Sunset Portrait Session on Santa Monica Beach

On top of being a lovely and sweet person, Daisy Jing is a talented entrepreneur. She has a series of successful Youtube videos on a channel called Perfect Beauty and also has her own product line. We met last week for a portrait session on the beach in Santa Monica. I enjoyed talking to her about perseverance – how sometimes it seems like you spend countless hours working on your craft, but that if you love what you do and keep at it, good things happen and people take notice. 2014-10-221

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

Portrait Photography on Santa Monica Beach at Sunset

The Day I Aged a Decade

It’s that time again. The dreaded time to renew my passport. I got my first passport when I was 14 and ever since then I’ve had a series of truly unflattering passport photos. Usually I go to the pharmacy or the copy shop to get it done, where a beleaguered employee, who is simultaneously expected to run the cash register, rushes me over to a corner, grabs a point and shoot camera, and snaps. Without time to review, whatever photo comes out in the first shot becomes the one I’m stuck with.

This time, I decided enough was enough. I got a photo that was my worst yet. Frozen mid-blink, the bags under my eyes and my sallow complexion made me look like I’d been up for three nights straight binge-watching Orange is the New Black. I imagined myself for years to come, cringing whenever I opened my passport at the airport and getting the stinkeye from flight attendants because my photo looked so shifty. As a friend said when I showed her, “It looks like they had a time machine that fast-forwarded to your future self in 10 years.”

But when I stopped to think about it – why did I need to resign myself to the worst passport photo ever? Why not take my own? Here you can see the before and after, taken about 20 minutes apart. I did not edit the 2nd photo at all or change my makeup.

(Please forgive the poor scan quality of the first photo)


A few simple tricks made all the difference in the world and can help you take a better passport photo.

  1. Lighting: At the pharmacy, yellow fluorescent light poured down on me from directly overhead. At that angle, it highlighted every flaw, cast me in a sickly glow and made the lines around my eyes really pop. In the 2nd photo, I opened the curtains and positioned myself near but not too near the window to utilize the diffused daytime light.
  1. Positioning: While both photos are against a white background, I stood a little further away from it in the 2nd photo to create a softer shadow against the wall.
  1. Symmetry: In the first photo, my shoulders are uneven. One is way higher than the other, which put my head at a wonky tilt. To be honest, wonky is my natural posture, but it’s worth putting in extra effort even if it feels weird and unnatural. In the 2nd photo, I made sure to stand with my shoulders even and square to the camera and push my chin out and down, which adds definition to the jawline.
  1. Eyes: Having fully open eyes seems obvious, but the difference is really dramatically displayed here. Even though you aren’t allowed to smile with an open mouth for the passport, thinking of something that makes you feel happy and confident can create a better expression on your face.

If you decide to take your own passport photo, don’t be afraid to take several and pick the best among the bunch. Keep in mind that you need to follow certain size rules for the passport office to accept the photo, like having it be 2 in. x 2 in in size and other requirements.

I know it seems silly to go to all this effort for a single photograph, but there’s comfort in knowing that every time you take out your passport over the next 10 years, you can like the photo inside.

Silvia & Ricardo’s Engagement

Truth be told, I’m not much of a morning person and usually need countless cups of coffee to wake up and be totally in the moment. But, to make the most of the early morning golden light, I met up with Silvia and Ricardo for their engagement session on Santa Monica Pier at 7 a.m.

As I approached them from the beach, I could tell from their smiling faces and the adorable way they interacted with each other that it was going to be a great morning. And it was!

Silvia wore a flowy skirt that went perfectly with the beach setting. It’s couples like these two that make me love my job. They had a lot of fun together and that came across in their photos, whether Ricardo was giving Silvia a piggy back ride and carrying her through the surf, or they were picking out the best blooms at the farmer’s market.

The best engagement sessions are personal to the couple, somewhere that has significance – whether it’s where the proposal took place or a memorable date, or highlights an activity that the couple enjoys doing together. With Silvia and Ricardo, it was the farmer’s market where Silvia told me they often go to spend a relaxing Sunday picking out bundles of colorful flowers.

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Matt’s Horse Competition

Matt’s love of riding was discovered by coincidence – he decided one weekend to go on a trail ride at a local ranch and after a few miles of dusty trail, rust-colored vistas and giant blue skies he was hooked. He started to take lessons every week, making friends at the ranch and absorbing more of the cowboy culture. After about a year, he was asked if he wanted to compete for the first time in a barrel show so I came along to photograph the day. Matt rode confidently and did well, nabbing two second place ribbons and a first place.

We joked that he was the reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt from his Rough Riders years.

Matt by the stable, American flag

Black and white riding horse

Horse head in stable, long row of stable doors


Matt on Horse, boots in tree

Matt standing by horse stable

Matt standing by stable, black and white

Horse competition prize ribbons

Riding horses in a row

Matt on horseback

horse and saddle

Matt on horse

Matt riding a horse

Dusty horse trailer

Row of prize ribbons

Back of horseback riders

Alana & PJ Couple Shoot

Alana is a freelance writer who has published articles about her adventures, or misadventures, in Los Angeles dating. She had tried online dating, but like many others in this sprawling metropolis, it had been hard to meet the right guy. Then, after many dating disasters, she met PJ through the site OK Cupid. She discovered that they shared a love for space, web comics and HP Lovecraft novels. From that point on, they were inseparable.

We met up at Griffith Park for a picnic couples shoot and with the Griffith Observatory high above us, it seemed like the perfect place for this star-gazing duo. Summer evenings in Los Angeles are the best. The light is golden and warm rays pour through the branches of oak trees…and it’s especially lovely with bowls of ripe strawberries and blueberries.

white flowers and couple in griffith park

Couple having picnic and reading book

black and white photo of couple

couple laying on blanket in Griffith Park

Trails cafe sign and couple kissing on trail

Large tree at Griffith Park

couple holding hands and having picnic

long strands of grass

Couple picnic in Griffith Park

bowl of strawberries and blueberries

tall tree in griffith park and couple standing on trail

flowers on blanket near bowls of fruit

trees and sunshine at Griffith Park

Couple laying on blanket in park

couple reading books in Griffith Park