We recently spent a long sunny day poolside (well, Mischa was in the pool, I was poolside) to build our portfolio of underwater portraits.

We had three gorgeous pregnant volunteers who spent energy they didn’t necessarily have to spare getting dolled up and dunking themselves repeatedly in the deep end of a saltwater pool.

In addition to our pregnant mamas Julie, Liz and Natalie, (and their toddlers) we also had Jess & Eric, our real newlywed couple and Kylie, our teen-aged “ringer” who already had experience being photographed underwater by Mischa from her family’s portrait session in the Fall.

Modeling is tough! Add to that the element of water and you have a truly challenging set of variables. It’s not just look at the camera, smile and try to act naturally… it’s also hold your breath and try not to float awkwardly to the surface!

Julie was first in the pool. Determined to get her 2 year old home in time for his nap, we are so glad to have had this opportunity to photograph her beautiful pregnant belly. Her second son, Jude, decided to come earlier than expected and was born yesterday afternoon. A little over three weeks since Mischa took this photograph. (everyone is healthy & happy)

underwater portraits


Next up was 2 year old Ella. What a little fish! She made it look so easy. Just a few takes in her pretty ruffled dress and her perfect little self was off to school for the day. We hope Ella wants to model for us again in the future!

underwater portraits


Ella’s mama, Natalie, looks like a magical water nymph here in my favorite of all the day’s images.

I. can’t. even.

The light, her dress, even the delicate sparkling bubbles above her head look other worldly. A perfect silent moment between a mother and her growing baby. I always come back to this image and smile.

underwater portraits


Kylie was as comfortable underwater as we remembered and rocked the long flowing fabric Mischa brought along with floral arrangements by Cheryl of Accents by Sage, designed specifically to be submerged. How gorgeous are these?! It was too hard to choose just one favorite…and there are more!

underwater portraits


underwater portrait


My favorite image of Liz, unfortunately, doesn’t show her face (or her makeup by Beela or her hair by Deborah, d’oh!). But this pregnant goddess had the most awesome reflection photo of the day. (and her daughter Avery was a delight to hang out with during the shoot)

underwater portrait


In addition to modeling, and being underwater, Jess and Eric had the added challenge of interacting. Here, with another unique underwater floral design by Accents by Sage which includes dangling crystals.

There’s something extra romantic about the implied quiet of these underwater portraits.

underwater portraits


Extra special thanks to all of our volunteer underwater portrait models and their kids, makeup artist Beela from Henna Moods, hair stylist Deborah Fischer, floral artist Cheryl from Accents by Sage, Natalie & Jeff for the use of your awesome pool and home on a triple digit day.

* and aloe, for the serious sunburn Mischa came home with after hours in the pool.

Keep watching our pages and our blog for more images from this underwater shoot and future underwater work. If you’ve always wanted to be photographed underwater or think you might be a great model for an underwater concept shoot, let us know! We love to experiment with our craft and refine our techniques.

Continuing the story from last week’s blog, we are proud to introduce, baby Hakim.

California baby photographer


Hakim’s family drove all the way to San Francisco for a maternity/ family portrait session with Mischa and our family drove down to the San Diego area to photograph Hakim’s first portrait session at their home.

Two kittens are also new to the family and we included them in a few shots. We have pets of our own and love to photograph all members of a family. Whether they have fur, feathers, scales or skin.

Continuing the tradition of photographing the new baby on the family couch, even in Southern California, you can tell that this family has a spot reserved in their hearts for San Francisco.

California family photographer


Whether we’re shooting at our studio, or hundreds of miles from home, we have the equipment to create studio quality lighting in any available space.

traveling studio photograpgher


What an adorable boy Hakim is! Carla is such a beautiful and loving mother and we are so happy for this family. The photographs I have of myself with my boys at this age are more and more cherished the bigger they get.

traveling studio photograpgher


Here are a few more of our favorites. A bonus of photographing babies past the newborn stage is their strength and ability to hold their own heads up.

California baby photographer


There’s just something about these kitties and the look on baby Hakim’s face that make these next two, some of my favorite images. So full of character!

California baby photographer


babies and cats


And a “purr-fectly” sweet moment captured between new beings. Delicious little noses and great textures in this last one.

California baby photographer


As native Californians, we’re always up for a long weekend or a mid-week trip and usually have family or friends we’ve been meaning to visit nearby. We love opportunities to take our talent on the road and keep in touch with clients we’ve grown with over the years.

If you’ve been meaning to have some new portraits taken, but don’t want to leave the comfort of your home… contact us!


Back in 2010, Carla & Jameel were referred to us for a maternity photo session. We did a combination of studio and San Francisco beach maternity photos (at Crissy Fields) and then photographed their beautiful newborn baby girl, Naseera, at their home in San Jose.

As is common with new parents, we didn’t hear from them for a couple of years.

About a week before their second daughter was born, we got a phone call to schedule another maternity session followed by a newborn session – at the time, they were still living in San Jose, and about to move to Chicago. Baby Imani was just as beautiful as her sister and we were delighted to design albums and canvases from the girls’ sessions and help get them shipped to their new home in Illinois.

Fast forward a few more years and guess who called us?

