Cotton Candy Studio Editorial w/ Cas Jerome

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.

Black bride in boho gown
Black bride photographed by black wedding photographer The SoCal Standard
Black groom in white suit with colorful bridal bouquet
Black couple in love at their rainbow elopement ceremony in San Diego

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. 

Rainbow elopement ceremony in San Diego
Black couple's rainbow wedding in San Diego
Black couple's elopement photographed by black wedding photographer The SoCal Standard

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. 

Black love at a rainbow elopement ceremony in San Diego

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.

Rainbow wedding backdrop with boho chairs and aisle for San Diego elopement

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.

Bright and colorful wedding table decor with floral centerpiece
Velvet chairs and colorful flowers at wedding table
Bright red, pink, and yellow wedding flower centerpiece

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.

Colorful Micro Elopement // Light + Melanin

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.

Dried wheat fan decoration for black and white wedding
Boho modern decor with dried wheat fans for black and white wedding altar
Black gay couple with bridal bouquet at their modern black and white wedding

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.

Lesbian wedding photographed by black wedding photographer The SoCal Standard

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. 

Black gay couple at their San Diego elopement photoshoot

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.

Love in Black + White // Light + Melanin