From the moment I met with Taylor and Riley I could feel the warm bond between them. Taylor has the kind of smile that overflows through her eyes and the way Riley looks at her reminds me that love is real. It's easy to see how these two connected as they both share a laid back approach to life.
Riley has an adorable apartment in Hermosa Beach conveniently located a short walk away from where he proposed to Taylor on the sand. The couple wanted to incorporate their love for Southern California beach life along with their sentimental connection to the special day Taylor agreed to marry Riley.
We started the session at Riley's home going for a more laid back, casual tone. The two were so natural and fun together that I caught myself giggling a few times behind the camera. We strolled down to the beach just in time to catch the amazing sunset. We actually shot at the exact proposal spot. It means a lot when my couples share valued memories like this with me. I had such a great time at this session and can't wait for Taylor and Riley's wedding in March!
When Shannon and Michael started planning for their wedding, Shannon's vision was to merge rustic with romantic. She imagined a lush landscape surrounded by trees and greenery along with the whimsical feel of twinkling lights and vintage accents. When they discovered this backyard space in Santa Rosa, CA they knew they could make their dream wedding a reality.
The couple worked together along with their friends and family to create Shannon's vision for the decor. They blanketed the backyard in antique chandeliers and dish ware, distressed furniture and signs, and twinkling market lights. Michael made a beautiful tree swing for the backyard, at Shannon's request, along with the gorgeous arbor for the ceremony. They also included a chic sitting area with antique couches and chairs for guests to enjoy.
The color scheme of the wedding was mauve, blushes, blues and greys. Shannon incorporated these soft tones in her bouquet, her bridesmaids dresses, and the drapery on the ceremony arbor. She brought calm lavender touches to the wedding with a lavender toss at the ceremony, garnishes for the drinks, napkin accents, and wedding favors.
I think my favorite part of the wedding day was seeing Michael's face during the couple's first look. I have never seen a man smile so big and with such awe. Every girl deserves to be seen the way Michael looks at Shannon. Michael would move mountains for Shannon and it's that kind of love that makes me treasure what I do so much.
Venue: Private residence in Santa Rosa, CA | Bride's Gown: David's Bridal | Bride's hair by: Kimmie Ciccone | Bridesmaids hair by: Nicole Rogers and Kimmie Ciccone | Videography: Nick Patterson | Cake by: Kimmie Ciccone | Dessert bar: Gimme a Dozen | Band: The Snareheads | Bride's Make Up by: Herself | Groom and Groomsmen Suits: Men's Warehouse and J. David's | Rentals and Catering: DJ's California Catering | Bridesmaids Dresses: Show Me Your MuMu | Florals by: Melanie Gibson and Leah Paul
Often times, some of the images I'm the most proud of after a wedding day are those that are completely candid moments. A beautiful moment is rare and happens in a split second. This is why capturing a natural interaction on a wedding day is truly an art form.
An awesome image should tell a story. It should conjure an emotion from deep in the viewer's heart and leave your audience feeling like they were there in person. Here are some of my favorite natural moments from previous wedding days and tips on how to capture them.
I hold Erin and Eric very close to my heart. They were one of the first weddings I ever shot. I look back and feel so grateful to have had such an in love couple put 100% of their trust in me from the beginning. They have always had an ease together that I feel so inspired by and their love for baby Elliott is no different.
Erin and Eric's home is a cozy place bathed in gorgeous window light that makes everything feel intimate and warm. I wanted to capture the close bond they now felt as a family of four...yes, I'm counting their adorable dog, Lacey, who made sure she wasn't left out of the photos.
San Francisco has been my favorite city since I can remember. From the bright pink old buildings to the intoxicatingly salty scent of the bay, my heart fell in love with this place in all its golden gated glory.
For Ashlee and Henry's Engagement Session, I basically got to go to all my favorite places in the city and bask in the magical Northern California light. We weren't initially planning on it, but when I saw Ashlee and Henry's gorgeously lit apartment I knew we HAD to shoot some lifestyle stuff there. I love how intimate and sentimental those shots feel. I imagine they'll look back at the images and smile at the memory of when they shared their first apartment together.
