5 Photos to Inspire You

Enjoy these 5 selects of images that have inspired me - and hopefully will inspire you!

  1. Tuija Lindström - learn more about her here.tuija lindstrom
  2. Jimmy Marble - can never say enough good stuff about his work! Check out his Instagram
  3. Osamu Yokonami - always inspiring
  4. Rose Walton - she does amazing self-portraits, and I love the moodiness of her work!
  5. Michal Pudelka

What photos have inspired you recently? Link them in the comments!

P.S. In case you're interested, I have an ebook in which I share my process for finding inspiration and materializing it for a shoot. Check it out!

Before & After: Step-by-step walkthrough

If you'd prefer to see how I edited this photo in a video, check out my latest YouTube post! how to edit with vsco film pack 6

1. Apply preset 400H+1 from VSCO Film Pack 6. 2. Remove grain. 3. Lens Corrections > Enable Profile Corrections > Sigma > Increase vignette to 153 4. +20 exposure 5. -11 contrast 6. -1 tint 7. +4 saturation - default red shadows (split toning) 8. -70 highlights 9. +91 blacks 10. +71 shadows 11. -15 whites 12. -11 saturation 13. +2 vibrance 14. +5 clarity 15. lift left corner of tone curve to add matte blacks 16. -64 green saturation 17. +15 green hue 18. -59 yellow saturation 19. -53 blue saturation

Note: the settings I didn't mention had the defaults that are applied with the preset! I also gave the settings for the original edit, not the live edit in the video.

I hope you found this written step-by-step process to be useful!

The power of last-minute shoots

Do you ever have waves of intense inspiration in which you want to make your vision come to life as soon as possible? What if you can? Not to sound like a cheesy inspirational speaker, but what's stopping you?

Not every shoot or concept can come to life overnight. My 5 of a Kind shoot, for example, took 7 months to come together successfully. However, occasionally I'm struck with smaller-scale inspiration that I choose to run with.

Some of my favorite shoots have come together in a matter of hours.

1) Ksenia. In January 2016, I found Ksenia on Model Mayhem on a Thursday night, wondering if she'd be able to shoot a 1960s/1970s theme at my apartment on Saturday. I already had the clothes that I wanted to use, so I had the basic direction in place. I sent her a message on Thursday, didn't hear anything until Friday night (while I was sleeping!), as I woke up to a text from her that morning saying that she could be there as early as 10am. I wrote back immediately, saying, "YES! Let's do it." And we did. I quickly headed to the fabric store and pulled a few backdrop options. I shoved all my furniture to one side of the room and hung up the fabric with pushpins. I had the clothes laid out on my bed. And we worked with my apartment and the surrounding area to put together a fun set of images.

2) Anthropologie. In June 2016, I was heading to Washington, D.C. for my best friend's wedding. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but it hit me 4 days before I was supposed to leave that I might as well do a shoot while I'm visiting the other side of the country. I went on Instagram and searched hashtags voraciously: #dcstylist, #dcmodel, #dcfashion – desperately looking for some team members! I stumbled across a local Anthropologie account (@anthro_chevychase) and sent them a message, wondering if I could source clothes from them. They replied saying that they could bring a bunch of clothes AND models! A done deal. Not to mention, last minute work for a major brand! We met up 4 days later and had a successful shoot.

3) Laney. I guess a big chunk of my inspiration comes from wanting to make use of the beautiful locations I visit. Every summer, my family and I spend most weekends up in gold country near Angels Camp, California for houseboating and waterskiing. For a long time, I'd been meaning to make use of the beautiful scenery. The Thursday before we were heading up to the lake, I got a rush of inspiration and decided I wanted to do a shoot that weekend. I went on Instagram and searched #angelscamp, plus hashtags for surrounding towns, looking for locations and anything I could find in the area. I came across Natural Bridges, a beautiful cave system just 20 minutes from the lake. Boom. That's my location. Now I need a model...After coming up dry on Instagram, I resorted to Model Mayhem. There weren't many options in this area, but I found Laney, and miraculously she was available to shoot! I took a gold slip I'd used for a shoot in the past and went to Target for a few gold accessories, making the theme "Gold Country."

