Oakland Family Lifestyle Photographer

6 Ways to Photograph the Same Scene (and How to Work Through a Rut)

Over the years, I’ve been known to periodically get myself into a photography rut. It usually occurs when I feel uninspired (well, duh), or just plain bored with my personal work. I’ve learned how to break-out of it by doing two things. The first is to allow myself a break. I used to judge myself when I didn’t feel like picking up my camera for days or weeks. I used to question my commitment and wonder if I was really a true artist since there were times when I just didn’t feel like taking a photo no matter how good the light was. I soon came to the realization that none of those things were true. Instead, it simply meant that I needed to hit the pause button to allow myself the space to focus on something else- even if that something was nothing- and to let myself be in that space for however long I wanted. I know now that with time my camera and I will inevitably be drawn to each other once again.

The second thing that helps me get back to photography, is to take a new project. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something to get me excited, or better yet, challenge me to learn something new. One of the things I’ve always loved to do is to photograph the same subject and scene from multiple vantage points, as well as play with the lighting and processing. It always challenges me to find new perspectives and make different images with a relatively static subject. I say “relatively” but usually I’m photographing children, so I roll with their flow. This is not only a useful exercise for seasoned photographers to practice, but also great for new photographers to see how many different images they can get just from simply moving their body and playing with the light.

So when my six-year old son recently climbed up on the kitchen counter while I was doing dishes, I knew it was a good opportunity for me to practice because he loves laying on the counter (go figure) and would probably stay there for a good long while.

And here are the images I captured that evening:

Taking in the Full Scene: This was my vantage point when I turned right as I washed dishes at the sink and saw him lying up there on the counter. I stood back and photographed the full scene to illustrate how ironic and a bit odd it is that he there. I also played with the processing and converted the image to black and white for a couple reasons. 1) due to the contrast in the image, and 2) I wanted the focus to be on him and not necessarily on the items on counter and all that.

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Side-Lit: I moved to right and shoot him head on so that only one side of his face would be lit and the other half would be in deep shadow.

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Spotlight: I moved back to my left so that I was more square with the light (and his body) so that the light would cast on him from above, as if we was lit by a spot light.

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Back Lit: Once he lifted his head, he blocked the direct light that was cast on him previously and the image became more of a silhouette.

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Side-lit with greater exposure: Similar to the second photo above, this is image is mostly side-lit, but I took a big step back and slightly to the left in order to get more of the scene in the photo. I also changed my camera settings so that more of the scene would be exposed.

Back-lit in Black and White: In the next two images, I played with the processing to create a highly contrasted silhouette.

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Moving in Close to Photograph the Details: I love to shoot hands and feet. That is all. But seriously, I wanted to capture the way his hand was holding the pencil, how the fingers on his other hand curl with concentration, the creases in his feet.

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Oh how I love baby feet! Most of my clients are all too familiar with how I photograph their children’s feet. I love the chubby toes. Does that make me weird? Probably.

So those are my tips for different ways to photograph the same scene. Comment below if you have any other vantage points to add. I can already think of a few. Still next time!

Breakfast, Love and Light- East Bay Family Photographer

I met this beautiful family to photograph them while they cooked breakfast and simply enjoyed each other on a Sunday morning. The reason I love documentary photography so much is allows me the chance to use my camera to document family memories, but it also get to hang with some really awesome people who are so interesting and so fun! 

One of the biggest things that struck me when I was with this family is how deeply connected they are. They touched each other easily and often. Kisses and hugs abound, especially between the littles. As you'll see, big brother has such a strong love for his baby sister. Enjoy the love! 

Love, Laugh, Dance- San Francisco Bay Area Family Photographer

This family loves to party! I haven’t danced so much at a family photography photo session in a long time (maybe ever!) The girls were so much fun and seemed to be enjoying having me and my camera give them so much attention. And they were so sweet, sharing with me their favorite toys and inviting me to play. As you'll see in these photos, this family exudes joy and it was infectious. It was a pleasure to photograph them and make memories together.

It's that time of year again!!

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It's that time of year again! Time to book your holiday storytelling session. This year I'm doing things a little differently. Because I am so passionate about capturing the beauty in the unique rhythm and rituals of your family, I am only offering in-home sessions this holiday season. And don't worry, we will get a nice posed photograph suitable for holiday cards and all that good stuff. Here are some FAQs that you may be wondering about:

Tell me again, why are you only offering in-home sessions?

