Senior Pictures

Reasons You Should Have Senior Pictures Taken

It’s finally the time of year when the sun begins to poke its head out again and we have the types of days that lure you out to the city parks.  In addition to the sun creeping out, the retail store shelves have suddenly become lined with stuffed animals bearing a cap and gown and space for signatures and “Oh the Places You’ll Go” books out front.  Not only does this time of year signal the beginning of spring, it’s also a signal that many people are completing an educational milestone. Its graduation season.  Though people graduate throughout the year, May and June tend to be the biggest months for celebrating these accomplishments, with one of the biggest being high school graduations.

High school graduations have come with their own traditions since just about forever.  Some are ancient and over the top, but a few are worth continuing: one of which is senior pictures. Having senior pictures taken is a good idea for several reasons and most of them are extremely unselfish or vain.  So, before you think about skipping out on them, read ahead for a few reasons that you shouldn’t.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 1: The Family

Your family and close friends like having solid proof that all the love and support they have provided to the graduate over the years has actually matriculated into a finished product and a more well-developed person.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even 2nd cousins have watched you grow up and it’s nice to have comparison photos throughout the years.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 2: For Practical Reasons

If you are a proper person or just someone who likes people to receive gifts for their accomplishments, you will likely send out invitations to the graduation ceremony. A nice addition to any graduation invitation is a picture of who is exactly graduating.  Many of your guests may not have seen you in some years, so including a picture will help them put a name to a now-grown-up face. If you slip and miss sending out the photos with the invitations, they can also be saved and sent with the thank you notes.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 3: To Share and Exchange with Friends

I know you may have heard this before, but it is very likely that you (or the graduate) will never see some of these high school friends again. Everyone grows up and moves to different places and chooses different paths in life, so having the ability to exchange photos makes sure they have something to show when they are telling stories about how much of a blast you guys had in physics class. 

Senior Pictures

Reason # 4: To Capture Who You Are at This Moment

As mentioned in reason number 3, you may end up going down many different roads as you progress into adulthood.  Your habits, interest and friends may change, so senior photos are a good opportunity for you to capture exactly who you are in this moment.  Has playing basketball defined your high school years?  Maybe the debate team or spanish club?  No matter what your interests are at this moment, try to capture them in your photos.  Meet your photographer at an empty basketball court and use that as a setting or bring props that have special meaning to you. Make your photo shoot representative of you.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 5: To Celebrate Your Accomplishment!

I would say the most important reason to get those senior photos done, is that it gives you the opportunity to celebrate your own accomplishment!  Finishing high school is a big deal.  We have all been there and know how crazy those 4 (or maybe 5!) years can be, but you have done it and done it well.  That deserves a celebration.  That deserves photos that you can look back on and smile or share with the future graduates that come after you.

Senior Pictures

Landing Resort Wedding

Landing Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, CA | Rosa + Justin

One of the best parts of my job is that family’s so often keep me in the family: hiring me for their events again and again. In some cases, it’s for growing families – engagements, then weddings, then for family portraits as they grow in size.  In other cases, I’m hired for one wedding, and then another wedding, and then another, all within the same family.  It’s amazing because the guests even start to remember me!

Justin’s sister Julie and her now husband Michael originally hired me to photograph their engagement and wedding and then Justin and Rosa followed suit for both their engagement and wedding. 

Rosa and Justin had an incredible Landing Resort wedding on a beautiful holiday summer weekend. Their reception was held in the pavilion tent instead of the ballroom and it offered tons of space for an epic dance party and a super fun photo booth.  Almost a year later, Rosa and Justin have added a small new addition to their family and I couldn’t be happier for them and all their family members who I have come to know and love.

Landing Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort Wedding 

Venue and Catering: The Landing Resort and Spa | Bakery: Above & Beyond Cakes | Florist: Safeway | Bride’s Attire: Enchanted Gowns | Bridal Party Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Warehouse | DJ: High Sierra Sounds | Hair and Make-up: Gypsy Dawn Beauty Bar | Videographer: Stand Up Films | Second Photographer: Chris Arson

“No One Danced at the Wedding!”

Tips on Choosing Your Wedding DJ and Music Lineup So You Reception is the Dance Party That It Should Be.

