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.

Chicago portraits with Janna

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Chicago, photography, Portraits

Confession: I met Janna over the summer at an event and instantly thought, This girl is too cool for me. 

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen

But man, looks are awfully deceiving. I mean, she is too cool for me, but she’s very well…cool for not playing that card. 😉 As you can tell, she’s a head turner, but she’s absolutely just as beautiful inside as she is out. I had reached out to her in early January asking if she would help with this Portraits Project, and she seemed happy to help. When we met up, the vibe was relaxing and cool – I’m pretty sure it was the energy she was giving off (although it could have also been the caffeine and donuts from Glazed and Infused). It was easy to flow into a conversation with her and wandering through Fulton Market looking for places to shoot was such a great time.

Some fun facts about Janna:

  • Her named is pronounced Yah-nah
  • She’s a mom…and an artist. And a fellow suburbanite. (This made my Reluctant Suburbanite heart flutter.)
  • And if you can believe it, she isn’t comfortable in front of the camera. That’s what she told me anyway. I didn’t see evidence of this. 😉

Anyway, here are a few more pictures of the beautiful Janna:

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen

lost girl van

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen

Thank you Janna for a wonderful morning. I cannot wait to shoot with you again!

P.S. You can find a few more pictures of Janna on my ISSUU page.

Portraits from January (& the lessons learned)

Posted 1 CommentPosted in photography, Portraits

Hi! Happy February. I’m hoping to see a lot of love themed images this month.

love in chicago
Had to get this one in. 😉

Month one of this new year is done (wow, that went quickly), and I still can’t believe I kept my NY’s Resolution to shoot more portraits. I officially shot five models (six, unofficially), so I thought it was time to do an end-of-month review that would also allow me to (re-)introduce my models and share some of the lessons I learned along the way.

Model #1: Anna

Chicago portrait

Anna and I met on New Year’s Day to kick off this whole “I’m going to do more portraits” project…and had a fun time. I wasn’t thinking of shooting the next day, but she mentioned she was free (before heading back to LA) and I thought, why not? I’m so glad we ended up meeting again because I think I got better pictures on the second day. Lesson: Just go shoot. Especially if the alternative is to rest. More likely than not, you won’t regret it. (Side note: if I had started off this Portraits Project with anyone else, I don’t know if I would have kept going. Anna was a great starting point.)

Model #2: Paris

chicago portrait at art institute of chicago

I got lucky with Paris in various ways: she was photogenic, easy to work with, and there were a few shots that The Universe set up for us. While I was fortunate that things worked out the way they did, in hindsight I felt as though I could have gotten more shots if I had planned more of what I wanted to shoot. Lesson: plan your shoots as much as you can (i.e. put together an idea/inspiration board before meeting up).

Model #3: Kelsey

Chicago portrait by diana Nguyen, wicker park

Kelsey and I decided to meet at 2:00 in Wicker Park one freakin’ cold afternoon. We got lucky with the light and walked around the area trying to find the right place to capture it. Lesson: chase that light. (Oh, and when it’s cold, plan your outdoor shots so you know where exactly you’ll want to shoot. Otherwise, you’ll be wandering the streets trying to figure out a spot while the subject is freezing to death. Brrrrrr….)

Model #4: Janna

Chicago portrait by Diana nguyen, west loop

This girl is so cool. It was fun walking through the West Loop/Fulton Market talking and getting to know her while looking for places to shoot. Lesson: get to know your subject and let her personality shine through the pictures.

Model #5: Roma

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen

Roma was very easy going and cool to work with. Unfortunately, I made a rookie mistake and had my camera on the wrong setting that afternoon. I shouldn’t say “wrong”, but it was a setting I wouldn’t normally use with this scenario. Short story: I thought I was in my “go to” setting. (For the photographers out there, I thought I was shooting at f2.2 and was going crazy when my shutter speed was a lot slower that usual. Turns out I was shooting at f22. OMG. Translation: my pictures were A LOT more blurry/softer than I cared for.) Ugh. Lesson: double check your settings – and equipment while you’re at it. (We’ve all gone out shooting without a spare battery or memory card, right?)

[Unofficial] Model #6: Tatyana

Chicago portrait by Diana Nguyen, wicker park

I know Tatyana through Instagram, and we have seen each other a gazillion times and have no reservations about calling her my friend….but we’ve never hung out alone. I like her because she always says I’m crazy. (That’s really all it takes.) I like her for other reasons: she’s talented, encouraging and is the one of the sweetest people I know. (Girl power!) We finally met up this past Sunday (and we’ve known each other for two years! What gives?). We got ourselves caffeinated at the Map Room (which is a cool bar, by the way) before walking toward The 606. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Tatyana is supportive with my portraits initiative (i.e. she knew she was going to be a model that day….and dressed for it. I didn’t even have to say anything). She was nice enough to let me take my time with various shots. Lesson: shoot with a friend. If you can’t do that, make your subject your friend. Oh, and if you’re going to hang out with a photographer, you better get dressed and made up for it. (I ended up on the front end of her camera and was definitely not prepared. I need a red coat…and maybe some matching lipstick.) Also this picture would have been better if I had gotten closer. So if you think you’re close, GET CLOSER. (How many times have you heard that?)

