Chicago Portraits with Rachel

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

Have I ever mentioned that I love the West Loop?

Love it.

So when Rachel mentioned she lived near Fulton Market, I happily suggested shooting in her neighborhood. (My only issue is that parking never seems to be easy, and normally, I find myself pretty lucky when it comes to Chicago parking. It just seems like everybody is in the west loop I’m there. But after driving around for 15 minutes, I always seem to park at the same spot on Washington and Halsted. Now that I’ve told you that, please don’t take that spot when I’m there next time. Please?) We met in front of The Allis, and I was happy to see that she had on a white coat. It was a little chilly, but more importantly, I thought it brought a natural brightness to her face. (“My pale skin needs this coat,” she joked. For the record, I – personally – wouldn’t call her pale and admired her complexion.) We also happened to meet at 1:30 on super, duper bright day so I immediately looked for a place out of the sun, which brought us to across the street at Green Street Smoked Meat where there’s a cool alley with string lights.

chicago model portrait photography by diana nguyen

chicago model portrait photography by diana nguyen
She mentioned she was a vegetarian, so later, when I was editing pictures I changed the “Green Street Meat” sign to this…probably more appropriate. 😉 

From there, we walked aimlessly around looking for interesting backdrops. At one point, she pulled out her phone and came up with a list of possibilities from an ongoing list she has saved on her phone (I should do this. My mental list isn’t as reliable), including a store front area with colorful doors.

She mentioned she was a vegetarian, so later, when I was editing pictures I changed the "Green Street Meat" sign to this.

[This placed turned out to be a dog play/day care location.]

Chicago model photographed in West Loop by Diana NGuyen
A stop at Girl & The Goat


I was obsessed with this light
I was obsessed with this light

We ended the day with a stop at Glazed and Infused. “Can I put a stack of doughnuts on your head?” I asked.

“Sure!” she replied. I love working with great sports.

Of course, the shoot ended with two of the three doughnuts falling off her head. I tried salvaging them, but no luck. At least we got the picture(s).

doughnut photo shoot with Chicago model Rachel photographed by Diana Nguyen

After Rachel and I parted ways, I went back into the store to get doughnuts to bring home to the family. “Weren’t you just here?” the guy behind the counter asked. I explained what happened, placed in my order and pulled out my wallet. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. Awwwwwwww. I love this place.

Molly Page & her awesome book “100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die”

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Chicago, Portraits
Author Molly Page and her "100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die"
This is Molly Page & her new book “100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die”

Sometime last summer, my friend Molly mentioned a book she was writing about things to do in Chicago. Hmmmm, I thought, definitely sounds like something up her alley. She’s very much an advocate for Chicago (she gives tours around the city) and also works for the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Fast forward to February, and OMG, the book is very much done. :-O

Last weekend, to celebrate, she had a book party at Logan Arcade (which happens to be the #25 thing to do in the book). In case you can’t tell in the picture above, Molly is always smiling and has to be one of the nicest, most genuine person in Chicago – if not the world. If it’s true that you can judge a person by the company she keeps, then you know that she’s a great person as everyone at her party was so supportive of her; her crazy, ridiculous talent and omg, this year-long commitment she made to writing this book (from what I could tell, it certainly was a labor of love). I was only there for a short time, but what I noticed was there were so many smiles and hugs on Saturday. The girl is loved. And so is her book. So I’m going to have to tell you to go out and grab 100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die. (You can also order it on Amazon.) Then, if you’re in Chicago, reach out to Molly (seriously, she’ll love it) and have her sign your book. I assure you that 1) she would do it and 2) she would love (LOVE) to hear from you.

100 Things to Do in Chicago book signing, molly page
Molly signing my copy 🙂

While you’re at it, go to the book’s Facebook page; “like” the page and then admire the profile picture. Look familiar? 😉

Candice Cameron looks great

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Fan Girl

DISCLAIMER: This is totally a random what’s-been-on-my-mind post.

Candice Cameron
Candice Cameron

Last Saturday, I asked somewhat what they were watching on TV. I forgot the name, but it sounded like a “thinking” show that you have dedicate yourself to every week. I wish I had something more meaningful to add to that conversation, but ha ha, I’m watching “Fuller House” on Netflix. Go ahead, judge me.

Everywhere You Look… Fuller House is now streaming on Netflix!

Posted by Fuller House on Friday, February 26, 2016

I am loving it so much. SO. MUCH. Yes, I have a little place in my heart for the entire cast as this was a show I grew up with. (My heart is bursting as I type this.) I was hoping to see more of Steve (I’m only on episode 6) because OMG, I need this Steve & DJ love story to happen. I’m also hoping to see more Danny, Joey and Uncle Jesse.

But let’s get to the point of this post: I cannot get over how great Candice Cameron looks.


How does she do it?

