February Wrap Up

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, Design, photo book, photography, Portraits

Happy March 1st!

I feel funny putting together a monthly portfolio when I haven’t yet shared the snow pictures of Mara or the Uptown shots I got of Karoline from this past weekend. But both are coming.

Click cover image to see the inside pages on ISSUU

To recap, February has been a great month, and I feel myself getting more and more confident each time I meet someone to do portraits (planning what you want to shoot helps!).  I also realized it’s okay to be pushed out of my comfort zone, which definitely happened with a couple of these shoots. The first time was Brent, and it was only because he was male – more specifically, a male I didn’t know. But he was so nice and really open to everything that I’m happy to meet up with him again (we have yet to set a date though!). But truth be told, I’d be happy and comfortable enough to shoot any non-creepy male at this point. (LOL, yes I had to provide a condition there.) The other time was when I met Mara at her apartment. Meeting Mara at her apartment wasn’t the issue (well, not for me. My husband was a little weirded out by it. Long story short, he was put at ease when I discovered that they went to high school together. HOW SMALL IS THIS WORLD????). It was the fact that we were creating a studio at her place to bring our concepts to life – it had been awhile since I had been in a studio so I was worried. And just to be clear, I’m not really a studio photographer. Like at all. (I would like to change this.) But it all got figured out and I have to say that after we were done, I felt so creativity fulfilled (I’m sorry for how cheesey that sounds). Mara even asked me if I enjoyed doing studio photography, and I didn’t have to lie. I loved it. But more than that I freakin’ love photographing people – indoors, outdoors, lifestyle, whatever….I seriously wonder why/how I didn’t do this sooner. 🙂

On that note, I’m hoping to understand lighting better and am reading this book that my friend Elina recommended. Just a disclaimer that March might be a little bit quieter as my mom is in town (so trying to do the “family time” thing before she leaves). I also realized that as I’m taking more photos of people, I don’t pick up the camera as much at home. Giada is a little upset about that. 😉 So I need to capture a few personal memories. You may see more pictures of G as a result. (Lucky you, ha ha.)

Giada the Saint Bernard in snow
“Hi everyone.”

Studio Fun with Mara

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits
Model Mara Lynne photographed by Diana Nguyen
“Studio” meaning we met at Mara’s apartment and I brought a backdrop.

Mara and I had been emailing back and forth as she was willing to help me add more lifestyle portraits to my portfolio. She was pretty clear that she was more interested in doing “creative stuff” but would definitely help me get lifestyle shots. This surprised and delighted me all at once. Surprised because people (well, models) have never told me they wanted to try “creative stuff” and then, delighted because well, who doesn’t like doing creative stuff? And truth be told, when we did finally meet up, I wasn’t as interested in getting the lifestyle shots as I was absorbing her excitement for this let’s-do-creative-stuff collaboration. (Background: Mara is a professional lifestyle model, so she does lifestyle portraits all the time. In fact, in one email she wrote “I will give you the sh*it out of lifestyle.” LOL. And she did!)

Since we had a few weeks before meeting up, Mara and I shared a few ideas through Pinterest and came across this awesome gem, which inspired the eye pictures in this post. Initially, we weren’t quite sure how to execute the idea. I bought a face painting kit and figured I’d paint on a sorry-looking eye on one of her hands and then use one of her fake eyelashes on the other. But then her Fairy Godfather Brad (her friend who happens to be an awesome graphic designer) came up with a sheet full of eyes that he designed.

Eye love this.
Eye love this.

Mara spent a lot of time cutting out the individuals eyes and lashes from the sheet Brad had printed out for her. This girl was committed to getting the pictures. [Shout out to Mara!]

mara lynne eyes photographed by diana nguyen
Seriously, eye love these so much.

We also had a few other ideas that we wanted to try shooting including:

Mara Lynne with Fruit Loops photographed by Diana Nguyen
Fruit Loops!

Such a great morning. I had so much fun that we met up again later for snow pictures…I’ll share those pictures in the next post.


