Before and After: Part 5

It’s time for another Before and After post!  I got this idea from one of my new Facebook friends (hi Shana!) who said he wasn’t chummy with color correction in the editing process.  (By the way, if you haven’t connected with me on my FB business page yet, please visit and click on “Like”!  FB is a fab way to communicate, share ideas, ask questions, etc.)

His comment got me thinking…

For all photographers, not only ones who just started out, there are times you need to edit an image because you are correcting something — such as, tweaking the white balance, cropping something out, adjusting the contrast or highlight, or dodging and burning areas of an image.

Then there are times the image looks perfectly fine all by itself, without any editing at all.  So why fix something that isn’t broken, right?  Perhaps the image is technically fine, but does it convey a feeling, or a mood, that you want?  These are things I ask myself when I am editing a client gallery.

In my opinion, taking the shot is half the art.  The other half is how I oomph it afterwards!

Here are a few examples from recent images…

Creating a Scene

I was attracted to this area because of the storm clouds and twiggy vines.  Though my subject is smiling, I envisioned this shot (when I took it) to have cold, steel-like colors.  I wanted it look eerie, like a set of a horror film!


Highlighting Features

There is nothing wrong with the original, straight-out-of-the-camera image.  But here’s where mood is important to lavish on a photo!

This little girl’s gorgeous red curls, flawless skin, and bluish-gray eyes were lackluster in the original image.  So, WAPOW!!  After some oomphing, she looks exactly like how I see her.


Set the Mood

Below is a great example of an image that could have been left alone and would have been great.  (Well, “great” if you like shots of bottles – ha ha.  I took this when I was walking around town with my little girl.)

I took this shot because of the colors of the labels and light glowing in the fridge and bouncing off the glass bottles.  My oomphing makes the image richer and makes me find those bottles more tantalizing!  Gimme gimme…


Subtlety is Sweet

Post processing does not have to mean major changes or over-processing.  The image below is another example of a perfectly fine photo straight-out-of-the-camera.

The oomphed photo only has subtle differences.  Do you think it makes a difference?

This is a good question to ask yourself when you are editing your images.  If you don’t see much difference or see a purpose in the processing, then you shouldn’t do it.


Heavier Processing

Sometimes I want a bit more processing.  In this image below, it was late in the day and we were in the shade, so the colors were a little dull, but technically okay.

I processed the shot to have a moodier tone, which complements Mia’s expression.



To see some prior Before and After posts, click here:

Before and After Part 4 (August 2010)

Before and After Part 3 (June 2009)

Mini Cards

These mini cards are sleek and cool, and they’re just the perfect size to keep in your pocket, backpack, diaper bag, wherever!  You will be able to hand them out to friends faster than you can say “beeblebopperbobbenheimer!”  Well, definitely faster than you can say that word!

These mini cards can be used as Senior Cards, as you see below.  They are much hipper to hand out to friends than wallet-size photos!  Mini cards also make fantastic Mommy Cards, so work-at-home moms can easily share contact information with other parents.

The Mini Card Collection

Mini cards are designed just for you!


Customized Info

You can put as much or as little information on your cards as you’d like.

It could have just one word — such as, a nickname (“The Rock”) — or it can have several pieces of information — such as, “Jordana, Justin’s Mommy, 867-5309”.  Whatever you wish!


Tin Is In!

All mini card orders come in a tin case that I love!

I have it next to my gorgeous tin CD cases, so you could see the relative size.


Product Details At-A-Glance

~ Mini Cards come in a set of 100 cards.   [Click here to see Mini Card pricing.]

~ You can choose 1 to 4 images to display on your cards.

~ There is one image per card.  (So if you choose 2 images to display, then you will receive 50 cards for each image.)

~ All orders include one tin case.

~ There is a protective glossy coating on the card cover (the side with an image).  The back side will also have a design printed on it, but will not have an image, so it will not be specially coated.

~ You will have an opportunity to view a draft of your cards before it is sent to the lab.  That is a time for you to check the accuracy of the information.

