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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.

Vendors

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.

Vendors

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

Intention and elegance poured from every detail in Antar + Malika’s posh-industrial wedding at Sandbox Venue. From the lush florals in an array of fuchsias, magentas, and mauves spilling from luxuriant greenery to the clean-cut white chairs and minimalist exposed brick, a picture of modern opulence emerged. 

Malika’s pristine and flowing white gown and hair wrap reflected the same luxury and grace that filled the ceremony and reception spaces, from plush white chairs to sumptuous draping, to the ceiling full of soft white globe lights. The ceremony paired natural elements, like of woven baskets, a wooden arch, and overflowing florals, with glamorous touches like mirrors for signage and white ceramic and brass details. The warmth of the exposed brick walls provided the perfect backdrop for their enormous lit “LOVE” sign too. 

Romantic candles, rosy linen napkins, and spills of bougainvillea and bud vases brought the spirit of Malika + Antar’s love to the room across each reception table. The couple sat beneath their gorgeous floral arch at a sweetheart table to make you swoon, richly flowered and framed with glowing pillar candles. The night ended in a magical dance floor of dimmed strands of lights and incredible dance moves. Congratulations Malika + Antar!

RAD VENDORS

Venue | Sandbox // Planner | Laurel Street Events // Photography | SoCal Standard // Florals | Joy of Bloom Florals // Coffee | Meka Coffee // Catering | Harvest Kitchen

Black + Bougie // Chic Bougainvillea Themed wedding at Sandbox San Diego

The Couple

It’s so crazy how life works out. I met Molly and Cooper two months before their wedding. TWO MONTHS!! Thanks to the referral from my girl Jess at Plan Prep Party (she’s amazing btw, hire her as your wedding coordinator) I met these two and instantly fell in love. I don’t know what it is, but it is very important to me that I have a connection with my couples. Otherwise, what’s the point? Any who, fell in love with these crazy kids from Kansas city and did themost playful Sunset Cliffs engagement session with them. Needless to say, they got me HYPED for their New Year’s Eve wedding.

the Love Story

*As told by Molly

Welp. We met during our spring public accounting internship in Kansas City. The lamest of all lame things! So just going to leave that one there. After many late nights working together, we developed a great friendship. Late work nights turned into late happy hour nights, which then turned into late hang out nights. We liked each other’s friends. We loved each other’s families. Everything just seemed to click right into place so easily because we understood each other so well. You know when someone comes into your life and it’s just instant moment of like, oh wow, you’re like, really cool. It was that but times a million. We kept doing life together and it was going pretty dang well. We became parents to the most precious fur baby ever, Boji. We signed our lives away on a 30 year mortgage…if that isn’t love, what is? And sometimes…we went on trips together. One that specifically comes to mind was our New Years trip to Puerto Vallarta. We went with friends and my oblivious self thought it was just that, a trip with friends. Little did I know, Cooper snuck a diamond ring through customs and coordinated a photographer to meet us for a “quick selfie at sunset.” During that selfie, he started explaining all of the things we had done together in 2018 and how there was just one more thing to do before we rang in 2019 together. 365 days later, we got married in San Diego and it was the best day of our entire lives.

THE WEDDING

Literally a combination of all the dopest things – tropical flowers, disco balls, taco trucks, tattoos and rad people! You guys, this wedding was absolutely insane (but also totally chill at the same time lol). The wedding was so fun and unique in all the best ways. From sentimental moments of everyone holding a stone of love, to custom wedding tattoos as a party favor. This night was definitely a tropical, disco, New Years Eve wedding to remember.

The Vendors

Wedding Planner | Jess of Plan Prep Party // Florist | Blooms By Breesa Lee // Invitation Suite | Minted! // Dress | Something White Bridal Boutique // Shoes |Kailee P on Etsy // Ring | White Crochet Lace Ring: Visionary Jewelers in Overland Park // Venue | Tom Ham’s Lighthouse // Catering | Tom Ham’s Lighthouse // Officiant |Kristin Quick with Intimate Ceremonies // Cake + Desserts| Cute Cakes // Calligraphy | Adria at Draft and Ink Table // Groom’s Apparel | The Black Tux // Hair and Makeup | Lauren Norris // Spray Tatoos| Sam Walker @ Special Fx Ink

Tropical Disco NYE themed wedding at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse // Molly and Cooper

the couple

Ohhhhh man is this blog post long overdue! I met Emily back in college and just kept in touch over the years. So when she told me she was engaged I LOST MY ISH. So freaking honored to be a part of such an epic day. You might remember Nick + Emily from their adorable engagement session at Fruitcraft! Any who, I knew this wedding would be a combination of all the best things – great friends, quirky surprises, sentimental moments and epic dance parties. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint. From the lavender bridesmaid dresses to the colorful garden inspired florals, Temecula Creek Inn was the perfect space for this garden wedding. I love you both a million Swedish fish and you two nothing but the world of happiness!