Our next three locations were at Presidio Park, Baker Beach, and the Sutro Baths. I swear, the light is different in San Francisco. Everything looks like a painting right before the sun sets!
Ashlee and I have been friends since junior high school so it was a really special day getting to capture the love she shares with her amazing fiancé Henry. Not only does he ADORE my friend, but he's also an absolute gentleman. I couldn't have asked for a better person for her.
Whoever said happiness isn't a place is an idiot. Happiness is sitting along the side of the Seine River, devouring the savory remnants of a fresh quiche, pressing my finger into the buttery flakes so as not to miss out on any of it. Happiness is carelessly watching my feet dangle over an ancient cobblestone wall as I spend a lazy afternoon drinking in the view of the Eiffel Tower from my lunch spot and watching the beautiful Parisians walk by. Happiness is sitting on a park bench at magic hour in a Parisian garden and ravaging a warm baguette, letting the crumbs fall all over my lap and not giving one last shit who sees me. Happiness is walking aimlessly along the streets of Paris and stopping to look up. Happiness is picnicking in the French countryside with the echo of chirping birds and ancient church bells in the distance as your soundtrack. Whoever said happiness isn't a place hasn't been to Paris.
I try to set an intention for each trip I go on. It is my belief that every place holds a lesson. For me, Paris was my lesson in self-love. I took myself on dates and indulged in wine and beautiful dinners. I wandered the city in a dream and enjoyed my own company and the company of dear friends. I admired the couples as they strolled by and smiled with a warm heart at love's purity. I walked through a park and watched a child twirl under the petals of the cherry blossoms as they danced from their branches in the soft breeze. There were many times I was brought to tears in private moments, not from sadness, but from the pure joy attained in the realization of life's magic.
Photos of me taken by Sarah Zimmer and/or Margot Landen.
"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I take all your question about photography, business, myself, or ANYTHING else you can think of. I'll choose my three favorite questions from Instagram every Friday and answer them here on Mondays. Check back every week for new questions!
What is your core value?
I love this question because I think it's important to know not only what you value in yourself, but what you value in others as well. I think I would have to say I have two core values: integrity and ambition.
By "integrity" I mean that I try to live in a way that shows people I do what I say I'm going to do, I show up to the best of my abilities, I do the right things when no one is watching. It's important to me that the people I value know that they can depend on me.
My other core value is "ambition" because I'm a very goal oriented person. I'm always striving to be better than I was the day before.
I was talking to my friend about dating yesterday and she said that I should be looking for my own core values in the men I date. If they don't possess my core values then they're probably not a good fit for me as a partner.
What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
When I was younger I wanted to be an actress. Unfortunately, my fear of rejection got in the way and I eventually stopped pursuing that dream. I think, if I knew I would be successful, I would probably want to do something as a performer. Maybe a dancer, singer, or actress. Triple threat baby!
How do you manage to work with the videographer on the wedding day to make sure both of you get the best shots without bumping into each other's angles?
I feel like there's this weird stigma about videographers and photographers competing with each other for the perfect shot. This is really silly to me because we're really all teammates on a wedding day trying to do our jobs and deliver the best possible product to our clients.
For me to say I'm never going to get in the videographer's shot would be an absolute lie and impossibility. However, I can absolutely be aware of their angles and try my best not to stand in front of their shot during the ceremony. I think maintaining a good relationship with the videographer is really simple: communicate with them before the day starts to figure out each other's approach to capturing the story, ask them where they need to stand during certain parts of the day, leave time for them to capture the shots they need to get as well. Be courteous to one another!
"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I take all your questions about photography, business, myself, or ANYTHING else you can think of. I'll choose my three favorite questions from Instagram every Friday and answer them here on Mondays. Check back every week for new questions!
Is it okay to take my camera to the beach?
You know when you come back from a day at the beach and you find little bits of pesky sand hiding in crevices you didn't even know you had? Now, imagine that in the intricate parts of your expensive camera and lenses.
