the life force behind travel photography

Traveling has always been a source of inspiration for me, especially since the life force of any culture reside in the people that live in any one place. And it’s a wonderful feeling to take photographs that inspire others to want to travel abroad.

Not one person I know and don’t know can’t say they don’t enjoy traveling. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind when shooting photos while traveling:


Try photographing complete strangers. They are the culture of the land and place you are visiting. Their images can tell a story that is beyond words sometimes but also try to keep cultural sensitivities in mind.


Travel photography is a waiting game. You’re lucky if you’re at the right place at the right time. But, at the same time, you don’t want to draw attention and disrupt the flow of what is naturally happening. Take what you need if you’re able to capture it.


Great composition is something that I am always very particular about and truly believe is the key factor behind a meaningful photograph, no what what type of camera you have. If you have great composition, it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have. If you have no composition and a great camera, I’m sorry but that won’t get you far. Great cameras won’t make a great photograph if you don’t know the basics of composition. It is an achievement when composition becomes first nature.


 Try to see the world from the world’s eye view. Instead of just snapping photos right off the bat, take in mentally and physically where you are at and the breeze that is blowing where you are. Let the life of the world fill you with inspiration and you’ll start seeing things you’d never even realize before. Our world is delicate but also very versatile and has been around much longer than you have. Take advantage of views not everyone has access to and frame your subjects through objects.

With that said, our office will be closed starting next week through mid-October. We will be out traveling so we apologize in advance for any delay in email and phone replies.

client tips | engagement session wardrobe

Don’t know what to wear to your engagement session that’s coming up? We’re here to help especially if you’re unsure of what to wear or don’t have anything stylish in your closet – which may be a good excuse to do some shopping 😉

For starters, we recommend consulting with a stylist. Our studio does exclusive collaboration with a cute boutique on Clement Street in San Francisco called Seedstore. They’ve got plenty of cute and fashionable clothes in their store that you can’t really go wrong no matter what you buy! The internet is also a good resource for what to wear, especially wedding blogs and fashion blogs. Below are also some examples from

Now guys, men, chaps! Below are some looks for guys as well (all images are from But first, we can’t stress how important it is for guys to wear fitted pants! Loose pants absolutely never look good in pictures, so guys, if you don’t own a pair of tight-fitting pants, go get one. They don’t have to be skinny pants – just well fitted. A lot of department stores and boutiques offer tailoring.

Oh, and did we mention… a good wardrobe for men plus the zoolander model pose could probably land you a shot like the following – which is pretty hot:

But enough of the jokes. Store catalogs are also another good resource since they include looks to wear! We’ve even had clients who bought the ensembles that they store department store manikins wearing 🙂 All in all, just get creative and don’t be afraid to mix and match.

Other things to consider – and we can’t stress how much a difference these things matter – are props, accessories, and hair and make-up! It’s your engagement session, feel free to get pampered and dolled-up! Not to mention, you’re paying a professional to shoot photos, you should look and feel your best! Get a manicure, go to a blow-dry bar, feel special and you’ll end up with great engagement photos!!!



wedding phoneography guide

Everyone carries around their phone around these days and every wedding we shoot, there are always families asking to take photos with their camera phones. With cameras so readily available on phones nowadays, why not master the art of phone photography aka phoneeography, especially with all those apps like Instagram out there? Even we sometimes catch ourselves taking photos at weddings with our phones just because it’s instant processing and upload.

Below are some tips from a blog posted:


“If the wedding is outdoors, you’re all set with natural lighting.

Either using an outside camera app or your phone’s built-in shooting app, you can choose your exposure by touching the part of the photo or using an exposure adjustment tool to get your exposure just how you want it.

HDR mode (either built-in or via an app, like HDR Pro) will help capture a balanced exposure when you have bright skies and a shadowy subjects.

If your wedding is indoors, place the couple next to windows where you can find natural light.

If you don’t have any windows to work with, this is where the Glif Plus and your tripod will come in handy. That’s because you’ll want to stabilize your phone as much as you can when you’re shooting indoors.

You won’t be able to eliminate all noise, but it will help, and some grain is a-okay in my books. A little bit of grain and even some motion blur gives photos that old film look.

EXTRA TIDBIT: You might consider combining the powers of a tripod, an app that lets you control shutter speed (like Slow Shutter Cam for iPhone or Light Painting Camera for Android), and an external flash. With these, you can set a long exposure and pop off a flash to light your couple.”