The hair and makeup I get. I mean, you better have a great hair and makeup team if you’re on a hit show. Her hair especially is always spot on and there is no way a real life person has her hair like that at all times. Or maybe they do and I’m trying to make myself feel better? In any case, her hair & makeup look great on the show. Always. Although if you go on her Facebook and Instagram pages, she pretty much looks great always.

Candice Cameron instagram page

I ask again: How does she do it?

Gah, I love it. And I heart you, CC.

On a related note, we’re going to San Francisco to visit my brother and Jessica in May. If I’m not mistaken, the painted ladies homes are on the itinerary. I’m secretly hoping we have a run in with John Stamos.  (“Have mercy.”)

A Photo Shoot in the Suburbs (Finally)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in photography, Portraits

I love Chicago, and as a photographer, I don’t think there is a better backdrop. Sometimes, however, it is nice when I find a fellow suburbanite who is willing to collaborate and saves me a trip into the city.


Last weekend I got to work with Paige in Arlington Heights. [We both live in the northwest suburbs and thought AH would be a good meeting place.] We had been emailing and texting a bit before we met. I didn’t really get a sense of her personality (there’s only so much you can get with a “When/where should we meet?” text correspondence), but when we met, I was relieved. I really, really like Paige and her easy going nature.

Arlington Heights Metra train station

We started off at the Metra train station where I think I had her walk up and down the platform about 100 times. She was so down with it (i.e. she was super cooperative and a great sport). Thank you, Paige!

At the Metra train station photographed by Diana Nguyen
My favorite picture from the shoot

Playing with hair shots

I got super excited about this red wall and picnic table. Okay, I also got overly excited for the “No Trespassing” sign and the thought of someone yelling out “Get off my property!!!”  It didn’t happen, (un?)fortunately. But it was fun to get Paige to flip her hair over and over again. (See? Great sport.)

Also, can I just say that I love her jacket? The last model I worked with had a similar jacket that came from Nordstrom Rack. I forgot where Paige got hers from, but yes, I think I’m in the market for a new long jacket.

black and white picture of Paige photographed by Diana Nguyen

Anyway, after years of being “geographically undesirable” it’s nice to find someone in the same boat. You’ll definitely be seeing more of Paige here as we have a bit of text relationship these days (“Where do you want to shoot next?????”). I like that I’m at the point where I am planning follow up shoots with the models. Since the first test shoot is a “getting to know you” it gives us both the chance to see what will work (better) the next time around. And with Paige, my brain is on overdrive with possibilities. I cannot wait to see what we come up with next.

By the way, where are all you suburban models? Get in touch!

About last night….

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, Giada, photography, Print your pictures!

Last night, Acme Hotel hosted an #InstaGallery event displaying the work of 12 local Instagrammers.

Acme Hotel InstaGallery Chicago
Look familiar?

Yes, that included yours truly. I had known about this event for awhile now, but didn’t really tell anyone about it because 1) I was nervous about having my work was on display for public viewing for the FIRST TIME EVER and 2) I kinda felt like a farce being there (do you know how many talented photographers there are in Chicago?). My husband knew about it because he went with me to Acme back in January to drop off the pictures, but I didn’t tell him there was a showing event until after I told Leyla (my IG wifey) sometime last week. For the record, I wanted to throw up after I told her. After that, I slowly started telling a handful of other IG friends before adding a post about it on my feed. (I wasn’t quite ready to tell my IRL friends. Maybe that’s something I’ll do if I ever have my work on display again.) But really, it was a great time and I really loved catching up with the people that have helped me navigate this whole photography thing the last two (or has it been three?) years. In hindsight, there was nothing to freak out about (but I am a freak, so that might explain my pre-show anxiety).

Acme hotel instagallery
If you don’t Snapchat the event, did it really happen? [With Ashley, Tatyana and Dennis]
Acme hotel instagallery
With my husband and the lovely Leyla. The picture on the right is a screenshot from Tatyana’s Snapchat…because how petrified do I look? Ha ha!

I have to say that Chicago is a great city to be an Instagrammer. There are a lot of supportive people in the IG community, and if you look around, there is a great deal of opportunity to have your work seen by others. Off the top of my head, Choose Chicago and IgersChicago are great places to start and grow. I’ve also seen the photography of some people I know at Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square. And now you know about Acme Hotel. 🙂

Acme Hotel InstaGallery
So get out there and show your work!

P.S. While the best part of the night was seeing and meeting new friends, I have to say it was nice to have my husband come out with me. And tied with that? Shake Shack with Leyla and her coworker afterwards. 🙂

Uptown Girl

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits
Uptown Chicago portrait with Karoline photographed by Diana Nguyen
This is Karoline. I think I was cautioning her not to get hit by a car and jokingly told her to tell me if there was one coming at me. She took a moment to put on sunglasses, and we got this shot (which is one of my favorites to date).