So things I’d like to focus on in February: planning shoots before meeting with each model….and taking sharper pictures (I have issues with focus). Overall though, I feel like the January portraits all gave me a great learning experience and I cannot wait to do more portraits in February. 🙂

Colorful Portraits I’m Loving

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in photography

As of today, I have photographed five models since the start of the year. And each time, I’ve come in without a game plan (“I just want to try capture lifestyle portraits“), which has its advantages. But I’m finding that it has more disadvantages. As my friend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” So true. After each session, I go through my photographs finding ones I like but still having the feeling that something is missing: a plan. (Duh.) I’m vowing from here on out to have an agenda before each shoot so that I know where I’ll end up, more or less.  And admittedly, I want to follow a plan that allows me to shoot pictures that go a little bit beyond lifestyle. On that note, here are a few colorful inspirations that I’m very much digging as of late (I’m blaming Pinterest for all this sensory/inspiration overload):

colorful portrait inspiration from pinterest  Confetti girl

P.S. I’m starting to learn the value of Pinterest as a way of sharing ideas with models, which is something I should have done from the beginning so the model and I are on the same page. Funny enough, one model suggested it a few days after my friend Leyla did. (The model & Leyla are smart people.)

P.P.S. Hi Leyla!

When with Roma….

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

Meet Roma.

portrait photography diana nguyen

I had reached out to her in mid-January as she was interested in working with photographers to build up her portfolio. And of course, we picked a cold day to meet at Montrose Harbor. 😉 Brrrrrr…..

It was fun walking along the shore, shooting and getting to know each other, which I never realized would be the added benefit to doing portrait photography. I really like how it worked out that way.

portrait of Roma taken by Diana Nguyen

portrait of Roma by Diana Nguyen, Montrose Harbor portrait of Roma by Diana Nguyen, Montrose Harbor

While Roma was fun to shoot, I was fascinated with the amount of seagulls flying around us. But I was really fascinated when I saw a trio of people pull a large bag of bread. I thought they’d take their time distributing it. But no. The guy in the group took the bag and went to town:

man feeds bread to seagulls
And friends, this is how to get 100 seagulls to flock to you!

Portraits at Architectural Artifacts Chicago

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Chicago, photography
woman on clock
It’s time….

Sometime last week, my friend Jeanne mentioned there was a meetup at Architectural Artifacts. A quick google search told me that this would be my type of place.

And OMG, it was. [Pst, that above pic of Mel in front of the clock was my favorite shot of the day – and so far, year.]

This was my first meetup in awhile as I decided to cut back on them. There was a period where I would try to go to every single one of them. Lately though, it has made my life easier to meet up with friends I’ve met on Instagram (and I’ve met and gained a good number of them in the last two years*) and allows for quality one-on-one time with them, knowing that we’ll allow each other to hit the “pause” button on our conversation when we spot a moment that needs to be captured. (This happens quite a bit with Elina.) I’ll have to write more on this topic later. Meanwhile, let me say that this was a great meetup. I got to see some friends I haven’t seen in awhile and work on shooting more portraits.

portrait at Architectural Artifacts
Leola. Gah, she looks so elegant in this shot.
portrait at Architectural Artifacts Chicago
Jina. I dig this girl. And everytime I looked at this on my camera, I thought it was a picture of me, lol. (Aside from the Asian thing, I don’t think we look alike otherwise. Ha ha ha ha.)
portrait at architectural artifacts
Cat – one of the meetup organizers. I saw her dress and asked if I could take her pic. I didn’t notice her boots until I sat down to edit the pic. I WANT THEM.
portrait at Architectural Artifacts Chicago
A fun shot of Melissa
Architectural Artifacts Chicago
Jeanne & Elina

Gah, I loved this place. And I’m definitely coming back. Also, I hope someone gets married here and invites me. 😀

*For those of you starting out in photography, I encourage you to go to meetups to meet and network with like-minded people. The first meetup may not yield any results….but just keep attending them. It’s dramatic to say that doing this is “life changing” but it really has been for me.

Photography books I’ve been reading lately

Posted Leave a commentPosted in photo book, photography

photography books on nightstand

“So tell me about yourself.”

I usually answer this question with mentions that I live with my roommates (er, family) in the suburbs, I like photography and that I enjoy reading. Naturally, the follow up question to the last question is “What book are you reading now?” or “Do you have any book recommendations?” I think they’re usually expecting fiction requests (The Kite Runner and or anything by Khaled Hosseini) and unfortunately, these days, I’m more of a non-fiction reader. I’ll spare you the business books on my nightstand now (did I just lose you?) since this is a photography-oriented site. 🙂 But for those of you who enjoy a good picture book from time to time, here are the photography books I’ve poured over in the last month all thanks to the libraries in my area*:

Photo books I’ve read before that I really liked:

Do you have photography books you’d recommend?

*Support your library!