Now living in San Diego, Carla, Jameel, Naseera & Imani road-tripped up to the Bay area to have us photograph their San Francisco beach maternity AND family portraits before their family of four becomes a party of five.

Here are a few of our favorites from this San Francisco beach maternity & family session at China Beach.

San Francisco beach maternity


San Francisco beach maternity


San Francisco beach maternity


San Francisco beach maternity


San Francisco beach maternity


San Francisco beach maternity


San Francisco beach maternity


China beach family portrait


China beach family portrait


We wanted to say thank you to Carla & Jameel for being such loyal clients over the years so we arranged a little family road trip of our own to photograph their newest addition in their San Diego home.

Keep an eye out for those images soon!

This is Paulie, he turned 2 today.

black & white big brother

Recently, Paulie was promoted to big brother.

newborn sneak peek

This is the first that Paulie’s family has seen from their session, which was lighthearted and fun for a newborn shoot.

black & white family outtake

Such a beautiful family! We love photographing them.

black & white family portrait

Daddy’s little girl arrived earlier than expected.

black & white daddy daughter

She was 18 days old when we met her. Perfect, little Scarlett.

Mother daughter portrait

Look at all that hair! Our 6 month old is totally jealous.

newborn angel

For Lindsey, on the anniversary of your motherhood, we gift a sneak peek of Scarlett’s newborn session. (and Paul, you’re cool, you know we love you too!)

Newborns are best photographed in the first two weeks, when they still sleep soundly and are easily posed. Sometimes people miss that window but still want to capture their babies while they’re little. We have experience with all ages of babies and children, and are happy to recommend session styles and tips to make the shoot a success.

Hope you all sleep sweetly, safely & soundly tonight Cole family. It was a delight to look through your images and post a sneak peek for you.


<3 Brie

I’ve been in this industry a long time now.  It doesn’t seem like it, but I’ve spent half my life focused on photography.  I don’t feel like I’m old enough to say that.  Being a part of the art of photography for the last 18 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes.  I started with film, learning how to get a great shot, but also learning how to make a great print.  It was never as simple as just printing the negative, the image had to be coaxed out, to be the best it could be.   With digital photography, the barriers to get into this industry have come down tremendously; unfortunately, that’s a whole lot of people who don’t understand the full art and process of photography.

There’s an art to working with the subject, an art to lighting, to exposing the image in camera, an art to developing the image, and what’s most often forgotten these days… an art to printing and finishing the image.

I’ve spent the last 18 years mastering each of these steps so that you don’t have to.

While most photographers can do a fair bit better than the straight out of camera image, very few have the skill and expertise to take the image to its full potential (adding some crazy filters doesn’t count, although they do have a place, they’re often used to hide the fact that an image just isn’t that great on its own).

While tastes vary and you may prefer a natural looking image to a “wow” or “hero” image like the one below, it doesn’t actually change the amount of retouching needed for a great finished image.

Either way, when choosing your photographer, make sure you select someone who won’t just hand over the files, but who will -rather- create art for you.  A photograph printed on display tells a 1000 words, a digital file gets lost and buried under the never ending deluge of images and content being generated constantly in this day and age.  Please, oh please! print your images.

Chelsea & Reid had a gorgeous wedding a few weeks ago at the Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln, relatively near our Sacramento studio.  This past Sunday they came in to select images for their wedding album. The image below was chosen for their wedding album cover.  It will be printed under acrylic and will look phenomenal when finished.

The following are all versions of the same image in the various stages from straight out of camera to the album cover version:

While we’d never normally show this version, I always think it’s interesting to look at the original image, exactly as the camera saw it.

This has not been modified in any way from how it was taken (minus the logo).


Catta Verdera Wedding Photography


This version of the image is a little behind the scenes trick we use on occasion. When an image is so bright that details are lost, we can often go back to the original raw file and process a special version just for those details. In this case, the veil behind Chelsea’s head was blown out to pure white in our standard version above, so that we could no longer see the detail in the veil. In this version as you can see, most of the detail is back (by underexposing the overall image) and by layering the two images, we’re able to make a special composite that brings those details back in.

Catta Verdera Wedding Photography


This version is the image as originally shown to our couple. This is what we call an edited image.

It has been processed well beyond the original file straight from the camera, but it hasn’t been extensively retouched like the following versions.

Catta Verdera Wedding Photographer


This version is the full image, retouched.

Catta Verdera Wedding Photography


A panoramic crop can increase impact. If I was going to put this image on my wall, this is probably how I would crop it.

Catta Verdera Wedding Photography


Sometimes, there are very specific crops we need to allow for, an album cover for example.

To fit the cover correctly, a fair portion of the image had to be trimmed. To keep the veil showing as much as possible, we cropped the left side in and up to help put them in a more visually intriguing position within the frame.

One subtle thing that’s often missed when images are cropped is that it can create awkward areas. In this case, the bottom left corner showed a section of the path (as seen in the other images) but without context, it just looked like a random brown triangle, so the grass was filled in, making a more visually cohesive result.

Catta Verdera Wedding Photography


We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!  Please leave us a note below and let us know if you’d like to see more posts like this one.

Mischa Purcell Cr.Photog.