Family, Kids, Maternity and Weddings

The first roll of film

It’s been about ten years since I’ve shot film. The last time was during a surf trip to Costa Rica where I used an underwater 35mm camera. I have to admit I was anxious. I wanted to see the difference between my 5D Mark III files and the Mamiya. Since I’d never used the Mamiya I wasn’t sure what I would see as a result. Up to this point I had burned through a pack of polaroid film with horrible results. I was afraid the film would look the same.

My first outings with the camera were not productive. I only shot one frame on two different occasions which were forced and didn’t turn out well. When I started encountering the issues with the polaroid back I began to wonder if the camera had issues so I made an effort to shoot through the roll and have it processed to make sure the camera worked.

When I got the email that the film was ready and the scans were available to download I couldn’t resist accessing the ftp via my iPhone. I was pleasantly surprised to see great exposures and solid results. I love the tones and the creamy, rich feeling of the images. I’m still not sure if this is the result of the camera or shooting a roll of film that expired in 2006 (I got a bunch of unused film when I bought the camera).

Even though it’s typically hard to get them to sit still I managed to rope my kids into sitting for eight frames. The following were shot on Ilford optima 400 using my Mamiya RZ67.

Charlie – Ilford Optima 400 on Mamiya RZ67


Grace and Charlie


I want you to have something you can touch

I currently have 585 photos on my iPhone. I love my iPhone. It’s an amazing tool to have in my pocket; so much so that it’s the camera I use the most when I’m not being paid by someone.  When it comes to dragging a seven pound chunk of metal to Grace’s ice skating lesson I’d rather just reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. If you think the quality isn’t up to par, the following photo was printed at 20×16.  I bring this up because, like me, the majority of my clients have hundreds of photos on their phones and in their digital library that they never do anything with. If you are like me, most of those images don’t see the light of day. Maybe a couple end up on a blog or on Facebook, some end up on Instagram but for the most part they are left in digital purgatory and after a few months the special moment you wanted to document is lost. I took it as we were heading out the door to have our family portraits shot.

Like most two year olds, Charlie doesn’t smile for the camera. He gets uncomfortable and goofy and often moves his eye-line away from the camera. This moment was special because both of my kids looked great…at the same time… and in the same photo.  I love seeing this every time I walk in the door. It’s a reminder and a keepsake.

Charlie & Grace – 16×20 Gallery Block – shot w iPhone 5


When it comes to hiring me to shoot your wedding, children, family portrait, fill in the blank; I want you to leave with something you can touch and cherish. This is a 16×24 Giclee canvas I recently made for a client.


16×24 giclee canvas


In 2011 I started using this image of Tutu  in my promo material. When Tutu’s mom saw the mounted 18×12 print she loved it. I asked her what she did with the CD of files she purchased from me; she confessed that she hadn’t made time to do anything with them.  Life is full; we all get busy….I want your experience with me to be easy and result in photos hung in your house that make you smile when you stop to look at them.


Tutu – Manhattan Beach 2010


I shot this (riveting) video to show the results of one of the hard cover press printed books I offer. This is the fourth book in a row I’ve made for this client and when I dropped this off she remarked how special they are and that  she loves having them to look back on.


By handing over a disc or a digital file I am handing you work. It means you have to make the prints, buy the frames, frame the prints, send Grandma a copy of the prints…..I don’t want your experience with me to be sullied by the stress of  added work after the shoot is over. This is the reason I offer the products and services that I do. I want you to enjoy your photos. Granted clients still want copies of their digital files which are available, but as a photographer I want you to have something you can touch.





2012 A Look Back

A few years ago I made a slideshow using  photos from every assignment I shot during the year. The idea stuck and has become a great way for me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the year. 2012 was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. All of those experiences brought one theme to the forefront – Family is Everything. And by family I’m not limiting myself to the family I was born into or married into. It’s the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. This year we have had the warm blanket of family wrapped around us when we needed it and we were able to be that same blanket of warmth and strength for others when they needed it. This year was life-changing for so many of our friends and loved ones.

Over the past couple years I’ve skipped using photos of my family in the slideshow, after all they weren’t paid assignments and so many were just snapshots. This year I’ve included them because my wife and kids are my world and are definitely the most photographed subject in my life. I also opted to include more than one image from the assignments. Limiting myself  to one single image per shoot didn’t represent the scope and the fruits of my labor.

As with every slide show I always struggle with music. Each year I want to use a song that I fell in love with during the year. This year there were a couple of contenders.