I ended my February portraits project with Karoline. We met in Uptown where she lives and which I’m always happy to visit. For those who don’t know, there’s a section of Uptown that has a Vietnamese community – it’s a bit crazy how much the neighborhood has changed since I was a kid. Back in the day, my parents sponsored a HUGE Vietnamese family (if I said there were 50 family members it’s possible that I’m not overestimating as there were the grandparents, their adult children, their kids’ spouses and the gazillion grandchildren) who settled in the neighborhood. In the 80s, one of the adult sons and his wife ran a Vietnamese restaurant called Ha Mien, which was the name of the boat that took them out of Vietnam. So growing up, weekends pretty much meant going with my parents Uptown to visit the family at Ha Mien. My mom would go food shopping in the area (fish sauce was hard to come by in the suburbs back in the day, lol) while I would sit with my dad and the other men at the owner’s table in front where there was a big screen TV. They were always watching football. OMG. Always freakin’ football. I was never convinced that the game ever ended. (To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through an entire football game – that includes the Superbowl. I blame it on these weekends at Ha Mien.) Needless to say, as a kid, I hated that we sat in this restaurant for hours at a time BUT I did enjoy the beef fried rice that I ordered every time we were there. (And beef fried rice remains one of my favorite foods to this day although my adult self will kick myself for not partaking in the more traditional dishes. Oh well, live and learn.) But I am sad that the place is no longer in business….

Anyway, back to Karoline….I was really happy to meet up with her and shoot around the theaters in the neighborhood. The first being The Aragon Ballroom. (Fun fact: I’ve been here for two concerts: Oasis and Coldplay. I’ve also been here countless of times for Vietnamese festivals, which I’m not sure take place anymore.)

chicago model karoline photographed by diana nguyen, chicago portrait

I also snuck in a few pictures from the el station platform.

chicago model karoline photographed by diana nguyen at cta el station

chicago model karoline with chicago portraits photographer diana nguyen, cta el station

We also walked up to The Riv.

chicago model karoline with chicago portraits photographer diana nguyen

I was surprised to see a line built up for that night’s Hoodie Allen show (which didn’t start for another 10 hours). And yes, I had to ask Karoline who Hoodie Allen was. I’m out of touch with the music scene. :-\

And we also took a few photographs in front of the vacant Uptown Theater. [I would love to see this place open again.]

chicago model karoline photographed by diana nguyen, chicago portrait

After we shot in front of the theaters, we walked around to see what would pique our interest.

Chicago model Karoline photographed by Diana Nguyen in Uptown, alley shot

Chicago model Karoline photographed by Diana Nguyen in Uptown
Who doesn’t like a red wall?
Chicago model Karoline photographed by Diana Nguyen in Uptown
Or a hair flip? 😉

Chicago model Karoline photographed by Diana Nguyen in Uptown

I have to tell you that shooting portraits is totally and completely my idea of a perfect Saturday morning. With the weather getting warmer, I have a sense of what my weekends will consist of in the next couple of months. I hope it brings me up this way again (and again) as well.

Snow Day with Mara

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

Mara Lynne photographed by Diana Nguyen

I knew snow was in the forecast, so I sent an email to Mara asking if she’d be available for an hour or two that day. Luckily, she was. (For the record, I was stoked to finally have a subject – other than my dog – to photographed in the snow!) I met Mara at her place on the north side of the city where she gave me this look like I was crazy for being excited about the snow. (I am.) In return, I profusely thanked her for putting up with me. LOL. After this exchange, we headed out toward a park near her place.

model in chicago snow photographed by diana nguyen
This girl was cooooooold.

model in chicago snow photographed by diana nguyen

Chicago snow portrait by diana nguyen

Chicago portrait in snow photographed by diana nguyen

Chicago portrait in snow photography by diana nguyen
As I looked through the pictures on my camera, I immediately thought that she looked like Lacey Chabert. This picture, however, makes me think of Mary Tyler Moore.

By the way, note how happy she looks in these pictures. The girl is not a fan of the cold, so ha ha, she deserves a pat on the back for putting on a smile. (She probably also deserves a moment in the sun.)

winter Chicago portrait in snow photography by diana nguyen
This is Mara trying stay warm, wrapping herself in two coats.

Mara’s feedback on the last picture above was “Interesting” (her word). I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. I think I was reading too much into her comment as she did end up liking it and sharing it on her Instagram feed. I’m only mentioning this because a couple posts ago I was talking about trying to take more happy, smiley pictures. I do keep going back and forth on this one, but I’ve decided to just go with the flow of the shoot. Also, Mara takes a million happy-go-lucky pictures a year. I think she’s okay with the shots that help capture the true emotion of the moment (“I’m cold”). 😉

That’s all I have for Mara. I’m going to take a crazy, wild guess and say that this is not the last you’ll see of her here.

printing out picture, time for print (TFP)
Something I sent her after our shoot. (Print your pictures!)

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.