end result (and your clients do too, if you’re a professional), then I give you a high-five!  So don’t compare yourself to other photographers and always take criticism with a grain of salt.

The Road Less Traveled (by me)

So this past weekend, I had a shoot where this one grandparent (who had poise and was ultra glam!!!) temporarily stood apart from the rest of the group.  She started talking to me, and I kept shooting her.  For this one moment, she looked down.

Instantly, I could envision the shot I wanted, but unfortunately, it didn’t include the other people in the background.  I quickly squatted down to get most of them out of the frame before my subject moved, but I couldn’t get them all out of the frame because I wanted to include her arms as well as not look completely up her nose!   😉

If I asked the group to stand aside and my subject to look down again, the image wouldn’t have been the same.  What I loved about that particular moment was the way she looked down… like she was embarrassed that I was photographing her.

So I took the shot.

In post-processing, I could’ve chosen to crop the image into a vertical one, thereby getting rid of the background people.  However, I intentionally composed the shot to have her on the side, so I could see the pattern of the columns beside her.  So I chose not to crop.

[FYI:  I rarely crop my images, unless it’s just a tiny bit.  It reduces the image quality and restricts how large my clients or I can enlarge their prints, so I try to get the image “right” in the camera.]

So I took the road less traveled — by me, that is — and Photoshopped the image to my heart’s content!





Here were my post-processing steps:

First, in Photoshop, I cloned out the people in the background.  Then I retouched my subject’s skin — just a tad, so it is smoother, but still looks like skin!  (I usually do this with close-up portraits.)  Then I did some oomphing to make the image pop!

The end result is EXACTLY how I envisioned it when I took the shot, so I am happy as a clam!  It’s a little more editing work than I usually do, but sometimes you have to venture into unknown territory.

Who knows….maybe one day I’ll even transplant a face in Photoshop!  Nah, who am I kidding?!!

It’s Time! [Holiday Cards 2011]

Now that it’s November, holiday festivities begin, colder weather arrives, and our To Do Lists most likely expand.

One thing that is good to do now is start thinking about your holiday cards.  If you’ve already had your photoshoot, then hooray — you’re halfway there!  Now, onto ordering your holiday cards.

This is my first year I will not be selling my own cards, but I am working with Tiny Prints, where I have my own storefront.

I’ve chosen card designs that are modern and clean, and I believe will best reflect your photos.

Click on the banner to go to my storefront:

What I love best about these cards, other than the designs that I’ve carefully chosen, is the SUPERB quality paper, which is integral for great-looking photos.

You also get to customize your card to make it your own.  You can change colors, the main message, inside text (of course), and even designs for the back of the card.  (I like including a little update about my family to share with loved ones.)

If you have any questions, you know where to find me!   🙂

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Review: Limited Edition BlackRapid RS-W1

STOP RIGHT THERE.  Yea, I mean you.  You’ll wanna hear this.

BlackRapid took my favorite single camera strap — the RS-W1 — and gave it a splash of color.  Now it is functional, comfortable AND fun!

What is BlackRapid going to think up next?!!

Last week, BlackRapid introduced their latest products:  The RS-W1 Colors.  These are limited edition straps, which means you shouldn’t wait too long to pick one up if you’re thinking about buying one.  Once they’re sold out, it’s hasta la vista, baby.

[If you aren’t familiar with these camera straps, read my latest post on the RS-W1 versus a split double strap.]

Limited Edition Colors

From left to right, the colors are:  Green Lake, Blue Ridge and Stone Way.


Sleek and Tough

The Limited Edition W1 Color straps have the same top quality materials as the regular RS-W1:  Stainless steel hardware, ballistic nylon.


Sexy Curves

Like the regular RS-W1 straps, these limited edition straps have the same sexy curves that are made for a woman’s body.

Let’s face it.  Most women want to be treated equally to men, but there are some things that make women different than men, like our bodies.

I am so grateful for companies, like BlackRapid, who have stepped up and embraced these differences by making products that are tailored for women.   


On Real Women


Product Review Summary

My Overall Impression: “Niiiice!”

Evaluation of the Limited Edition colors: The colors are even cooler than I expected.  For the same reason why I like Metallic Paper for my prints, I dig the metallic-like sheen of these colors.

Final comments/Suggestions: I think it’s fantastic to offer the W1, a woman’s strap, in colors other than black.  What was a surprise to me was that the colors were all gender-neutral.  I would love to see some colors or patterns that are more feminine, like red and purple.  Maybe even a soft pink!  I can’t speak for all women, but sometimes, I enjoy being a girlie-girl.  🙂

[Pssst!  If you’d like one of these limited edition straps, I will be giving some away next week!]

A Side by Side Print Comparison

This is a post for my client who is ordering a 20×24″ professional print, but she wants to see the image in both Color and BxW.  I thought it may be interesting to post, so you can look for yourself…and weigh in, if you’d like!

Here is a side-by-side comparison.

I have a favorite.  Do you?


Here are the images in a larger size if you need to see more details…



I think the decision comes down to what you want to notice more.

**Read my thoughts below AFTER you’ve formed your opinion, so I don’t sway you!**

With the color image, I notice the window and the surroundings, and it makes me wonder where they are.  I love the color processing and I notice a lot of details in the image.

With the monochromatic version, my eyes go straight to the kids’ faces, and it makes me wonder what is making them smile so wide.  (Their parents were doing something funny!)  You do lose a bit of detail, like you don’t notice how the boy has one foot on his other leg as much as in the color version; however, you also don’t get distracted by the window and the reflection within it.

So what is your favorite?

Wall Gallery Idea

Do you have wall space that you’d like to put artwork on, but you haven’t done it yet because you don’t know where to begin?  Or you have so many photographs that you can’t narrow them down?  Or you haven’t been able to coordinate the frames with the photographs?

Well, do I have an idea for you!  Create a wall gallery with Standout Mounts!

Choose to Mix Them Up or Keep Them All the Same

You can combine dimensions and create your own visual lines, as I did here with standout mounts in sizes 8×10 to 16×24.  Or, you can create a more symmetric pattern with the same dimensions, such as three 16x20s side-by-side.

(Tip: Objects typically look better in odd numbers.)


No Frames Necessary

One of the cool benefits of using standout mounts for your wall art is that you don’t have to coordinate frames with your images.  Plus, you don’t have to get custom size frames or limit how you can display your photo by fitting it into a standard frame size.

For instance, most photos would look better as an 8×12, but the standard frame size is 8×10, which means something critical in the image would need to get cropped!  Or, you could stick to the image size you want, but it would require custom framing, which can equal jaw-dropping prices!

With standout mounts, you can get the dimension that fits your photo best!  In the example below, the image looked best as a 10×20.


Metallic All The Way

I decorated several walls in my home with standout mounts, and I selected Metallic Paper for all of them.

I advise pretty much all of my clients to choose Metallic.  Well, now you see that I practice what I preach!  🙂

Metallic Paper gives images that extra “pop” while giving colors vibrancy and BxW images more dimension.


Ready To Hang

Standout Mounts that you order through me will come ready-to-hang.  The back will have holes to hang on the wall with nails.

My preference is to use Command strips, which allow for slight adjustments without ruining your walls!  I am crazy about these little strips!  They made hanging up my 20 (yes, 20!) standout mounts so easy and fast!


[Click here for more details about Standout Mounts!]

[Click here for Pricing.]

Contact me for pricing of sizes not listed.  Almost any size you need is available!  I just listed the most popular sizes, so the product list is more manageable.