My Photography Bio

Howdy!  These are some common questions people ask me, so I thought I’d write them down and share my answers with everyone.

Hopefully you’ll know me a little better after reading this.

How did you get started in photography?

I have been interested in photography since I was a young child, about eight years old.

I got my first SLR camera (a Nikon, no doubt) in 1991.  Back then, they were all film cameras, not digital.  I took a BxW Photography class at UC Berkeley (where I was attending College) to learn how to develop film and enlarge photos.  That’s when my passion for photography started.

Since then, I’ve taken my cameras wherever I go, all over the World.

I’ve once gone trekking in a remote region North of Chiangmai in Thailand.  We hiked from dawn to dusk for several days, going up and down mountains, all on unpaved ground.  We had to carry all of our belongings as well as our own water in the 100+ degree humid weather!  At night, we would camp on the floor of tribal villages.  It was an amazing adventure, but the trek was very difficult and sometimes treacherous.  If you carried too much weight, you would fatigue quicker and also risk slipping when climbing.  So I carried one backpack with only one set of clothes (let’s just say we all needed a shower BADLY after just the first day), my glasses, and toothbrush and paste.  I limited myself to only 2 large water bottles a day.

One bottle was in my backpack and I carried one by hand!  My other hand was holding my heavy Nikon camera, which was bruising my chest when it hung unsecured around my neck.  (Other people carried 4 bottles – 2 in their backpack and 1 in each hand.)  I sacrificed hydration for taking pictures!  Taking my camera was imperative to me.

It’s funny when I think back on this trip.  I remember feeling lightheaded often and seeing halos from being severely dehydrated, but not once did I regret bringing my camera.

This may sound like an extreme story, but I did that sort of thing all the time because photography is so important to me.  If I couldn’t bring my camera somewhere, I’d rather not go.

In Limon, Costa Rica… (taken with film)


In Cinque Terre, Italy… (taken with film)


On the back of a boat in the Galapagos Islands, gutting a fish to eat for dinner… (taken with film)


On a trek in Northern Thailand, as described above… (taken with film)  (Note:  I was probably about to faint when taking this photograph!)

So when did you make it a business?

It started with my friends and family asking me to do photoshoots for them – whether it was for engagement photos or portraits.  This started soon after College, which was in the early ‘90s.  (Yes, I’m dating myself!)

It led to people commissioning me or asking for photos in place of wedding gifts.  So it was a fairly natural transition for me to start my own business, especially since it was the electronic era once I began.  Creating my online portfolio on my website was the first step.  Then pow – my business was born.

Do you have a background in photography or are you self-taught?

Definitely self-taught.

I haven’t had formal training.  I took one photography class on developing BxW film and printing enlargements back in college.  Then in 2009, I won an award — the Heidi Mauracher Scholarship from Professional Photographers of California (PPC) in which I got to take a Lighting class with Andre Costantini through the West Coast School of Professional Photography.

What has made the biggest impact on my photography is that I’ve always had a love, talent, and respect for Art.  I have been painting and sketching my whole life… since I could hold a pencil.  My first job was for a famous artist in Lexington, MA when I was 15 years old.  When I was 18, I won awards for some of my watercolors and had paintings displayed in a Boston gallery.

My favorite Art mediums, other than Photography, are watercolor and oil painting.

I think it is from my experience in Fine Art that my photographs have a different perspective.


How does having a background in Fine Art influence the way you photograph?

I’d say my strengths are composition and playing with light to make an image interesting.  I think that’s why my photographs have a distinct style.  They’re not your traditional “portraits”.

For client photoshoots, I make sure to have some traditional portraits in the mix because I think we all should have some, but my style is a little more raw and natural.

My favorite photos usually have interesting shapes, play with light, show a varied perspective, or capture an emotion.  Having an art background makes this second nature for me.

So what is your background in?

Marketing.  I was a Psychology major at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) with the purpose of going into Advertising and Marketing by understanding the minds of consumers.  So that’s what I did for about 10 years.  My last corporate job was a Category Manager at Frito-Lay.

All the while, I had a love for children, so for pretty much my entire adult life, I worked with children in my spare time through volunteer work, like the Big Sisters of Los Angeles and the Child Development Program at UCLA’s Medical Center.

Eventually, I quit the Corporate World and went into teaching underprivileged children in San Francisco.  And of course, I was taking photos all along the way.  🙂


What kind of photography most interests you?

Children!  I looooooove children of all ages – from babies to teens.  Children aren’t jaded by society yet and wear their heart on their sleeve, so you can see right into their soul through their eyes.  Only from photos of children can one look make me tear up or smile.

I also love photographing things that have interesting patterns and light.

And I love challenging myself with what I paint or photograph.  With painting, I may choose something I haven’t painted yet or paint in a new style.  With photography, I may choose an area that is not considered attractive by most, like a construction site.  Once I went to the back of a warehouse and found “beauty” underneath a truck and in the run-off of rain water.


What is the most rewarding part of your business?

I enjoy meeting new people (I’ve had the coolest clients!) and going through my photos right after I return home from a photoshoot.  But the most rewarding part is giving the clients their photos and hearing their reaction!

I do what I do because I love doing it!  But this moment reminds me that my photography can impact other people’s lives.  Because of me, they now have beautiful reminders of a point in time – their son’s quirky personality, their baby’s love of her blankie, or a feeling they had.  It warms my heart to touch people’s lives with my artwork.

It’s like the old adage:  I am happy when my client is happy.


#AnnieTao #Biography #PhotographyBio

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