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Natural. Real. In the moment. Portrait art of Children & Families, High School Seniors, and Bar & Bat Mitzvahs. We offer a highly personalized experience from the initial planning consultation to final delivery of your custom portraits. Keep checking back often to see highlights from the latest portrait sessions and events, my real life stories, tips for taking better photos, and the latest special offers. Enjoy!

November 11, 2014
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Paula and Zack | Surprise Portrait Session
Date | 10.17.14
Location | San Ramon, CA

 

The Call

 

So I get this call from New York and I’m thinking maybe I’m finally going to fulfill my dream of photographing an East Coast Bar or Bat Mitzvah! But little did I know that the gentleman on the other end of the phone was about to give me the photography opportunity of a lifetime. Storytelling through pictures is and always has been what I love most about photography. (I think I must have been a photojournalist in a previous life.) Whether it’s a B’nai Mitzvah, a wedding, a high school senior, or families and kids, I’m always looking for the backstories, and this gentleman had one of the best I’ve ever had the honor of telling.

The gentleman proceeded to tell me that he was flying out to California to bring the love of his life back to New York with him, and he wanted to surprise her on her last day of work. He asked me if I was familiar with the last scene in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman”. Well, duh, who from my generation doesn’t know that scene! Richard Gere playing the role of Zack Mayo, after graduating from the military academy against all odds, shows up in his whites at the factory where his girlfriend Paula works. He scoops her up in his arms, places his hat on her head, and carries her off into the sunset. One of the best movie scenes ever, right? So when this real-life Officer and a Gentleman asked if I’d be willing to capture the moment when he re-enacts this scene with his girlfriend, I could hardly contain myself! He told me his girlfriend works at the elementary school down the street from my house. That’s how he found me on the internet (isn’t Google awesome!). So for the purposes of this Blog, the Gentleman shall be known as Zack, and his lady, Paula.

We talked about all the details of the shoot, and I was already strategizing about how I was going to capture that special moment in all of about 30 seconds. No pressure! The plan was to wait down the street from the school until about 12:15pm, follow Zack into the school, and then into Paula’s classroom for the big surprise. I would then follow him as he carried her out of the school and walked down the street. For all you photographers (and photo enthusiasts), keep in mind that I was going into the classroom completely blind, no idea on white balance, lighting, etc…, and then going right into shooting outside at high noon. I decided to carry 2 cameras, one with a wider angle lens for the classroom, and one with a long telephoto lens for outside, both with flash at the ready.

 

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While we were waiting down the street for the big moment, I decided to capture some portraits of Zack by himself as he was looking so sharp in his uniform. It was at this time that he shared his very special story with me and I can’t tell you how close I came to breaking down in tears…

 

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The Story

 

Zack and Paula first dated in high school. Then, they each went their separate ways, and he joined the navy. They ended up marrying other people, having kids and living separate lives. As is so common, especially in my generation, they married young and as the years went on, grew apart from their spouses. They reconnected at a high school reunion and began communicating more regularly when they realized how much they enjoyed being with each other, and that they had a very special connection. Fast forward 5 years after trying to have a bi-coastal relationship, they finally decided that they did not want to spend another minute apart. Paula gave her notice at work, packed up her house, and prepared to move back to New York.

 

 

The Big Moment

 

I love surprises, but I tend to get caught up in the same emotions that my clients are experiencing, so the challenge for me was to stay focused on getting the shots. Not an easy task! We walked into the classroom and this is what I saw through my camera…

 

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It all happened SO fast, and Zack was obviously VERY excited as he booked out of that classroom SO fast I had to run to catch up (while shooting!). Sometimes these things don’t always go as planned. Zack hoped this would be a very private moment, but we didn’t realize it was a Minimum Day – the whole school was out at 12:15! Parents were everywhere picking up their kids. Kids watching knew something great was happening, but they had no idea what. As a result, we had a curious audience watching all of this unfold. I really love the shots that show their reactions because they help to tell the story. Can’t you just hear them saying, “Awwwww”?

 

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After…

 

After the big moment, I introduced myself to Paula. I’m sure she was probably wondering the whole time who this crazy lady was chasing her down the street taking pictures. I decided to do a few quick portraits of Zack and Paula at the same spot I used earlier for Zack’s portraits. I just let them be in the moment and the results were exactly what I hoped for. Every time I look at these pictures, I feel the love and the passion these two have for each other.