With Val at Porkchop

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

I like Instagram for the following reasons:

  • It gives me a place to share my photos.
  • I get to see the work of (SUPER) talented people.
  • The friends I’ve made.

One of these friends has been Val, who is arguably the nicest person ever. And she’s always so patient when I use her in a shot. (“Did you get the shot? No? Do you want me to keep standing here? Ok….” LOL.) Last week, our friend Nycole Hampton invited us to Porkchop in the West Loop. (Do you like BBQ? You definitely need to check this place out.) Everyone did a great job of snapping food pictures. I did too….on Snapchat. LOL. I ended up using Walter for portraits. Well, more specifically Val Portraits.

valerie briee photographed by Diana Nguyen at Porkchop Chicago
I eyed the bar as soon as I came into Porkchop. Luckily, she was game.

Valerie photographed by Diana Nguyen at Porkchop Chicago

I was playing around my Speedlight flash that night. I like this picture of Val sitting alone in the front booth, but I can understand why people wouldn’t dig this shot. (I mean, you can’t see her face…that is a disservice to everyone.)

photography through the window
Shooting through the window

We finally sat down to a table full of BBQ goodies, including ribs, sausage (OMG, so good), salmon (yes, you read right), corn, cornbread and fries (the fries were awesome). It was pretty damn good.

And of course, I don’t have any pictures of the food. :-\

After I stuffed my mouth silly, I stepped away from the table to use the restroom. What I found was a dark hallway with a sink and a single lightbulb hanging from a cord. OMG, I need to get a picture, I thought and ran back to the table to grab Val. Again, I will emphasize how nice she is because she was in the middle of eating but left her dinner just so I could take her picture. When we got to the sink, I positioned her in front of the mirror and clicked away. But something was missing. Once again, I ran back to the table. This time it was to grab my lipstick….and we ended up with this shot:

valeriebriee photographed by Diana Nguyen at Porkchop Chicago
For the record, I cleaned the mirror really, really well afterwards! Oh, and I never got to use the restroom. 

Fun footnote: Val broke the lipstick in half while drawing the heart and felt bad. I told her there was nothing to feel bad about (anything for the shot!). Floyd, who was with us – and will hopefully post the pictures he took from his perspective – goes, “As long as it wasn’t a MAC lipstick.” Oh man, the facial expression he had when he learned that it was….I think the man left a little heartbroken that night. Hahahahahaha.

Chicago Portraits with Miss Washington’s 1st Runner Up

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen

Last week I met up with Julianne, who happens to be the current 1st runner up to Miss Washington 2016 USA .

Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen

We met up at Glazed and Infused in River North – her choice (yes, beauty queens eat!). We stayed there for about 15 minutes chatting and getting to know each other. Then, we were off. But first, the obligatory donut-as-an-eye picture:

Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen at Glazed and Infused
Doesn’t everyone do this?

She had been to Chicago before, but there were places she hadn’t seen. So we took an impromptu long walk toward Millennium Park.

Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen
First, the Chicago River
Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen
Then, we had to check out the Chicago Theater on State Street.

And then, just like that we were at The Bean (“My mom will be so happy that I saw this!“).

I think she ❤’d Cloud Gate. 🙂

We both had to get back, so we walked back down Michigan Avenue toward her hotel. As we were walking, I told her I was glad that she was a “smiling” model. As much as I appreciate the “serious model face” (sometimes it does help the picture), I’m going to try to push my future subjects to show me teeth.

Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen
Smiles are the best
Julianne photographed by Diana Nguyen
See? 😀

[Of course, the next night I went to dinner and took several pictures of my friend Val…and there were no smiles. Oops.]

Chicago Portraits with Natalia

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits
Natalia photographed by Diana Nguyen
Heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Natalia!

Natalia and I decided to meet the Museum of Contemporary Art – a place I’m always up for visiting. She told me later that it wasn’t her favorite museum, but she had developed a new found appreciation for it as we were going through the exhibits and assessing what would work for our pictures. (MCA, if you’re reading this – you have a converted Chicagoan who now loves your museum!) I like that she said that because that is the perspective shift I experienced with every new place and journey ever since I got into photography.