Mumford & Sons – I will wait
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop I dare you to not bounce your head while listening to this song. I was bouncing  my head for a couple weeks before I even listened to the words.
Ryan Adams – From The Ashes   In January NPR streamed a pre-lease of this entire album. I listened to it over and over until the day it was released. Go buy it directly from his label/website. 
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun  
This is probably my favorite song on the album but I opted for Tightrope becaue it matched the tempo I wanted for the slideshow.


For those of you that supported me and helped me create this year I owe you a world of thanks. Without you I’d be stuck behind some desk.

Year End Review Slide Show 2012 from Chuck Espinoza on Vimeo.



Our Son Charlie

Photography is present in every are of my life. If i don’t have my DSLR in my hands I’m reaching for my iPhone. When it comes to my kids they are well documented. Each year around their birthday I look back at the previous twelve months and make a slideshow. It’s great to see how they’ve grown and it reminds me of a lot of special moments that have been cast aside to a hard drive.

Charlie’s birthday was November 28th. For the past couple weeks I have been thinking about this slideshow. As with every slideshow I make my biggest struggle is what song to use. The answer to that question came quickly; Step in Time from Mary Poppins. Charlie loves that song. Literally everyday, dozens of times a day he breaks out into the chorus – step in step in step in time! The problem is I don’t really like the song. I love the meaning and that it means so much to Charlie but I felt it wouldn’t work well for the slideshow. I scoured my iTunes library only to realize it was the best song for Charlie and this time in his life, regardless of my personal preferences.

Like most two year olds, Charlie is hard to photograph. He doesn’t understand (or care) that he is supposed to smile and look at the camera at the same time. I can usually get one or the other but rarely at the same time. Regardless we love him and these photos are all memories. Meet our son Charlie.

A year in review of our son Charlie from Chuck Espinoza on Vimeo.


Photographing a proposal

As a photographer I get to watch and participate in a lot of momentous occasions. Whether it’s a wedding, birthday or birth it’s an incredible feeling to contribute to a family’s history. I love that my images will be cherished for a lifetime. Knowing that the photos I made will outlast me is pretty cool. Earlier this week I was referred to Jordan by a friend. Jordan was planning on proposing to his girlfriend and wanted a photographer to document the occasion. Other than my own proposal this was a first for me.

I met Jordan at Palisades Park about 30 minutes before Suzy was scheduled to arrive. In addition to having flowers ready Jordan had arranged for a car service to pick her up and bring her to the park. We waited. I didn’t want her to see me when she arrived so I stayed about 100 feet from Jordan. Being that this is north Santa Monica I think most of the people thought I was a paparazzi. Jordan would shoot me texts with updates.

Suzy arrived just in time. My heart was racing. I was excited for Jordan and Suzy and needed to make sure I got the shot. It worked out perfectly. When everyone around us figured out what just happened they started clapping and cheering.



The following is a slideshow of the proposal.

The Proposal from Chuck Espinoza on Vimeo.


A taste of my own medicine

A few weeks ago we had our family portraits taken. The same questions that pop into my client’s mind popped into mine. What to wear; where to shoot; will the kids behave….I’ve answered those questions countless times.


We picked out some color options and went shopping for outfits. This is now my go-to advice for my clients; go buy new clothes. You’ve already committed money and time to the process why let a wardrobe hiccup sully the time and money you’ve invested. Kids clothes are relatively inexpensive and easy to pair up. Walk through Carters, Old Navy, The Gap or the Ralph Lauren section of Macy’s and you’ll be able to grab clothes that you know will look good together.

Notice the color palette? Yeah; I’m the only one in brown. I didn’t listen to my own advice. Robin and I couldn’t find something we liked at Old Navy and didn’t make an effort to continue to the shopping. As the date approached I was convinced that I had a fairly new navy polo shirt in the closet therefore I didn’t need to go shopping again. Robin pulled a trump card when she pulled her navy top. We weren’t committed to matching, especially since the kids weren’t in solid tops so I became the odd man out. Lesson learned.

©Brian Kingston –

©Brian Kingston –

©Brian Kingston –

During family portrait sessions a lot can go wrong. Kid’s aren’t into it, Dad has better things to do; the kids aren’t behaving;  someone missed a nap. Then there’s the accidents. In our case Charlie walked off one of these concrete risers as if it were a normal step.  He face planted into thick, fresh-cut grass.  As any professional photographer would do, Brian was concerned and sensitive to the situation. I, on the other hand reached for my iPhone to snap a few pics. (Sorry Charlie) Even though it was a bit scary; Charlie was fine and it’s a moment that I will always associate with this family portrait session. Things happen; don’t let it ruin your session.

Robin pulling grass out of Charlie’s mouth

Like years past I had a friend shoot our portraits. This year it was Brian Kingston. Brian is not just a photographer he’s an amazing artist, check out his photography and artwork at We have one of his pieces hanging in our living room.