Sometimes you just need to take some cute pics with your boo. For no reason, other than you can. Other than you should. Other than, you love them. So we did just that on the most perfect San Diego day at Sunset Cliffs. It’s crazy to me to see the cliffs chipping away with every shoot we do there. Which, in all honestly, makes me love it even more. It’s crumbing, it wont be around forever, but the images we take there, the love we capture there, will keep Sunset Cliffs alive far after it’s gone. And that’s why, whenever clients ask if we can take pictures there, the answer will ALWAYS be, Yes!
You ever just wake up in the middle of the night with a random idea? Or like... 10 random ideas? Yeah, that's been us like every night for the past month lol. Whether it be a new project for the house, a party idea, or just a fun shoot, we are oozing experimentation this summer. It was literally a week before this shoot that I had the idea of a lavender lemonade bridal editorial (and the thought of switching from Canon to Nikon). Since it's summer, one of our favorite drinks to make is lavender lemonade and lavender margaritas (SO GOOD). Plus I think the colors are so beautiful together. So with a few phone calls and some last minute scrambling, we were off on another creative outlet shoot.
The concept kind of fell into place as I was having a conversation with one of our brides about the sweet and sour moments of a wedding day - "lavender lemonade" as I referred to wedding day. It's sweet and beautiful, but there are also moments that just kind of make your lips pucker lol. Weddings, relationship, and marriage are not always sunshine and rainbows and every couple will pick a role. One will be the relaxing lavender and the other will be strong lemons that provide nutrition. When one is stronger than the other, the mix is off and overpowering. But when they come together, and mixed just right, they make something amazing.
And in the midst of that explanation, I realized I wanted to make a shoot out of it. But I also wanted a challenge. Setting up shoots is fun for us, so we wanted to do something with this shoot that would test our creativity. Thus, the Canon vs Nikon experiment was in full effect. We typically shoot with a 5D Mark III and a Sigma 35 lens. We like it. We're comfortable with it. So we thought we'd try something different and picked up a Nikon D750 and a Sigma 35 lens. Oh man, PROBLEM. .... I freaking love it. It's lighter, the controls are simple, but where Nikon just kicked Canon's ass for us and is kind of the deal breaker is with their color profile. Whites are actually white and made editing so freaking amazing that now we're contemplating selling all our Canon gear...
We'll see. We've invested a lot in Canon, can't jump ship yet... need to do a couple more tests ;) but shoutout to an amazing team that made this shoot possible and put up with us in our experiment!
Been doing a bit of experimenting lately - experimenting with lights, edits, scenery, but our most interesting experiment has been with posing + directing + curating. See, I have this theory, if you take exactly what you already have, and organized it, it looks like you have a curated life. But in reality, it's just an organized mess. So what we did with this shoot, is curate. We got a couple blankets and plates and set up a picnic for the family. Then we implemented this new found posing technique where you LEAVE EVERYBODY ALONE. I know, mind boggling, right? I told the family that the goal for the next 30 minutes was to enjoy a morning picnic on the beach... and you know what, that's exactly what they did.
And want to hear something amazing?! Because I was pretty hands off on this shoot, I got to document baby's first steps! YEAH. THAT HAPPENED. Had I been micromanaging and posing and directing, I never would have allowed her the opportunity to explore and let her take that milestone on her own. She chose to get up and walk over to mom and dad. My heart was so full because I wasn't there to direct her, I was there to capture her moment and eat all the blueberries lol. This adorable Torrey Pines Family session could not have turned out any more perfect if I had posed them myself.
Cheers to just documenting real, untouched life.
How Lifestyle Branding Photography Can Change Your Business
It's not known to everyone how we got started in photography but it's amazing how our backstory has fueled so much of the work we love.
HOW WE GOT STARTED WITH BRANDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Sam and I both have degrees in Marketing. After college, I took this marketing gig in LA as a Marketing Coordinator (basically a do everything that involves everything job lol). But in that job, one of my main functions was to create social media ads for Facebook. I hate to make the content, and choose images that would be captivating to the audience. One of my main clients was a grocery store. There is really nothing exciting about a grocery store - or so I thought. So when the company asked for me to get creative on how to boost engagement, I had a few ideas but told them it would require new pictures. So, part of my catch all marketing coordinator job now required me to take product and advertising photos. I freaking loved it. Being able to take a product / concept / or idea and make a creative shoot out of it to boost engagement was my favorite part of the job. Fast forward a few years when we started taking pictures for ourselves, that creative drive for brands still stands strong and is the forefront of our business.