4) Lydia. This time my source of inspiration came from the model. I connected with Lydia on Instagram a few months back and had been wanting to shoot her. She has a really cool look and I thought she'd do well with a classic, timeless theme. The timeline for this shoot was:

Tuesday night: ask Lydia if she's free (she is!); ask Amy if she can style (answer's yes!) Wednesday morning: hear a few "nos" from make-up artists and continue to reach out to others; virtually scout locations for rolling green hills and oak trees Thursday: Amy pulls clothes; Inna (make-up artist) is on board! Friday morning: I scout locations in the Dublin/Pleasanton/Livermore area. Find one I like (Del Valle Reservoir) and pass on all the meeting details to the team. Saturday afternoon: We meet at my apartment to prep and then head out to shoot!

Don't underestimate the power of taking an idea and running with it. You'll notice that in a lot of these situations, the team is small (often just me and the model(s)), which helps in terms of travel and availability. It also helps to have a large network of team members so that you can find someone who's available more easily. I ask for referrals from people I trust to expand my network.

I think great work can come out of last minute planning - sometimes the less details and time to think, the better! What's your experience with last-minute shoots? Have they been successful for you? Or are you more of a long-term planner?

How I cut my Lightroom editing time in half

For the past few months, I was really struggling with the time it was taking me to edit my photos. On average, I shoot 1500 photos per 2-3 hour session, and I was starting to feel overwhelmed when I imported such a huge set into Lightroom. I could try to shoot fewer photos and be more intentional about the shots I do capture, but I feel as though I've already cut back on that and what I'm doing works for me. What I'm about to share may not be news to you. I'm sure many of you already do this! I just caught on late. ;) I actually had another photographer tell me to do this years ago, but I was too stubborn and didn't listen. For those of you who are still plugging away through an endless gallery, I think this trick will help you.

All I did was switch from rejecting to selecting. Is your mind blown yet?

The keyboard shortcut for rejecting an image is X, while the one for selecting (picking) a photo is P. Somehow it is psychologically easier to pick the photos that I definitely want to keep rather than dispose of the ones I don't want. So, I just cycle through my gallery and pick my favorite shots, and then I enter a filtered view where I only see the shots I've picked. You can do this by clicking on the little flag in the bottom right-hand corner of Lightroom.

That number drops to 160 photos, which is a much more manageable number to visualize when you're sitting down to edit. Picking the photos I want usually takes an hour or less. Then I'm left with 100-175 photos, depending on the shoot. That number usually drops a bit more as I edit them, too. It seems WAY easier to edit only 100+ photos vs. 1700+ (even though I would be rejecting many of them along the way). It also helps me be more selective, which is something I'm really working on since I tend to keep way too many shots. I went from spending 4-5 hours on a set to only 2-3. It feels so empowering to suddenly have much more time on your hands because you discovered a simple trick to reduce time spent at the computer.

How do you speed up your workflow? Do you reject or select?

PRINT SHOP // Now Open

Exciting news...I've received a lot of interest in photo prints, so I decided to open up a print shop! Check it out...there's a bunch of shots from my "5 of a Kind" and "False Twins" series! And if there's one you desperately want on your walls, just shoot me a message. :)


I appreciate any feedback you may have!


Cameras, Permits, and Rangers – Oh, My! | Permits and Shooting in State Parks

Have you ever been on a shoot when a property owner or ranger approaches you and asks what the shoot is for? Or straight up says you can't be shooting there? This happened to me a few weekends ago. I had a big shoot with a local designer for her fall lookbook, and when we decided on a state park as a location, it didn't even cross my mind to try to get a permit (an error on my part). We had 5 models all in nice dresses - not to mention we're driving up in an RV full of clothes that's branded with the store name - so it's not exactly easy to be inconspicuous.

Right before we were going to start shooting, a ranger pulled up to us and got out of his car.

"Are you going to be camping tonight?" he said, motioning to the RV. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that's all he was curious about.

The designer clarified that we were just out for a cruise on the mountain. I kept my camera in my bag. His eyes moved to the 5 models, all standing there in casual dresses.