Stevie Wonder, Maroon Five, Journey, JT or Michael Jackson—no matter whose songs you decide to play at your wedding reception, we can all agree that music is important.  Yea, we know your family and friends are partly there to see you tie the knot, but let’s face it 90% of their reason for hitting that RSVP button, was to party like a rockstar with you and your new spouse. And who can resist a good dance party?? Of course, the key here is to make sure that you and your DJ are on the same page and that they are playing music that keeps everyone dancing. Hopefully this post will give you some tips to help you do that and make sure that you’re not left exclaiming, “No One Danced at the Wedding!”

True Story…. I have worked at many a wedding reception where no one danced– that’s right you heard me, not even the ring bearer or flower girls could be bothered to venture out to the dance floor. The DJ was doing his best to be the “Hype Man/Upbeat Emcee” but unfortunately the list of songs given to him by the bride and groom consisted of 92% Backstreet Boys songs on repeat, and 8% cupid shuffle.  The bridesmaids were even embarrassed.  Don’t let this happen to you. Should you play songs that you love at your wedding? Sure.  But if you want to party with your friends and family and not just have them watch you party, make sure you look at some of the tips in this post.

No One Danced at the Wedding

Choose your DJ wisely

Once you have made the decision to go the DJ route, start looking right away, the good DJ’s book quickly.  Get recommendations from family and friends who have planned weddings before, or better yet, ask your photographer. You want to go with a DJ who has played weddings and not just the guy or gal who plays every Friday night at the downtown club. There is a difference between acceptable music for a night out and what’s acceptable for a formal event where your grandmother and colleagues will attend. My favorite Lake Tahoe DJs?  Ryan Palmer and Dylan Thomas over at Lake Tahoe DJ and David Berkman with Ascent DJ Productions, no question. My least favorite DJs? I’m not shy about sharing that list also, but you have to already be my client to get it.

No One Danced at the Wedding

 

Everyone may not love Brittney as much as you do.

I know this statement may break your heart, and I’m sorry, but just because Brittney Spears singlehandedly produced the sound track of your adolescence and you have “so many fun memories attached to her songs,” does not mean half of your wedding songs should be dedicated to her.  Yea sure, throw in a song or two so that you and your middle school best friends will be enticed to tear it up on the dance floor and relive those 6th grade dance nights, but let’s leave it at that.  Make sure you request a variety of music that will get all your guests to the dance floor.  Also make sure that your songs include not only different genres, but also that they span all decades.  Granny and Great-Uncle Charlie want to dance too and not to the Spice Girls.

No One Danced at the Wedding

Watch out for “Marathon Songs”

Make sure your DJ knows not only what to play, but how long to play certain songs.  No one wants to get caught on the dancefloor dancing to a song they love and trying to stay until its finished, only to find out that the DJ is seriously playing the entire 14-minute extended version of the song. This is especially sound advice for any DJ playing a line dance song. Everyone loves their favorite song, but seriously a 14-minute song is a workout that most of your guests did not sign up for.

No One Danced at the Wedding

Line Dances: Be very, very careful

Speaking of line dances, you should seriously consider whether you even want to include them.  Yes, we know they get people to the dance floor, but this is one of those things that is so terribly overused, that it is has almost become the worst kind of cliché. While researching for this post, I found that many couples have even asked their DJ’s to not include line dance songs at all. Whatever you decide, do not, I repeat, DO NOT by any means allow a DJ to play the Cupid Shuffle more than one time at your reception (If you allow it at all).  This song has been so overplayed by DJ’s at weddings and nightclubs that most wedding industry vendors (including myself!) Would literally rather pull our ears off slowly than hear it one more time. We can imagine that many wedding guests feel the same way.  Just. Don’t. Do. It.

wedding guests dancing

Hopefully these tips help you choose your wedding DJ wisely and keep the dance party going well into the wee hours of your reception.

Valentine’s Themed Birth Announcement | Cooper Family

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to collect amazing clients as friends and that often, long after I photograph them for the first time, they hire me again and again for their changing and growing families. Julia and Mark were wed in a beautiful Edgewood wedding last summer. When they decided to add onto their family this winter, the first thing they did was email me, which is the highest honor! Julia is incredibly creative and has an awesome eye for graphic design. In fact, she used to work at Minted and designed all her own wedding invitations and stationary. Her idea for the newest addition was just as inventive: a Valentine’s themed birth announcement! I was so honored to brunch with them in Berkeley and then tromp around the greens at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden to make her awesome idea come to fruition.