WHAT IS LIFESTYLE BRANDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
We get this question a lot, and you'll fine a few different answers for it. But for us, lifestyle branding photography is just relatable stock photography for your brand. Basic, all white stock photos are needed for seller websites, we get it. But stock photos aren't very engaging. So we've been working with a series of small businesses and brands to create custom lifestyle shoots to cater to their market and the products / services they want to be known for. One of our current clients - Waffles and Honey is a boho styled jeweler based in San Francisco who decided she wanted to launch a new aspect of her business. She just created a series of pieces dedicated to the wedding industry. Her goal was to create pieces that could be worn by both brides and bridesmaids for the wedding day. (but honestly, these pieces are so pretty, they could be worn every day) So in addition to the general stock photography for her website, we created a bridal styled shoot to showcase her latest inventory and how they could be worn and paired on any wedding day.
WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT
This shoot was amazing. It was just a fun way to sell a product without selling a product. You know what I'm talking about, it's not that stuffy, sales-y product and commercial photography, it's lifestyle photography for the modern brand. And, major bonus, it boost sales. When I started this lifestyle version of marketing after college, it was so cool to see the numbers skyrocket. Knowing that this simple change in visuals boosted that grocery store's revenue 22% in a quarter was mind-blowing. (also, looking back, I definitely should have gotten a raise for that lol) whatever. But this is our obsession - taking a simple goal for companies and translating it in a visual masterpiece that can be used to boost both social media engagement and marketing content.
jeweler | Waffles and Honey
Hair + makeup | Beauty by Melina
Bridesmaid Dresses | Lulus
Sparkly Wedding Dress | Anthropologie
Minimalist Wedding Dress | Lulus
Photography + Art Direction + Styling | SamErica Studios (duh)
Are you a small business ready for a visual upgrade? Check out our branding shoot options in our shop!
Matt + Eleanor's Intimate Mountaintop Wedding in Malibu, CA
Hands down the most gorgeous hidden gem of a campsite we've ever seen. Gindling Hilltop Camp, located in Malibu, California is an amazing coastal campground with an extraordinary Jewish community and background. It has the most glorious views of the ocean and jaw-dropping cliffside backdrops. Not traditionally a wedding venue, but this couple had a special connection to the camp, making their wedding uniquely special to just them.
the love story
"A love destined to happen" is the way their family describes it. Matt and Eleanor worked at a school for special needs children together. "Their compassion and patience is what makes them such an extraordinary couple" is how guests told it. One Valentines Day, all the single teachers got together to have a night out and eat all the extra candy the kids left behind. Little did Matt and El know that that night would be the beginning of their forever. They always shared passing glances, but that night they got to connect. "I knew right then" was both of their responses as they each told us this story. Neither of them cared for formalities or following the "sequence of relationship timelines". They knew they wanted to get married, and instead of having a big surprise of a proposal from Matt, they proposed to each other. On a hillside meadow, on a perfect afternoon, they decided make the commitment to forever. Thus began the planning of the most beautiful, intentional, untraditional wedding.
Matt and Eleanor have a tremendous love the outdoors. For them, being in nature, hearing the natural sounds, and being surrounded by the elements is therapeutic for them. So having a wedding that was in the midst of nature was very important to them. Matt use to work at Gindling once upon a time. With permission from camp comrades, his happy place became the foundation for the most perfect, intimate, and tranquil wedding location to share with their family. There is no such things as friends to Matt + El, just family.
We loved their heart about the community they've created. Every person at the wedding wasn't just a guest, they were an important part of their story. Family that shaped them. Friends who became family and encouraged them. Relationships that challenged them into asking the important questions and valuing life at a level of continuous peace. It was beautiful.
Every piece of their wedding was intentional. From the nontraditional coordination of bridesmaid and groomsmen attire, to the handmade maps El made, to having speeches and words of love spoken over them during their ceremony. The wedding was the perfect compilation and collaboration of love that painted the most accurate image of their love story. The mother of the bride had been collecting jars and miscellaneous items for centerpieces for the past year. The flowers were hand picked and sourced from local markets. The groom's cufflinks were handed down to him by each of his grandfathers. Their wedding bands were custom made by a friend of theirs. Every detail at this wedding, was made with intention and with love. And they wouldn't have had it any other way.