~ To order, simply email me the following information:

1)  Quantity you’d like to order

2)  The file names of the images you’d like on your cards

#)  The information you’d like included

Handcrafted Silver Photo Charm Necklace

Everything about this jewelry piece says I Love You!

~ It is handcrafted, one-of-a-kind and custom-made.

~ You choose the image that will be worn next to your heart.

~ The photo will be permanently sealed into the jewelry, so it is waterproof and UV-resistant.  This means the necklace can be worn everywhere, and it will still look fabulous!

~ You choose the word to be handstamped on the charm (up to 7 letters).  It can be a name, initials, a favorite saying.

~ Everything is sterling silver.


More Details:

* The photo pendant is approximately 3/4″.

* The photo will be printed at a professional lab.

* You can choose between a circle or square photo pendant.  If you purchase multiple pendants, you can mix and match shapes.

* Necklaces come with an 18″ sterling silver ball chain.  If you prefer, you can request a 16″ ball chain instead.

* Charms are handstamped, not machine-stamped, so each charm is unique and not “perfect”.

* Photo pendants and charms can be purchased individually, so your collection can grow over time.

For pricing information, please check out my products page on my website.

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Before and After – Part 4

I haven’t shown Before and After images in over a year, so I thought this past engagement shoot would lend some great examples because the lighting wasn’t ideal.  The sunlight was extremely bright, which meant my couple was either in the harsh sun or the dark shadows.

Plus, moving in and out of the shadows changed the white balance, and I shoot too fast to catch some of the slight shifts during the shoot.  So it was up to me to oomph the images in a way that set the mood as it was on that day:  warm, beautiful and romantic.

(Note:  If you are new to my blog, I call my editing process:  oomph-ing!)


When I was going through my images after the shoot, I knew this one was a keeper because the composition highlighted their body language, which showed a kind of sweet tenderness, but the color was a little cool for my taste.



Once oomphed, the image looks romantic, sweet, and a little sexy!



I love the slanted tree on the side and the branches hanging down from the top of the frame.  However, my subjects were in the shade and the background was fully lit.

In camera, you can compensate by letting in more light, but then you risk washing out the beautiful hills in the background or having a blurry photo from having a slower shutter speed!  Also, since my style is editorial, my subjects were in motion, so I had to act fast or else I’d miss this beautiful moment.



Ahhhh… now it looks like Summer love in the vineyard!

I not only evened out the light, but I also gave it a warm, vintage coloring.


Before & After

I actually took quite a few frames to get this because my subjects had to be in the perfect angle to catch enough light on their faces and body.  This is the challenge when it is a sunny day and your shooting style is editorial.  (I don’t like posing my subjects too much because then the expressions look artificial.  I like capturing emotions and a story.)

To make this image the best it can be, I cropped out some of the clutter, like the car on the left and some rocks and hose on the right.  Cropping also meant my subjects would be a little larger & closer, which I thought would look better for this photo.

When I took the shot, I had wanted it composed with the subjects small & in the center, but seeing the image on my computer sometimes changes my game plan!

The oomphing changed an image that probably wouldn’t have made it into the final cut (as is) to an image that would look amazing on a large canvas wrap!

Parker0822107before Parker0822107after


When I first met my subjects, I thought, “They look like models!” and then I did a jump-kick and the splits… in my head, of course. 🙂

As most of you know, there is a lot of airbrushing and Photoshopping in magazines and photos of models.  So I extended the same courtesy to my subjects who already looked fabulous, but just needed a little oomph.



Ooh la la!  Now they look like models in a fashion spread.  Their digital facial, if you will, still lets them look like themselves.  You still see a few freckles and wrinkles, which, in my opinion, are what makes us each unique, like a fingerprint.

Photoshopping someone’s skin is probably one of the most controversial editing topics for photographers.  A couple years ago, I would’ve never done this because I believed everyone looked better unedited!  Now I see the editing work like patting on a little more makeup, but digitally.  I feel strongly, however, about leaving permanent marks, like moles and birth marks, alone.  Again, that’s just part of your “fingerprint” or uniqueness.