Kathryn Andrews Run for President portrait at MCA Chicago
Goals 🙂

For the record, Natalia wants to be a pilot. I think I’m going to have to keep her contact information…. 😉

Natalia  Putilova photographed by Diana Nguyen

Natalia  Putilova photographed by Diana Nguyen

Natalia  Putilova photographed by Diana Nguyen

Natalia  Putilova photographed by Diana Nguyen

Natalia photographed by Diana Nguyen

Natalia photographed by Diana Nguyen at MCA Chicago

Natalia photographed by Diana Nguyen
I like people who read 🙂

Natalia on red lip sofa at MCA Chicago photographed by Diana Nguyen
Hey Leyla, I saw this sofa and thought of you! [Like you, we had to wait our turn to get a picture. Ha!]
I sent these and a few other pictures to Natalia after we met up and she replied with, “I’ve never seen my eyes like that and I didn’t know that I could be [photographed] like that! I love it!!” I was relieved that she liked them as most of her portfolio are fill with high fashion photography (which is something I’d love to dabble in one day….soon?).

Looking forward to working with you again, Natalia!

Why aren’t you on Flickr?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in photography

Your game is strong on Instagram….so why aren’t you on Flickr?

Part of my Project 366 Project on Flickr. A year of selfies. (I know, it's overdone but it was the only theme I knew I could be consistent with!)
Part of my Project 366 Project on Flickr. A year of selfies. (I know, it’s overdone but it was the only theme I knew I could be consistent with!)

I’ve been shooting with a DSLR since 2009, which seems like a lifetime ago. As I got more and more into photography, I realized I didn’t have any real life friends that shared my interest. In those early days, I posted pictures of Giada on my Facebook page and of course, she got a lot of compliments. That’s what friends are for, right??? But I always felt weird about sharing my Chicago-architecture-street photography pictures because I didn’t think my IRL friends would care for those. Subsequently, that led me to post those shots on Instagram.

Kinda like my dirty little secret.

But nobody on IG (I mean, NOBODY) liked my pictures at the beginning (this is what happens when you don’t tell your friends about your secret). Slowly, however, the likes started coming. Whew. You have no idea how excited the first time one of my pictures got 11 likes (that’s the point where Instagram starts using numbers to count your likes instead of listing out the 10 handles/people who liked your picture). But it took A LONG TIME to get to that magical number. Seriously, 11 likes was like GOLD. I wish I could say I was kidding, but I was a little too much into Instagram in those days. (I won’t even tell you how giddy I got when I got my first 50 followers. You would feel bad for me.)

These days, I need something more.

Yes, I am still pretty active on Instagram. I still check it every day and post a few times a week. But as a photographer, I want to grow and I’m not sure there’s more room for me to do that on Instagram unless I try to follow the rules that Socality Barbie has outlined/parodied. (LOL.) But let’s face it: I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest and I certainly don’t live authentically. (What does that mean by the way???) So where do I go from here? “Flickr is a more serious vehicle than Instagram,” an artist friend said after he told me about getting more work through the site than he does through IG. Hmmmminteresting. So late last year, I started sharing my pictures there to help diversify my reach. Shortly thereafter, a photo editor reached out to see if he could run one of my pictures.


I won’t lie. That kept me on the Flickr train, but I’m still on it and feel like it’s giving new life to my work, especially as I’m focused on portraits these days and am drawn – and inspired by – other photographers who shoot people. It’s been fun to come across people’s work that I would not have found otherwise. So YOU: if you’re a picture taker and Instagram user I’m trying to convince you to try out Flickr for the following reasons:

  • Flickr will provide you with additional exposure. I mean, should you really be putting your eggs in one basket? You have taken a gazillion pictures and you’re only sharing them on one platform? You’re crazy. Broaden your reach!
  • It’s a great learning tool when other photographers take awesome pictures and share their camera settings. Basically, it’s nice to reference their settings to learn how they got that one shot to help you to improve your photography technique.
  • The Groups! Every time you upload a picture, you can add your images to a different Group pools. For example, I’ll share portrait pictures in The Portrait Group; All People and Group of People. Other contributors to those groups can see my picture, and I can see what others are uploading. This, I have to say, has been the most rewarding part of Flickr. (FYI – there are publications that have created their own Group. If you contribute to their designated pools, the editors may see your picture and consider you for future publication. Just saying….)
  • Like Instagram, there is a community. Join it. Embrace it. Love it. [Let’s hold hands now and sing Kumbaya now…lol.] It’s not something that is created overnight, but like anything, if you nurture it you’ll reap the benefits down the line.

