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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!

July 8, 2014
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.




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.







And this is Rebecca.




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.)






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





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.







And this is little Benjamin…




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.




… and it stayed with him for the entire shoot!





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!







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.








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

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.



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.


Chelsea Feb. 2009

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!


May 7, 2014
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.





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.








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.











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.





Another great father/son moment…





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





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.









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





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.





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

















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!





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











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.





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
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…





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!)








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.











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.





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.





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!











Then it was party time!




















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










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





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.





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.




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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Staying up to date on all the latest at Cheryl Bigman Photography is easy when you get our Blog delivered right to your Email!
Just click here to sign up.


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
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!


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

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.



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.


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.)


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



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.


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.


iPhone Shot



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!!!

iPhone selfie :)

iPhone selfie :)



November 27, 2013
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?



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



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.

Raffield-5556 Raffield-5558


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.



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.







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!



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
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.)



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.)



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.



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.





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.





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:



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.



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


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.




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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



July 2, 2013
filed under: Families & Kids

As I sat with my friend Marcy, enjoying a beautiful warm evening out to dinner last week, I remembered how wonderful it feels to genuinely connect with another person. We often get so “busy being busy” that we forget the importance of creating and maintaining those relationships that feed our soul. Marcy and I talked for hours. We laughed, we cried, we reminisced (and I think we could have closed the place down). You’d think Marcy and I had been best friends forever. The fact is, Marcy is one of my clients who I first met just a little over 1 year ago when she was looking for a photographer for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.

So what does this have to do with the Making of a Great Family Portrait? Everything! While it’s important to plan out all the logistical aspects of a Family Portrait Session (style, clothing, location, etc…), I’ve found that the absolute most important element in making a GREAT family portrait is the connection between the photographer and the family. No amount of planning ahead and no amount of technical expertise will give you a great portrait without establishing that crucial relationship.




People looking at my work often ask how I’m able to get such natural expressions from my clients. I always struggle a bit with the answer because the process for me is so organic. I’m genuinely interested in getting to know what each family is all about, how they relate to one another, what gets them excited, what makes them laugh, what stirs their emotions, what compels them to hold each other tight. We just talk. Before long, the words become less important than the interactions that occur naturally during the session. It soon becomes clear when to click that shutter as I start to feel the same emotions that are unfolding in front of my lens. It just happens. We connect. And for me, that’s the key – the magic ingredient that makes a family portrait great!

Within minutes of my portrait session with Marcy, Andy, and their children Shaina and Marcus, it was obvious that they were a very close and loving family. I especially loved the moments captured between Shaina and her parents.







It was obvious that Shaina’s relationship with her dad was a bit more playful…







Even their gentle giant Celia the Pit-bull had a special moment with Shaina.




When it was time for little brother Marcus’s moment in the spotlight, we chatted up a storm. He was such a happy guy!




And for Shaina, it was all about bringing out her own personal style. I loved showing her what we were getting on the back of my camera, and it gave her the confidence to just be herself.




We even added Shaina’s creative input to make this shot.




As I looked through the pictures back in my home studio, I remembered the feelings we all experienced together and the connection we made. It’s those feelings that guide my decisions on how to best edit the final portraits. Whether it’s converting from color to black & white, or cropping in to the image, I know that if I feel the same emotions I felt during our session, I have created a great portrait.










I’ll never forget the day I got to show Marcy and her family all their pictures for the first time. They invited me into their home, and I projected all the best pictures up on the big screen. After Shaina’s Bat Mitzvah, they invited me back for dinner (on Christmas Eve), and we did the same thing with over 400 pictures!  Marcy and I have kept in touch, and it was so great to meet again last week just to reconnect and catch up on each other’s lives.




I truly treasure each and every new relationship made with my clients. I know that not only will that connection make for some great family portraits, but also open the door for creating a lifelong friendship. Many thanks to Marcy and her family for opening that door 1 year ago.

Love to you Marcy, Andy, Shaina, and my little boyfriend Marcus.