There are apps out there for iPhone like PhotoForge2, which helps straightens photos as well as allows curve and level adjustment. For Androids, there is PicSay and Camera360.


“When posing the couple, you can still capture candid moments by telling them to have a conversation with one another. They’ll start talking and laughing, and then you can snap your photo.

Having your subjects change up their line of view can help change the mood in the photo. A photo of a couple standing there looking at the camera will look a lot different from a photo of the couple standing there looking off into the distance. It adds a little wonder to your photo.

Lastly, remember that the environment is that additional subject in your frame. Pose your couple based on what’s around you. They could be leaning against a tree, looking over a balcony or sitting on some steps.”

Happy phone shooting people!


don’t be an uncle bob

Couldn’t resist reposting this with wedding season in full-fledge:

“So, you’ve been invited to attend a wedding as a guest. For whatever reason (good or bad) the couple has decided to hire someone else to do the professional photos.

Should you bring your good camera or leave it at home entirely? What is okay to do and what isn’t?

We are wedding photographers who were recently invited to a wedding as guests, so we had to wrestle with these questions as well. The last thing we wanted was to be a hindrance to the main photographer and to be considered an annoying Uncle Bob.

We thought we’d help make the process easier for you. Here’s the Photographer’s Guide to Being a Good Wedding Guest from The Modern Tog.

What are your motives for taking photos?


This is the ultimate question, and you need to be completely honest in your answer to make sure you act appropriately at weddings.

Here are several motives you may have and how to handle each situation.

“I just want a few photos for myself of close friends and family”

I actually think this is just fine when you are only doing it for personal use. If it’s something you’d print and put up on a wall or in an album for yourself, and if you follow the guidelines below about what is appropriate, then go for it. I don’t care if you shoot with the Nikon D3s or your iPhone if you’re not causing problems or getting in the way.

“I want to get more images for my portfolio”

I understand this motive. I mean, if you’re just starting out in business, it’s hard to book a wedding if you don’t have wedding images in your portfolio.

However, it’s completely wrong to do this in the photography community.

Do not use any image you take at the wedding to promote your business in any way.

Don’t put them in your portfolio, don’t blog them on your business blog, don’t even put them on your Facebook business page (or on your personal page with your business tagged in them).

It deceives your potential clients into thinking you were the hired wedding photographer, which is a lie.

Even if you say you were there as a guest, it’s better but still something that would make the blood boil of the hired photographer so I’d avoid it unless you asked them for permission beforehand.

This is a great way to burn bridges early on with other photographers who may otherwise become your colleagues and send wedding referrals your way in the future, so trust me, it isn’t worth it.

It also means you may get in the way of the hired photographer, who may be trying to be unobtrusive and a bit farther back, for important shots because you are competing to get the best image. This simply isn’t fair for your friends or family members getting married as they paid for the other photographer to capture the moment and you may have just ruined it without even knowing it. The photo above is a great example of this, an otherwise gorgeous shot that was ruined by a guest who was just taking photos.

Many photographers also have clauses in their contracts that prohibits other professional photographers from shooting wedding images for this very reason, so if you’re using it to promote your business in any way you would be breaking their contract and could put them in an uncomfortable situation.

For full disclosure, we did this with a family member’s wedding early on without realizing why it was not a good idea (had I known, I would not have done it).

I understand why you’d do this, I know that lots of people do this, but now that you know it’s wrong you are responsible to act appropriately. And if the couple who invited to you their wedding has forwarded this link on to you, I can guarantee that they don’t want you to use any photos from their wedding to promote your business.

I’ve had couples call me frustrated and stressed out because a family member used their photos without permission to promote their new photography business and they were not comfortable with this. It broke our contract and they never signed a release for their family member to use them commercially.

So I had to call this other photographer, who simply didn’t realize why it wasn’t something they should be doing, and explain.

They were incredibly gracious about it and removed the photos, but don’t make your friends or family have to deal with this later on. I don’t fault that other person as they simply didn’t know, but it was awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved.

“I am disappointed/bitter/angry/frustrated that they didn’t hire me to shoot the wedding”

I’m not going to say that this isn’t difficult. It’s especially hard if they didn’t hire you because they couldn’t afford you and you know you’re a better photographer than the one they hired.

But it’s not okay to try to prove to them that your photos are better. You’re simply taking photos to make your own ego feel better which is incredibly selfish.