 

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I feel so honored that I got to be the one to capture this very special time in the life of a true Officer and a Gentleman. A turning point in both their lives for sure. Zack and Paula, I hope you will look back on these pictures years from now, and remember this moment like it was yesterday. Thank you Zack for finding me on Google. Thank you Paula for being so lovely. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness together in New York.

 

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Photography
I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Portrait Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in
portrait photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area portrait photographers. Each family and each story is one of a kind, and I feel your portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together your story.

Service Area Information
Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Portrait Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Portait Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for all your special event photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

July 8, 2014
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filed under: Families & Kids

Svetlana, Douglas, Sarah, Rebecca, Joshua, Benjamin | Family Portraits
Date | 4.13.14
Location | Hap Magee Ranch Park, Alamo, CA

 

What Makes a Family Portrait Truly Unique?

 

We’ve all seen them – beautiful portraits of families all dressed in matching blue jeans and white shirts. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But what if you want something a little different. Something that will remind you years later what your kids were like at this age, and how you all related to each other. That’s what custom portraits are all about.

One of the first questions I ask my clients when planning their family portrait session is, “What are your kids into right now?”. If I can find a way to incorporate each child’s “thing” into your session, we are guaranteed to come away with a great collection of natural-looking, truly custom portraits. And just the fact that they’re doing what makes them happy creates a fun session for everyone.

 

Svetlana’s Family Portrait Session

 

When Svetlana contacted me about doing family portraits with her four kids, we talked a lot about how to make the session relaxed and fun. The kids were all spread out in age, each with different interests and personalities. We decided to go to Hap Magee Ranch Park in Alamo, CA since it not only has a variety of environments to choose from, it has a great playground for the kids to look forward to at the end of the session.

We started with individual portraits of each of the kids. Here is Sarah.

 

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Sarah is an artist who loves to sketch, so I thought it would be fun to place her in this tranquil forest-like setting and have her do her thing – sketch. I just love the feel of these images.

 

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And this is Rebecca.

 

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She brought a little surprise guest…  meet Dinah the Bearded Dragon. I’ve done lots of family portraits with pets, but this was a first for me! (And no, I’m not a big fan of reptiles, but I have to admit she kind of grew on me.)

 

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Rebecca also loves gardening, so we used this cool sign in the park’s own garden.

 

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And this is Joshua. He’s into reading books, but forgot to bring one. Hey, it happens. So the challenge for me was to get him comfortable in front of the camera without any added props. I asked lots of questions about his favorite things, and soon his personality came through.

 

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And this is little Benjamin…

 

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Ben LOVES his trucks and brought a very special red one just for his portraits. At first he was a little shy and decided it would be fun to hide it from me, but as soon as I told him how much I loved trucks too, he just had to show me.

 

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… and it stayed with him for the entire shoot!

 

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Of course, we had to get portraits of the entire family together. The first thing you’ll notice is they are not all wearing the same thing. Mom decided to color-coordinate their outfits, but she didn’t stress over getting it perfect. Definitely not “matchy-matchy”, kids were all comfortable, and it worked!

 

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I also wanted to create pictures of smaller family groupings to add variety (mom with the girls, dad with the boys, mom & dad, etc…) I could definitely feel the love in this family and that’s what I wanted to capture.

 

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In the end, we created a unique set of portraits that captured everyone’s personality perfectly! It’s my wish that as the kids grow older, the family will look back on these portraits fondly, and remember what they were like at this time in their lives. Thank you Svetlana, Douglas, Sarah, Rebecca, Joshua, and Ben, (and Dinah) for allowing me to document your family’s love so beautifully.

 

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s Photography
I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in
Family photography and Children’s photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s photographers. Each family is one of a kind, and I feel your Family portraits and Children’s portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every Family portrait session and every Children’s portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your family.

Service Area Information
Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Family and Children’s Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Family and Children’s Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your custom high school senior photography and all your special event photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

June 18, 2014
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Yep, today’s the day – my first “post-50th” birthday. Funny how birthdays take on a whole new meaning after 50. Instead of thinking about what to wear to the party, I think about how grateful I am to still be here so I can go to the party! Seriously, I can’t believe how many friends my age have passed or are fighting the health battles of their lives. Having had a couple of health scares myself this year, I’ve grown to appreciate every moment I’m here on this planet!

