Amy & Tyler’s San Francisco Engagement

There’s no such thing as leaving your heart in San Francisco – when you love SF, a little piece of the city embeds itself in your soul and travels with you everywhere you go.  Such was the case with Amy and Tyler, who brought their love for each other to the city that they adore, making it a richer and more beautiful place than ever before.

It was Amy’s idea to do their engagement session at the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, a place I know well and am only too happy to photograph anytime!  Though the encroaching fog canceled our plans for some Golden Gate Bridge shots across the street, it did give us soft, filtered light that made for stunning photography at this classic San Francisco landmark.  Amy and Tyler were resilient, weathering the quickly dropping temperature with lots of giggles and grace (and plenty of hugs!  Note to self: *slightly* under-dressing for coastal weather makes for a verrrry cuddly couple, must try again).

Usually, at the beginning of a session, I give prompts to couples to encourage them to interact with each other in an authentic and natural way.  In other words – hold hands, kiss, and forget that me and my lens are all up in your space!  Not so with Amy and Tyler.  From the very beginning, they only had eyes for each other.  What I wouldn’t give to know what Tyler was saying to his fiancé to make her laugh so much!  It doesn’t get much better than working with a deliriously happy, beautiful couple in one of the most striking locations in San Francisco.  Architecture and landscape are the two themes that drive my photography style, and when I get to experience both with the emotions of a lovely couple…oh, it’s just magic.

Tyler’s parents are longtime friends of mine (I’ve known his dad for 15 years!), so it was really awesome to have this opportunity to get to know him and Amy by sharing this special milestone with them.   Congratulations Amy and Tyler on your engagement and all the best as you plan for your wedding.  It’s going to be amazing!























Gothic Kicks and Country Licks in Good Ol’ Nashville

When I travel, I look to photograph images that capture the traditional flavor of a place, as well as the quirky side dishes and amuse-bouches that make a destination unique, intriguing, and surprising!

Maybe it was the proximity of this trip to my favorite holiday of the year (Halloween), maybe it was the moody change in the weather (hello, Fall), or maybe it was the influence of the spirit of Nashville (whiskey!), but whatever the case my photography of this city took a decidedly gothic turn.  Yes, I obliged myself in some very traditional Nashvillian images, but when it’s all said and done, I’d say that Tennessee took a page out of the Hunchback of Notre Dame when designing its capital city!

Before We Go Country…Let’s Go Gothic

From spooky old train stations to dilapidated antebellum mansions to any number of ornate edifices made from iron or stone, Nashville has a corner on the quietly creepy market.  Click an image below to see the emo underbelly of this town in intense detail.


Now For the Guitars, Glitter, and Good Times

If Nashville is known for anything the world over, it’s for producing some darn fine country music and Tennessee whiskey.  (They make some especially good spirits at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, just outside of downtown, BTW.) Good thing you can have your fill of both at any of hundreds of establishments across the city!  And, if you’re lucky, you may get treated to a free concert by a music legend.  Thanks Garth Brooks, we’ll take a live concert and fireworks show along the Cumberland River any night of the week – but it was especially nice of you to liven up a Monday night so nicely.


Nashville definitely gets my vote for music, architecture, history, and buttermilk biscuits.  Mmmmm, you haven’t lived right until you’ve eaten a Big Nasty (a heart-stopping delight of fried chicken stuffed inside a buttermilk biscuit and topped with sausage gravy) at the aptly named Biscuit Love.  I must say that downtown Nashville seemed to lack cultural diversity in its restaurants, night life, and historical attractions, which was a surprise for me when I compare it to one of my favorite southern towns, New Orleans.  However, that won’t stop me from going back and searching out local life outside of my 3 mile walking radius and getting a real pulse on what Music City is all about.

And no.  I did not see the ghost of Elvis.  But I did see this incredibly cute dog keeping time to a Jack Daniels guitar on Broadway.  Only in Nashville, folks.






