Yearly Archives: 2009

Ooh, la la!

A sneak peek into Mademoiselle Nadine’s boudoir… shot at Casa del Mar in Santa Monica on Tuesday.  Although Nadine may seem all sweet and serene lounging on this chaise… things heated up quickly and we finished the shoot in a glass shower!

I’ll post more soon…  Lots of boudoir sessions this week 🙂  and a big heartfelt thank you to Monica de la Rosa for an amazing job with hair and make-up.

We all have to go out to Bottega Louie again soon!





The Golden Hour, Part 2

I remember walking up the steps to the Kennedy home for the first time feeling incredibly nervous… it was my first shoot as a “professional.”  This is about five and a half years ago… I had a Rebel, one less-than-stellar lens, and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing!  But… I also had confidence in my resourceful nature, creativity, and high-energy personality to make it work.

When I look back at my photographs from this very first pro shoot, I see a lot of what I’ve since become known for…  classic pictures of emotional, playful, intimate moments.  I also see shots that have become my trademark…

Such as the double profile portrait…


…extreme close-ups…




…and my Bed Portraits


I’ll be totally honest with you – I shot this session completely on automatic and spent about a week in post!  Hahaaa!  Things sure have changed a lot since then, and I have been so blessed, but take a peek at my most recent shoot HERE of the Kennedy’s 5 years later, and you’ll see some similarities 🙂



The Golden Hour, Part 1

Photographers everywhere love the Golden Hour… that last hour before sunset, when the light is golden and makes everything look magical.  This savvy mom requested the Golden Hour… and I was happy to oblige last weekend.  The Kennedy family is very near and dear to me… 5 years ago, they were my very 1st paid shoot as a professional photographer!  And I’ve shot for their family every year since… birthdays, Mother’s day, Christmas cards, new babies… and I couldn’t be happier.  This mom, Monica Kennedy, is responsible for a great deal of my success… I have never advertised because her referral is trusted and carries far and wide.  I’ve nicknamed her my MVP-VIP, and she has free sessions for a lifetime.

So make sure to stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!… a highlight of my favorite moments from that very first professional shoot with the Kennedy family.

Here’s how it all began… Monica and Joe – can’t you just feel the love?


Here is my favorite threesome: Ryan, Coco, and Stella… Playing in the park… throwing leaves and getting giggly on the park bench…


The boys…


The girls…


One of my signature shots… The Secret..


Aw, shucks mom – stop embarrassing me!


I adore the Kennedy family… they are sweet, fun, thoughtful, generous, and gorgeous! They are my number one fans, and I’m their’s!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post of my very 1st professional shoot 5 years ago with the Kennedy family.



Sticky Miller

It’s always a good time at Santa Monica Pier, with lots of adventures, activity and emotion!  Take Miss Sticky Miller here… she’s my good friend’s daughter and my favorite 4 yr old on the planet.  I adore her little voice and her phenomenal personality — she’s such a ray of positive energy, friendly to everyone, and quite the cutie 🙂

She was so excited to take a day off of school yesterday and go to the Pier… where she knows you can cradle exotic animals…


…Act like a true NYC cab driver…


…chase some pigeons along the boardwalk… and have a really good time!  Until….


…you have to share your bag of sweeties with your mum…


…it’s okay – you can wipe it on there…


…but I know something that will cheer you up!


…and pretty soon you’ll be swinging that bag around, pointing fingers at people, and earning the name “Sticky Miller” …


…you’ll even start dancing to a beat belted out by plastic buckets… lol! and you’ll dance like no-one’s watching 🙂


I adore this little girl!… and all her up/down/silly/around moments between this…


…and this!


Stay tuned for Sticky Miller’s second half of the day, involving red balloons and a red dress – two of my favorite things!



Sunday Jazz on a Monday

This street musician is one cool character… some of my most popular pictures this year were posted in March called Sunday Jazz on a Tuesday, courtesy of this sweet jazz fellow, and I’ve always wondered about him since… I wanted to hear him play again, know more about him, and tell him that people have contacted me to purchase his portraits.