Since I just returned from photographing the first ever Chelsea’s Hope Lafora Research Symposium in La Jolla, CA, this birthday carries even more meaning as I reconnected with several families whose children have lost everything to this horrible disease. The pain these families have endured is indescribable. I had the honor of photographing many of them for the first Chelsea’s Hope Fundraiser back in 2009, and it’s been heartbreaking to watch their decline ever since. Several have passed away. This is a disease with no cure.

 

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Chelsea and her mom Linda Aug. 2009

 

Thankfully, an incredible team of researchers have put the “Hope” back into Chelsea’s Hope with groundbreaking discoveries that will eventually lead to a cure. Because it is so rare, Lafora is considered an “orphan” disease, so little or no funding is given. I’m proud to say that Chelsea’s Hope has raised an incredible amount of funds over the last few years, but it’s still not enough.

 

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Chelsea Feb. 2009

 

My Birthday Wish

My birthday wish is for you to find it in your heart to give a little something (or a big something) to Chelsea’s Hope Lafora Children Research Fund in honor of my 51st  birthday. Donations can be made through the website at : www.chelseashope.org .

Thank you!

Cheryl

May 7, 2014
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filed under: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Max | Bar Mitzvah
Date | 3.1.14
Service | Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA
Reception | Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA
DJ | Denon & Doyle
Decor | Balloon Thrills
Caterer | Carrie Dove Catering

 

When I met Max and his family over a year ago, one of the first things I learned was that these guys are big time University of Michigan fans… BIG time! In fact, they even had a U of M basketball court built in their own backyard. Since Max’s Bar Mitzvah was happening in March, it made total sense that his party would have a U of M basketball theme, and operation “Max Madness” was underway.

 

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For Max’s Pre-Mitzvah Portrait Session, and in keeping with the theme, we decided to do the session on the family basketball court. Max and his two little brothers were all over it, and we had a blast trying to get the perfect photo of Max’s jump shot. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to get such a great workout from a portrait session! And we got a great set of shots which we used to create Max’s Guest Book.

 

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After months of planning, the day of Max’s Bar Mitzvah finally arrived. We were a little worried about the rainy forecast, but the weather cleared just in time for us to get some amazing family portraits before the service.

 

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Then it was time for the service. I’m always looking for those candid moments that help to tell the story of the day, and just as the service was beginning, I caught Max’s dad giving him a big “You got this” smile.

 

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Another great father/son moment…

 

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And the much anticipated “Is it wine or is it grape juice? moment during the Kiddush.

 

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Max Madness Begins!

Later that evening, it was party time and Max’s March Madness Basketball Theme did not disappoint. Clients often ask me what I think of having the party back at the synagogue’s social hall. For some reason, many people feel it’s just not as classy as a country club or hotel. Well, if there ever was proof of how wrong that is, it’s Max’s party! The decor, the lighting, the catering, and the DJ turned this social hall into an amazing party venue! Here are some shots of the social hall transformation.

 

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The DJ even set up a mini court for the kids to shoot hoops.

 

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A hora first – the first time I’ve ever photographed a hora that literally went airborne! Max was actually launched off his chair and into the air during his wild ride.

 

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Some great candid moments happened during Max’s candle lighting ceremony.

 

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And this little guy decided Max needed a thumbs up right in the middle of the ceremony. It was a total grab shot as the moment happened in seconds, and it’s far from perfect, but the family loved it!

 

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More fun candids… the same little guy getting down on the dance floor.

 

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As the party was coming to a close (and NO ONE wanted this party to end), I wanted to capture an image of the party atmosphere while everyone was out on the dance floor. People often ask me how I get photographs of very dark parties that show the ambience of the venue without “lighting the whole place up”.  I use a combination of shooting in manual mode, diffused on-camera flash, a remote flash, and as in this picture, sometimes no flash at all.

 

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Max’s Bar Mitzvah day was unforgettable! Big thanks to Caryn, Andrew, Max, Zach, and Asher for allowing me to capture all the great moments with their friends and family.

 

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah Photography
I hope you enjoy this San Fransciso Bay Area Bar Mitzvah Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photographers. Each Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is one of a kind, and I feel your Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photography should be one of a kind as well. Every Bar Mitzvah and every Bat Mitzvah is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your day.

