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!























Mary & Bart’s Engagement Session

Happiness!  That’s pretty much all I need to say about Mary and Bart’s amazing evening engagement session at the Burroughs Family Ranch in Ballico.  When we started the session, I warned them that it was going to be one big love and kissing fest, but wasn’t prepared for them to take me so literally.  (Haha, I’m glad they did though!)  These two only had eyes for each other, laughing and enjoying some peaceful moments together on Mary’s family ranch.  Aside from Bart’s constant joking that kept Mary in stitches, there were photobombing lambs and their rambunctious Jack Russell, Brodie, to keep things lively.

I met Mary several years ago on a Best Buddies cycling team, and we’ve been friends ever since.  Mary and Bart are also involved with Team In Training and are avid adventurers, so it was only natural that they include something athletic in their engagement session.  I was so excited when Mary told me that they were bringing vintage bikes – because what could be better backdrop for some vintage cycling than dirt roads and ranch silos?

Everything about Mary and Bart’s engagement session was perfect: the light, the location, and of course, the LOVE between these two amazing people.  Seeing your friend find someone that means the world to her, and then becoming friends with that person too – understanding just how awesome he is in the process – is priceless.  I can’t wait to photograph their wedding this fall.

Thank you Mary and Bart for inviting me to capture your love for one another.  And special thanks to my husband Steve for providing lighting assistance and offering his flawless dog handling skills!

Love & Happiness,






































What to Ask When Choosing a Wedding Photographer

January is here and that means white sales, juice cleanses, budget balancing, snow sports, and…wedding planning?

Although few couples choose one of the coldest months of the year to say “I do” (unless, I guess, they get married in the Southern Hemisphere!), plenty of them are busy RIGHT NOW planning for their spring, summer, and fall celebrations.  Photography is one of the top things to consider, right after the venue and racing towards a “photo finish” with the food and beverage (sorry, couldn’t resist).


Wedding photography isn’t something we shop for every day.  It’s an investment in memories that can’t be made again.  With so many options out there, how can a couple make the choice that’s right for them?


I’ve been thinking about that question a lot.  When I got married, I had NO IDEA what questions I should ask or what options I should consider before booking my wedding photographer.  Luckily for us, he was absolutely the right man for the job and his photos captured our day exactly as I hoped they would.  Still, if I knew then what I know now, I would have done a little more homework so that the outcome of our photography was based less on an educated guess and more on knowledge and research.


If you’re planning your wedding, thinking about planning your wedding, or helping someone else plan a wedding, here are my…

Top 10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Wedding Photographer

To keep it simple, I’ll to refer to “photographer” with the feminine pronoun, but of course this also applies to all of my incredible male colleagues out there. 😉

1. Do you like – no, LOVE – her work?


There’s an old saying, “what you see, is what you get.”  This couldn’t apply more to choosing a photographer.  Take the time to browse her galleries and visit with her to see her prints.  Thumb through an album.  Look for style – is it bright and fun?  Light and airy?  Dark and romantic?  Chances are if you click with what you see in her portfolio, you are going to absolutely love the work she does for you.  Check also for consistency: if you see the style changing dramatically from wedding to wedding, then how will you be sure you’ll get the style YOU want on your big day?

2. Do you like – no, REALLY LIKE – her as a person?


This is gonna sound crazy, but you’ll spend more time with your photographer than anyone else on your wedding day.  She’s with you all day long, documenting the entire process – from slipping into your dress, to shaving in your boxers, to dancing under the stars, to kissing almost a thousand times to get that perfect shot.  She’ll be with you through all the emotional, stressful, jittery, confusing, and exhausting moments too – all while lifting you up to constantly make you look and feel your best.  Your photos will only look as good as you feel.  I repeat: YOUR PHOTOS WILL ONLY LOOK AS GOOD AS YOU FEEL.  Go with someone who makes you feel amazing.

3. Is she experienced in weddings?


This probably goes without saying – but is worth repeating!  It’s one thing to take a pretty portrait, it’s quite another to take HUNDREDS of portraits, detail shots, candids, and action shots all while negotiating the very tight timeline of a wedding day and making yourself available for any impromptu moment that may arise.  Phew!  There’s a lot of responsibility and skill involved with photographing a wedding, and we aren’t even to the creative part of it yet.  Make sure your photographer has experience in weddings, especially at venues like the one you are getting married at.  It’s never a great thing to realize on the day of your wedding that your photographer only shoots in natural light – and your ceremony and reception are all indoors!

