Inspiring Illusions

Danny Ray is a Christian Illusionist sharing God’s transforming message through captivating illusions. But he’s so much more than that to my husband and I. Danny isn’t just a friend; he’s family. No-not by blood; well, that’s not true-there was some blood shed on the cross by a man that saved us many years ago…and that makes us part of the family of God.

I’ve known him and his (at the time; soon to be) wife Kim for well over 20 years now. I bet you can’t guess that we met at church. ūüôā At the time we were youth leaders. After they married, they moved to Colorado where he attended seminary. It wasn’t until they moved back that I started to truly bond with them. We worked together with the youth, and eventually Danny became the youth and college pastor at our church. Several years later he took the chance to follow the calling that was put on his heart to reach out to many people that he couldn’t necessarily reach through a church setting.

In 2003, Danny left his position with the church to start a ministry that shares the gospel with people all over the world in a very unique way: through illusions! What started as a hobby for Danny as a young child; as he performed magic tricks at a local restaurant, has now become a passion that touches the lives of thousands of youth and adults alike. Danny creates moments of astonishment with captivating messages that still completely blow my mind! He used to call me to come see his new illusions because he said I had the best reaction. That was until he met my husband-yeah, I’ve got nothing on him!

When I met the love of my life, Danny Kim were one of the first people in my life that I introduced him to. In 2010, Danny performed our wedding ceremony on a beautiful day at Corona Del Mar Beach. To say that this guy is a huge part of our lives in an understatement. I was beyond thrilled when he asked me to shoot his recent head shots. But these photos were much more than just head shots or photos for a business portfolio. I mean, c’mon, he’s an illusionist!

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We spent a good 4 hours, with a total of 6 people on this fun photo session. Danny is definitely one of those creative genius types who has grandiose ideas. Some of which are totally fun and had me excited or even laughing (and all of us working hard). And some of them, well they just didn’t make the final cut! Now remember, I cannot reveal a magician’s secrets-so don’t even ask how we did these amazing photos! I could tell you, but then…well I’d have to kill you-and I just don’t want that on my conscience!

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We had such a blast working with Danny again-and it was worth all of the effort to see how pleased he was with the final images. I feel like I put even more pressure on myself when my client is someone that I’m close to. Don’t get me wrong, I work just as hard for clients that I don’t know, and I want nothing more than for every person I photograph to walk away loving their photos (and the experience). But I don’t see most of my clients on a weekly basis-where if they weren’t happy with their photos, they don’t really have the chance to give me the stink eye…haha!

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After I finished the edits on these photos, Danny got the call to perform once again at the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. He was so jazzed that now he has updated photos to use. Surprise-he’s performing the week of Halloween and the images needed to be themed…and they needed them within a week! No problem! Thankfully we were able to get some fun images that work for the theme!

If you are curious what this get-up is all about, you will have to come check out Danny Ray when he performs at the Magic Castle. That is, if you know someone who can get you in! It’s very exclusive! But don’t worry, he has performances all over the country. Actually, he’s performed in multiple different countries as well. You can find out more about Danny Ray, where he performs and even purchase a copy of his amazing book Magnificent Mark¬†here.

I can’t wait to work with this guy again in the future. But for now, I think I’ll just stick to babies! ūüôā

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There with you from the start…

I’ve always loved when I’m able to see something all the way through. You know what I mean, right? Like when I was working with troubled youth years ago, and I wonder how they’re doing now when they pop up on Facebook happily married with a beautiful family! Or when you start a project at a former job, and you still see the fruit of it growing in the community today. Or when you pray for something/someone and that prayer is finally answered. Maybe that’s just me…but I love to see the follow through.

It’s kind of how I feel about some of my clients who have¬†come full circle with me. I met Nick and Erika in October of 2014. Erika’s mom used to work with me on the State Campaign while I worked at United Way. We had a blast talking about Dancing with the Stars, and kept in touch through Facebook. I was very excited when she contacted me about her daughter’s engagement! I took their engagement photos at Ford Park in Redlands and that’s where it all began!