Service Area Information
Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah coverage throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your custom high school senior photography and all your family photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

March 25, 2014
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filed under: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Leo | Bar Mitzvah
Date | 2.1.2014
Service | Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA
Reception | Cal Berkeley Memorial Stadium
DJ | Denon & Doyle
Decor | Balloon Thrills
San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah Photographer | Cheryl Bigman

 

When I first met with Leo’s family about photographing his Bar Mitzvah, they told me they were hoping to have the first ever Bar Mitzvah party at Cal Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium. I always love the opportunity to shoot somewhere different, and this was definitely not going to be your typical hotel/country club venue. So many ideas were running through my head, especially when I found out we might have permission to shoot on the field before the party. This was one of those ideas…

 

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Leo’s big day began at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette with family portraits before the service. I knew my favorite outdoor spot to shoot would be under construction that day, so I scouted around earlier in the week and found a great location where I could shoot from under a shaded overhang while keeping Leo and the family beautifully backlit by the morning sun. (A little photography tip – when taking pictures of people in bright sun, face them away from the sun, try to find a darker solid background, and position yourself so your subjects are between you and the sun. Best of all, you won’t have anyone “squinting” in the pictures!)

 

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As we moved inside the sanctuary for our more traditional portraits with the Torah, I decided to grab this shot of Leo with his parents looking on in the background. Temple Isaiah has the most beautiful glass ark backlit by a very brightly colored wall of stained glass windows. As beautiful as it is, it can be tricky to get a proper exposure of both the background and the people in the foreground. I purposely shot this in Manual mode, giving me full control of my camera, and diffused the background so only Leo was in sharp focus.

 

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And then I focused on the details. I’m always looking for the little things that help to tell each family’s story in a very personal way.

 

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Using my Canon 5DMkIII pro camera mounted on a tripod, I was able to shoot Leo’s service as well. This amazing camera allows me to shoot in Live View mode just like a videographer, in low light with no flash, and silently with no shutter click sounds. Using a long telephoto lens (100-400), I was able to get up close and personal from the very back of the sanctuary.

 

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After the Kiddush lunch, it was finally time for me to head out to Berkeley and set up for the evening party. This was my first time at the newly renovated Cal Memorial Stadium’s Field Club, so I confidently walked into the elevator, not realizing that you need the “special” card key to access the Club level. No matter how many buttons I pushed, the elevator doors wouldn’t open and the elevator wouldn’t move! All I kept thinking was I’m going to be stuck inside this elevator all night (which is not a good thing if you have claustrophobic tendencies like me), and this is going to make a really funny story…  someday! I finally got a cell phone signal and called the event manager who rescued me. Whew!

 

Before the guests arrived, the family and I were escorted out to the stadium field for our own private shoot. So much fun!

 

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Then it was party time!

 

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I loved this shot of all the guests with their hands in the air, but what followed was even better…

 

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“Crowd-surfing!”

 

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One of my favorite things about the Field Club was the many LCD screens scattered throughout the space displaying Leo’s Cal-inspired logo.

 

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Later in the evening, we used the screens to play a Same Day Slideshow of all the best pictures I had taken that morning, plus a few from the beginning of the party. They also played Leo’s montage, and of course, the Cal Bears basketball game. Leo and his friends got just a little excited watching the end of the game.

 

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Out of curiosity, I ventured upstairs to see if there might be a way to shoot from a higher angle and sure enough, I found the perfect place to take some group shots of all the kids.

 

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This party was nonstop fun and Leo had the time of his life celebrating with family and friends. Thanks to Leo’s family for allowing me to capture all the great moments from his special day!

 

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Fransciso Bay Area Bar Mitzvah Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photographers. Each Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is one of a kind, and we feel your Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photography should be one of a kind as well. Every Bar Mitzvah and every Bat Mitzvah is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your day.

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah coverage throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.

Not looking for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah Photographer? Please consider us for your custom high school senior photography and all your family photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

January 15, 2014
0  Comments
filed under: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Mitzvah Season is Here!

 

Last weekend, I photographed my first Bat Mitzvah of the New Year and I am SO excited that the mitzvah season is under way! Ever since I made the decision to specialize in Bar & Bat Mitzvah photography, I’ve looked forward to January as it marks the beginning of one of my busiest and most exciting times of the year. I never get tired of shooting these wonderful events. Each service is unique, each 13-year old is unique, each party is unique, and it just never gets old. Sometimes I think I have more fun than some of the guests!