So….why aren’t you on Flickr?


Chicago portraits with Brent

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

In mid-January, I got a message from Brent inquiring if I wanted to get together to do a shoot. I won’t lie: my immediate gut reaction was “no”. The reaction was based 100% on the fact that I had never really intended on shooting males (although I’ve photographed my friend Dear Floyd on more than one occasion…but we’re friends and that’s obviously different….right?).  Then, I thought about it. What a dumb reason not to photograph someone. So we set up a time to meet up, and I’m so glad we worked together because Brent was really easy going and had so many great ideas. In fact, he suggested that we share an inspiration board on Pinterest. Brilliant! One of the ideas he found included this:

brent williams photographed by diana nguyen
Inspired by a Harry Styles picture Brent had spotted on Pinterest. (By the way, who knew that Harry knew how to juggle?)

Gah, love it! For the most part though, we wandered around the Garfield Park Conservatory and stopped to shoot anytime something looked interesting. And I did admit to him that he was my first male model. “Well, it shouldn’t be any different than shooting female models,” he responded. I don’t remember what I replied with but it was silly because he was right. This was no different than the ladies I’ve worked with in that this was a nice, lovely collaboration.

Brent Williams photographed by Diana Nguyen, Garfield Park conservatory

Brent Williams photographed by Diana Nguyen, Garfield Park conservatory

Brent Williams photographed by Diana Nguyen, Garfield Park conservatory

And then while we were shooting by one of the ponds, a kid walked into the shot.

Brent Williams photographed by Diana Nguyen, Garfield Park conservatory

LOL, so cute. I love spontaneous moments. (Brent and I chased down the mom to get her email address, so that I could send this picture to her.)

This was such a great morning, and you guys I have to admit it: I’m addicted to portraits now. Completely and totally addicted.

Chicago portraits with Bella

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Chicago, photography

Meet Bella.

Bella Crum photographed by Diana Nguyen

I don’t think I’m supposed to have favorites, so I’ll say this: she’s been my favorite model I’ve worked with in February*.  We met on a 17 degree Chicago day. “My shoots downtown in the past month have been beautiful and scenic, but painfully cold,” she wrote in an email before we met. Since I try to stay within the good graces of the talent, I randomly suggested the Lincoln Park Conservatory – a place I’ve walked passed a million times but never actually been inside of. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t been, you should go, especially you need a warm place to step into during the Chicago winter). When I arrived, I was relieved to find that it was warm inside. My maternal side was really glad this was the case when I met Bella and saw that she was dressed for warmer temperatures. 

Bella Crum photographed by Diana Nguyen, Lincoln Park Conservatory

I’m 5’4″. Pretty average. So I took note when she towered over me in her heels. (She claims she’s 5’8″. My Napeoleon Complex thinks she’s 6’10”.) Second thing I noticed about her: her personality. She was friendly, eager and had a smile the whole day (many of my pictures are of her smiling despite what I’m sharing here**).

Bella Crum photographed by Diana Nguyen

Bella Crum photographed by Diana Nguyen, Lincoln Park Conservatory

Bella Crum photographed by Diana Nguyen, Lincoln Park Conservatory, justcloningaround

I really liked that she was easy to work with and rolled with the punches. She was willing to try anything and was a total goof ball. If you work with her, you might call her a favorite too….I mean, if you had favorites. I am looking forward to working with her again. 🙂

Bella Crum photographed by Diana Nguyen

I haven’t had time to pull together a lookbook, but I did create a quick Stellar story from our photo shoot (which Stellar was nice enough to feature! Seriously, thanks Stellar!!!).