After our session, I mentioned to Erika that I would love to work with them again…I was very fortunate to do so in Spring of 2015 for their beautiful wedding held at Edward’s Mansion in Redlands. It was my honor to be a part of their special day and I still think of their group portraits as some of my favorite wedding memories ever!

You can probably imagine what comes next, right? Yes, they adopted an adorable dog named Irwin! ūüôā Well, then¬†I was over the moon excited to hear the news in 2016 that¬†they were expecting a baby girl! Erika booked me for her maternity session for this past January and she had the brilliant idea to go back to where it all began…Ford Park! I can already see future family sessions in the plans…with Irwin too! Of course we had to capture some images of them on the same bench where the ring shot was taken. I think we all got a bit emotional over that (ok, maybe just Erika and I).

Little Ava sure took her sweet time gracing us with her presence, but when she finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to get her in my studio in all of her cuteness! She was such a sweetie-giving us smile after smile, and even Grandma joined in on the fun during her session-giving us 3 generations of women.

I’m so blessed by being able to capture the special memories of this wonderful family and I look forward to doing so for many more years (and maybe even many more babies) to come! Thank you for bringing me along for the ride! Welcome to the family Ava!

10 Tips to Improve Phone Photos

I occasionally run into people who ask me what kind of camera I use, how much it costs (yes, they actually ask that), or comment on how they could take amazing photos if they had a camera as nice as mine! I usually laugh, because it’s not the camera that takes the photo, it’s the person using it. And although my images taken with my Canon 5d Mark iii are much better than when I used a point and shoot camera, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take fabulous photos with something you already own!

Since I can’t follow you around every day, capturing those special moments that may happen (and you can’t afford to hire a photographer on a daily basis) I wanted to draw your attention to a piece of equipment¬†that most of you have already. This device that has become somewhat of a permanent attachment to most of our hands, can actually take some pretty awesome photos as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. Of course you all know what I’m talking about…your smart phone! I currently have the iPhone 6S, and though I will be sharing a few tips that are specific to the iPhone, all smart phones can do just about the same thing (you just need to modify).

#1 Lighting is key!¬†Lighting is very important no matter what equipment you are using. It’s vital that your subject is well lit so the focus is on them. When using a camera on your phone, try to make sure that your subject isn’t back-lit.¬†This means that the sun/source of light should not come from behind your subject. If you want to take a picture of someone in front of the sunset, even if you turn the flash on, your subject will be too dark. Instead, angle your subject so that the light is coming from behind your head-or at least from the side (if it’s a selfie, the light should be in front of you). These pictures show exactly what I mean. The first one, you can see the sunset, but not me. The 2nd is turned just slightly so that the light shows on our faces (excuse our day at the pool attire).

#2 Keep your hand steady! Sadly, a lot of the photos I see on Social Media are blurry. The most common reason for this is that the camera was moved during the process of taking the photo. Try to keep your hand steady when you push that button. Get a kickstand and use the timer if you’re just too heavy handed. The 2nd most common reason for picture blur is that your subject is moving. This is hard to prevent using a phone, but you can try to lessen blur by following your subject with the phone and snapping your picture in the process. It won’t always help it, so chances are, moving kiddos will be blurry. This is an example of what happens when your subject and your camera are moving! ūüôā

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#3 Flash is not always your friend! Most of us have cases on our phones which actually makes the flash bounce off of the case and pretty much ruins your image. Other times the flash makes your subject have yellow skin (or very pale skin) and red eyes. As a rule, I tend to not use the flash on my phone unless I’m doing a selfie after dark. Some phones do not have this option, but the iPhone 6 & up do-and it’s fantastic for most dark situations. This was taken on vacation after dinner and it brightened our faces and even showed the lighting around the pool in the background.

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#4 Get close to your subject! Using the zoom feature on your phone camera will not always produce the best results. In fact, just don’t do it unless absolutely necessary! It’s almost always better to crop after taking the photo then using the zoom. If you want a photo of an actual person or animal, get up close to them-fill that viewfinder! If you use the zoom feature, chances are high that your image will be grainy and you just won’t like the results. Trust me on this.