The short answer is: your home is where your story is.  There is no more perfect a backdrop than the home that your family has made together.  These are where your memories are made. The paint on the walls, the furniture in the dining room, the kids art posted on the fridge are all beautiful details that are uniquely yours. Five, ten, twenty years from now when you look at the photos from your session, your marvel at how small the children once were and chubbiness of their cheeks and toes, but you'll also notice your old beloved cat snoozing in the background or the art on the walls or the glider you used to sit in each day to nurse.  Another reason I prefer to shoot in your home is that this where your family, especially your children, are most comfortable. They feel safest there, and because of that, they are usually much more open to being photographed than outside at a park in the middle of the fall. In your home, I photograph your family on your terms.

You call yourself a documentary photographer.  How does that work when photographing families?

I follow the action. It's really as simple as that. I don't pose you (unless it's for the holiday card shot I mentioned above). When I come into your home, I get to know you and your children. I get down on the floor with them and play. And as I start build trust and comfort, I begin to photograph them doing what they do-play, laugh, cuddle, and even cry at times. I don't direct you, unless you need a little help getting an activity going.  My job is to stay out of your way and capture you doing what you do as a family. 

But my house is a mess!

You might already know what I'm about to say.  Your stuff is part of the story.  And don't worry, you and your family will be the stars of the show, not your stuff. I have a few camera tricks that I use to minimize any distractions in the photos.  But at the end of the day, your house is lived in and I fully expect it to look that way. And your stuff provides texture and color to the pallet. 

When are you scheduling sessions and how much do they cost?

I am scheduling sessions from September through December. Most session openings are during daylight hours on Saturdays and Sundays, but I can also work to make a few weekday sessions work.

Sessions are $350. That includes the session fee, a web gallery of fully- edited story,  and 5 high res images. Other packages are available should want to purchase a few additional images or your full story. 

Ok! I'm ready to book. How do we make that happen?

Awesome! Just click the "Contact" link above and drop me a quick line to let me know you'd like to further explore booking a session. I will then send you pricing info and brief questionnaire that will help me get to know you better and plan for your session. I look forward to it!


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Christmas 2016- Oakland/Bay Area Family Photographer

I didn't grow up loving Christmas. Perhaps I've shared that in my blog before. My mom wasn't a fan of Christmas when I was a kid. Not exactly sure why. It probably had much to do with making ends meet and the scarcity of resources as a young single parent. Maybe it had to do with the fact that we lived far away from family and so Christmases were rather quiet. Whatever the case, it wasn't a holiday that held much meaning for me. That is, until I had children of my own.  That first Christmas after my daughter was born was almost like a light was turned on inside of me. I was suddenly all about Christmas. I wanted the tree, the perfect angel, the holiday songs, gifts, food, etc. I wanted the entire quintessential experience-for her.  Through her, I was finally able to feel the full joy of the "holiday season", and it felt good. And it still does. It probably won't  ever be my favorite holiday, but I'm in it now and having the opportunity to spend time with those I love most is worth more than the cost of admission. 

So this was December 25, 2016 and I am grateful for every minute of it. 

In-Home Holiday Sessions Are Here!

It's that time of year again! Time to book your holiday storytelling session. This year I'm doing things a little differently. Because I am so passionate about capturing the beauty in the unique rhythm and rituals of your family, I am only offering in-home sessions this holiday season. And don't worry, we will get a nice posed photograph suitable for holiday cards and all that good stuff. Here are some FAQs that you may be wondering about:

Tell me again, why are you only offering in-home sessions?

The short answer is: your home is where your story is.  There is no more perfect a backdrop than the home that your family has made together.  These are where your memories are made. The paint on the walls, the furniture in the dining room, the kids art posted on the fridge are all beautiful details that are uniquely yours. Five, ten, twenty years from now when you look at the photos from your session, your marvel at how small the children once were and chubbiness of their cheeks and toes, but you'll also notice your old beloved cat snoozing in the background or the art on the walls or the glider you used to sit in each day to nurse.  Another reason I prefer to shoot in your home is that this where your family, especially your children, are most comfortable. They feel safest there, and because of that, they are usually much more open to being photographed than outside at a park in the middle of the fall. In your home, I photograph your family on your terms.

You call yourself a documentary photographer.  How does that work when photographing families?

I follow the action. It's really as simple as that. I don't pose you (unless it's for the holiday card shot I mentioned above). When I come into your home, I get to know you and your children. I get down on the floor with them and play. And as I start build trust and comfort, I begin to photograph them doing what they do-play, laugh, cuddle, and even cry at times. I don't direct you, unless you need a little help getting an activity going.  My job is to stay out of your way and capture you doing what you do as a family. 