So in between two family shoots and a wedding yesterday, I ran over with my camera to the Farmer’s Market in the Palisades to try my luck… Would that jazz player be there?

After a first walk around I didn’t see him, and then just as I was about to leave… he turns the corner with his sax case!  I ran up to him like a gushing teenaged fan, rambling about how happy I am to see him, how everyone loves his pictures, asking what’s his name, etc… and this poor shy guy just smiles modestly and answers quietly, Oh thank youIt’s BillyThat’s nice… And he keeps walking.  Woops, lol, I think I frightened him.  But that didn’t stop him from setting up and belting out the smoothest notes and the sweetest songs… real “tearjerkers” sighed the lady next to me.  And I just let the lovely fall day and this man’s beautiful music stop me in my busy day and mellow me the heck out 🙂

Back by popular demand and without further ado, here’s Billy…


Oooooooh… the sweet and the slow notes.


“Pavement Portrait: Street Musician”


And of course, such character begs for a close-up…


Zen Family Habits

Simple Happiness… “Zen Family Habits” is a fabulous new blog co-created by Sherri Kruger, wife and mom, and Leo Babauta, writer of the super popular “Zen Habits” (one of my favorite blogs) and best-selling author of “The Power of Less.”

I am thrilled that Zen Family Habits will be posting my photographs(!) along with their wonderful articles… some of my recent favorites include: “The Secret Life of High-Energy Parents;” “31 Simple Family Pleasures;” and “Your Ideal Family: How to Make it a Reality.”

Here’s how the writers describe the essence of Zen Family Habits…

“Zen Family Habits is a celebration of all things family. It’s about living simply and with presence of mind. It’s about cultivating healthy, meaningful, relationships with loved ones… having fun and enjoying life’s simple pleasures.  Zen Family Habits is a place where we can all find inspiration and get different perspectives for improving and enjoying our families.”

I hope you get a chance to visit their site to bring a little more love and inspiration to your family… Here’s to simple pleasures! and photographs, of course 🙂



Photographer FAQ’s, No. 1

Inspiration and enthusiasm for photography is abound!… and it seems that my email has recently exploded with questions and requests for mentoring. What I do and how I do it isn’t necessarily for everyone (and shouldn’t be!), but I am more than happy to do what I can to inspire you, tell you all I’ve learned, and help you live your dream… whether that’s becoming a “professional” photographer (and all that entails!) or simply nurturing your love of photography.  For all of my readers who asked, Yes!.. I am planning a workshop in early January for 2-3 days – details coming soon – and yes, I do also offer mentoring one-on-one over the phone or in person.  You can contact me personally for details – I can’t wait to meet you!

Here’s my first installment of FAQ’s… I hope you find the information helpful and inspiring!

Mac asked:
“I’m curious, in your indoor shots what lights (if any) do you use?”

All interior shots for family is natural light only.  Rembrandt had it nailed – I love the single light source of an open window… so when I first arrive at the client’s home, I walk around the whole house hunting for the best light.  I also try to bump up the light as much as possible – here’s how:

  1. It’s no secret that I love shooting in bedrooms and doing my Bed Portraits, so bedrooms are my first choice and there is usually great light in there.
  2. I almost always shoot with my aperture wide-open.
  3. I keep my ISO as pure as possible – usually max at 400 or 640.
  4. I shoot RAW, so I have more leeway in post.
  5. I open every single window, door, etc. and raise every shade.
  6. White sheets on the bed and white clothing on the kids really helps 😉
  7. If I need to, I will enhance exposure in Lightroom, and sometimes will reduce noise in LR too, if that’s an issue.

For boudoir shoots in hotel rooms, I do all of the above, and I also have an assistant holding a small handheld video light.

Dana asked:
I am just starting out as a photographer.  What’s the next step?  I feel there are so many things I need to do and am working to build the capital I need for equipment, but I think I’m in a lull.  What inspired you when you first started? Any books, workshops, places to visit, etc. You’re truly an inspiration and I’d love to learn from you, even if it’s over the net!  BTW – I think it’s time for a Christa Meola workshop!