"Is this a photoshoot? What's it for?"

fieldday-329In a situation like this, there's really only so much you can do. In this case, we tried to minimize what we were doing by portraying the shoot as casually as possible. He basically said that he could technically fine us if we were to proceed with taking photos, but that he was just going to drive off and we could consider it a warning. So he never openly condoned it, but rather turned a blind eye, just because he happened to be nice.

The best thing to do would be to learn from my mistake and just get a permit to begin with, but often these are quite expensive. For family/individual portrait photography, they're only about $100 a year for state parks in California, which, I'd say, is definitely worth getting if you're working with families/individuals often. But as soon as you mention the word "commercial," that number skyrockets up to $750/half day or $165/hour in certain parks!

Unfortunately, the reason that state parks and rangers are starting to crack down on this is probably due to the actions of a few select individuals. Many of us do treat state parks with respect, as they should be treated, but some people feel entitled to take over the space in a destructive manner for the sake of their photoshoot.

The line between commercial and portrait work can be tough to differentiate, but the general rule of thumb is that if you have a model who is showcasing a product - whether that's clothes, accessories, cars, or toothbrushes - or just the product itself being posed on a stump or a road, it's considered to be commercial.

Many people believe that because we pay taxes to support the upkeep of our parks, we should be able to use them as we see fit. The state parks believe that if you have any chance of profiting off of them - whether that's now or eventually - without them getting a cut, you're taking advantage of them.

fieldday-178I'm not here to provide legal counsel on this matter, or to give my opinion on how things should be. I do want to share what I've learned from my experience encountering rangers while out on a shoot without a permit.

For the times when you simply don't have the budget for a permit, or you realize too late that we need one, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the impact of your encounters with the parks:

1) Slim down your gear. I am thankful that I rely on minimal gear in situations like this: I use one camera body and one main lens and store them in a forest green camera bag that looks like it could just be an everyday bag. I do have a reflector, a changing booth, a few other lenses that I'll pull out occasionally, but I can make do without them 99% of the time. Carrying around huge lenses with battery packs on your camera and setting up lights and reflectors is a definite red flag and is sure to raise questions.

2) Prep your team. Working with a big team can create a lot of commotion. Before we arrive at the location, I prep my team, telling them that we don't want to cause a scene by being too loud or disruptive. Pulling out a big clothing rack, or having heaps of makeup bags on the ground is NOT what a ranger wants to see. That screams commercial. I encourage my team members to work with one look at a time and carry minimal kits for touch-ups. I also ask them to wander around while we shoot, so it's not like we're all obviously staring at a model for 10 minutes. This makes us more discreet. The more you can look like you're just on a hike or a picnic, the less likely you are to stick out.fieldday-299

3) Student project? I'm lucky that my 23-year-old self can still believably pass as a college student. If a ranger asks what the shoot is for (especially if it looks commercial), saying it's a student project is probably the response you'll have the most success with - no matter how old you are. (Many people enroll in art/photography classes when they're older!) I've used this line several times and have never been questioned further. It helps to prep your team on this story as well so that you're all on the same page.

4) Be respectful. Above all, be respectful. This applies to two situations: respecting the environment and respecting authority. This should go without saying, but don't leave trash everywhere or trample a bunch of flowers - be kind to the environment you're working in! And if a ranger does approach you, it's not the time to be self-righteous and argue with them. The more you show that you're willing to work with them, the higher the chance they might be willing to work with you. If they ask you to leave, respect their choice and move on. Choosing to ignore them may result in getting fined or threatened with "police action." It's good to have back-up locations in case this happens.

I'll conclude this by saying that if you get a permit, you can go crazy - in a non-destructive manner, of course. As soon as you have written permission, you can bring as much gear as you want, and you'll sleep a little better the night before the shoot while your brain can dream of golden light and composition rather than excuses to tell the ranger. So, when possible, just bite the bullet and get a permit.

Happy shooting!

Have you experienced something similar while shooting in a state park? Share it in the comments below!