So, two people walk into a bar... classic story, but this one is so much sweeter... Don't believe me? Well, I'll let Nick, (the groom to be) tell his version of it.
the love story - as told by the groom to be
How we met: *Nick's words* Nick was getting hammered (pre-game was a buttery bottle of Chardonnay) at a bar when his best friend and Emily were walking out of the restaurant across the way and over to the parking lot. Nick's friend recognized his car and they (friend and Emily) decided to go over to the bar to say hi. Mind you, Emily and I had met a few times before the bar and had gotten to know each other a little bit, but boy was she in for a surprise. Nick was at a 6/10 when his buddy and a pretty girl walk in the bar. At that moment, time stood still. The most beautiful girl had walked into the bar and Nick had to talk to her. Well after a few pleasantries, Nick was subtly talking Emily's ear off at a bar where the music was too loud and strange men were giving our group free beer (not going to complain about free beer). At the end of the night, fueled by the most beautiful eyes Nick has ever laid eyes upon (other than Chris Pine's, cause dang he's got some pretty ass eyes), he said goodbye without asking her for her number or if he could see her again. Feeling horrible and invincible from the alcohol coursing through his veins, Nick hopped on Facebook and instantly reached out to Emily in a drunken stupor. Some quotes below:
"I know this great little bar on Main Street where they serve Rainbow Slushies..." (sensing a pattern of alcohol here)
"Don't be a stranger :)" (solid closing effort)
Less than a month later, we were in love. This was almost 6 years ago and it will forever make me smile thinking that a bottle of wine and a few beers led me to my soulmate.
How he asked:
We were on Emily's favorite hike (the three lakes hike) near Emily's home town at Lassen National Park (Nick: her hometown is a 10 hour drive from Southern California, the entire thing HAD to go right). The trail was partially covered in snow which made it even more fun to find our way through the covered trail just from Emily's memory (Nick: there were bear tracks...fresh freakin' bear tracks) (also has a heart beat of 170 after we hiked up the side of the mountain at like a 20 degree slope we we could get to the proposal spot, which was gorgeous) (P.S.S - Emily's parents were supposed to join us but because we were "late" we ended up just going with our close friends who I was going to marry the following month). After hiking up a really steep hill off of the trail, our friends had us take some photos near one of the lakes. Emily thought we were taking some quick silly photos, and while Nick was out of breath (what Emily thought was from climbing up the steep hill...little did she know that Nick was just nervous and about to propose), Nick got down on one knee and asked! If anyone knows us, it is SO hard to keep secrets and Emily had NO idea it was coming during that moment.
Nick: keeping this secret from her was almost like having to work for the president and not being able to tell her about my day. Thankfully she worked on the weekends and I was able to covertly order her ring box as well as go to the jeweler's with my friends to find the ring. I had the ring for easily 2 weeks and the ring box for 6 weeks before the trip in August so it was a surprise to anyone that she didn't find out. At one point, the jeweler had called me on a Tuesday around 7:20 pm to tell me the ring was in and as I am about to say something, Emily walks right in the door. I brushed it off like it was me personal banker, and boy did I dodge a bullet there (Emily's note: I knew he was hiding something because I knew FOR SURE he did not have a banker- terrible excuse- I just brushed it off and forgot about it cuz I had the longest day). Thankfully, the surprise was held and it will be a day I never forget.
the venue, the engagement
So when we were brainstorming about where to do Nick and Emily's engagement photos, I knew it couldn't be done anywhere else, but a bar. FruitCraft is the most amazing bar you'll ever go to. Instead of fermenting grains like most breweries, FruitCraft ferments and distills fruit to create all of their amazingly delicious drinks. Plus, cutest little place to host your next party... or in our case, shoot an engagement. And obviously we had to go to Sunset Cliffs to finish the day off because...duh. Here's just a little taste of perhaps the sweetest love story ever told. Can't wait to shoot their wedding next year. <3
If you have never experienced the total badass, urban chic that is the Loft of Pine, do yourself a favor, plan your next party there. The loft has this romantic, old renaissance vibe to it with some eclectic accents. It's located in downtown Long Beach and honestly, it's the perfect venue. Has everything you could want to complete those classic yet timeless urban vibes. Brick walls, good light, amazing getting ready suites and parking! (yes, parking is a priority lol) We fell in love with this venue the moment we saw it. We're even contemplating doing our vow renewals there (it's that legit).
Michelle and Devin are by far the sweetest, most humble people we have ever met. We had the honor and privilege of shooting their ceremonial wedding a few months before the celebration. The entire day was filled with so much joy and laughter as the couple got ready to celebrate with all of their friends and family. So many cultures under one roof, it was amazing. Generations of families all came together to show their love and support for Devin and Michelle. It was such a beautiful thing to behold. And the party?! OH MAN WAS IT A PARTY. Y'all ever been to a Dominican wedding? Those are people who know how to have fun!
Oh man, Michelle has a rock solid poker face. She wanted to wait to tell all of her bridesmaids and siblings that she and Devin were expecting baby number 2. Wait until you see the expressions on their faces!
This wedding could not have been as amazing as it was thought these glorious people making it happen! Shoutout to all these wedding vendors to pouring their heart and soul into everything that they do. You guys are amazing!
