Ready to be transported to the Palm Springs desert for the latest Style + Shoot? This day was pure magic… and definitely my most badass wedding session yet.
Between client projects, engagement sessions, and micro-weddings in January, I somehow found time to launch a new series of educational photoshoots. Style + Shoot is a new monthly(ish) content creation series for photographers and small businesses in Southern California. You know I love collaborating with other photographers (see: Light + Melanin and my mentorship sessions), and Style + Shoot is an opportunity for industry creatives and photographers to get WILD and push your limits, all while highlighting small businesses and local brands.
To plan this session, I partnered with two of my faves: Arturo from AHR Florals and Jess from Plan Prep Party. We’ve done a couple weddings together, and they’re my artsy soulmates — I love working with them because no idea is too crazy.
We’ve been dreaming of styling a desert wedding together. Of course, we wanted to go against the grain and do something different than a standard boho desert elopement. Style + Shoot was the perfect opportunity. So when Arturo told us, “I’ve been obsessed with pussy bows and bold REDS,” we knew this was going to be fun… I’m sorry, were you expecting something basic? Never heard of her.
Style + Shoot is all about creating opportunities to expand your portfolio, and create the type of work you want to see in the world. I was pumped to take an artistic, editorial approach to this LGBTQ+ wedding session. What an opportunity to show that gay weddings can go way beyond the matching suits and rainbow decor stereotype (peep my Love in Black & White session for more inspiration).
Combine Arturo’s flower sorcery with some artful styling by Jess, and we captured a bougie queer wedding that’s anything but basic.
I stumbled upon our goddess boys, models Adrian Patterson and RJ Chumbley, on Instagram (of course), and Oh. My. God… instantly blown away by their gorgeousness. They were so sweet and amazing when I reached out to them — they made it so easy to just run off to the desert, and make crazy, artful magic together.
Let’s talk outfits. So many amazing non-traditional groom details, like feather earrings and a mesh (!!!) shirt under RJ’s linen suit jacket. Adrian and RJ looked like they stepped off the stage at Coachella in their off-white suits and black leather boots. Major wedding inspiration for queer, gender-fluid, and non-binary couples, but honestly, this postmodern, avant-garde wedding is goals for any creative couple.
We set three distinct scenes for the desert elopement styled shoot: a fringed floral archway altar, a cozy ‘lil love nest lounge, and a bold tablescape complete with a showstopping fantasy cake.
This architectural dream cake from Peggy Liao Cake was perched on an acrylic pedestal (spot the tiny tumbleweed inside), surrounded by desert roses. An experimental, postmodern vibe that I am 100% here for.
Their chemistry is just incredible. Even though the Style + Shoot had an editorial vibe ripped straight out of Vogue, we still captured some cool wedding traditions (jumping the broom!) and details from your typical wedding photo checklist: wedding ring photos, bouquet details, and even a recessional (without a traditional aisle).
For our final look of the day, Adrian and RJ changed from their structured altar outfits to more airy, feminine looks, complete with — you guessed it — pussy bows. I can’t get enough of this look. The gold jewelry in Adrian’s twists… RJ’s tats peeking through the sheer blouse… the best manicured brows in all of Southern California. Completely unreal. So exciting to create arful, editorial images with queer love shining at center stage.
Wanna come along for our next Style + Shoot? Join us for some camping couple snuggling magic in Anza Borrego!
Photography + Art Direction: The SoCal Standard
Bouquets and Floral Installation: AHR Florals
Styling and Decor: Plan Prep Party
Videography: RS Vids
Silk Ribbons: Hey It’s Oh So Pretty
One silver lining of 2020: it really showed us how much romantic gestures can mean to our loved ones. Covid-19 tried its best to get date night cancelled, but clever couples found ways to keep their love alive with outdoor dates (one of the benefits of living in sunny So Cal!)
All this time outside got me thinking… why not create a fun, bougie quarantine date night for Style + Shoot? (…What? You haven’t heard about my new content creation photoshoot series? Get on it!) My wheels started turning about how to highlight a Covid-friendly date night option in an inspirational way.
The goal was to create a luxe picnic and drive-in movie date night, an inspirational photo set for quarantine boos. But San Diego’s drive-in theater is crowded, and not quite the vibe we had in mind… more 90’s grunge than bougie dream date. So we decided to create something from scratch!
We rented a classic Porche convertible to set the scene for our drive-in date night (cherry red, of course.) Natalie Blooms created a gorgeous floral garland to decorate the dash, and San Diego Picnics put together the prettiest picnic with boho rugs and pillows, candlelight, and champagne and dessert charcuterie (WHAT? Fully did not know this was a thing, but now I’m obsessed).