But my house is a mess!

You might already know what I'm about to say.  Your stuff is part of the story.  And don't worry, you and your family will be the stars of the show, not your stuff. I have a few camera tricks that I use to minimize any distractions in the photos.  But at the end of the day, your house is lived in and I fully expect it to look that way. And your stuff provides texture and color to the pallet. 

When are you scheduling sessions and how much do they cost?

I am scheduling sessions from October 15th through Dec 15th. Most session openings are during daylight hours on Saturday and Sunday, but I can also work to make a weekday session work for a few clients. 

Sessions are $350. That includes the session fee, a web gallery of fully- edited story,  and 5 high res images. Other packages are available should want to purchase a few additional images or your full story. 

Ok! I'm ready to book. How do we make that happen?

Awesome! Just click the "Contact" link above and drop me a quick line to let me know you'd like to further explore booking a session. I will then send you pricing info and brief questionnaire that will help me get to know you better and plan for your session. I look forward to it!

Mommy and Me Session- Oakland Family Documentary Photographer

Back in February (yes, I am long overdue in blogging this session), I traveled down to my "second home", Los Angeles, for a long weekend. Although it doesn't happen often, it's always so good to get back there. So many memories and a handful of my most cherished friends, make it a special place from me. While I was there, I had a chance to see a few of those friends.  One of them was my dear friend, Jenifer. We've been close since our freshman year of college. We've been through  all the ups and downs of adulthood, and our friendship has lasted throughout it all. I was honored to be able to photograph her and her beautiful son. Her mom also makes an appearance, as well! I had a blast and I hope that they too. 

S and W Family (Lake Temescal)- Oakland Family Photographer

I have been so lucky to work so many amazing families in the last few months. It's been a busy time, but an exhilarated one because I've been doing what I love which is hang-out with awesome people and make pictures. Unfortunately, that's left little time for blogging :(  But here I am, back to showcase one of my favorite families ever! You've been them on the blog before, and you'll see them again in the coming weeks.  They were one of my very first clients and have been so loyal over the years. I don't do many outdoor family photography sessions these days, but I had a great time getting outside with this bunch!



Indira Allegra- We Are Oakland

Indira Allegra portrait in Oakland

I met Indira about seven years ago when we both entered a yoga teacher training program offered by the Niroga Institute in Berkeley, CA.  Over the course of the next two years, we got to know each other as we also got to know ourselves through the process deepened our yoga practice.  Indira intrigued me from day one. Her quiet confidence and artistic flare inspired me to discover those qualities in myself.  

When I conceived of the We Are Oakland project, Indira was very high on my list of people to profile. She just has so much to offer her community and society as a whole.  As you'll read in the interview below, she has some knowledge to drop! You will not be disappointed. 

I interviewed and photographed Indira for this project at the end of December. Yes, almost three months ago. Sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans, but I am so excited to get this out to the many who know and love Indira, as well as to the new admirers I'm sure she's going to gain. This interview is a bit longer than I'd planned. I didn't want to cut out any of her inspiring words, so I've published the interview in full. Enjoy!!

Indira Allegra portrait in Oakland

What is your name?   Indira Allegra

Where are we and why did you choose this location?   We are on the rooftop of my apartment building in front of my art studio. Right now I can see the cranes by the port. I can see into downtown Oakland.  I’m looking at all of the buildings and where the buildings stop and Lake Merritt begins. I do a lot of my creative work up here and it seems like a natural place for us to collaborate on this project.

Tell me about your life's work.  I am a writer and visual artist. I do a lot of work with visual performance and textiles. So, I’ll craft the textiles that often appear in my video pieces and I’m interested in how cloth acts as a co-conspirator with me whenever I am performing. It’s not just about the body of the artist in the work. I feel like there is limitless intimacy between bodies and cloth. It is that relationship that interests me.

See more of Indira's work, click here:  www.indiraallegra.com

What is your superpower?   So even X-Men had to go to school to learn how to use their superpowers and to build them. [Laughter] What I feel like I’m in the Jean Grey School for (in the X-Men) is to learn how to communicate with everything in its own language. And maybe by the time I’m 99 I’ll have it figured out. [Laughter] I think that there is a way in which, when I’m weaving on the loom, it’s not just me making the cloth. I am in active collaboration with the boundaries or desires of the fabric. So there are certain things that cotton wants to do that silk will not. There are certain things that paper will yield itself to that linen won't. Much of my creative practice is about how I can be receptive to the ‘wants’ of my materials and how can we work together to develop something harmonious. When I think about being able to communicate with everything in its own language…I’m talking about being in intimate communion with the world. 