Hair + HMUA | Sandra Michelle Artistry
Event Planning | Britt of LVL Weddings
Dress | Adrianna Papell
Florals | The Bloom of Time
Venue | The Loft on Pine
the setting: Coronado Beach, San Diego
If ever you are in San Diego, one place you have to stop is Coronado Island. We might be a little biased because we got married there, but it's absolutely beautiful. Growing up here, we've spent endless summers at the bonfire pits, eating smores, playing hide and seek at the Hotel Del, falling in love and enjoying every bit of San Diego. Coronado Island has so many cute hidden gems like our favorite creamery (MooTime) and Centennial Park which has the best view of downtown. But our most favorite place of all, is sitting on Coronado beach, and enjoying the sunset. Nothing gets better than that.
I (Erica) actually went to college with Brittney + Keith back in the day (man I'm getting old). And thank God for social media keeping us together, otherwise I don't know how I'd keep track of everyone. Brit + Keith reached out to us after seeing our maternity session in the meadow and just wanted a relaxed celebration of their first baby. Of course I'm a sucker for pregnant mamas and these two gave me super pregnant fever. During maternity sessions, I really like to focus on the parents. I know these sessions are one of the few times they are going to have that are shared just between the two of them. Lots of cuddles and kisses. Keith made a statement that was so funny but also important to how I shoot maternity. When I told them to kiss he said "Man, it's like our first kiss in forever". Brit had been pretty sick the past few months (babies apparently do that) so they didn't get to share those moments. I'm glad I got to be the one to prompt a much needed, reassuring, loving, kiss.
More couples maternity please.
Something that has quickly become our new favorite thing is our SamErica Style Mentor Sessions. Each of these sessions is dedicated to teaching our mentee something new or creative about the photography process. That could be posing, client interactions, shooting in harsh light (our fav), editing for brands, designing PDFs or whatever! But it's been so amazing creating these shoots. It's been a fantastic creative outlet for us to just get funky and have fun. This particular session was focused on solo portraits and editorial work being shot in the midday sun.
We also got really weird and played with plates and mirrors and a seamless backdrop (which, in retrospect, wasn't the best idea to bring that outside, lol). But, roll with the punches. The ripped backdrop made for a fun shoot. Work with what you've got!
Scooting around San Diego, eating tacos, paddle boarding in the Bay... this is the life. When Dan + Bri agreed to model for one of our mentor sessions, I thought I was going to teach on chemistry, but these two already had it! So many smiles, and laughs, and playful jokes, gah! These two are perfect. California looks pretty dang good on these East-coasters. Don't believe me? Check em ouuuuuut.
The most classic San Diego elopement you've ever seen - frolicking through downtown's Gaslamp quarter, ceremonial "I do's" at the new library, playful moments at Coronado and of course, tacos... duh. Loved everything about this styled elopement, and it's true what they say about love, when you know, you know.
Florals | Rooted Florals
Ring | Champagne and Glitter
Taco Topper | Jenn and Jules Design
Tacos | Salud
when your fifteen year old self goes completely bananas because your Pride and Prejudice dream of shoot became real life....
yep. that's all I'm going to say about that. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Venue | Sunset Cliffs San Diego (at least what's left of it)
Styling | Yours Truly
HMUA | Face By Kayla
Floras | Native Poppy
Ribbon | Tono and Co
Dress | Anthropologie + BHLDN
Jacket | TopShop
Hands down the coolest part of our job is the versatility is brings. Whether we are shooting couples, portraits, corporate or brands, it's never a dull moment. It's even cooler when we get to shoot content for other creative brands such as Native Poppy, an amazing floral shop located inside of Communal Coffee (aka, our other house lol).
We did this shoot for them to launch their new subscription of monthly florals (umm, yes please) and we couldn't be more obsessed or more excited to have fresh flowers at our table every week!!! Oh, and this shoot was amazing too (obviously). Don't believe us? Stalk the goodness below! We love working with them.
brides! looking for a florist? Native Poppy is one of our preferred vendors! Book us both and receive a collab discount!
If ever we were going to talk about #marriagegoals , it would be these two. Jeff + Erin have been married eighteen years, yes, you read that right EIGHTEEN FREAKING YEARS, and haven't taken photos of just the two of them taken since their wedding. Like, excuse me, WUT. First off, they look amazing for having two teenagers at home, and second... freaking MARRIAGE GOALS. They are everything we hope to be - kind, gentle, spontaneous, fun, sincere, and fashionable lol. Their secret to obtain these #goals - do everything together.
Guys, anniversary sessions might be our new favorite thing. I love how sweet of a reminder it is to just to love your person <3