You may be tempted to “save the day” later on when they see how bad the hired photographer’s photos are and how great yours are, but this is a very easy way for you to justify getting in the way of the hired photographer so for the most part I’d say to put the camera down.

“The couple asked me to take some photos because their Mom hired a photographer friend that they don’t think will do a good job”

This is really hard, and I’m sure there’s a range of varying opinions about how to handle it (in fact, feel free to leave one in the comments below).

In all honesty, the couple needs to find some courage to talk to Mom and explain their concerns. Best case scenario would be for them to break their contract with the other photographer and hire you to shoot it instead if this was really a true concern.

While I realize that this probably won’t happen, you’ll need to think about how you feel about the situation. You could respond that you’re not comfortable doing it (and explain why).

If I were asked to do this, I’d probably tell them that I would take a few photos from my spot as a guest, but that I couldn’t promise anything unless they wanted to hire us as the main photographer and explain that I’m not comfortable doing so otherwise with a different primary photographer there.


Photo credit: BCreative Tulsa

1. During the ceremony, stay in your seat.

Do not stand up to take a photo while everyone else is sitting down.

Do not go in the aisle (even the side aisles).

By all means do not go onto the altar and ask the bridesmaids to move over a bit so you can get a clear shot of the bride and groom. (True story – I’ve seen this happen and it is NOT okay. I was mortified and in shock that they had such nerve.)

If you can’t get a clear shot, then simply enjoy the ceremony and buy one later from the main photographer.

2. Turn the sound off on your camera. The “beep” made by the camera is distracting and rude, especially since on most cameras it can be turned off. If it can’t, don’t use it during the ceremony.

3. Do not shoot over the photographer’s shoulder. Don’t ask the photographer to move so you can get your shot.

4. Ask the photographer what their policy is on taking group photos while they are doing the formals. Some photographers allow you to shoot while they are shooting as long as you are not asking people to look at you instead of looking at the paid photographer. There’s nothing worse than to have a group photo of 8 people but to have the mother of the bride looking at a different camera. Not cool, so if they say not to take photos, then don’t.

5. If taking photos of the groups is allowed, do not ask the group to stay there longer or suggest adding another person to the group or rearranging the group. There’s a limited amount of time to take photos, and the photographer has already worked the groups out ahead of time with the couple, so don’t make them late or annoy them by taking up this time.

6. Do not suggest shots or poses to the photographer. No, putting the groom up against a wall and having the bride frisk him is NOT an “awesome” photo, and no I do not have time to take it (another true story).

7. Don’t ask the photographer for tips. In fact, I’d go so far as to not even tell the photographer you’re a photographer during the wedding. If you’d like to network, simply ask for a card and contact them later instead.

8. Do not go with the wedding party to take wedding party photos and portraits of the bride and groom. Ever. If you’re in the wedding party, leave your camera on the party bus!

9. Don’t ever forget that you’re there to enjoy the wedding and celebrate with the couple, not primarily to take great photos. Put the camera down, talk to the friends and family you haven’t seen in ages, and just enjoy life without a camera in front of you. Trust me, it’ll be okay.”



Good Ol’ San Francisco

When it comes to places to visit and shoot in San Francisco, the options are plenty. Whether it’s the major landmarks or hidden gems, there’s a spot unique to everyone’s taste when it comes to photos. Below are a few of places to consider:

One of the most photographed tourist spot in San Francisco. When choosing this location, keep in mind that weekends will be very busy.

If abandoned old prisons is your nitch, this might be a spot for you. You’ll have to reserve your ferry trip out to Alcatraz early, meaning you will not be able to reserve a ride if you try and make your reservation when you are already here for your visit. Also we’d recommend making a reservation for a mid to late afternoon visit. This will give you an opportunity to shoot the prison during the day and after dark. The prison feels even spookier after dark and we would be able to get some great vista shots of San Francisco from the island.

One of San Francisco’s greatest vistas to shoot in the world.

Think Greek pillars.

This includes the SF MOMA, the De Young, the Asian Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, as well as a great vintage arcade game musuem called Musee Mecanique in Fisherman’s Wharf.

There are are plethora of hotels in SF that are bound to fit your taste. Do a google search with keywords to see what fits your needs. Some hotels we recommend are The Fairmont, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Petite Auberg, The Clift Hotel, The Mosser, etc. Also, the Financial District Hilton on Kearny has the best views of Coit Tower in the city. The Hyatt Grand Regency has the most amazing modern interiors in the world of architecture.