Setting up on the roof of the parking garage meant we had a glorious view of the San Diego skyline, and you know I’m not afraid of a little harsh light lovin’. Shooting in direct sun is my jam… there’s nothing like natural light. Plus, if you’re gonna rent a luxury car for a date, you gotta pick up your honey before the sunset so they can enjoy the ride. Classic cars are for daytime cruising.
This photoshoot had a few hiccups (hello: two cranky security guards, impromptu location changes, and quickly fading light.) But everyone — the models, stylists, florists, and guest photographers — was on their A-game and completely killed it, so we were able to capture some truly amazing images. So grateful and proud of the talented folks I get to make art with every damn day.
We ended the day with the sweetest luxury picnic at Seaport Village, adapting our setup to create a gorgeous date with a sunset view of the harbor. Such a romantic setting, and these adventurous souls made the evening magical.
We had to get flexible with this photoshoot, switching up the scenes at a moment’s notice. We didn’t even get around to setting up our movie projector… but honestly, could anything really light up as bright as Jas and Jonathan anyway?? It may not completely fit the drive-in date night creative brief, but that’s the beauty of these photos. Genuine emotion just radiating from these happy people enjoying their real life. Rebels who aren’t afraid to break the rules and have some fun.
Want to join us for the next Style + Shoot? Expand your creative limits, and create some gorgeous content for your portfolio. Let’s go!
Florals: Natalie Blooms
Luxury Car Rental:
Luxury picnic styling: San Diego Picnics
If you know me at all, you know I love all things COLOR. This micro elopement session made my creative heart so happy. Not only did I get another chance to photograph Anisett and Jason (the dream couple from this Sunset Cliffs couples session), but I also got to play with all sorts of artsy techniques while hosting a conversation about how to confidently and beautifully photograph melanin skin.
This elopement photoshoot was set up as a demo for Light + Melanin, my workshop for photographers who want more diversity in their portfolio, but don’t feel confident shooting or editing darker skin tones.
As a black woman (and a photographer) one of my biggest pet peeves is seeing the ways that other photographers edit black skin, and how they’re totally disrespecting darker skin tones… You can’t just make us all oversaturated and orange! Whatever they’re using as a preset, they do not have darker skin in mind. So many of my frustrations are tied to the fact that people honestly DON’T KNOW. I want to try to alleviate that lack of information with education.
Thus, Light + Melanin was born! This is my SOUL project, and I am so excited about it. From lighting and photo presets, to inclusivity in marketing and avoiding tokenism, this workshop addresses ALL OF IT.
To demonstrate the concepts behind Light + Melanin, I arranged three photo sessions with VERY different lighting situations, ideal for teaching photographers to shoot and edit darker skin tones.
I want to teach students to learn and conquer light, and understand how crucial it is for capturing melanin skin. Obviously there have not been any big weddings happening this year, so this felt like a good time to showcase what we can do with a micro elopement or a small wedding.
Anisett and Jason are so much fun to photograph. Just look at these two!! Their love shines through in any setting.
One of the best things about this mini elopement session was how much variation we could get within the same venue. From shooting Anisett’s gorg boho gown against the romantic black and white floral wallpaper, to artistic shots of the bride and groom surrounded by vibrant, translucent colorfields… hard to believe that we shot all of this within one venue.
We set up the most glorious rainbow backdrop for the bride and groom, complete with velvet chairs and boho rugs down the aisle. Like… give me ALL THE COLOR. I love that we went full maximalist rainbow wedding vibes for this mini elopement. So unexpected, and literally made my colorfully magic dreams come true with this setup. and I could NOT have done it without the dopest team on the whole damn planet. Looking back at this session makes my artsy heart so full.
Photographers: did you miss out on the in-person Light + Melanin workshop? I’ve got you covered. The online Light + Melanin video workshop covers 20 lessons about photographing and editing diverse skin, perfect for photographers who want to thoughtfully address diversity and tokenism in your portfolio.
Stay tuned for part two of this shoot, where we go from full color glory to love in black and white.
Anisett wore a Rue de Seine gown that paired perfectly with the maximalist vibe of the black and white floral wallpaper. The Lesser Bear ribbon on Anisett’s bouquet is so extra — just look at all that GOLD popping against Jason’s bright white Asos tux.