 

Valentine's Themed Birth AnnouncementValentine's Themed Birth Announcement Valentine's Themed Birth Announcement

 

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Hundreds of years ago even Shakespeare understood the gravity of choosing or carrying a family name.  Romeo struggled with the choice of giving his up and being with his forever love or hanging on to it and losing her altogether.  Lucky for us, deciding what to do with your last name after marriage doesn’t have such grave consequences.  It can however, be a tough decision for a couple to make. Names can hold cultural significance or help identify you as a proud member of a prominent family in your community.  Long ago, there were hard traditional rules to the last name situation, but times have changed and now couples are choosing different routes altogether.  So, if you and your partner are in this phase of merging your lives and trying to figure out what to do with the last names, just know that you don’t have to settle for tradition.  Here are few ways couples are deciding to merge their last names.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

The Traditional Way

I know I started this by talking about non-traditional routes, but I thought it would be good to start with this one to lay the foundation.  I think we all know the traditional way to handle your last name after marriage is having one partner take the last name of the other. In the past, it was the woman who would take her husband’s last name, however in essence it is just one partner deciding to replace their last name with the other partner’s. Doing this requires a lot more work than some of the other options including filing for a new birth certificate and social security card, changing your name on your driver’s license and passport, and of course paying the fees associated with those changes. There are other issues you may run into as well, if you go this route. For example, is if it is the husband who wants to take the last name of the wife or if you are a same-sex couple, things get a little trickier.  In some states those two situations don’t allow couples to go through the standard marriage name change procedures.  Instead you would need to file for a legal name change that requires petitioning the court and putting out a public notice which could cost you a few hundred bucks.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Keep Your Given Name

I mean, it’s yours after all.  You have likely walked around with that name your whole life, it is nice and worn in and comfortable.  It is who you are.  That can be reason enough to keep your name, but there are a host of other reasons people decide to do this.  The most common are for practical and professional reasons.  Practically speaking its low-maintenance.  You don’t have to make any changes or pay any fees.  You just continue with your regular life after the wedding.  Other people keep it for professional reasons.  You might own a business and it carries your name, there’s no need to change that when you keep your surname.  Or you have built a professional image around your name and its your personal brand.  Changing it could be a marketing disaster.  There are also familial or cultural reasons.  A good friend of mine comes from a large Korean family who is very involved in their community.  They have a unique last name, so when she introduces herself, people know who her family is and value what they have done in the community.  When she got married, she wanted to stay connected with that culture of community support her family was known for, so she kept her family name.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Add Punctuation/Hyphenate

This is probably the second most common way that couples choose to merge their last names.  They just add a hyphen.  Think “Jane Doe-Smith, or John Adams-Brown.” Rumor has it that even Jay Z has hyphenated his and Beyoncé’s surname to become Shawn Knowles-Carter since she doesn’t have any brothers and they wanted to carry the family name on. This is an easy way to have the best of both worlds.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Create a New Name Altogether

Not only has this idea gained popularity in the last decade, but it just sounds awesome.  Some couples have decided to ditch their given names altogether and come up with their own. They are using names they made up as kids or choosing to merge their two surnames (Dawson and Hobbs become Dobbs or Hawson), or simply choosing something that references mutual hobbies or passions, like my clients Sara and Will did: their new last name references one of their favorite Doctor Who episodes.  Of course, this would likely require a legal name change and a few dollars in fees, but what I’ve heard from couples who have done this is that is prevents the need to choose one name over the other or to make your names extra long with hyphens.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Hopefully, this post gives you a solid list of options when deciding what to do with your surname after the wedding is over.  And just as Shakespeare wrote many, many moons ago and much more eloquently than I can, no matter what you decide to do, a name doesn’t change who you are you’ll still be that perfectly sweet smelling rose no matter how you decide to sign.

 

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Landing Resort Winter Wedding

Landing Resort Winter Wedding | Michelle + Rich

Michelle and Rich originally intended to elope, and then it turned into a small wedding, and then it turned into a bigger wedding. The Landing Resort and Spa offered the perfect location: a gorgeous rooftop deck, in house catering, and incredibly comfortable resort style hotel rooms that allow for pets, which was a must since they’ve rescued quite a few dogs over the past year.

Since Michelle and Rich both work at media school that offers courses in film, photography, theater and other visual arts, most of their close friends are all photographers and videographers.  As such, it was important to them to find someone that was relaxed, laid back, and wouldn’t be concerned with other folks taking photos.  Among my loud charm and wit, I am certainly relaxed. Oh, and I can help you find a DJ the night before you wedding.