Final Notes

Some photographers don’t like to reveal how much was done in post-production, but I think it’s incredibly interesting to see the before and after photos — not just for photography enthusiasts, but also for clients.  Personally, I’m happy to share with my clients how much effort and artistry I put into creating each image in my gallery!

In case you’re wondering, there are also images that look fantastic right out of the camera:  the color, white balance, saturation, hue, contrast, composition.  Starting in 2010, I oomph almost all images in client galleries.  That’s just how I roll.

I remember that not long ago, I’d pride myself on how I only did “light editing”, such as cropping or contrast adjustment.  But now I think differently.

When I think back to my film development and enlargement class at UC Berkeley, I remember one of my biggest A-Ha! moments was realizing that taking the shot is only half of the creative process.  Half!  The other half is what happened in the dark room! The same applies now with digital photography.  The digital dark room — a photo editing software, such as Photoshop — plays a very key role in how the final image will look.

You can take 10 photographers to process the same image and come out with 10 very different images, just as you would if you asked 10 photographers to take a photo of the same subjects.

[Click here to see last year’s Before and After – Part 3 post.]

Oomphing BxW Images

If you’ve followed my blog or even spoken to me about photography, then you already know what oomphing means.

To Oomph = verb.  Annie Tao’s process of editing images  🙂

I was taking a gander at some photos online recently and saw some BxW images that were plain as can be.  I thought BxW would be a terrific blog subject because there are various ways you can process (or edit) BxW images.

Using a recent photo I took at a client photoshoot, I will explain why I changed it to BxW and what some other versions of BxW are out there yonder!

Original Image (Straight-Out-Of-The-Camera)

My thought process:

* There is a lot going on here with the color of the baby’s pants and the livingroom background.

* I wanted to highlight the parents’ facial expressions, which is why I love this photo.

* Changing this image to BxW would accomplish all of this:  place attention on the parents’ faces and take your eyes off the background and baby pants.


BxW #1:  Plain & Un-Oomphed

Most people have access to photo editing software, so anyone can turn a color image into a BxW image.  You can even do this when you walk into the photo section of a drugstore or Costco!

There’s nothing wrong with this image.  Many photographers will stop right here.

To me, it’s a little flat.  So let’s continue with our BxW journey…


BxW #2

Do you see a difference?  Do you think it’s better or worse or the same?

It’s a little brighter, but I find the highlights slightly unappealing.


BxW #3

This version is grainy.  I actually like this better than the first two because it has more character.  Looks like a photo in a newspaper.


BxW #4

This version has a lot more grays.  This would look great on certain photos with less emotion, but I think the steel gray hues make this family photo feel a little cold.

It doesn’t convey a mood that matches the image.


BxW #5

This version is soft and dreamy.

It looks like a scene in my head after I’ve fallen and lost consciousness!  Ha ha.  Or maybe a scene in a movie about Heaven.  Again, not the mood I’m looking for.


BxW #7:  My Oomph-ed Version!

This is what my final image looked like.  (You may have already seen it in the sneak peek.)

Do you see how it’s different than the other versions?  What version do you prefer for this image?


There are a kajillion ways you can edit a BxW image.  I only shared a few with you just to give some examples.

My point is that there are many ways to edit a BxW image, so pay attention to how you edit your image if you’re a photographer/amateur photographer/enthusiast.  Notice what kind of mood your editing work places on the image and think about whether that is the mood you want to convey.

And if you’re not a photographer, notice what kind of editing work photographers are doing to their BxW images.  And if all they’re doing is converting it to BxW without putting anymore thought into it, then run for the hills.  😉

There should be just as much thought placed into editing BxW photos as there is in editing Color photos!

Deluxe CD Cases

Only the best to showcase and protect your digital artwork!

Made of tin, these deluxe CD cases are durable, sleek and reusable.  I LOVE them and have been searching for them for about 10 months now — ever since I saw a version of this at a photography trade show!