When I was first starting out I heard from a lot of sources that I should avoid taking my camera to the beach for this reason. Unfortunately, as a wedding & lifestyle photographer I don't really have much of a choice. (I know, I know...I HAVE to shoot at the beach...life is so rough.)
The good news is that there are a couple things you can do to make sure your camera stays safe:
1) Keep your gear in a bag that stays closed to the elements. Invest in a good bag to carry your gear while you're on location. I use a Think Tank Roller Derby bag when I'm on location for a wedding. I make sure to keep the front zipped up when I'm not using it so I can be sure nothing can get in. It also has small sectional units within the bag to keep your gear safely secured while you're moving from place to place. My favorite part is that it's the perfect size for a carry on bag when you fly with you gear. I NEVER check my camera gear!
2) Try to avoid changing out your lenses in open air when you're on the beach. Sometimes this isn't really an option so I always do this as quickly as possible, pointing the mount of the camera body away from the ocean breeze. You really want to avoid particles from entering the body and landing on your sensor.
3) Keep your lens caps on when you're not using your lenses. Your lens cap protects the glass from dust so make sure you get in the habit of using them!
4) Make sure your gear is insured! If something happens, it's better to be safe than sorry.
What is your go to favorite lens?
My absolute favorite lens is my 50mm 1.2L lens. This is a prime (or fixed) lens, meaning it doesn't zoom in or out. I love prime lenses because they force you to be mindful of your composition since you have to physically move your body to achieve the angle you want.
I also love this lens because it lets me shoot really wide open. I shoot at an aperture of f1.6 all the time and it's nice to know that, if I need more light, I can go all the way to f1.2. This also gives me a gorgeous depth of field (blurry background).
This lens is quite pricey so, if you're just starting out, the 50mm 1.8 is a steal for under $200 and gives you a pretty similar feel.
What is your set up/process like when you are doing a Newborn Session? How do you get the baby to stay still the whole time?
My approach to Newborn photography is a bit different from most. I don't do really posed shots with studio lights and bean bag set ups. I love the look of that type of approach, however, it's just not my personal style.
I shoot Newborn Sessions in my clients' homes, letting them know beforehand that I will be shooting in their bedroom, nursery, or any other room that gets great window light.
I typically keep it pretty clean and simple, swaddling the baby in a white cloth. Posing is also very simple. Depending on if the baby is asleep when I get there, I'll start with shots of parents holding the baby on their bed, interacting with the baby, and close ups of the baby's ears/feet/hands. My goal isn't so much to get cute poses, but more so to tell a story of the baby being introduced to their new family. My goal is to capture the connection and emotion of bringing a tiny human into your life.
The first three things I do when I arrive to a client's home are wash my hands, find the room with the best window light, and then search for furniture in their home that has nice fabrics/blankets. I use what I have available to me to create a narrative. And, since it's their home, it automatically feels more personal to them.
Working with a newborn takes a TON of patience. I basically go with the flow of what the baby is feeling at their session. If they are fussy, I wait to see what they're needing and then start again. I find that keeping the room heated is very helpful. Making sure the baby is warm at all times definitely increases the chances of a sleepy session. Some Newborn photographers find it helpful to bring a small space heater to place near the baby.
I've also had a lot of success with playing white noise from my phone. The sound soothes the baby right back to sleep 9 times out of ten. When you're attempting poses make sure the baby is deeply asleep. Of course, stay mindful of SAFETY. I only do poses on big, soft beds. Any time I move the baby into a new pose I will usually get very close to their ear and softly make a "SHHHHHHHHHHHH" noise. I don't really know why, but it usually works.
"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I take all your question about photography, business, myself, or ANYTHING else you can think of. I'll choose my three favorite questions from Instagram every Friday and answer them here on Mondays. Check back every week for new questions!
What made you decide to become a photographer are who are your inspirations?
Photography was always something I really loved and enjoyed. I usually brought a small point and shoot camera with me everywhere I went, but obviously, was frustrated to find that I didn't know how to recreate what I was visualizing in my head.