I’m incredibly thankful that Rich and Michelle found me. I had such an amazing time with their friends and family and I now count them, as well as a few of their friends, among my friends. 

Also, that first look face.  Amiright?

Venue: The Landing Resort and Spa | DJ: Gabe Gavilanes | Florist: Thran’s | Bakery: Icing on the Cupcake | Bride’s Attire: Pronovias from Miosa Bride | Groom’s Attire: R. Douglas Clothier custom suit designed by David Garibaldi

Landing Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter Wedding

 

Why You Should Throw a “Big Easy” Mardi Gras Wedding

You don’t have to be religious or from the south to love a great Mardi Gras party. I mean who doesn’t love a full day of binge eating your favorite foods or a night of drunken revelry that comes with free colorful costume jewelry (aka Mardi Gras beads)! We know there are literally thousands of ways to plan your wedding, but a Mardi Gras wedding should absolutely be in the running. So, when you do decide, make sure I’m there to catch what will inevitably be fantastic photo memories! However, if you need to be convinced further, just keep reading.

New Orleans Flag

Reason 1: Have Any Venue You Want with a Tuesday Wedding

Weddings are expensive, especially if you are eyeballing a Saturday wedding.  Most popular venues are booked for Saturdays a year out. This means two things: 1. Saturdays are extremely popular, and it may be difficult to get the date you want and 2. This high demand equals high prices.  Weekday dates are much lower in price because of the lower demand (think anywhere from 10-25% lower), and you can have your pick of dates and venue.

I know what you may be thinking, “who will want to take off during the week to come to my wedding?”  For some perspective, 1.5 million Americans called in sick the day after the Super Bowl, so have no fear, we know how to plan for recovery and sacrifice for a good party. You can also look at it another way and realize that though having a Tuesday wedding may keep some people away, your wedding guest will be made up of the people who truly love you and won’t let anything stop them from celebrating with you.

Wedding Guests

Reason 2: Shrove Tuesday and Pancakes

Great Food, Masks, Parades, and King Cake.  Mardi Gras traditions simply cannot be beat. There is so much history and culture tied into the holiday that you have your pick of customs to implement into your wedding. First, it starts with the name Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.” In Christian culture Mardi Gras is celebrated the day before “Ash Wednesday.” Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season, which is a time of penitence and fasting. So historically, Fat Tuesday was also known as “Pancake Tuesday” because celebrants would try to use up all their butter, sugar and dairy prior to lent by making and pigging out on pancakes.  Over time it has evolved into a day of celebration and total debauchery. Your last chance to get in all the fun before the 40 days of sacrifice that lent requires. Sounds like the perfect time for a wedding celebration to me.  But the tradition itself is the eating of the pancakes.  If you are considering a unique twist on your reception dinner, maybe throw in a pancake bar complete with ready made pancakes and all the toppings you could imagine.  Sort of a “do-it-yourself” IHOP. 

Wedding Dinner

Reason 3: Masks, Not Just for Halloween

Besides the food, Mardi Gras is known for its beautiful masks. Early on in New Orleans Mardi Gras history, revelers wore masks keep their identities secret, to avoid being bound by societies norms and be free to participate in not-totally-acceptable ways. This also gave them the opportunity to mingle with whoever they wanted. Consider implementing this into your Mardi Gras wedding.  Add a bundle of creative masks to your photo booth station and let your guests get as wild and creative as they want.

Mardi Gras Indians

Reason 4: King Cake. Need I Say More?

I absolutely could not write a piece about a Mardi Gras wedding without mentioning the King Cake. The traditional New Orleans King Cake is decorated with purple, green, and gold sugar icing. They can be plain or filled with cream cheese or nuts. A plastic baby is placed inside the cake and the tradition states that whoever gets the piece with the baby must throw the next party.  Consider a twist on this tradition for your wedding.  Instead of throwing the bouquet or the garter, offer the single ladies or men at your reception a piece of King Cake and the one who gets the baby, gets the bouquet or the garter instead and is next in line for a wedding.

Wedding Second Line

Reason 5: The “Second Line” Parade

Finally, we cannot forget the parade.  Okay this last one may not be a strictly Mardi Gras tradition, but it certainly has its roots in New Orleans. It’s called the “second line”. The “second line” is a tradition for brass band parades. It’s made up of those who follow the band as they parade in the street, just to enjoy the music, and traditionally twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air. This “dance” is called “second lining.”  Many New Orleans couples have been led to the reception or out of it via second line. Yall, can you imagine being led into your reception by a brass band, twirling a parasol, with your wedding guests behind you, ready to party New Orleans Mardi Gras style?  I mean, does it get any fancier than that??