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#5 Edit, don’t filter! The big fad lately is using filters on photos…Don’t do it! A filter is obvious and changes the look of the entire photo. Instead, go into the editing tool and bump up the shadows (if too dark), lower the highlights (if too bright), and play with the saturation and hue of an image until you get it just right. Your image will look great and no one will know that you edited it. If you use a filter, like I did on these, they will know. HAHA!

#6 Angle matters!¬†The angle of your vantage point is important. Do not shoot from the ground up unless you are doing so in an artistic way. Women especially, will not like photos of themselves from this angle. If at all possible, raise yourself slightly above your subject for the most flattering shot. Most young ladies have perfected this angle with the selfie. They have figured out that when you hold the camera up, it gives a more flattering viewpoint. But take care not to hold the phone up too high, as this just makes the subject look awkward. I’ve seen this with selfies the most. Trust me, we don’t want to see the top of your head-we prefer to see your eyes and lovely smile!

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#7 Keep your lens clean! Because we take our phones everywhere (yes, even there), it’s important to keep them clean. This is especially true for the lens of your camera. It’s very easy to get food or dirt on the lens, so I clean mine every few days (when on vacation, I needed to clean it almost daily). You don’t want to find out after it’s too late that a crumb or a fingerprint ruined the photo of your Aunt Betsy doing a hand stand!

#8 Focus on the subject! Your subject is the person or thing that you are photographing. Sometimes your subject is a baby, your pet, or even a mountain. Regardless of your subject, you want it to be the most interesting point of the photo (you want the eyes to go directly to your subject)-so it’s important to make sure that your focus is clear. Some¬†phones are different, but for the iPhone you just need to touch the screen in order to make it focus on a certain part of the image. This also brings up a tool to brighten the image before capturing it.¬†Using Depth of Field in my camera can give that blurry background effect, which puts focus on your subject. The iPhone 7 portrait mode can actually help create this effect-but be careful, as it’s not 100% accurate and can blur out things you want to be clear. But it’s a fun new feature. And your subject does not have to be centered-in fact it’s often best not to center your subject. Can you tell the subject in these images?

 

#9 Be creative! Although there are many rules in photography, it is artwork, so those rules can be broken. Making sure your subject is in focus shouldn’t be a rule that you break, but ¬†changing your perspective to look from the ground up to capture something artistic can rock! Look for repetitive patterns in things, don’t be afraid of empty space, use symmetry, capture small details, play with reflections, and most importantly, have fun!

#10 Put your phone away! This is the best tip I can give you. Though pictures are important, I mean come on, I’m a photographer; living and enjoying life is much more valuable than anything on your phone. That food tastes much better than it looks, so put the phone down, eat the food, and chat with your friend/spouse/child! Enjoy life, my friends. It’s fleeting. With that being said, get off your phone…this blog post is toast! ūüôā

I want the dress, but not the price-tag!

A young lady was shopping and saw a beautifully crocheted dress that she loved. She asked the dressmaker¬†how much it would cost to have her make her a dress like it. When the dressmaker told her that it was XXX amount, the lady was shocked- how could a simple dress cost her so much? She proceeded to tell her that she charged too much. The dressmaker asked her “Then what do you think I should charge?” The young lady replied that it should be X amount because the yarn only costs such & such amount, buttons this much, ribbons this amount and scissors only cost this much. Even though this amount was much less than she normally charged for such a nice dress, the dressmaker agreed on the client’s amount, took her money and a few days later a beautiful package arrived on her doorstep. The young lady opened the package expecting to find her beautiful dress and instead found yarn, buttons, ribbon and a pair of scissors. The young lady went back to the store with her box of items and yelled at the dressmaker “How could you do this to me? I asked you for a dress & you sent me yarn, ribbons & buttons?” The dressmaker looked back at the young lady & said “My dear, you got exactly what you paid for. If you want me to actually make you the dress, that comes at a much higher cost”

Why am I sharing this story about a dress on my photography blog? That’s a great question! The answer is simple- we get what we pay for. As a business owner, I often get inquiries from people who¬†do not become clients because they feel that I charge too much. The problem is that most people do not realize just how much goes in to something that is custom made; whether it be a dress or a family portrait. Also, with a camera in every phone these days, most people don’t realize that it’s not the camera/equipment that creates the gorgeous photos, it’s the talent of the photographer. A pair of scissors doesn’t make you a seamstress any more than a nice camera makes you a professional photographer.