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Indira Allegra portrait in Oakland

Why do you choose to live in Oakland?  I was born Detroit and when the crack cocaine epidemic hit we moved to Portland because I lost a lot of family members due to drug violence there.  Upon arrival in Portland, Oregon at the age of 7, I quickly realized that I really was 3% of the entire state population. That was pretty clear even as a young child. So there was always this obvious sense of not belonging. I would walk down the street (in Oregon) and people would literally ask me “Where are you from?” and “What country are you from?” As a woman of color in a predominately white environment, there were obviously lots of micro-aggressions that came up on a day-to-day basis that I had to deal with. Oakland is the only place that I’ve lived where no one asks me where I am from and no one questions my right to belong here. And that’s wonderful. 

How did you make it to Oakland?   When I first came down to the Bay, I was 11 or 12 and my Dad had taken my brother and I down here on a train trip. I remember this sense of electricity that I was feeling in my body even as a child and knowing that I had to come back here. In my twenties, I did, I got a job working at Laney College as an interpreter for the Deaf and Deaf/blind and was doing a lot of academic support for students with disabilities.

Back in Oregon, I had been the only black interpreter and one of three Native interpreters in the state. I would literally have Deaf clients saying things to me like “You are too dark I can’t even see you signing.” That's the kind of environment I grew up in. While there is obviously racism everywhere, to be in the Bay Area now is like a refuge.

Are you still working with the Deaf community?   I’m not.  My work and my primary responsibility is to my own creative practice right now. One of the things that happened for me when interpreting was that I was diagnosed with a condition called Ménière's Disease that affects my hearing and sometimes my balance. When I got the diagnosis, I learned that one of the possibilities of the condition is that one day, I too, could become deaf.  So if, in theory, my hearing could possibly have an expiration date on it (and while that is certainly not the end of the world) it does motivate me to focus solely on my own creative work and passion. 

What are you proud of?   I am proud of being able to be in a dynamic partnership for 11 years. I feel blessed.

Indira Allegra portrait in Oakland

What are you grateful for?   It’s a privilege to be able to focus on my creative work and to actually make money that way. And to have enough connection with an inner voice that tells me that I can do it. It doesn’t matter what my class background is or that I am going to be finishing my bachelor’s degree at age 35. It doesn’t really matter if I own a giant house or whatever. I don’t have to measure my achievements against anyone else’s standards. All that matters to me is that I feel like I’m growing and I feel like I’m not stuck in life. For me, that idea of being stagnant or frozen is terrifying. Being grounded is good. Being frozen is not so good. Trees are grounded because they are always open to taking in nourishment and open to giving it back. I want to be able to embody that kind of plant intelligence.

What is you hope for the Spring of 2015?   I’m thinking about other applications of #blacklivesmatter.  I’m interested in how we as black people take a stand for individual self-love and self worth in our own lives also. When I meditate on #blacklivesmatter I think about how I used to be borderline diabetic at one point and how, I had to matter enough to myself make different choices in my own diet, and to learn things that I had never been taught growing up about how processed sugars were affecting my body. I had to move beyond the shame of not knowing about all that. Acting as a grown woman often means having to teach ourselves things that we didn’t come up knowing about with regard to physical and mental health and non-violence - and that’s ok. That's a micro #blacklivesmatter movement for me.

Indira Allegra portrait in Oakland
Indira Allegra portrait in Oakland
Indira Allegra smiling in a portrait.



Boys will be Boys- Oakland Family Lifestyle and Documentary Photography

I love color. The brighter, the better in my book. So, when I drove up to this family's home, and certainly when I stepped in the door, I felt right at home. They have such a bright and happy home and it is a total reflection of the people they are. 

And boy, did we have a good time during their shoot. I following the super sweet and energetic boys around as they played with cars, blocks, balls and everything in between. It was such a beautiful day, so we also spent some time in their backyard swinging on the swing set and blowing bubbles. 

One of the things I love about the families I get to work with is the strong partnership amongst the parents. And these two were no exception. They love each other deeply and it's evident in the gentle way they interact with one another. Those interactions are one of my favorite things to photograph.

I'll stop talking and let you scroll through the photographs to see more of this super fun family. Enjoy!

Oakland Photographer- 10 on 10 Blog Circle-October 2013

I am very excited to be posting my very first 10 on 10.