4. Does she work with professional equipment?


There are many great photographers out there who shoot with a cell phone or a beginner’s camera and a kit lens.  I follow them on Instagram, I’m sure you do too!  They create some amazing art and constantly inspire me to push myself further.  However (and you KNEW there had to be a “however”) a low resolution thumbnail on Instagram is a great democratizer.  You’ll never know how GOOD the quality could have been with better equipment because you can’t see it at low resolution.  Blow that image up to a 20″x30″ fine art print and you’ll literally see what I mean.  The best wedding photographers use the best gear because they want to give you the best.  Don’t be afraid to ask about the equipment she uses.  Here’s a simple starter: ask “do you shoot prime?” and if she responds like you’re talking about steaks, then you probably want to shop around a little more.

5. Does she have a back-up plan?


Everyone who works weddings needs a contingency plan(s) for when things go south.  There’s no do-over for your I do’s.  It’s perfectly OK to ask your photographer if she has a back-up plan for handling equipment failures, weather conditions, sudden illnesses, and anything else that may throw her a curve ball on your big day.  If she’s a professional, she’ll have you covered, no matter how life tries to get in the way.

6. Is it easy to communicate with her?


There are so many ways to communicate these days: phone, email, snail mail (what’s that?), tweets, texts, instant messages, etc. etc. etc!  And if you’re like me, you have a preference for how you like to get in touch with people.  You also have an expectation for how quickly you like your contacts to respond.  Be realistic – your photographer may not respond immediately to your 2am text about changing the location for your first look photos – but she should get back to you in a reasonable amount of time and in the way you like to communicate.  If she’s responsive, friendly, helpful, and organized in her communication, then you’re already well on your way to building a great relationship.

7. Is photography her full-time job?


Being a full-time wedding photographer is by no means a requirement to being an amazing one.  There are many part-timers out there that keep their 9-5’s while being wedding weekend warriors.  Just keep in mind that between communicating with the couple, working out day-of logistics with the planner, shooting the wedding, editing the images, and creating and delivering prints and albums, there is a good 40+ hours of work invested into ONE wedding.  And that doesn’t even count the time required to manage the business end of the business!  It’s a full-time job, and then some.  An experienced part-timer can still give you the images that you dream of, but you may have to a) wait longer for them, and b) sacrifice the personal touch and easy accessibility that a dedicated professional can give you.

8. Will she take the time to explain and customize the experience?


If you’re a first time bride or groom, I’m probably blowing your mind by now.  Breathe.  It’s going too be fine.  🙂  This wedding business is new territory for you!  But luckily, if you have an experienced wedding photographer by your side, it won’t be her first rodeo.  As part of the wedding photography experience, she should work with you to customize the photography so that she captures the moments that matter to you.  It’s her artistic vision that you’re paying for, but it’s not her day!  She should engage you in discussions about how to best document the magic and memories that may not seem obvious, but are unbelievably important.  If she doesn’t know that your fiance’s uncle from Italy is going to surprise him at the ceremony, or that you are going to have confetti canons during your first dance, then she won’t be ready to catch that moment when it happens.  It’s a two-way conversation, but the best photographers will initiate it.

9. Can she offer you services within your budget?


First and foremost, I hope you start your wedding photographer search by looking for work that inspires and excites you.  Pay attention to that little stinging sensation that you get behind your eyes, and the slight tightness that constricts your chest when you react to an image that moves you.  THAT’S how you want to feel about YOUR wedding photos.  Then flip the price tag over.  Accept that no matter what your photography budget is that yes, you will have sticker shock.  I sure did.  The average cost for wedding photography is $2,618 (The Knot, 2015) and there are plenty more photographers on either side of the spectrum, all with packages at different price points offering different products at different levels of quality and quantity.  Work with your fiancé to set a budget and then go about finding a photographer who you love that offers a package at a price you can afford.  Many photographers are willing to customize a package to fit your needs – but not all.

You only get one shot at this!  You may not need to invest heavily, but do invest wisely, and plan for additional items such as prints, albums, thank you cards, keepsakes, and an engagement session in your total budget.

10. If something went wrong, are you comfortable that she would make it right?


This is last but definitely not least.  In fact, it’s last because it is SOOOO important!  Your photographer needs to be accountable to you.  Obviously, if your hair gets messed up by the wind, a guest spills wine down your dress, the florist delivers peach roses instead of pink ones, or your nephew traces curlicues in the cake frosting, it’s not your photographer’s fault (although…she can make fly-aways lay flat, dab wine from dresses, fix the color of flowers, and repair minor cake disasters with her magic editing wand).  If a misunderstanding occurs that creates an issue that only she can resolve, then she needs to put on her big boss pants and own it.  You are her client and are trusting her to deliver on her promises.  Read reviews, talk to past clients, and even talk to the photographer to see how she runs her business.  She’ll be glad you asked.