So many times I have gone out & purchased the cheap shoes because I don’t want to pay extra for the good quality ones. My husband used to give me such a hard time about my shoes. I used to shop at Payless relentlessly. And guess what? I always complained that my feet hurt! The shoes I bought at Payless always fell apart on me. So, I would end up buying more shoes anyway-spending the same (if not more) money than I would have if I had just went with the quality shoes in the first place (don’t tell my husband that he was right)! ¬†Once I bought my first pair of shoes that cost me over $100 [gasp!] I knew exactly what the difference was: quality! My feet now thank me-and my husband!

There’s a lesson in these stories. You get what you pay for. I know that custom photography is not for everyone; people place their value in different things. Some people are the first in line when a new iPhone comes out and don’t even blink at spending hundreds on a phone. For others, designer handbags are what is important. For me, I put value in the artwork that my hairstylist does so I pay her more than I ever thought I could (because I see the difference in her trained work versus what I used to do on my own). For some people, they value their memories and are willing to pay to archive them in a very special way.

I have to say that if you value photography for what it truly is: artwork; you will come to realize just how much goes in to capturing each and every one of your precious memories. And when you choose a photographer who has invested so much time into her own craft, does the research to find the best¬†professional labs that offer the finest quality prints and products for your hard-earned dollars, when you find someone who takes the time to get to know you and your family, someone who plans your fabulous custom session and presents you with beautiful artwork that you will pass down from generation to generation, you¬†won’t blink when you get your invoice. My goal is for each of you to¬†leave with a smile on your face, joy in your heart, and memories on your wall.

If you would like to invest in your family’s memories and work with someone who truly cares about your wants & needs & will do anything they can to meet your goals, contact me or anyone other full service photographer who offers¬†custom services. We would love to take care of you and your future memories to come. Happy 2017!

Then and Now!

There are only a few friends¬†in my world that¬†I’m so close to that I consider family, and this post is about one of those people! My friend Cheryl and I met when we worked together umteen years ago when her now 15 year old son Justin was just a wee boy! We instantly hit it off! I often refer to her as my sister from another mister! We have so much in common and just love each other beyond words! Over 13 years ago, her family lost their home to the “old¬†fire” in the hills of San Bernardino, and I was devastated along with her. But they rebuilt, and although those physical things are gone, the ¬†memories live on. And their little mountain community is so much stronger & closer through it all.

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Over the years we lost touch for a while-not for any reason, other than lives get busy. But when we reconnected about 5 years ago we just picked up where we left off (except that I now had a new last name & a fun hubby) and it was seriously as if no time had gone by. We are just as close as ever and I was thrilled when she finally said “We need to update our family photos!”. It had been about 13 1/2 years since they had done professional family photos-I’ll say it’s about time for an update. That once little man who I loved coloring with is all grown up with facial hair and a deeper voice! Sheesh, I feel old! ¬†This photo, which sits on my shelf in a little frame, was their last professional family portraits done.

I was beyond¬†excited to be able to capture these images of this family that I truly adore! We met up at Oak Glen, which is gorgeous this time of year with the fall colors (we don’t get a lot of that around here). Of course, it’s always busy in Oak Glen when the leaves change, because there’s apple picking, live music, pumpkins, and of course amazing food! Parking is always packed & it’s tough to get photos without random people in your background. But it’s well worth the effort!

Portraits are not usually a favorite activity for men of any age-that includes teens. So, as we walked around to different spots, I’m sure that the guys were thinking “Aren’t we done yet?” However, as I was heading to a little pond area, Justin pointed out this great brick wall which was a perfect location for their photos! He has a great eye and it was awesome to have something different from the rustic leaves and bridge images. ¬†Thanks buddy! Overall, we had a lovely day-topped off by a lunch at Apple Annie’s where a beautiful peacock greeted us at the window.