Real Estate Photography: It’s Not Just Pictures of Pretty Houses


Spoiler alert!  There are many genres of photography out there that don’t fit the stereotypical mold of glitz and glamour.  Not all professional photography involves smiling happy families in matching sweaters, five-star weddings, sunsets over Santorini, or following around beautiful people in designer jeans as they strike funny poses in exotic places (if only…). One of these lesser-known, but increasingly lucrative, genres is real estate photography.


Know this: Real estate photography isn’t just pictures of kitchen islands and master bathrooms!  As millennials enter the home-buying market, real estate is taking a surprisingly “real-life” turn, and one of the ways it is doing this is by depicting neighborhoods and cities as locals see it.  In fact, the Sacramento Bee just published an article about the changing landscape in real estate marketing, highlighting a trend that is focused on advertising the homeowner lifestyle and experience vs. farmhouse sinks and travertine floors.


My love for travel and street photography has given me the opportunity to work for several real estate and relocation firms, most recently Jane Gray of Jane Gray Real Estate.  Jane is an experienced businesswoman with her finger on the pulse of the Sacramento housing market.  To give her clients a real feel for the area and differentiate her brand from the competition, she knew she needed unique, fresh, and authentic imagery.  When she reached out to me to develop the visual content for her website and blog, I jumped at the chance!  I love this kind of work because I get to explore a city from the inside-out and fully indulge my passion for architecture, landscape, and candid street photography.  I also get to tap into my storytelling skills as I weave a visual narrative of a city.


The goal in this type of real estate photography, which I’ve started calling “environmental photography”, is to show people so much more than the four walls of a house.  We all know that it’s not the 800 square foot media room, but the surrounding community that really turns a house into your “home.”  Want to see what it’s like to call Roseville and Sacramento home?  Keep scrolling…


Thank you Jane for the opportunity to create exclusive content for you!  I can’t wait to see how you use your images for Jane Gray Real Estate.


What should I wear to my portrait session?

What we wear is such a wonderful expression of who we are as an individual!  Many of us put extra effort into our appearance on the day of a photo shoot (including this photographer, haha…but that’s a subject for another post).  I love helping clients style themselves, finding outfits that not just reflect their personal taste but also make them feel comfortable and beautiful.

Once I know a client’s personal style, I work with them to find portrait locations that reflect their taste.  I had an inkling Marisa would love the Palace of Fine Arts – and it proved to be a beautiful match!

Because most of the work I do is on location, I encourage my clients to think about where they would like their pictures taken, and how their clothing can help them harmonize with, or stand out from, the environment.  I recommend selecting outfits that allow you to do both – which is easy to do with the flick of an accessory or two.  Read on to learn more about this technique as well as other fun wardrobe tricks!

Today I’m featuring images from a summer session I did with the lovely Marisa Sergi, reigning USA National Miss California Golden Coast and CEO of RedHead Wine, to demonstrate…

Jessica’s Top 10 Wardrobe Tips for Portrait Sessions

1. Start with a “solid” foundation.

In a portrait session, the focus is on YOU!  Patterns and intricate details, while very nice on their own, take the spotlight off of your face, expressions, and location, all of which are important in communicating your story.  I encouraged Marisa to select solid colors that complemented her hair and complexion (for a redhead, a rich green like this is a natch) and then bring accessories to add variety.  For full-body shots, a neutral colored shoe is a sound choice, especially when your outfit is colorful…but don’t be afraid to go bright if that’s your style!  For the best balance, just make sure that if the accessories are colorful, the clothes are neutral, and vice versa.

When I saw Marisa’s green dress, I knew this lush garden setting would be the perfect way to harmonize her outfit with the background and draw focus to her face.  However, it can go both ways: Look below for examples of how a neutral backdrop switches the focus to her green dress and pose.


2. Be bold!

I’m a big fan of bright colors.  When photographing clients outdoors, where hues are usually subdued, a pop of saturated color  can really set my subject off from the background.  It doesn’t take much…a scarlet scarf, turquoise tie, or chartreuse shirt can do it.