I decided to purchase my first DLSR, a Nikon D200, on a whim and had absolutely no idea how to use it. Basically, I became obsessed with teaching myself about photography and practiced on all my friends and family. I have a distinct memory of experimenting with depth of field on salt and pepper shakers (so artsy). I can't explain where the obsession came from. I just felt inwardly compelled to learn how to create in this art form.
When I first started out I'd have to say one of my biggest mentors, and now dear friend, was Christine Chang. I attended one of her workshops on destination wedding photography and fell in love with the idea of traveling and taking pictures FOR A LIVING. Her talent and life was such a huge inspiration to me and watching her follow her bliss helped me to believe my dreams could be a reality as well.
My work is also heavily influenced by the film photographer, Elizabeth Messina. I refer to her book, The Luminous Portrait before most of my shoots. The way she captures light and textures is so captivating.
Did you go to college for photography?
I sure didn't. I actually went to college for Communication and Media Studies...aka I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I finished college I thought I wanted to pursue the entertainment industry so I worked in post production for awhile and then actually had a career as a casting director for many years.
Do you have any tips or tricks for indoor ceremonies?
Indoor ceremony can be really tough! This is definitely something I encounter mostly at church ceremonies where, most of the time, I'm not even allowed to use flash. In this case, I raise my ISO quite a bit and lower my shutter speed as much as I can without the sharpness of the images suffering. I try my very best not to exceed 1600 with the absolute MAX being 64000. Make sure you're camera performs well in low light situations if you're doing this. I shoot on a Canon 5D Markiii and love how it shoots in low light. The downside of this option is that the higher your ISO gets the more grain your image will have. I honestly don't mind grain at all because it fits with my personal style.
I personally have never used flash during a ceremony because I feel it's very disruptive, however, not all photographers go this route. Another option would be to have an off camera flash set up for bounce light. I would absolutely run this by the couple and venue prior to the ceremony. Another less distracting option would be a continuous lighting source such as a soft box.
Have you ever been to a party, chatted with someone amazing, and then posed the question, "Why don't we hang out more?"
This question is usually followed up with a phrase I have come to know well, "We should get together soon."
Then you both leave the party with the best of intentions, life gets busy, and another year goes by without either of you having followed through on plans. No one is at fault here. It's just that the the choice of words was wrong.
At the beginning of the year I realized I too was very guilty of this. So, I made a promise to stop creating situations like this for myself. It's important to me to live in my own integrity and having positive intentions with no follow through never got anyone anywhere.
So, I sat down and thought about the patterns I kept seeing and realized there are three key words that are to blame: SHOULD, SOON, and SURE.
When you tell someone you should do something together what you're really saying is that this is a good idea in theory, but not in reality. Look at this difference here:
"We should take a trip somewhere." vs. "Let's take a trip somewhere."
Doesn't the word should make it seem flighty and disconnected from a reality?
Now, let's talk about the word soon. This word is probably my least favorite word ever. The underlying message of this word is flaky and non-committal. How many times have plans actually been followed through on when the word soon has been used? Probably not very many. Now let's look at some examples:
"Let's have lunch soon." vs. "What day are you free for lunch?"
Okay, you might have lunch at some point but I'd be willing to bet it's several months later if you go with option 1.
And, finally, the most underwhelming word of all time: sure.
When someone responds with sure after you ask them to be apart of something with you, how does it make you feel? And, looking at it another way, how do you feel about something when you answer with sure? Probably not very pumped. Let's review:
"Do you want to collaborate with me on this project?"....."Sure." vs. "Do you want to collaborate with me on this project?"...."HELL YEAH!"
What you're bringing to the table needs to have great energy and excitement, not half assed indifference.
I'm not going to sit here typing this and say I'm not totally guilty of doing all of these things, however, I have definitely noticed a change since I stopped using these three words. Not only are my plans actually followed through on, but I feel more positive and excited about them as well.
Success is the difference between being a dreamer and a doer and the words we use reflect that intention.
I'm so sad that I don't get to shoot Boudoir Sessions more because they're honestly one of my favorite things to shoot. I almost feel like shooting Boudoir is kind of theatrical...the subject is playing the part of someone she doesn't get to be everyday.