If this post helped you navigate the fun but often overwhelming task of hiring a wedding photographer, SHARE it!  Happy couples make for happy photographers, but it takes a little mutual searching to make the perfect match.  Your perfect soulmate is one in 7 billion…but luckily, your perfect photographer is a lot easier to find!

Happy Wedding Planning!


I took that!  🙂  I am a Northern California photographer specializing in wine country and wilderness weddings.  All images in this article were photographed by moi.  View more of my work on and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see the latest and greatest.  Thanks for stopping by!

Janet & Mark’s Yosemite Adventure Session

I’ve been lucky to know Janet and Mark for several years.  Having cycled on many a bike ride with them through the backroads of Oakdale, I knew that they were the outdoorsy and athletic type.  (If I can manage, I sometimes get to snag an easy ride by drafting off of their super-fast tandem!)  So it was no surprise to me when they wanted to have their anniversary photo session in one of my favorite places in the world: Yosemite National Park.

The attraction to Yosemite was natural: Janet and Mark were married there in the little red chapel on Southside Drive, just a stone’s throw from the Merced River.  Making the chapel our first stop was no question, as we wanted to begin the session by returning to the very spot where it all began.  It was so special to share this moment with my good friends and see how much happiness it gave them to relive the memories of their wedding day.

An afternoon snow storm was building, giving us an amazing couple hours of dynamic, yet atmospheric light.  Believe it or not, sunny clear days can make capturing the beauty of the Yosemite Valley AND your subject very difficult.  Those bright granite surfaces are like big sun reflectors!  A light cloud cover can work wonders to reveal the many waterfalls, cracks, and crannies that line the rugged rock walls while at the same time capturing the beautiful smiles of the happy couple in front of the camera.  I was so excited to have these moments of quiet winter weather to capture Janet and Mark celebrating their special milestone.

Thank you Janet and Mark for inviting me to celebrate with you in Yosemite!  And thank you Steve Tallman for your most excellent assistance with gear and lighting.  Here’s to many more years of love, happiness, and ADVENTURE for us all!


















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??



What a Wedding Season!


It’s barely July and that means wedding season is in full swing.  Some of you have asked what I’ve been up to since starting my photography journey, so I thought I’d share one field that I’m working in: WEDDINGS!  This year I have had the opportunity to develop my photography skills as a “second shooter,” working alongside some amazing wedding photographers, most notably Lisa Richmond of Sunflower Field Photography.  Perhaps the thing I like most about this genre of photography (other than working with Lisa, and the dynamite chicken cordon bleu they serve at the Sequoia Mansion in Placerville) is that I get to capture cherished moments from a couple’s big day.  It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to use my talents to provide a lasting memory of a very important life event.

We don’t know how important photography is until a couple sees their images for the first time…maybe its a tender smile during the father-daughter dance, a wipe of a tear from the eye during the vows, a loving gaze during a private moment between bride and groom, a warm embrace from an old friend, or the bridal party whooping it up on the dance floor.  All these moments matter, and it’s so wonderful that we have a means of “freezing” it in time with the click of a shutter.  With photography, a moment becomes an heirloom.


More weddings are on the books for summer and fall, and I can’t wait to photograph them all!  HUGE thanks to Lisa for including me in the memories and the fun – and teaching me more than a thing or two about running a successful photography business along the way.  The learning experience has been unreal.  And thanks to Ming Yang of Diamond One Photography for the incredible experience at Kellie and Keiko’s Grass Valley wedding.  Congratulations to Laura, Matt, Hayle, Mason, Kellie, Keiko, Anna, Justin, Nicole, Tom, Leslie, John, Amanda, and Chris for allowing me to participate in your wedding day – here’s to a lifetime of pure happiness!


Take a peek below to see some of the beautiful weddings I have photographed this year.

I’m currently booking Jessica Tallman weddings for 2017 – if you or someone you know is in need of a photographer with a natural and authentic touch, please drop me a line at!  Please also check out the work of my fellow photographers in the Placerville (Lisa Richmond Photography) and Sacramento (Diamond One Photography) area – their work is absolutely stunning.

Love & Happiness,