For Marisa’s vineyard session, I knew she wanted to feature the California state flag.  To complement the flag, make her pop from the background, AND add a little patriotic flair, I encouraged her to layer this gorgeous blue coat over her white dress.  You can do this too by bringing a bright accessory or two to your portrait session.

Be bold with it – and have FUN!

I love how the rich blue color of Marisa’s coat contrasts with the state flag – and gives this image a patriotic nod, to boot!  Speaking of boots…it’s always a great idea to have a pair on hand for outdoor portrait sessions. 😉


3. …but be prepared to be subtle.

As much as I love love LOVE color, I also understand the value of backing off on it to achieve a more nuanced look.  This is another reason why starting your portrait session in a solid base (in the example below, a neutral one) can work so well.  When the light started to fade into the soft, golden sunset glow, I asked Marisa to ditch the blue coat and strike some poses in just her white dress.  I loved how her outfit complemented the subtle colors and warm tones all around her, really emphasizing the calm feeling in these last moments of the day.

Oh, and I got to wear her blue coat for a few minutes.  Score!

The bright blue coat worked beautifully earlier in the session, but would have detracted from the soft mood of this picture.  No one says you have to wear the same thing all session long.  Variety is the spice of life, let’s mix it up!

4. Consider the season.

Time of year is an important variable to consider when choosing your portrait session outfit(s).  What you would wear to the lake in October  is probably quite different from what you would wear to the beach in June, or to a ski slope in January.  Consider not just comfort when selecting your clothing, but also the seasonal colors and fabrics that are important to you.

Marisa’s San Francisco shoot was on the first day of summer, and the forecast was for sweet sunshine, so we knew that some carefree styling was in order!  Her choice of a yellow sundress was right on point for the time of year.  With each new setting – casual Baker Beach, formal Palace of Fine Arts – we mixed up her wardrobe to really capture the look and feel of the location.  No matter how different each outfit was, the mood of each is unmistakably “summer”.

Lucky us!  One of the locations on our shoot list was a cable car.  Although there were other nice cars to pick from, this yellow and red one matched Marisa’s outfit to a “T,” so we rolled with it (ba-dum-dum).

5. Consider the reason.

How do you intend to use the images?

  • A holiday family session might have everyone wearing matching silly sweaters or an accessory (scarf, hat, gloves) in a matching color to communicate fun and good cheer.
  • A spring maternity session might have mama-to-be in a pastel dress with a crown of delicate flowers in her hair, evoking the tender beauty and femininity of becoming a new mother.
  • A fall harvest session for a winemaker might have him in a casual shirt, jeans, and work boots as he tends to his grapes in the vineyard, speaking to his down-to-earth and hands-on approach to his career.

No matter what the reason, I really enjoy helping my clients pick just the right outfit to fit the intended use of their pictures.

For Marisa, the reason was to promote her bid for the 2016 USA National Miss title.  This of course required that we feature her pageant sash and crown.  Without these two key accessories her photographs, while strikingly beautiful, would not have communicated her intent as clearly.  And who doesn’t like to wear a crown now and then?


It’s OK to let your accessories do the talking!  I like how this sunset image of Marisa’s crown clearly captures the essence of  being California’s “Miss Golden Coast.”

6. Less is not always more.

Know this: I will NEVER judge you for packing too many clothes!!  As long as you don’t judge me for packing too many cameras…it’s all about being prepared.  Go ahead, I have extra trunk space. 😉

Because Marisa and I had talked ahead of time about her styling, she came to the session with a bag packed full of great outfits, and we were able to quickly generate many different looks for her.  She didn’t wear everything,  and that’s A-OK.  Sometimes we changed her styling on the fly, and having extra clothes on hand gave us the flexibility to adapt her look to each location we were shooting in.


7. And then again…with grooming, it is.

Less is NOT more with clothes, that’s for sure.  I’ve got your back on that one!  But when it comes to hair and make-up, a softer hand is often better than a heavier one.