I wanted this shoot to be clean and simply sexy. By "simply sexy" I mean sexy in a way that isn't obvious...the kind of sexy that has a little bit of depth. My model Taylor's beautiful spirit absolutely popped out of her soulful brown eyes. I feel like her eyes tell the story... playful, desirous, and a little mysterious.
Model: Taylor Saxelby
Make Up: Madelin Adena
I've always felt like New York City has an energy unlike any other place I've been. The fast pace of the people passing by amidst the ubiquitous city soundtrack can make you feel electric.
When I arrived to the posh Tribeca Rooftop for Brenna and Ben's wedding day the first thing I saw was Brenna having her make up done by Stacie Ford Weddings like a Victoria's Secret Fashion model getting ready for her runway debut. Brenna and most of her bridesmaids played basketball together, so the room was filled with beautiful amazonian women in pink, silk robes. It was overwhelming to look out the window from the getting ready room to see the blanket of rooftops along the city skyline... Brenna's Kelly Faitanini wedding gown draped elegantly upon the grand window pane. This is what wedding dreams are made of.
The florals by McNino Design Floral & Events added an element of soft, femininity amidst the masculine urban landscape. The reception hall was bathed in statuesque, vibrant arrangements that gave the room an added splash of elegance and sophistication. Perhaps my favorite detail was Brenna's bridal bouquet, dripping with clean, white orchids.
For Wedding Party and Romantics, I wanted to capture the character of the city. I love how authentic the shots of the bridal party feel posing with the construction workers we passed on the street. The cobblestone streets added an extra element of romance to the bride and groom romantics that I absolutely fell in love with.
Throughout the day, we were all worried it was going to rain. During the ceremony, the sky was filled with ominous dark clouds and sprinkles started to fall just as the couple shared their first kiss. Once everyone made it inside the reception room, the sky opened and it started to pour, adding an element of intimacy as the guests mingled with each other and sipped on their chic cocktails. I love when the weather seems to know it needs to wait for something special. Love is pretty magical.
The night ended with boisterous dancing and hilarious speeches. You could feel the love in the room as two families became one. Watching Brenna and Ben together (two of the most genuine, warm, and fun people I've had the pleasure of meeting) was truly a reminder to me that there really is one perfect match for all of us. Congratulations to Brenna and Ben on your beautiful wedding day!
Venue: Tribeca Rooftop | Make Up: Stacie Ford Weddings | Hair: Styles On B | Florals: McNino Design Floral & Events | Catering: Apogee Events | Cake: Audrey's Fine Baked Goods | Bride's Gown: Kelly Faitanini | Bride's Shoes: Pelle Moda| Ring Designer: Leo Ingwer | Bridesmaid Dresses: Monique Lhuillier | Groom & Groomsmen Suits: Imparali NYC | Musical Entertainment: Hank Lane Music & Dane Wright Band | Second Photographer: Sarah Zimmer | Candy Buffet: Treat me Sweet
Whenever I second guess my belief in love at first sight, I meet couples like Amy and Brian who prove that it exists. The two crossed paths over six years ago and connected immediately. Amy called her mother the very next day and told her she had met the man she was going to marry. "I didn't know what it was," Amy recalls. "I just knew he was going to be part of my life in a big way."
I think one of the qualities I love most about Amy and Brian is the way they love the people that mean the most to them. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they are loved by those they are closest to. It was so abundantly clear throughout the day just how much they are adored by their friends and family...and I have no doubt this kind of loyalty is a direct result of the generosity with which they give their whole heart.
When asked what they wanted the "theme" of their wedding day to be, rather than describing a "rustic chic" wedding or "romantic glamour" wedding, Amy and Brian simply replied that they wanted the theme to be tangible love. They just wanted to be surrounded by love.