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I loved capturing Annie’s expression of pure joy at her Bat Mitzvah celebration last weekend.

It truly is a great day for family and friends to come together to celebrate a young person’s entrance into the Jewish community as an adult. Very often, this is one of the few times when family members from far away are all together at the same time. It’s a great opportunity to capture these family reunions in photographs that become treasured family keepsakes.

I am always impressed by how mature and confident some of these young people are, and how seriously they take their studies. I truly enjoy listening to their Dvar’s (speeches on their interpretation of that week’s Torah portion). Having grown up going to synagogue, having my own Bat Mitzvah, and recently having my daughter’s, I feel right at home each and every time.

As the season progresses, I will be blogging about all of my B’nai Mitzvah experiences. There’s always a great story to tell!

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December 31, 2013
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Happy New Year!

 

It’s the last day of 2013, and it’s the time of year when many of us reflect on the past 12 months and think about all of our hopes and dreams for the coming new year. Just the other day, my dad asked me this question – “When was the last time you took a vacation?”  Honestly, I could not remember! In fact, I couldn’t get that question out of my head all day. I realized that I tend to get so focused on the day-to-day tasks of my photography business and running my house, and being mom, that I forget the importance of taking a “time-out” once in awhile. I also realized that being a single person, I sometimes shy away from doing things alone. Flying solo never sounds as fun as enjoying someplace special with someone else.

Soooo, yesterday I forced myself to do just that – fly solo. I’ve always wanted to photograph the migratory Monarch butterflies that cluster in the eucalyptus groves of Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. It’s definitely not something I normally shoot, and I thought it would be a great way to exercise my photography muscles, get those creative juices flowing, and just have a change of scenery. As I drove up Hwy 17 toward the coast, I could already feel the stress melting away. I must have driven that highway 100 times going to the beach with friends when I was in high school. But never had I gone alone.

I reached the park by 10:30am and it was about 48 degrees. Butterflies cannot fly in temperatures below 55, so I thought this would be the perfect time to see them cluster in the trees. I walked up and down the path 2 or 3 times looking for any sign of a butterfly and almost gave up. Then I took a closer look directly above me in the shade and there they were. Not the easiest to spot as they really blend in with the trees, especially when their wings are closed.

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The closer I looked, the more clusters I saw until I finally found the one shot I was looking for. After lots of maneuvering, I started shooting this beautiful cluster. It was like a moving piece of art where no two shots looked exactly the same.

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Using a 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x extender, I was able to zoom in fairly tight to get this shot. I also used my flash to even out the high contrast between the shaded butterflies and the bright background. (ISO 800, f8, 1/125)

 

As the weather warmed up, lots of visitors arrived to see the butterflies. Apparently, the big spectacle everyone waits for is when the temperature gets warm enough for an entire cluster of butterflies to fly at once. One hour went by. Then two. And then the funniest thing happened. People started asking to see what I was seeing on the back of my camera (which was like looking through a telescope). Soon a line of people formed, all wanting to get a close-up view. I was happy to do this as I felt so bad for everyone trying to get a decent picture with their phones and iPads. The clusters were just too far away and too shaded for them to get a decent shot. And here’s the best part – one smart lady had the bright idea of taking a picture of the close-up picture on the back of my camera. Yep, you guessed it… everyone else wanted to do the same thing! They were all proudly showing each other the pictures they took of my picture. Too funny! (Maybe I should have set up a business right there, LOL.)

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The lady who started it all – taking a picture of my picture! (iPhone shot)

 

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The picture she was taking a picture of. (iPhone Shot)

 

Back to flying solo. While everyone was waiting for the “big event” when all the butterflies would take off together, I noticed a few single butterflies bravely taking to the air. Some quickly floated to the ground as it was still a bit chilly to be able to fly. Others just fluttered around, not straying too far from the security of their friends who were still clinging to the tree branches. What a metaphor! It never ceases to amaze me how the universe sends you signs just when you need them most. There I was, flying solo out of my comfort zone, just like those brave little single butterflies.

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You can see a couple of “singles” flying around the cluster. At 1/125, my shutter speed was slow enough to show motion in the flying butterflies while keeping all the others in focus.

 

I spent a total of 3 hours in that grove, shooting pictures and enjoying meeting all the people who got a chance to see the butterfly world through my lens. That’s one of the things I love about photography. It opens doors to conversations I never would have had otherwise.