This one is much nicer than the one I originally saw because there is a hinge that allows you to open the cover without chance of losing or misplacing it.

There is also a window to feature your photoshoot-specific, laser-etched image on your custom CD without opening the case.

And the CD itself snaps in by a rim around the edge, so the CD is tightly secured during shipping.


About 99% of my clients order a CD with their photoshoot, so I wanted to upgrade my cases to match the beautiful CDs.  My clients deserve a cool, modern way to protect their digital artwork!  🙂

Click here for my full product list with pricing.

The All About Me Book

I am very excited to introduce my exclusive new product for 2010…


This is a 10×10 Fine Art Book with the cutest content!  Every spread is all about your little sweetie!

This book is intended to celebrate a year in a child’s life.  I would use photos from one of your child’s photoshoot with me.   And don’t worry if the photoshoot wasn’t exactly on your child’s birthday or even month.  It is not an album about your child’s birth day.

What makes this an extra special book is that it not only contains artistic images of your child, but also, it is a parent-child interactive book.  I design it and you add the extra love that makes this book truly unique to your child!

DETAILS:  This book has 30-pages (or 15 spreads), a hard cover and the coolest, archival matte pages with no gutter!  Click here for more info on Fine Art Books.

Book Cover & A Few Sample Spreads

This book is absolute cuteness!  And it is the ultimate way to celebrate each year of your child’s life!

All About Me_1_bg

All About Me_2bg

Accordian Fun Books

These adorable, custom-created books are small in size, but don’t let that fool ya!  They are well-constructed on thick, premium paper and protected by a hard cloth cover!

Accordian Fun Books make great gifts for any occasion!  And they can feature your baby, teen, engagement, wedding, company products, or an event!

The details:

* Each Fun Book holds up to 10 photos and folds/unfolds like an accordian.  Photos will be printed on both sides.

* Images are printed on premium card stock (Smooth Cover, 100# in weight) and will have a glossy coating to give added protection to your images.  You can also opt for Pearl paper (a luminous, shimmery paper; 107# in weight).  There is no glossy coating on Pearl paper.

* They are 3×3 in size.

* You select the color of the art cloth cover!  See below.

* Click here for the Products page to get more information, such as number of books per order.

To give you an example of these adorable products, I took a few photos of the ones I just created for the A. Family and their twins boys.

Three Fun Books (shown in Baby Blue)


Fun Book Side A (displays up to 4 images)


Fun Book Side B (displays up to 6 images)


Art Cloth Cover


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Couture Holiday Cards

I am extremely excited to present to you my 2009 Holiday Cards – Couture Collection!

Everything about these cards say couture — from the design to the paper.

These cards are press-printed 5×7 folded cards, and — get this — there are FOUR full-color sides!  Every design features more than one area to show off photos of your favorite peeps:  your family!  You get to choose one of these deluxe press-printed paper types:  fine art watercolor, fine art linen, or pearl!

Directly below are the card covers, so you can easily view the collection.  Then in the 2nd section, you can see the entire card layout (cover, inside spread, back).  At the bottom of this post, you will find the product details, like prices and shipping.


Couture Design 1: TOKYO SQUARE



Storyboard Preview – Jenny M.

This is a storyboard preview for Jenny M.

I love the photos Jenny chose for her storyboard.  Just three photos displayed together can tell the story of how much love and fun exist in a family!



* I put Kanoa on the left because of the direction he is facing.  And it matches well with the family shot on the right because Patrick is turning towards our left.

* I cropped in where necessary — especially in the left and middle photos — to fit the design of your storyboard.

* I oomph-ed the photos by giving them more punch.  I didn’t want light, washed out BxW tones.  I like how this looks with a little more contrast.  It’ll look fantastic with a black frame.

* The black line around the storyboard depicts the edge of the paper, so you’ll know where the frame will be.  (The line is there just for the preview.)

* My logo will not be on your storyboard.  (The logo is there just for this preview.)

* The storyboard will be printed on one 10×20 professional paper.

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