Cheryl was so much in love with her final images that she placed a large¬†print order which included this beautiful 30 x 40 mounted print for her stairwell. This is actually the largest print that I’ve sold as most people are afraid that something this big would be overkill in their home. That couldn’t be further from the truth! My husband and I have a pretty small home with mostly small walls, and even I am planning on ordering a big canvas of our recent photo session for our dining room wall. Pictures are very important for families. Surrounding yourselves with family portraits is actually proven to promote self esteem and feelings of worth in your children. It’s so important to print your images-which is why I really encourage my clients to print & to go big!

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I’m so excited for Cheryl’s new collection of personalized wall art for her home, and I hope she doesn’t wait another 13 years before they have their portraits done again! Nah-I wouldn’t let her! Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy this wonderful time of year with the ones you love! God bless!

From the beginning…

I absolutely love babies! Of course that’s¬†the reason why I now specialize in¬†newborn photography. I was recently asked if I was interested in specializing in pet photography. I’m sure there’s a lot of work in this genre, as so many people love their pets (especially their dogs). But babies don’t bark, they don’t shed, and they don’t usually bite (but even if they do-their gums wouldn’t hurt as much). However, they do cry. pee and poop at the most inopportune moments. That being said, I still enjoy photographing babies much more than I do dogs!

Earlier this year I decided to try out something new: birth photography. This entire aspect was foreign to me because not only have I never photographed a live birth, I’ve never even given birth myself. Once I hired my first birth, my friend joked that I was going to faint in the hospital room. Sure, I was nervous to witness my first birth; I’ve never been great around blood & other bodily fluids. But I knew that once I got behind the lens, my game face would be on! I also learned so much from veteran¬†birth photographers in local groups that I had joined. I was so ready for this birth!

The way birth photography works is that the photographer is basically on call for 2 weeks before the due date until 2 weeks after the due date. Mom needs to let me know when she has any symptoms of labor and then I head to the hospital/birth center once they are dilated to a 6. Of course, other circumstances could change this-but that’s the general idea. Once at the hospital, we could be waiting for hours for the baby to be born. Being prepared with water, snacks, extra batteries & even a blanket is vital. For this reason, birth photography is much more expensive than a traditional newborn session. But it is well worth it for those who want to document this amazing experience.

This first mom was past due, but she kept in contact with me the entire time. She checked in to the hospital on Saturday morning so I cancelled my plans for the weekend & stayed close to home with my gear ready. By 10 pm Sunday night she still wasn’t at 6 cm so it looked like another long night. However, the nurse didn’t check her for a while. Around 1 am I got a text from the dad saying she was at 10 cm! Holy cow-I got dressed faster than ever & was on my way to Redlands Community Hospital-praying no cops were around! Unfortunately, I arrived as she was giving birth and the nurses would not let me in. It was such a bummer to miss my first birth, but thankfully I was able to do a Fresh 48 which is a photo session within the baby’s first 48 hours of life. This session can be planned for or it can be in lieu of a birth session for any reason such as complications during child birth (which Dr’s won’t allow to be photographed).

Fast forward a few months and I find out that my closest friend’s little sister is pregnant with her third child (yes-that made me feel old). I’ve known this young mom since she was a little girl! She planned on doing a home birth this time, and since she lived 5 minutes from me, I figured this would be an ideal scenario for my first actual live birth session. Her two daughters came early and fairly quick so she expected her son to do the same. Isn’t it just like a guy to come in his own timing! She had a few contractions one night, but then nothing for a week! Mom was so ready for her son to be born, and I was on call-checking in with her daily. The morning after her due date she texted me and said she thinks she’s in labor but not to hurry-that she would keep in touch. I got up and got dressed then she texted that I should come soon as it was getting close. I rushed over to her house to find family there and the midwife coaching mom in the bathtub.