the love story

One night at the Auld Dubliner (the only bar in Irvine so to speak), Emily and one of their mutual friends stopped by the bar where Nick was hanging out with some friends. Long story short, Nick talked Emily’s ear off all night. Literally not even 30 minutes later when Emily got home she found a Facebook message from Nick saying something along the line of “It was great seeing you, I’d love to take you to get a Rainbow in Huntington beach” (for those of you that don’t know, a Rainbow is basically a colorful alcoholic slushy). While Emily and her roommate were skeptical of the quick Facebook message, Emily decided to take a chance and get to know Nick. About a week later, we didn’t get Rainbow’s but we did take a drive down PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and walked down San Clemente Pier. We walked and talked and ended the night with a good night kiss. 5 years later we got engaged at Emily’s favorite hike in front of a beautiful lake in Lassen National Park.

the rad vendors

Planner + Coordinator | Parsons Events // Florist | Sweet Pea Floral Creations // invitation Suite | Minted // Dress | Luv Bridal // Shoes | Blue by Betsey Johnson // Ring | Teresa’s Jewelers // Venue | Temecula Creek Inn- The Stone House // Cake + Desserts | VG Donut // Groom’s Apparel & Accessories | The Black Tux // Hair and Makeup | @ocbeautybyelizabeth // Bridesmaids dresses | Azazie

Colorful Pastel Garden Wedding at the Stone House at Temecula Creek Inn // Nick + Emily

You know I am a huge fan of all things color so when Annelise + Gustavo told me they were having an emerald + jewel tone wedding, I was immediately obsessed. Plus, can we take a minute to love and appreciate my boo thang Arturo from AHR Florals?! Literally, making all my color pop of happy dreams come through will all the flowers from this sweetly intimate wedding.

The Thursday Club is really one of those hidden but not so hidden gems of a venue in San Diego. It provides the perfect space for a small wedding and is so close to Sunset Cliffs (which I HIGHLY recommend doing your bridals there). We didn’t get to do golden hour at the cliffs but oh my goodness does this sweetness have a special space in my heart. I am forever grateful to call this my job.

rad vendors

Coordinator | Jessica of Plan Prep Party // Florals | AHR Florals // Venue | The Thursday Club

Intimate Jewel Tone Wedding at The Thursday Club // Annelise + Gustavo

It’s so crazy where this photography journey has taken me and I am beyond thankful that I get to call this my job! My latest international adventure? Guadalajara Mexico to shoot this bougie ass castle-esque wedding at Casa Clementina. I met Steph and Carlos a over a year ago during my family minis! When I met Steph and Carlos and their two boys at the time, we instantly became aesthetic soulmates haha. They actually own a dope event design company in San Diego called Marquez Events. So when they finally set a date for their wedding I KNEW it was going to be nothing short of DOPE AF.

Knowing Steph + Carlo’s aesthetic, I wasn’t surprised when they told me they decided to get married in a mini castle in Guadalajara lol. Y’all know I love all this boho and bougie and this was literally the creation wedding baby of those two things. Casa Clementina provided the perfect neutral setting, and the wedding was accented with lush pampas grass decor, dried florals, and subtle hints of glam gold touches just to elevate the bohemian feel. It didn’t even matter that it STORMED the entire wedding and we had to move the ceremony from the outside lawn to the reception hall. This wedding yall, it was everything. I can’t believe I get to call this “work”.

RAD VENDORS

Venue, Florist, Planner | Casa Clementina // Invitation Suite | AC Hotel // Ring | SamNSue // Dress | Enzoani // Shoes | Badgley Mischka // Groom’s Suit | The Black Tux // HMUA | Hugo Alejandro // DJ | Yirseel Jasso

Looking for an editorial style photographer for your boho + bougie wedding? I’m your girl.

Destination Wedding // Boho Neutral Pampas Grass Wedding in Guadalajara Mexico // Carlos + Stephanie

Ughhhhh my heart for these two!! I met Gabby a couple years ago, she was one of the sweet floral goddesses working at Native Poppy. And y’all know how much I love Native Poppy. You see the magic they created at this super modern minimalist wedding?! I die. ANY who, Louie and Gabby are the epitome of minimalist, modern-chic (with a splash of bougie) and a whole lot of love and playfulness!

Guys, this wedding was nothing short of just that – clean, curated, upscale, modern, chic and SO MUCH HAPPY! I’m not even going to try to to explain why this wedding makes my minimalist heart happy, you’ll jut have to look and see for yourself.

rad vendors

Wedding Coordinator: Joyce Chun // Florist: Native Poppy // Invitation Suite: Sueko Sage // Dress: BHLDN bought second hand from Still White // Shoes: Target // Engagement Ring // Bride’s Wedding Band // Earrings: Mejuri // Nails: @nyahnailartist // Viel // Vow Books: Midori // Venue: BLDG 177 // Catering: Taquizas Jose // Officiant: Melissa McCormick // Cake + Desserts: Kathleen Gay Raagas // Videography: Films by Madeleine // Groom’s Wedding Band // Groom’s Barong Tagalog // Makeup: Stephanie Chin // DJ Gar Gar

Minimalist Modern Chic Wedding at BLDG 177 // Louie + Gabby

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