Those clusters of butterflies never did take off. And showing pictures to all of those people ate up my battery, so it was all iPhone pictures from here on out! I headed up the coast to some of my favorite beaches. Hard to beat 64 degrees and sun on the beach in December. I sat there taking in deep breaths of fresh ocean air, and just watched and listened to the waves crashing onto the beach. Wow, instant serenity.

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iPhone Shot

 

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iPhone Shot

 

I thought about how blessed I am to be able to share my passion for photography with others, and to be able to do what I love for a living. And most of all, how thankful I am to have such wonderfully supportive family, friends, and clients in my life. Wishing you all the best in 2014! Happy New Year!!!

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iPhone selfie :)

 

 

November 27, 2013
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filed under: Families & Kids

It’s that time again… the annual dilemma of  whether or not to do holiday cards. And then there’s the question of when we’ll ever have time to take that long overdue family portrait to put on the card. Have to say, even in this age of Instagram, Facebook, and iPhoneography, I still love getting those handwritten holiday cards with the latest pictures of my friends and family. I set them all up on my kitchen table and look at them for weeks after the holidays because they make me smile! I appreciate that someone took the time to wish me happy holidays in such a personal way.

Putting the effort into creating and sending holiday cards isn’t usually at the top of our favorite things to do list, but who doesn’t love getting them? There’s just nothing like receiving a beautiful card in your mailbox to open and enjoy like a gift. So what do you say, Old School or Still Cool?

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I say still WAY COOL! The good news is, taking new professional family portraits doesn’t have to be a long time-consuming process. In fact, it can really be a fun way to spend some time together. For example, I recently photographed Jenny and Mark’s wonderful family of four boys at a local park, and did all of these poses in less than an hour:

  • The whole family
  • Just the boys together
  • Each boy individually
  • Just mom and dad
  • A few creative shots of everyone just for fun

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We kept the session moving along and had lots of laughs along the way. A couple of the boys thought it would be fun to try and confuse me with their names which I was desperately trying to keep straight. Max, Calex, Rex, and Paxton – now you understand!  Some of my favorite shots were the more candid moments in between the posing when the boys would say something silly and crack themselves up.

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I purposely chose this location because I knew there were lots of different “sets” to choose from while having fun places for the boys to explore if they got antsy. Turned out they were awesome to work with and had fun playing in the park after our session.

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From this one session, Jenny now has a wonderful collection of current portraits of her family for a holiday card, a stunning new canvas for her home, a DVD slideshow set to music, and plenty of beautifully edited prints to give to family and friends as gifts for the holidays.

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So if you’re questioning whether or not to take the time this year to create a beautiful holiday card with your family, stop! Just do it! You’ll have fun AND you’ll put big smiles on the faces of your family and friends when they open it!

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Big thanks to Jenny, Mark, Max, Calex, Rex, and Paxton for allowing me to capture all the fun moments with your family! You’re awesome!!!

* To see more from Jenny’s Family Portrait Session, check out the album on my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153508791705274.1073741828.255970605273&type=1&l=1be2038cb9

And while you’re there, be sure to hit the “Like” button to stay up to date on what’s new at Cheryl Bigman Photography.

 

 

September 18, 2013
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filed under: Families & Kids

One of the best things about my job is getting to explore new locations and recently I found another little gem right in the middle of downtown San Mateo – Central Park and Japanese Tea Garden. Ari and her daughter Rachael scheduled a double portrait session for Rachael’s Pre-Bat Mitzvah portraits, and Ari’s professional head shots. Ari asked me for suggestions in her hometown of San Mateo, but being from the East Bay, I wasn’t that familiar with the area. So I googled away until I came across Central Park. Located right off El Camino in busy downtown, Central Park is a little oasis with multiple shooting location options.

It’s always a bit of a challenge going into a new location sight unseen AND we decided to meet at 12 noon, the brightest, harshest time of the day to shoot. Just our luck, Saturday was the day of a huge Fireman’s Cookoff at the park and there were tons of people! We decided to focus on the Japanese Tea Garden which was much less crowded. There was a beautiful koi pond and bridge right in the middle of the garden, but as you can see, it was very bright with that midday sun overhead and no shade. (Photography enthusiasts: I used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4’s sliders to bring down the harsh highlights and bring up the deep shadows.)