Grant, Stockton, and Powell allows you to see some of the great neighborhood culture. There are lots of neon signs on Broadway as well as great views in Washington Square Park of St. Peter and Paul church as well as beautiful views up at the top of Coit Tower.

Both neighborhoods are rich with street art. There are lots of funky stores and art galleries as well.With regards to the Mission District, we would recommend around Mission and 24th Streets. Especially pay attention to all of the little alleys shooting off of 24th Street and Mission itself. This is where you will find some of the best street art in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s architectural high points with unrestricted access to most of the floors of the building. you can get several great vantage points to shoot the interior of the building.

A mecca for foodies if you love food.Good views from the second floor.



The Mechanics Institute Library, located at 57 Post Street in San Francisco, is the oldest library on the West Coast. It was started in 1854. Inside this spectacular library is a stunning spiral staircase definitely worth exploring.

This includes Ocean Beach, China Beach, etc. Remember to bring flip flops and a jacket as the beaches in San Francisco are usually cold.


What’s your style?

Not all wedding photography is created equal. Every couple has their own preferences. Which is your style?


This style is also known as “formal” photography which includes traditional portraits of the bride and groom, the wedding party, and family groupings, not to mention semistaged portraits such as the first kiss, dances, toast, etc.


Relaxed and informal are the ingredients to capturing a wedding’s real, spontaneous moments. There is no “directing” of guests to pose a certain way making the images truly candid. This doesn’t mean we won’t take the posed family pictures you ask for – it just won’t be the bulk of the images shot that day.


Also referred to as “fine art photography,” this style encompasses everything from dramatic lighting, unusual camera angles, and interesting composition. These images aren’t your typical straightforward interpretations of emotions, but rather the kind of creative photography you might discover in a gallery wall or magazine.

Featured: Interview with 7×7 Magazine

When it comes to wedding photography, Vivian Sachs likes to get in on the ground floor, as in the engagement photo session. But these days, engagement photos—the pictures couples commission to announce the big event—have the rep for being outdated and somewhat tacky. Sachs, who specializes in pre-wedding photography that’s more sweet than saccharine, believes it’s time to take a new look at the old tradition.

Recently, 7×7 asked to interview us for our top 10 tips for the perfect engagement photos. We gladly spoke!

View the article here!

Baby Love

Maternity portraits should generally be taken around the 7th or 8th month. During this time, the belly is at its optimum size and prime for portrait purposes. The belly may be too small earlier than 7-8 months.

Preparing for the Shoot:
1. Several hours before your pregnancy or maternity photo shoot, you should take off anything that has tight elastic like slacks with tight waistbands and undergarments or bras, or even socks, in order to make sure elastic or strap marks are not left on your skin. Do not use lotion on your belly, especially the kind to help reduce stretch marks on the day of your session. Lotion will make your belly shiny and will not photograph well.

2. Tops should be form fitting, especially around the bustline. Oversized shirts will not show the form of your belly and will defeat the whole purpose of the portraits. Bring something to cover the breasts, but expose the belly. You will probably want to bring a pair of heels even though most images will be barefoot. It is a good idea to bring a pretty undergarments, even if your photographer is planning to use fabric to wrap you. Bringing a robe is a good idea to throw on in between poses. If you have large breasts, make sure you bring a skin colored bra, (nude or peach or cocoa depending), that preferably is either strapless or has removable straps. You’ll be wearing the bra underneath the fabric draping and this will help give you the best sillouette.

3. Hands will most likely show, so don’t forget to have a manicure and a pedicure too. Face powder is always a good idea to eliminate shiny spots. Face blotters work well to absorb facial oil without messing up your makeup. You can get face blotters at the beauty supply, your makeup counter or even Victoria’s Secret. Moisturize your elbows and knees otherwise they’ll often show lighter colored because of rough dry flakey skin in those areas but please don’t use glittery lotion, it doesn’t photograph well. Don’t wear makeup with SPF because SPF has a reflective quality when photographed.

4. Limit jewelry to essential pieces – too much jewelry can be distracting and may dominate the portrait.

5. Manicure – the hands are very important in maternity photos as they may convey feelings of embrace

6. Props – props like baby shoes, alphabet blocks, etc. add a little fun and variety to the shoot.