That bold, rainbow hued backdrop? NBD, just the team at Wild Heart Events working their colorful magic. Can’t forget the rentals from Folklore, and table decor from Catalog Atelier. The florals are a dreamy collab between floral powerhouses A.H.R. Florals and Best Bud Floral. And have you ever seen anything like that colorful terrazzo-inspired cake from Nicole Bakes Cakes?
We held this photoshoot at Flora, a beautifully bougie wedding venue in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. The space is elegant, but still enough of a blank slate for us to get artsy with the visuals. Stay tuned for part two of this photoshoot, which has a totally different vibe.
Amidst all the hype and planning for Light + Melanin, a friend reached out to me and said, “Hey, I love where this conversation is going, but can we also talk about the black LGBTQ community? Because they are not represented at all.” I have to say, this was not really on my radar, but she’s right. Black LGBTQ couples don’t always see their stories told.
The first two photoshoots for Light + Melanin were FULL COLOR MAGIC. So when I had the opportunity to photograph Crowne and Kris for an elopement session, you know the Gemini in me had to completely switch it up. I’m avidly against the assumption that all LGBTQ weddings have to be filled with rainbows. Like, HELLO. Some couples have their own style that does not include rainbows. We are not all the same, and that’s the beauty of life. I was excited that the brides were down with a more elegant aesthetic.
I wanted to give a new modern spin on what a modern black and white wedding could look like. No cheesy stereotypes of what a lesbian wedding is “supposed” to be. This photoshoot was more restrained and monochromatic than the colorful micro elopement I shot with Anisett and Jason earlier that day. Two completely separate shoots going on.
Crowne and Kris have been together for more than half a decade, and their ease with each other made this shoot something special. What a joy to celebrate black love, and see their devotion shine in these photos.
I mean… look at these two!! Smiles and skin glowing as bright as those gold palm fronds. Looking back at these photos gives me all the feels.
Light + Melanin was something I’d been planning FOREVER, but 2020 had other plans (ugh, COVID! So rude.) This photo session with Crowne and Kris was an opportunity to demonstrate how I shoot and edit melanin skin (while also capturing the love between this beautiful black couple). Ugh, I LOVE my job.
If you missed out on the in-person workshop and wanna join in, I’ve got ya boo: the workshop is now available online as a video course! The video workshop covers 20 lessons about shooting and editing darker skin tones. Light + Melanin has been a long time coming so I am PUMPED to be leading a conversation around race and diversity in the photography industry.
This photoshoot was part two of our demo at Flora, the most beautifully bougie wedding venue in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. Can you believe this is the same space from our wild rainbow elopement?? For this shoot, Back Up Backdrops created an elegant, boho backdrop inspired by handcrafted African mudcloth patterns. LOVE the vibe combined with the golden wheat fans.
Can’t forget the rentals from Folklore. The flowers, including the absolutely bananas orchid earring, are the work of floral genius A.H.R. Florals. The brides were shining in black and white. Crowne wore a beautiful Rue de Seine gown and Kris looked gorgeous in her modern bridal jumpsuit from Asos.
Okay so let me just take a second to thank COVID… I know what you’re thinking… Erica… WHAT?! But hear me out for a second. Yes, COVID sucks, yes, it has tested us in more ways than we ever thought imaginable, but it’s also made us appreciate all the things we have been taking for granted. For example, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t realized how much I actually needed to be touched. Like, I’m a hugger so not being able to hug my friends and family took a serious toll on my emotional health. But it also made me really cherish the little moments – the time I’d spent just watching tv with my mom, the days that my boyfriend had off and we would just send each other songs., random trips to World Market (don’t @ me). But the biggest thing that I didn’t think would affect my heart so much, was photographing people.
Let’s be clear, ya girl was doing just fine during Quarantine. I had a little nest egg saved up so I wasn’t too worried about income. But OH MY HEART CAME BACK TO LIFE WHEN I PHOTOGRAPHED THESE LOVERS!!!!
I just moved into my first apartment in May (I know, bananas!!). It’s the cutest freaking little neighborhood on the planet, and what made it even better is all of my sweet neighbors. *Cue Anisett + Jason*. Met them, instantly fell in love with them, begged them to let me photograph their faces lol. (Can you tell I’m trying really hard not to say the word “shoot”?) I feel like the word “shooting” and black people can’t mix anymore, even in a photography setting, but that’s another blog post.
ANY who. These sweet souls have been together FOREVER. I can’t even give you a number because they always were, and always will be. They are the perfectly beautiful example of how strong and loving and playful and adventurous love is and is supposed to be. They sum up Walt Whitman’s quote perfectly,
“We were together, I forget the rest”.