Wedding Second Line

Are You Convinced Yet?

I hope this little history of Mardi Gras traditions and how you can integrate them into your wedding inspired you to go full “Krewe.” Once you have, contact me and I’ll be ready with photo booth, camera and beads in hand.

Mardi Gras beads

Napa engagement session

Napa Engagement Session | Sarah + Tanner

Sarah and Tanner really wanted their engagement session to feel like a normal day and didn’t want anything too posed or formal.  They had fallen in love with my work through their friend Kelley, whose engagement session to her now husband Neal, was a romp around San Francisco.  Since Sarah and Tanner had already planned a trip with her family out to California, we decided to all meet for a Sunday funday together for their Napa engagement session.  It was a blast!  We played bocce and picnicked at their bungalow on a vineyard to start, took in an incredible vista, went wine tasting at the winery that Tanner’s brother works at, Ashes and Diamonds, and all finished up at an incredible dinner in town at one of their favorite spots.  It was such a great way to get to know the two of them and I had such a blast exploring one of my favorite places.  I’ve since been back to Ashes and Diamonds multiple times because I absolutely fell in love with their wine and I am super excited to photograph their wedding in Aspen, CO over Labor Day weekend this year!

Napa Engagement Session

Aspen Grove Wedding

Aspen Grove Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Kelsey + Nick

Nick and Kelsey met in college at UNR and now reside in Las Vegas, NV.  They were excited to wed in Lake Tahoe and their venue is one of my absolute favorites in the area – it always has amazing light, regardless of the time of day and although it’s right in the heart of Incline Village, NV, you feel tucked away into your own private space.  Their Aspen Grove wedding was an absolute blast from start to finish.

Nick and Kelsey’s friends and family were right up my alley: whiskey drinking, dance floor maniacs that spent the whole day laughing.  Their dance floor was epic from the get go: both Kelsey and Nick were crowdsurfing at one point and the end of the night culminated with pants being torn off a groomsmen.

 Related note: shout out to Kelsey for being part of a really amazing non-profit that I considered as my recipient for this year.  She’s on the board of S.A.F.E. House, a comprehensive anti-domestic violence organization that offers free 1) shelter, 2) advocacy and counseling services, 3) community education to end domestic violence. The organization serves primarily women and children in Southern Nevada, but also serves men who are victims of domestic violence, as well folks from outside Nevada.  If you aren’t aware, I pick a different non-profit beneficiary every year to give a percentage of my sales to and I always choose one that is directly connected to my clients. 

Venue: Aspen Grove | Catering: Aspen Grove | Florist: Moana Nursery | Bride’s Attire: Celebration’s Bridal | Groom Attire: Brooks Brothers | DJ: Lake Tahoe DJ | Second Photographer: Annie Robillard 

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Chart House Wedding

Chart House Wedding | Ashley + Tim

Once upon a time, two people named Ashley and Tim hired me to be their Chart House wedding photographer and to do an engagement session with them in my hometown of Dallas, TX but really what’s really important is that we got drunk and ate pizza and they met my mom and we became best friends forever.   

True story.

Tim is from Northern CA and he convinced Ashley that they should get married in Tahoe in August of this past year.  She was very concerned that it was going to rain.  “It never rains in Tahoe in the summer,” Tim assured her over and over.  “It NEVER rains in Tahoe in the summer!” I exclaimed with ultimate authority over and over.

It POURED.

But thankfully it poured seconds AFTER their ceremony and stopped by the first dance so clearly they are going to have the best of luck for the rest of their lives, which is what we tell people so that they feel better when it rains on their wedding day but is actually a lie.

Second true story.

Ashley’s aunts can really break it down on the dancefloor.  

Third true story.

Also, I went home with one of their wedding guests.

True or false?  You decide.

We were also all super pumped to do a post wedding portrait session and we went tromping all over the rocks out at Angora Lakes a few days later so I included some of those gorgeous images at the end of their wedding images.

Venue: The Chart House | Florist: Thran’s | DJ: Cornerstone Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Allure Bridals from Terry Costa | Bridesmaid Attire: Lulu’s | Groom’s Apparel: J Crew | Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux | Rentals: Camelot Party Rentals

Chart House Wedding Chart House Wedding Bride and Groom