hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

mila | people that influence me

i second shot for hanssie at a wedding last month.  a few weeks later i attended a scott robert workshop.  it was only after the workshop that i edited the photos from the wedding.  yeah... i guess you could say he really influenced me in my post processing.  i love what he does.  it has a way of creating drama.  so here i go playing with textures again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

mila | kaya updates

she's not crawling yet but she smiles and giggles now.  it takes a LOT of work on my part to get her to giggle but for uncle steven she'll cough up a laugh and a giant grin as soon as she sees him.  go figure.

lessons we've learned these last few months:
  • kaya is soooooo loved and she loves back ;)
  • she has a high pain threshold.  for her last set of shots she got 2 on each leg all in one day.  she scowled for the first, screamed for the second and on to the third and by the fourth her tears were dry and she was maddoggin the nurse.
  • there's hope to make her a surfer.  she doesn't mind cold ocean water.  during bath time she doesn't mind water in her face either.
  • she loves mommy and daddy.  we know this coz we get BIG smiles when she sees us.  but the kid doesn't really miss us when we're gone.  we left her with family for 2 weeks when we went to bali.  you'd think she would have said mama by the time we got back.  nope!  i don't think she even noticed we were gone. same rule applies when i leave her with a sitter :( WE miss her a lot though.  so much so that we couldn't leave her for an extended period after that... and we still had 4 weeks of vacation left!
  • store bought toys are more for mommy not baby.  yeah, i got suckered into a few "cute toys".  thank god i didn't go in deep.  i discovered early on that kaya is more than satisfied with paper and cheap noise makers.  her most favorite "toys" right now?
    • empty water bottle with a few pennies inside.  squeeze some air out before closing the lid so she has a better grip.  it's so cheap we have one for each room in the house and the diaper bag.
    • booklets that come in the mail.  she LOVES paper.  i'll let her play with it till it's crumpled then get her a new one the next day
    • fake credit cards that come in the mail.  
    • balloons. 
    • a mini bowling ball and pin set i got from big lots for a buck.  
    • she loves peek-a-boo games 
    • travelling with kaya -  she's great and she can hold her own ...she's still not mobile though she's more ok with tummy time now.  i think this immobility is what made her a very easy baby to travel with.  it was a 19 hour trip to the philippines and she did great!  we do have one awesome story to share.  it was on the way home.  the first leg of the trip was philippines to korea.  there was an older korean guy sitting across the aisle from us and i think he wasn't thrilled about all the babies on his flight and even less so that we were in such close proximity to him.  the man was maddoggin the kaya.  kaya, in her coolest demeanor simply stared back.  i think i caught the last half of this stare down.  they locked eyes for a good half minute and then..... kaya stuck her tongue out at him and did the raspberry.  as if that wasn't enough, she laughed at him when she got done.  ok, maybe she was just giggling and not necessary laughing at him but it was great!  the guy had to crack a smile.  he was one upped by a baby.
    • she LOVES veggies and fruits are not good unless they're mixed with broccoli or turned into popsicles or slushies.
    • if we opt to leave any child with family for an extended amount of time (3 days or more) we have to accept the necessary re-training routine when we get home.  i simply can't keep up with holding her all day and 100% attention all the time no matter how much she whines for more.
    • she doesn't like basil.  i shoulda known it wouldn't fly ... the author of the baby food book i bought was french.  next time i'm sticking to my peeps and giving her fish sauce.
    • it pays to have friends that have daughters older than kaya.  this recycle clothes process is wonderful!  we get bags from my friend claudia since her daughter is a few months ahead.  i've only had to buy basic sweaters to layer over the adorable summer dresses.  got some jeans from the philippines for cheap and i use it under the dresses as well.  leggings, tights and leg warmers work too.
    • i need to watch the shoe shopping.  not for me of course ... ahem.  i'm trying not to buy all the basic color requirements for kaya's wardrobe but it's tough so i've opted for brown  ... and green and black and white and pink .. in shoes and sandals and boots.
    • i think she's getting the communication thing.  i swear she's trying to say milk when she's hungry and i think she signed for it the other night.  
    i know i'm going to regret saying this but i'm looking forward to hearing her talk and seeing her walk.

    she went thru a balding phase.  so did i.  our hair has finally been growing back ... curtis' is still gone.

    she's kooler than i am and it's not just a phase

    she's a talker

    she's a traveler, a mover and a shaker

    she's soooooo loved

    it takes a lot of energy

    but there's no one else like her

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    mila | why does it cost so much anyway

    with the economy the way it is i can totally understand that budgets are tighter and brides are looking for places to save money.  TV has done an amazing job of educating us, myself included.  i'm a huge fan of the show "say yes to the dress" and their price disclosure gave me an idea of just how much dresses are. designer shoes are an obvious expense option.  the hair, makeup and underwear are must haves... though honestly, with all that hoopla i would like a great picture to commemorate a hot makeover job.  alcohol of course is a cash pit, the venue, the food, the decor, the flowers, invitations.  it all adds up.  but photography seems to be the one place where brides gasp at the cost.  perhaps it is the initial intangibleness of the product that sets the perception a kilter.  maybe it's the affordability of digital cameras set in motion by the major manufacturers that lowers the bar in our minds.  whatever it may be i think it warrants some pause and some analysis on what goes into the wedding photos.  a bride might think that i'm trying to justify the price but really i'm just presenting the facts.  

    i did the math on my own biz and made a list of the cost sources.  i have chosen to disclose this because i want everyone to be aware and to appreciate what it takes to be a small business owner and particularly a photographer.  most people only account for the hours a photographer spends on the day of the wedding.  what most forget to take into consideration is that behind that day there is so much more substance and so many other things involved in making a wedding photographer a successful and reliable one.  SUCCESS AND RELIABILITY -- these are key aside from the obvious reasons for hiring a particular person.  i urge you to look beyond the obvious.  welcome to my reality...

    let's have a starting number -- $2400 is the number i've decided (after doing the math) is the LEAST a basic complete wedding package should cost.