So your hair has a chance to “settle in” and you have time to practice styling it, plan to get your hair cut no less than 2 weeks before your portrait session.  Whether you are a man or woman, a fresh manicure with clear or neutral polish is a nice touch, especially if we do close-ups of your hands (next to our eyes, our hands are the most expressive part of our bodies, and I feature them in most portrait sessions.)  And ladies, wear the make-up you are used to and comfortable wearing.  The day of your portrait session is not the time to try out purple eyeliner or coral red lipstick!  Stick with what you know, and if in doubt, go natural.  Lastly, don’t forget to bring some styling products along for touch-ups during the session.  I’m great at holding a mirror, BTW.

A sunset session is the perfect opportunity to channel your inner sun god(dess).  I schedule many of my portrait sessions for this time of day because the light is so flattering.  Marisa chose make-up in neutral colors and warm tones that accentuated, but didn’t dominate her features, and it worked great!

8. Be comfortable!

I always advise my clients to bring layers and comfortable shoes, especially if we are traveling between locations or shooting at the end of the day.  The more comfortable you are, the more relaxed you will be, and your photographs will reflect this.  Marisa had some beautiful heels to wear with her dresses, but she also packed a pair of flats for walking around the city.  Additionally, she had a warm blazer to put on when the San Francisco fog rolled in (as we knew it would).  A comfortable client is a happy client!

Never underestimate the importance of a warm jacket.  Not only will you be more comfortable, but it adds some extra variety to your portrait session wardrobe.


9. Go with the “flow.”

And by flow, I mean fabric.  As in fabric flowing in the breeze…  Ah, that’s one of my favorite things!  And there’s no surer way to infuse a photograph with a sense of life and energy than to capture the wind.  There’s a reason why fashion photographers always have a shop fan or two on hand.

Even if there isn’t enough wind to blow a feather, the illusion of motion can be created with sheer, lightweight fabric – a silk scarf, gauzy linen pants, or chiffon dress will dance on air with just the slightest movement.  These fabric choices are especially nice for beach sessions, where ocean breezes are a given, but will really work anywhere.  All you need is air.

Oh, and silk scarves are about the smallest thing to pack – so go ahead, stuff a few in your bag!

Even without a breeze, the illusion of motion can be created  by pulling lightweight fabric through the air.  Doesn’t it make this striking pose look even more dynamic?


10. Call your photographer.

Never underestimate the importance of a fashion consultant and confidant!  That’s what every good photographer is.  It’s our job to listen to your ideas, hopes, needs, and yes, even your insecurities and fears so that your photography session is an enjoyable and comfortable experience that produces photographs that you absolutely LOVE.

I repeat: it’s our J-O-B.  It’s what you are paying for!  So please, pick up that phone and call.  Let’s talk it out.  I want your images to be just as stunning as you do. 🙂

You are not alone in this!  Ask your photographer for wardrobe assistance.  And if they can’t or won’t help…find another photographer.

* * *

Jessica’s Top 10 Wardrobe Tips for Portrait Sessions:

  1. Start with a solid color as your foundation,
  2. be bold with color but…
  3. balance it with neutrals,
  4. match your style to the season, and…
  5. match your style to the reason,
  6. when selecting outfits, the more the merrier, but…
  7. with personal grooming, less is more…
  8. pack comfortable shoes and layers,
  9. incorporate lightweight fabrics for energy and intrigue, and…
  10. always feel comfortable consulting with your photographer.

* * *

Future Client: Being a creative professional, I encourage personal expression and want you to show your true self.  But, I also know that things look differently behind the lens.  For you to get the most out of your portrait session,  I recommend you consider the aforementioned tips when selecting your wardrobe.  And by all means, if you want some guidance, reach out to me!  I’m here to help.  And boy oh boy, do I LOVE to do it.

That’s it for me.  Now don’t you have some serious shopping to do??



Sacramento Proud!