How to find models for photoshoots

One of the most frustrating parts about coordinating photoshoots is finding a good model who matches your vision for the shoot. Especially when you're looking for new faces to add to your portfolio and have to look outside your usual, the task can seem daunting. But I have a few solutions:Jazz-236

  1. Instagram: Sometimes when I have a free moment - on the BART platform, waiting for my oatmeal to cook, avoiding important to-do lists, etc. - I'll just take a few minutes to try to find new models on Instagram. Even though it's not that easy to search within multiple parameters (i.e., location & tag), Instagram is still one of my favorite resources for finding new faces to work with. Here are a few tips on how to get started:
    • Identify local feature accounts. In the Bay Area, there are several accounts devoted to featuring local photographers and/or models. I have a list of these that I try to check on a regular basis: @bayareamodelfeature, @igerssf, @makesfportraits, etc.
    • Follow local modeling agencies. First of all, agency-signed models tend to be great! They are often experienced and know how to handle themselves in front of a camera. But even if you're not looking to work with agency models, I recommend checking out "photos of" the agency. Many aspiring models will tag the agency in their photos hoping to be noticed and potentially signed. This is a clever way to find some local people who clearly want to be in front of the camera, and maybe they have just the look your searching for.
    • See who's modeling for other photographers. This suggestion overlaps with the two above, because you're bound to be checking out photographers' accounts anyway, but I've found many models just by stalking admiring other photographers. Lead yourself down a trail of clicking on photos that are aesthetically pleasing to you and checking out that photographer, and then check out one of the local photographers who has commented on that post, wondering where the location is. You never know where you'll end up!
    • "Tag a friend who should model." I experimented with putting this as a caption on one of my Instagram shots, and it was really successful. First of all, people are more likely to comment a friend's name than their own (e.g., if you were to say, "I'm looking for models! Comment if you're interested"), and second of all, they might suggest people who would never consider themselves models but are stunning and would do well in front of the camera. This also promotes engagement and will possibly earn you some new followers!
    • These tips also work when you're traveling! Just by searching a few tags like #xlocationphotographer, #xlocationmodel, or #xlocationstyle, you'll be able to discover what the local photography scene is like.
  2. how to find models on instagram

  3. CraigslistI run an ad pretty much constantly for models & stylists - the two categories of team members I always have trouble finding - in the "talent" or "creative gigs" sections of Craigslist. This ad generates a steady stream of new faces coming into my inbox daily. It is true that many of them aren't exactly what I'm looking for, but I'd say I get 1-2 models a week I'd love to work with. I specify the kinds of projects I'm interested in and link to my portfolio so they can see if our styles are compatible. I also ask them to send me photos of themselves and/or a portfolio.
  4. Model MayhemAs I've said in the past, I have mixed feelings about this site. Because anyone can make a profile, there's a huge volume of people to sort through. But I've found that specifying the parameters that matter to you (height, for instance) helps your search be more successful. I also recommend checking it once a month or so and sorting by "newest first" to see who has joined. This is an especially useful tool when you're shooting out of town and have no idea where to start.
  5. WillB-158

  6. Local Facebook groups: Honestly, I haven't had much luck with these in my area, but it's worth a shot to see what kinds of groups are available near you - try searching "[x location] Models" in "Groups" to see what comes up. This group based in the San Francisco area is one of the largest I've found, but I think I've only used one model from the group since I've been in it. I find that the same people always respond, and they're rarely what I'm looking for.
  7. Ruby-308

  8. Being brave: If you're feeling bold, approach people in social settings, or on the street - within reasonable situations, of course. This has the potential to come off as being creepy, especially between two genders, but I think you can pull it off in a nice way.
    • My personal experience with this: When I was at school in Santa Barbara, I kept seeing this strawberry blonde girl with AWESOME style all around campus. She was always wearing cool vintage outfits and bold looks, and I happened to meet someone who was friends with her on Facebook. Using the mutual connection as a starting point, I creepily messaged her and explained how I thought she had amazing style and would love to shoot her sometime. She was not as creeped out as I expected and we shot together a few days later!
    • I've also approached someone on the UC Berkeley campus where I work, complimented her outfit (asked her where she got her dress), and said I was a photographer and I'd love to shoot with her sometime. I happened to have a business card, which I handed her, and she ended up emailing me! We have yet to shoot, but still. Go for it!

I hope that's enough to get you started. Do you have any additional resources for finding models? Leave a comment below!