*At the moment, I’ve only worked with one model in February. 😉
**I’m really trying to fight the whole serious-facial-expressions-only shots, but I find myself playing by the rules with this one. Give me time. I swear I like happy, light-hearted and fun pictures.

My Little Guy’s First Birthday

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Life, Video
Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset
I let him have his cake…and I ate it too.

Yesterday, I became a mom to a one-year-old. (OMG.) We didn’t have a big party (this article that pretty much summarizes our feelings on why we shied away from it). But fear not, we ordered food from our favorite Persian restaurant and followed that up with a Lutz cake (something my parents used to get for my brother and me for our birthdays growing up) and a (Lutz) cupcake that served as his smash cake. We were all on a sugar high last night, including Giada who waited at the kid’s feet for him to drop bits of icing here and there.

It was a perfect first birthday.

So Mama Thoughts: it’s been a quick year. Seriously, I blinked and now here I am. But I am looking forward to what’s to come because each day in his first year has gotten better and better. I like that he’s becoming more interactive and growing into a cool, crazy kid. And it probably doesn’t surprise you that I took 1,000,000 pictures of him this year – some of which will go into a photo book; otherwise, the images will never see the light of day – and also captured a few hours worth of video clips. So Moms, if you’re reading this and wondering what to do with all the video clips you have of your kids on your phone, tie them together in one movie with your favorite Beatles’ song playing in the background*. It will free up some storage space and you’ll have something to reflect back on. Think I did that? Absolutely. 🙂

*Be warned that if you do this, you will have to find a non-YouTube site to upload your video. Copyright issues and all that fun stuff…sigh. (Paul & Ringo, are you reading this? I love you guys. XO.)

Chicago portraits with Tatyana

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

Happy Sunday!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have not shot any portraits this week (aka this month!) unless you count the LO. (He’s in front of the camera daily but makes a horrible model – he’s more interested in attacking the lens and eating the camera strap – so I don’t really count him). Even Giada didn’t make it front of the camera….but oh well. It’s been a busy week, and I still have pictures to share of my lovely friend Tatyana from the last weekend in January.

Chicago portraits
“Don’t you prefer smiling pictures?” She was the second person to ask me this. Why yes, I do prefer smiling pictures. 🙂

We met up at the Map Room in Bucktown. The intent was to hang out for a bit and then head to The 606 – a place neither of us had visited yet. (I was surprised to hear that she hadn’t been, but then again, if you know Tat’s work, she tends to shoot up high above the city. The 606 might be a little too low to the ground for her, lol.) We spent an hour or so getting caffeinated – yes, the Map Room is a bar but I guess neither of us are able to drink before shooting, lol – before heading out.

Where is the The 606 exactly?” she asked. I shrugged and replied, “I don’t even know – somewhere around here. Let’s just wander. If we miss it, we’ll find it next time.

So we wandered around the neighborhood as it drizzled.

Chicago rain, photography Diana Nguyen

And found a few doors.

Tat_ventures Chicago, photography diana nguyen
Shoot the shooter

Chicago door, portrait Diana Nguyen

And a sign that we loved. [Since more than one person has asked, this is located on Damen near Churchill Park in Bucktown outside the @properties office.]

love art chicago bucktown

Tatyana spotted a dog and asked the owners if it was okay to take a picture. As she took the dog’s picture, I snuck this in…and I’m hoping it makes its way to the family. (I need to ask for email addresses from now on.)

love art sign bucktown

After we had our fill of love, we found ourselves at The 606.

Pay Attention art bucktown, the 606

Funny how that works out.

the 606, chicago portraits

We took a few fun, goofy shots here. Actually, she took a few stellar pictures that she hasn’t posted yet while I took a bunch of fun, goofy shots. 🙂

The 606
Goofy shot

And then, the rain came down a little harder, so we thought it was time to bid farewell.

Chicago rain

Farewell, T. ‘Til next time. 🙂

P.S. You can also see these pictures on my ISSUU page.