This brave mom was not only giving birth in her bathtub at home, but she was doing it without any pain meds. Like I said, I’ve never given birth, but after a recent gallbladder attack that ended up with emergency surgery-I’m told that what I was feeling is similar to the pains of childbirth. I never want to go through that again-well, not without an epidural!

I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for baby James to enter this world. I thought we had a long day ahead of us, but after a few minutes, I could tell that something was about to happen. So I took my camera in the dark bathroom and was amazed at how quickly this miracle progressed. I was able to capture baby James entering this world and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced! Such a beautiful, yet physically painful time for mother and child (and dad too- as mom crushed his hand-oops).

I knew immediately that this would be something that I would offer to future clients. Going into this experience, I didn’t really know if I wanted to be on call for so long. It’s very stressful and can cause issues with scheduling newborn clients (in fact this particular birth caused a reschedule with another client-but everything worked out). But it was absolutely worth it to be able to capture these precious moments for this family to cherish for a lifetime.

This birth was so quick, and the midwife handled everything so well (being that she was not the scheduled midwife-they had several births going on at the same time-can you imagine?). I loved working with the midwife and her crew. Giving birth in your home is such a warm experience-where the mom is comfortable and safe. Right after the birth, mom and baby walked right over to their own bed.

After the umbilical chord was cut, mom was sewn up, and everyone was settled, they weighed & measured baby James. Such sweet moments when his big sisters got to watch everything. The midwife even gave us all a tour of the placenta, which was extremely educational. Things like this are not part of the hospital birth experience. If you’re reading this and considering doing a home birth, this family and I both highly recommend it. Some people think it’s unsafe, but these are highly trained professionals who know what to do and handled everything brilliantly.

I was truly blessed to be a part of this amazing experience-and for it to be my very first live birth was like a dream come true! If you are interested in documenting your child’s birth story, whether it’s your first or fourth child, whether it’s in a hospital or at home, I would love to¬†chat with you! Let’s create¬†a¬†unique photographic experience with you and baby in mind.

Bald is Beautiful

Let me introduce you to¬†my friend Carrie. She’s bald now, but she’s bald by choice. Some of the children that Carrie works with are bald, but by no choice of their own. Carrie has worked for St Baldrick’s Foundation for almost 6 years now, raising funds to help children who are fighting cancer . St Baldrick’s exists to fund research and create funding priorities that make the greatest impact to children with cancer. When I read the statistics, I just couldn’t believe that over 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year! That number is just so much bigger than I could’ve ever imagined.

Last month my husband and I attended St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event in LA and it was such a beautiful thing to be a part of. Carrie chose to shave her beautiful blonde hair off because she has spent every day reading stories of why others shave their hair in honor of a child with cancer. Carrie shares;¬†“Since I have two small children of my own, I think about these honored children and what their whole families go through to fight cancer. I cannot imagine what I would do or how I would handle hearing my child has cancer. I decided to shave because it makes me feel like I am doing something to help these families, to advance research, and to keep me from crying every time I read a sad story about a child and their families suffering with cancer.”

I used to work with Carrie at an organization that helped those less fortunate than us and she specifically worked in programs that helped children. She’s always worked with children in one way or another, so it was not surprising that she chose to work at St. Baldrick’s. When I asked her why she chose this organization to work for, she told me this story from childhood; “Growing up, there was a young boy named Danny who had cancer and he was very sick. He would come out to play sometimes, but many times, his sister would come play with me and my sister without her brother. I believe he was only 6 when he passed away. I was maybe one or two years older than him. I remember how his death impacted my mother, even though I really didn’t understand completely what had happened to him.

Carrie’s heart for children and ultimately children who are fighting this horrible disease, led her to do an amazing thing to help even more. Carrie personally raised over $5,500 for the head-shave event; making her the 2nd highest fundraiser! The event itself raised over $34,400 so far! What an amazing organization this is and what a brave friend I have. Thank you to Carrie and all of the other Shavee’s from the event who have already done so much for these precious children! And thank you for allowing me to capture some of those moments!

If you want to know more about St Baldrick’s Foundation and this event in particular, please feel free to visit the event page:¬†Click Here.