Hair cuts now come with hair of the dog.  Bottle & Barlow is what happens when an old school barber shop mashes up with a happenin’ bar.  There’s a new zeitgeist brewing in Downtown Sacramento and businesses like this one are at the forefront.

Last week I had the opportunity to work with Dwellworks, LLC on a Sacramento Street Photography project.  My assignment?  Photograph neighborhoods throughout the Sacramento metro and capture the essence of what it’s like to live and play there.

I had a bit of a home field advantage, having lived there for 2 years while I was in graduate school.  Still, there was plenty of new stuff to do and see as I traversed this large and very diverse region.

As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I had a HOT time in the city (literally!).  The temperature soared as high as 106 degrees some days as summer gave the city a nice, warm hug.  I walked for miles through residential areas and retail centers with 25 pounds of camera equipment in tow, sleeveless shirt to keep me cool and visor tipped down to block the rays, sunglasses in place and a look of focus on my face, cameras swinging from my sides and looking every bit the part of a modern-day Mad Max(ine).  IF you still think photography is all travel and glamour…enter this sweaty photographer with sticky hair and a mild case of dehydration. 😉

Nevertheless, a job like this is always waaaay more FUN than it is exhausting, and I came back with a collection of images that show the many similarities – and differences! – of these NorCal neighborhoods.

The Tower Theater in Midtown is hot gathering place for Sacramento locals.  Having the amazing Tower Cafe next door with its eclectic world menu and inviting garden patio certainly doesn’t hurt.

But do you want to know what the coolest thing is?  No matter how hot it was outside, the people of Sacramento kept on living and doing their thing outside.  Never missed a beat.  Check out the pictures below to see what’s kicking in Sacramento’s hottest/coolest neighborhoods.  You just might find your next road trip stop – or neighborhood!

Downtown Sacramento

Anchored by such icons as the State Capitol building, Tower Bridge, and Old Town waterfront, there’s not a whole lot not to like about this part of the city.  It’s the heartbeat of Sacramento and on the Friday night I visited, it was definitely ticking.


Midtown Sacramento

The hip-i-center of night life, arts, and culture for the Sacramento area.  Lots of color, food, and sometimes colorful food can be found here.  Always a scene worth seeing and a favorite home base for young professionals and entrepreneurs.


East Sacramento

With one toe tickling the East end of Midtown, culture and entertainment is easy to come by.  But there’s a quieter, more old fashioned feeling to this section of Sac that makes it a place you’d want to grow up – and grow older – in.


Fair Oaks

It’s fair to say (haha, can I say that?) that Fair Oaks wears its quiet quirkiness as a badge of honor.  Chickens run amok in the quaint downtown square and really, nobody cares.  It’s an oasis of semi-rural charm surrounded by the hustle and bustle of urban life and the calm of river living.  In Fair Oaks, life moves just a little slower…and they like it that way.



Nowhere else in Sacramento does local history, urban comforts, and excellent outdoor recreation blend better than in Folsom.  Better buy a kayak and a paddle board, dust off the golf clubs, and lube up that bike chain if you move here – because out here, the people MOVE!



If all you have seen of Roseville is the Galleria (guilty as charged), then dig a little deeper.  There’s a historic downtown with an impressive rail yard and plenty of mid-century architecture.  Restaurants and retail options abound in this town, making it a major entertainment magnet for the Sacramento metro and Sierra foothills.


Elk Grove

This large suburb to the south of Sacramento has a lot to offer: a tidy historic downtown with tempting restaurants, parks and plazas around every corner, family recreation options everywhere you look, and a semi-rural feel that welcomes you home after a long day downtown.  It’s this All-American quality of Elk Grove that makes it a favorite for families.


North Natomas

To the north of Sacramento is a community that blends the best that city life and suburban living has to offer.  Kids play soccer in the evenings in neighborhood parks and people pack the local library and cafes to read and socialize.  The Sacramento International Airport is just a few miles away, making it the perfect landing place for business travelers.  Plus, nature is right at your back door.  Need I say more?


Thanks for stopping by, neighbor. 🙂