Hello there!

My name is Annie Tao. I am a photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I specialize in lifestyle photography where you get to play, hang out, and be yourself. I capture the moments, real emotions and stories that occur during our time together. Check here often or subscribe to my blog (RSS feed) to see what I am up to or get creative inspiration. Thanks for visiting!

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The Buzz

My Philosophy

I scoured through thousands of my client photos and pondered my philosophy on photographing people.  What I realized was that my philosophy was incredibly simple.

Looking at all these gorgeous faces and families, my heart melts a little.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.   ~annie

Want to see more?  Yippeee… here’s a video on why you should choose Lifestyle Photography.

The Freckles Shoot

My creative visualization for The Freckles Shoot started a year ago.  That either makes me an incredible procrastinator or an incredible planner!  Let’s just say it’s the latter, okay?  ;)

I’ve known Abigail and Sarah for a few years and have always marveled at their freckly faces.  More recently, I made mental notes on how to best photograph their individual features.

A week before the shoot, I started sketching and collecting items for this Styled Shoot.  Since my focus was their freckles, the images were tight shots of their heads or a portion of their faces, so I didn’t over-complicate images with a lot of props or patterned clothes.

The shoot itself took a little over one hour, which included walking around, changing hair styles and tops, and… making a turban!

While I was editing the photos the next day, I was like a kid in a candy store with my poorly-suppressed squeals.  There is so much satisfaction in creating images that I’ve had stored on my mind.  This calls for a ‘happy dance’!  I hope no one is watching – haha.

[Tip to Photographers:  When your job is also the thing you love, try to do at least one personal project each year to nourish your creativity.]



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The Personal Side of Photography

Lifestyle Photography is not only about the person in the photo, but about the person who is creating it.  Photography is dependent on more than the photographer’s skill and experience level, like I once believed; it’s influenced by how the photographer views the World!

How the artist views life leads them to their unique point of view during a photoshoot.  How do they interpret what is happening in front of them?  What do they define as important?  How do they feel about their subjects?  About themselves?

The answers will determine how they shoot the scene, what details they capture, and even if and when they press the shutter.

With this preface, I want to share a personal story with you…


One evening last year, I was having one of those need-to-refer-to-your-calendar-and-set-alarms-throughout-the-day kind of days, and when I got home, I started coughing.  I was sitting in my home office to finish some work, but the cough got so bad that I folded over to hold onto my desk.  I realized that in-between coughing fits, I had a hard time breathing.

Maybe it was an asthma attack, I thought, even though I don’t have asthma.  My 9-year old heard me, so he rushed over and asked if I was okay.  In what sounded like Darth Vader whispering, I instructed him to find his dad’s inhaler, which was stored away somewhere and collecting dust.  I used the inhaler throughout the night, but it was clear in the morning that the problem was not going away.


The next few days was a whirlwind that halted our busy life’s regular activities.  I went to Urgent Care twice, the Emergency Room (ER), and then the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  I was having a severe reaction that impeded my ability to breathe, and the usual methods of treatment brought relief for only a few short hours.  No one could figure out why.

Even with all of this happening, I wasn’t scared…. until these two things happened:

1.  One of the doctors talked about how she wanted me to live!
2.  The ER doctor told me I had to be admitted to the ICU because I had so much epinephrine in my body that I was now a cardiac patient.


Life is a journey and apparently, so was trying to figure out what was wrong with me.  This journey took a full four months of tests, medicines, visits to different doctors, and trips to the hospital.  It occupied all of my free time and impacted my family.

With the help of a few dedicated doctors and my husband’s determination, I finally got a diagnosis, found the right medicine, and started to feel better.  Things aren’t back to the way they were, but I can manage my symptoms.

I’ve always believed that everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and my strength was being grateful for everyday things.  However, this experience took gratefulness to a whole new level.  I am now grateful to breathe!  The first time I was able to take a deep breath after being discharged from the ICU almost stopped time.  I remember the clarity of sounds and smells around me…even the taste of the air.  I had to close my eyes.  So that’s what a deep breath feels like!

I still have busy days (hey, I have 3 kids, a husband, a puppy, a house, and my business) — but I will never forget that the “little things” are often the “big things” in disguise.

Here’s a little collage of photos I took with my phone during the months after I was out of the hospital.  I baked with my kids, went to the library, watched the Warriors win another championship, played with my puppy, held hands with my hubs, ice skated, received the cutest drawings from my kids, hugged them tight…

And breathed.


So how does my view of the World impact my photography? 

I find joy in a situation, which is why I gravitate towards bright, light-filled scenes and laugh often.

I pay attention.  A touch of a hand or a lean are more meaningful than some may think.  The soft nails of a newborn or the unruly wispy hair of a toddler will be missed before a parent may notice.

No detail is too small.  No stage in life is insignificant.  Every relationship has multiple facets of emotions and stories.

I value authenticity.  I’d prefer to photograph non-smiling people who are real than people faking it for their shoot.

Real-everything is always better than fake-anything. ❤️


[These are a few photos I took during our road trip after I was out of the hospital.  We went electronics-free and soaked in the beauty of nature and each other's company.  It will always be one of my favorite vacations ever, and hopefully one of many many more.]

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Take deep breaths.    xo ~annie

Behind-The-Scenes of a Maternity Shoot

I love Maternity Shoots because I get to capture the magic that is creating a little human!  There is also fun in documenting the soon-to-parents and their excitement about what is to come.  Here is more insight into how I handle these specialized sessions…


Photographing pregnant women is unlike my usual Family Shoots where I am chasing after little kids and being more of a “fly on the wall”.

First, I turn into a big sister (I can’t help it!) and will ask her repeatedly if she is feeling okay to walk up a staircase or if she needs to sit down.  Then, I am more intentional with my shooting angles because I want to show off the baby bump.  So typically, that’d be directly from the side or from the top.  If I’m feeling adventurous, I may shoot from below for an upward view of the belly.

The type of light I look for is backlight that creates a golden outline around the belly, which emphasizes the beauty of pregnancy.  I also like even light (like shooting in an open shade) for portraits of my pregnant mama because that is flattering on the skin.  I’ll avoid harsh shadows at all costs.

In a Maternity Shoot, I have more luxury to craft the images I want to create.  ❤️

Check out these BTS (behind-the-scenes) images to see what I mean.  Thank you to Christine’s husband, Kevin, who took these photos during the shoot.

Behind-the-Scenes #1:

I chose this area because it was a quiet spot at a popular park.  There were tall trees that intercepted the bright sun, which softened the light.  I had Christine stop in the brighter spot on the path for a side profile shot of this gorgeous mama-to-be.


What I shot:


I took most of this series in color to show the golden sunlight.

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Behind-the-Scenes #2:

Kevin probably thought I was cray-cray when I was leaning over Christine from behind.  If you were there, you’d hear me say:  “I promise I’m not taking a photo down your wife’s dress!”  It was pretty funny.

There is definitely an element of trust that needs to exist when you’re on a photoshoot, especially for Weddings, Maternity Shoots, Newborn Shoots… and Lifestyle Shoots in someone’s home.  Okay, so that’s most every kind of photoshoot!  You also need chemistry between the photographer and subjects, which I talk about here.


What I shot:

Baby bumps are unique to each woman and each pregnancy, so I like to capture the shape of the belly from different angles.

A side view would show how round it is, while a top-down view would show if the bump is narrow or wide.


If you want to learn more, you can select Photography Tips under the Blog menu or click here.  Don’t forget to say hello!  I read every comment.  xo annie