    •  a wedding is AT LEAST a 40 hour work week.  fer realz!
      • 4 hours  -- add up all meetings, phone calls, emails, follow ups, document write-ups
      • 4 hours  -- engagement session shoot
      • 4 hours  -- edit of e-sesh
      • 10 hrs    --  wedding day (add more if i have to drive to SD on a saturday)
      • 10 hrs    -- editing wedding day photos
      • 8 hours -- album design


    • a pro has pro equipment, backup pro equipment and reliable insurance.  i don't have to tell you that pro equipment is rather expensive but having 2 of the basic equipment ups the price even more.  oh and it's happened, cameras don't function, flashes die, things drop, equipment gets wet.  the day does not end and the photos have to be taken.  insuring this stuff (and we're talking tens of thousands here when you count computer stuff too, after all ... this is a business) can get expensive.  also, most venues are requiring liability insurance now.  
    • computers -- plural.  i have a desktop, a laptop, printers, storage drives and backup servers.
    • running a small business has some basic costs like electricity, phone bills, accounting costs, internet, software licenses, car expenses, gas and in some cases rent
    • the product you purchase isn't hand made by the photographer for the most part.  a good quality, good size album has a hefty cost.  that stuff is supposed to last.  shoot... the lowest price on the most basic album that i would even put my name to (for the sake of quality) is at least $400 and that's if i don't order too many pages.
    • that CD isn't just a CD of images.  it's backed up in at least 3 locations, one of which isn't my home.  if anything happened to the CD i still and will have copies for years to come.  the amount of space a single wedding consumes these days considering how large the files are now?  around 15GB per storage location.  

    • i know i know... she only got the 6-8 hour package.  i stayed up the night before getting all the equipment cleaned, formatted and readied.  and i'm there to cheer on the crew as the hair and makeup gets done and way before the dress is on.  i don't leave until all the major events have happened and sometimes...it goes past 8 hours.  the longest i've had to stay for a wedding?  15 hours.  that was ridiculous but i'll tell you what, they paid for someone that could hang WITH ENERGY and enough creative juice for that long and that's what they got despite having barely 1.5 hurried meals (more like gobbles) that day.  even burger flippers are required 2.5 breaks in that kind of day.
    • if the bride didn't hire a coordinator, the photographer pretty much keeps time and plays director for the day.  heck i've been to weddings where there was a coordinator and they were worthless.  but since they don't have product to be accountable for it's still my ass on the line so i step in.  
    • the bride has to look perfect for the photos so i play stylist as well.  i check makeup, tuck hair, cut dress strings, fluff dresses, do bra checks, position the girls,  etc. 
    • the extra photographer (who i always bring) is just as good if not better than me.  i need to make sure that if anything happens to me or my equipment that not a moment is missed.  hiring the right people to accompany me for the day guarantees that.  that person spends the same amount of time that day as i do.  
    • if i'm at the wedding someone has to watch my daughter.  that person starts their charge from the time i leave the house to the time i get home.

    TAXES -- sales tax and mine.  do i need to explain????  


    • i shop at target.  i love target!  they are a reliable source of goods for me.  i've bought shoes there!  they have some cute styles.  but if i want some super hot, great quality leather boots.... i start the search at my fave shoe store ALDO.  i'm not saying that i'm some hot to trot photographer but i'm quite a few steps above the person that just bought their camera at costco a few months ago.  no offense to costco.
    • did i mention what roles i play on the wedding day?  stylist, coordinator, cheerleader, art director, counselor, psychiatrist oh and ... photographer.
    • girls that hire me like my photography style and my personality.  the personality part is probably more important than the style.  there's a lot of photographers with similar styles out there but finding the person that clicks, that can relax the most stressed out person on the wedding day, that can hang with the crazies and crazify the quiet ones.  that's me.
    • so looking at the previous sections i've spent $1000 this far, now we have to pay me.  40 hours for a wedding and the starting number was $2400 (for a basic package) which leaves $1400 for me (which doesn't account for taxes).  don't bother with the calculator, it's $35/hour.  i think i'm worth at least that.  in-n-out starts their employees at $11, i'm a skilled, trained professional that holds life memories in my possession.  this is my only job and since i have rent, basic needs, a daughter and insurance that needs to be paid for i think it's a fair amount.  oh and i need to look good at the wedding so i need shoes.

    so seriously, anyone that does this for less than 1k is PAYING THE BRIDE with time/services to shoot the wedding or is more of a hobbyist.  some photographers might disagree but this is MY reality as i see it.

    here's some of my fave wedding photos i shot as a second for my buddy kevin hall at the mission san juan.

    i loved that the bride couldn't reach the ground