One of my favorite relationships to capture through out the day was that of the Bride and her sister, Sara. There were so many tender and sweet exchanges between them that reminded me that weddings aren't just about the couple, but also about family. One of my favorite parts of the day was Sara's speech to her sister and Brian during the reception. She captured them, and love in general, perfectly:
"When I think of Las Vegas, a few things come to mind but most of all is luck; It got me thinking about the relationship between love and luck. So often, when we talk about our loved ones, we say “I feel so lucky to have Brian - or So lucky to have Amy - whomever. And Im not really into that. Luck is flighty. Luck is a fluke. A chance, short-lived, a gamble. Luck is a flash in the pan. Is not measured and lacking in substance. Luck is the tasteless top layer that tries to distract you from a bountiful fortune. Fortune should be what we seek.
From this day forward, I am SURE when you speak of your spouse you are conscious about your language. That you choose to invest in each other by investing in how you talk about one another, 'I feel FORTUNATE to have my husband...to have my wife.' Because this love has seen and will see deep fortune. Fortune stands the test of time. Fortune is worked for, pined over, built upon and manifested. Fortune gives a damn, is deeply rooted, and if sought, reciprocates a wealth that shows longevity and legacy. Fortune doesn't fade.
Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into. Tune into the words that surround your love. Tune into the decisions and greatness that lies ahead. You are so fortunate to have one another. I know you worked for this perfect love. You deserve this.
Amy, you deserve the goofy smile Brian puts upon your face. You deserve the couch snuggles and hair twirling. You deserve the Bieber loving, Chris Brown dancing partner in crime. He brings your sun to the surface. Brian you deserve this strong woman by your side. You deserve this ride or die, Hold you down chick. Someone who knows to put ice cubes in your milk and toss the egg yolks to the side. She keeps your feet stuck to the ground."
Fortune should be what we seek. And, Amy and Brian are so fortunate in love.
Venue: Casa Cody Country Inn |Make Up & Hair: Brianna Viera | Bridal Gown: Sarah Seven | Bridesmaids Gowns: Asos, Lulu's, Adriana Papel | Groom's Suit: Groom's Grotto | Groomsmen's Suits: Groom's Grotto | Florals & Invitations: Celebrate Florals | Catering: Fresh Start Catering | Second Photographer: Mike Villa | DJ Services: DJ Essence | Coordination: Taylor at Love & Laughter Events | Rentals: Signature Party Rentals
There's nothing more romantic than a beach breeze. For Elisa and Drew's Engagement Session, we headed out to Windansea Beach in La Jolla, CA. Southern California was experiencing pretty crazy rain storms on the days leading up to the shoot but the clouds seemed to part just for them when their session day finally arrived. Not only was the sky completely clear, but everything seemed happy and green from the rain. I felt like I was shooting in Maui or some other exotic location. Thinking back on their shoot, I can't help but love how much these two trusted my vision. Sometimes, as the photographer, it's hard to put into words exactly what you're aiming for. When I asked them to play in the ocean in their clothes, they smiled and jumped in with no hesitation. I just love how romantic those shots are! Connected, playful, and spontaneous...that's what love is all about.
I actually met Danielle and Anthony for the first time in person when they were guests at another wedding I was shooting. I knew the second I saw them together on the dance floor that night that they were going to be amazing to shoot with. Their chemistry is not only undeniable, but comfortable as well. Gentle and trusting body language is always something I strive for when posing my couples. For my Engagement Session with Danielle and Anthony, we ventured out to the gorgeous Santa Ynez, CA. We started the session at Bridlewood Winery. My absolute favorite part of the grounds was the stunning front driveway covered by rows of tress. There was something that felt very old world about the grounds there and I just love the character in the architecture. Also, wine.
We finished the session near Santa Barbara at one of my favorite locations to date. Watching Danielle walk along the edge of that wall in her heels nearly gave me a heart attack, but definitely made for some truly epic shots. Not a bad view huh? I just love that I get to finish everyday on the job with a gorgeous sunset.
Sometimes it's important to create for yourself. For this styled bridal portrait session, we made our way to the magical Cayucos shoreline near San Luis Obispo for some stunning images along the coast. I wanted the images to feel kind of moody...perhaps a bit lonely. A solitary angel waiting for her lost lover. I played with shadows and full sun a bit as well, hoping to add to the mood of the images. I love the way her eyes pierce through in the sunlight. Special thanks to the amazing team I collaborated with to make this shoot happen: