Architecture and Design

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.



Environmental Portraits for Creative Professionals

I am a firm believer that professionals should have a good head shot. For executive professionals the image is usually used for speaking engagements, annual reports, websites and newsletters. Most executives come to me because they need  a head shot. I think it is even more important for service-oriented professionals to have a great head shot.  Creative professionals tend to come to me because they want  a head shot. That was the case with Tina. She wanted a head shot for her new website and marketing materials.

Tina came across my work in an ad I ran in a local theater production. As opposed to using safe and family oriented photos, I used images that were unique, interesting and fun. Those photos got me noticed. Tina is an interior designer and professional organizer. She also grew up in a family of photographers and knew what type of head shot she didn’t want; she didn’t want a typically business head shot.  Business head shots are usually warm and presentable but very static. There isn’t a lot of room to introduce personality in that type of photo.  Tina wanted a head shot that showed her personality in addition to being warm and personable.

When we talked about the shoot we narrowed down what she didn’t want. That was easy. The challenge was finding the right balance of creative + professional + personality. In order to make sure we were both on the same page in regards to the final look, I pulled some images I had shot for previous clients as well as examples from magazines to use as a point of reference for what I felt she was asking for. Once I knew we were on the same page the next step was to scout the location. Tina works out of her home and has a studio space that she wanted to be photographed in. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts shooting in homes always has it’s challenges. The location scout was to make sure I was prepared for and could overcome those challenges.  In addition to seeing the space and the light I was able to shoot some test shots. The test shots allowed us to look at the photos and decide where to focus our efforts on the day of the real shoot.  Going through this process before the actual shoot saves time and also prepares the client for the real deal. They get a chance to see what they will look like on camera. It also gets them thinking about wardrobe, styling and about prepping the space for the real shoot. Trying to shoot tests in addition to preparing the space for a photo shoot on the day-of is a stressful situation for both me and the client. Not only do they need to worry about their appearance, but now they have to worry about cleaning, de-cluttering AND making decisions about which photo will suit their marketing needs.  By scouting the location and shooting some quick tests shots we have saved time and reduced stress.


Location Scout - test shoot

Location scout – test shoot – environmental portrait of Tina Studier. K. Marie Design


The location scout was early afternoon and she warned me that later in the afternoon the sun blasted through the west facing windows in the background of the frame.  As far as spaces go, the studio was perfect for the shoot; it showed clients her work-space and her personality. Her unique wallpaper is such a creative and fun detail in the room. You can paste pictures and inspirations to your heart’s content and have it look interesting and planned out. Since the wallpaper was new we both realized it would need to be filled-in more for the shoot.  We also decided that a landscape photo would show too much of the space and not feature Tina enough. The final shoot was a couple weeks later and we ended up with these two final images.


Tina - K. Marie Design - environmental portrait

Tina – K. Marie Design – environmental portrait


Tina had prepped the space using the notes we had made with the tests. She filled in part of wallpaper that would be in our frame and she switched out the lamp in the corner.  The coffee table was removed and we paired down the objects on the cabinet camera left.  We shot a couple different outfits but kept coming back to this jacket. In order to give my clients variety and images that will be useful across all of their marketing platforms I knew we also needed to shoot a traditional head and shoulders portrait. The environmental portrait would not translate well on websites where  the size of the image was limited.  A head shot will scale down and look great on sites like LinkedIn where you are limited to a one inch photo. We both were happy with the results.


Tina - K. Marie Design - head shot/ portrait

Tina – K. Marie Design – head shot/ portrait


Reviewing 2011

It was an interesting year…for everyone. Many parts of the world changed and so did my business.

When I was in college it took me three years to stumble into a finance class and enjoy it enough to declare it as my major. In order to weed people out, the school of business required eight pre-requisities before applying. Once in the school of business I gravitated to finance and made a decision I wanted to be a sell-side analyst. At the time, circa 1995, the market was on a tear straight up. The faces and voices of the market were the sell-side analysts on CNBC. I decided I wanted to be an analyst. I didn’t know what their day-to-day activities were nor what was really involved with being an analyst (a two word description would be Sell Stock) but that was my goal. Once I got there I realized I made an uneducated decision and grew to hate it.

When I started my photography business around 2003 so many professional photographers and consultants said the same thing: In order to be successful a photographer must focus on ONE type of photography. Being a jack of all trades meant a life of mediocrity and that in order to be noticed, a photographer had to have a singleness of purpose so people would recognize you for that one type of photography. I didn’t buy it. And with the economic collapse and the resulting shrinking of advertising that logic proved to be fatally wrong for many photographers.

I vowed I wouldn’t make the same mistake I made in college. I figured I’d shoot, work, and let the cards fall where they may. My work and what I gravitated towards would determine what type of photography I would pursue. The cards fell into place and for me it meant photographing people and architecture. With the economy and the state of the real estate markets I can count the number of architecture jobs I shot in 2011 on one hand. I can also reflect on all the calls I got for architecture-related jobs but lost based on price. If there’s a ton of unemployed architecture photographers, they will under-bid each other in order to get the job. I on the other hand focused on people.

This is the third year I’ve gone through and made this slide-show. It’s a great way to look over the year to see what I did right and what I could have done better.  In 2011 I also felt the pinch that most wedding and family photographers have been feeling for years. The loss of business because of the growing ease and access of great digital cameras. Why pay a professional photographer when we have our own camera? Why hire someone when Judy’s son offered to shoot the (insert photography job here______) for free? The answer comes down to quality. Sometimes the price of a good deal isn’t paid until after the client sees the results and isn’t happy. In order to combat this type of thinking I have to focus on providing value. My clients have to know and expect a quality that they know they can’t get by shooting their family portraits themselves or giving the job to the least expensive photographer. In 2012 my goal is to improve my client’s experience and continue to focus on value.

2011 got off to a slow start because Charlie was born at the end of 2010. And despite fewer jobs, business was better than 2010.

I my last post I mentioned how important music is to me and how much thought goes into selecting a song to use for these slide shows. This year I went with a song by James Vincent McMorrow.


Thanks for a great year

Thanks to all my clients, friends and family that helped to make 2010 a great year.

I have been reading a book by Michael Lewis called “The Big Short” about the sub-prime mortgage mess and the related meltdown. It starts with him describing his work as a broker at Salomon Brothers straight out of college and how as a 24 year old without any financial experience was paid a lot of money to give financial “advice”. He later talks about the investment banking business and all the shenanigans involved. He put into words what I had not been able to describe about my work as a sell-side analyst. We were paid to sell dreams. As much as they paid me I could no longer continue hating my job day after day. Leaving that industry, despite my passion for the market, was the best decisions I ever made.

Now I get paid to take pictures and I love it. As you’ll see in the video it’s not always glorious. Not everyone is a super model, not every house is a beautifully decorated mansion but to me it doesn’t matter. I’m my own boss, I set my hours, I pick my jobs, I get to sleep at night and as a result of my career and lifestyle I’m a different person. Thanks. Thanks to everyone who reads this or took part in one of the shoots. Your help and support allows me to continue doing what I love.

This is the third year I’ve made a year-end review  slide show. The video is a slide show set to a song I found and fell in love with in 2010. It includes a photo from every assignment and photo shoot I had in 2010. Like I mentioned above, they are not always glorious photo shoots but I’m grateful for all of them. My main areas of work are real estate, architecture and interior design, children, weddings and family, head shots and executive portraits and shots of and for models.  Last year a friend noted that it seemed odd that there would be a photo of a baby followed by a swimsuit model… this year instead of chronological order I’ve grouped the images by type.  I’ve also omitted the great majority of the photos of my daughter Grace. This year she’ll get her own slideshow. For those of you who can’t view flash you can see the video on my site: I also re-edited last years video organizing the images by subject.

Music is huge to me and every year I’ve agonized over what song to use. This year I went with C’Mon by The Soft Pack They are an indie rock band out of San Diego. I found and fell in love with them because their music takes me back to the time I started taking pictures. They remind me of the music I was listening to in middle school which was when I first picked up a camera.


I’m not a travel photographer

We just got back from a week long trip to Cancun. Although I love to travel and I love shooting new locations, a travel photographer I am not.  I look at and admire travel photographs; I love seeing the ordinary made beautiful by focusing on color, shapes and details. I just don’t see like that. I pick up a camera and look at the shelves full of Mexican “souvenirs” and I don’t see anything worth shooting. When I do take the shot I typically think they are boring and/or cliche.

I typically photograph people and architecture (and my fam). When I look back at the travel photos I’ve taken they inevitably have people in the shot or a building I found interesting. While reviewing the shots I took in Cancun and I noticed that I shot with my iPhone more than my 5D and you’ll only find a handful of scenic photos, the following being the only one I like and it was shot with my iPhone.

Cancun - Moon Palace

There’s a handful of travel photos that I’ve shot over the years that I like. When I was digging for photos to use I noticed that a lot of my travel shots have a sense of a story line. At least they do to me. The following was shot in Tokyo. Want to walk around with a camera and have a great time? Tokyo is the place.

The following shot was taken on a trip to New York. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about it. I hate that I used a fish-eye lens and I’m not a fan of how “hot” the red is. What keeps me coming back to this photo is the guy in the window.  If you’ve never been to the Empire State Building, it’s basically a series of long-ass lines you have to wait in before you get to the top. This was the last line we had to wait in before going to the top. I just happened to shove my camera out an open window and rest it on the sill.

Empire State Building NYC

Man looks out 86th floor window of Empire state Building


Modern in Santa Monica

Last week I shot a new listing for the McCormick’s of Teles Properties. Details and more photos can be seen at

943 Centinela Ave Santa Monica, CA 90403

Entry Way

943 Centinela Ave Santa Monica, CA 90403


943 Centinela Ave Santa Monica, CA 90403

Living Room