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After scouting around the garden, we found a spot with the perfect blend of shaded greenery and interesting structures that made for a great shoot. As a professional photographer, overcoming harsh lighting conditions is part of the job and I immediately put Ari to work holding my diffuser so I could get the shots. (Photography enthusiasts: Backgrounds can make or break a portrait when lighting is a challenge, so I looked for darker greenery without a lot of bright highlights shining through. I also blurred the background by putting some distance between my subject and the greenery behind her and using my 70-200L lens wide open.)

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We started with Rachael in a fun, funky outfit of her choice. Rachel was a bit more on the serious side and I loved her soft winsome smiles. It’s important to not only capture your subject’s personality, but to know how best to interact with them to get a truly authentic looking portrait. This little wooden tea house structure made for a great “mini-set” as well.

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While I was waiting for Rachael to change outfits, the most adorable little girl decided to play hide-and-seek with me. I showed her mom the pictures on the back of my camera and asked if it was okay for me to take a few more. Her mom was thrilled! We talked for a bit, exchanged email addresses, and I sent her the pictures. She was so excited that she now wants to book a family portrait session. Another reason I love my job – it opens the door to meeting new people I would not have met otherwise.

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Here a few more favorites of Rachael in her 2nd outfit, a pretty white dress. Again, lighting was even more important as white can easily become too bright or “blown out” as we say when shooting midday.

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Then it was mom Ari’s turn. Ari needed a new head shot and once again we took to the open shade. As a therapist, it was important to convey the right image for Ari – approachable, friendly, easy-to-talk-to, yet professional. Ari is a naturally friendly personality who’s always smiling, so she made my job easy. Here’s our favorite:

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Finally, we decided to grab some shots of Ari and Rachael together. For these shots, the bush behind me was my assistant as I balanced the diffuser on my head. I’m sure I got lots of stares, but hey, gotta do what you gotta do! Here’s my favorite.

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While I usually shoot portraits closer to sunset, there are times when it’s just not possible and that’s when you have to make it work. I’m so glad we tried out this beautiful new location that I can now add to my list of favorite places to shoot. So go out and explore all that our Bay Area has to offer and you too might find a great hidden gem. And please share if you have a favorite location by leaving a comment – I’m always looking!

 

September 11, 2013
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Before

New York has always had a special place in my heart. I lived across the Hudson River in New Jersey for 2 years back in the late 80’s, and spent every chance I had playing and exploring in NYC. It was a great experience for this native California girl. I’ll never forget the first time I went to the top of the World Trade Center and sat in one of those window seats where you feel like your feet are dangling over the edge. Truly breathtaking!

On my 24th birthday, I got to see the World Trade Center from a different angle after having dinner at The River Cafe just on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. The sun was setting and the towers became silhouetted against the skyline while reflecting in the river.

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After

The morning of September 11th, 2001, I remember turning on the TV and seeing those first images of a plane hitting the WTC tower. It was hard to comprehend what was happening. As more information came in, I think we all had that same feeling of incredible vulnerability. I remember thinking, “Are we next?”. I was glued to the TV most of that day and the days following. My heart ached as I watched the horrific images being played over and over. I don’t think any of us will forget exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news.

Even though I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, New York feels like my second home and I still love returning as often as I can. During my last trip, I finally had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial for the first time. I brought my camera gear of course, and really wanted to capture the feel of this special place. The new World Trade Center tower was nearing completion and already looking impressive. What an emotional experience it was to be standing where the original towers once stood. The site is such a beautiful, moving tribute to all the victims and heroes of 9/11.

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I wandered around the two memorial pools which sit in the footprint of the original twin towers. On the ledge of each pool were etched name after name so that no one will be forgotten.

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Then I found the name of one of the victims from my own hometown of San Ramon – Thomas Burnett, Jr.  Thomas was one of the 40 passengers aboard Flight 93 who thwarted hijackers’ attempts to crash their plane into the White House. “Victims” just doesn’t seem like the right word when referring to Thomas Burnett and his fellow passengers. They were determined not to become victims and instead became heroes.

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As I was taking pictures, drops of rain began to fall on the ledges of the pools. They reminded me of tears.

 

Just before closing time, I decided to try and get one last shot as the sun was setting and the city lights were coming up in the nearby buildings.

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On this 12th anniversary of 9/11, we remember the victims, their families, and the heroes who worked tirelessly to save lives during one of the darkest days in our country’s history. I also honor those who serve to protect our freedoms today. Thank you.