I can relate to how you’re feeling right now, and I think you’re making smart choices and contemplating all the right things.  I actually started shooting when I was a kid, so my inspiration was that wonderful childhood enthusiasm for discovering how I saw the world and what it meant to me.  When I first started as a professional, I geeked out a ton on every photographer’s book and website I could find.  As mentioned above, I actually am planning a workshop in early January for 2-3 days – details coming soon – and currently offer mentoring one-on-one over the phone and in person.  In the meantime, here are my best suggestions for you:

  1. First, don’t spend money on equipment – you’re great with what you’ve got, invest elsewhere first.  I may be the only photographer who’d recommend this… since most have the best equipment, several pricey lenses, and feel that’s the #1 priority.  I am the complete opposite.  The #1 priority is developing your eye and skill, and you can be a phenomenal shooter with a Rebel and one lens.  I did it for the first 4 years of my business – shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
  2. Stay inspired!  There is tons of free inspiration on the web – find your favorite shooters and follow them.  Go to the library and look at your favorite photog books… just a few of my favorites are Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve Meisel, Irving Penn… Strengthen your attraction to what works, looks good, and is technically sound.
  3. Create your own projects!  What is your dream shoot?  And then go set it up for yourself – hire models, get props, hit the streets, or photograph your neighbor… do whatever you can to make sure you’re shooting at least a few times a week and building a body of work that is what you want to be hired for.  For example, I started the Boot Black project on my own just for fun and to get some grit amongst all my happy loving family shoots.
  4. Take inventory of what your strengths are, and focus on those!   Build on your strengths and lean on them… whether it’s your charming personality, amazing composition skills, etc…
  5. If you haven’t done so already, start the business!  Set up a blogsite and begin!  It’s time 🙂

Ashleigh asked:
How many pictures do you usually take during a portrait session?  and then how many do you usually deliver to your client?

Everyone is different and has their own rhythm of shooting… It’s a good idea to play around to see what works for you.  I tend to shoot a lot less than most digital photographers.  Also, how much I shoot depends upon the number of people I’m shooting (if it’s just one person or a family of 5, etc.) and how many locations we’re shooting.  Having said that, I usually shoot about 200-240 images and show about 70-80 (so a shooting ratio of about 1 in 3)… That’s for about an hour and half of shooting.  A photo party client gets 45 min’s / one location, so it’s usually 150 images taken, and 50 shown.  If there is a 2nd location and a large family, it’s more like 450 images, and about 120 shown. I try to edit down as much as possible.  For boudoir portraits, I shoot a ton more – because girls need to warm up and all 😉   So it’s more like 550 images and 150 shown.

These are numbers for “shots taken” and “images shown to client.”  As far as order and delivery, 99% of clients buy the whole disc of all images, put 24 to 40 pics in albums, and order an average of 16 enlargements and prints 🙂  and I blog about 7 to 15.

Thanks again for all of your questions!  I truly enjoy sharing my love for photography and geeking out with other photographers – so give me a holler with whatever’s on your mind 🙂

Happy shooting!



A Screaming Good Time

There was a whole lotta screamin going on at the Pier this past weekend. You may remember these two wild things as the “Betty Butter” girls from our shoot earlier this year “Dancing in the Park.” Well they outdid themselves on Sunday… dancing, running, squealing, screaming…  The above shot is them hollering on the way up…

and shrieking on the way down!!…


Aw, a pause in the action a moment for a good luck hug…


Devilishly competitive, this Mom is the first in my history of shooting at the pier, who actually won the prize and didn’t let the kids win… lol!!  Just look at the intensity:


So I bounced Mom to the sidelines and told Dad to keep her busy…


Y’all know by now that this is one of my signature shots… I love the total joy and movement in this one…


A good squeeeeeeze high above the ocean…


Being chased by Dad and an anatomically correct Homer Simpson – don’t ask, but you would run too.


A hoot and a holler…


…and sometimes, the screaming just gets to be too much…


…until the next time 🙂




You’re Invited!

If you love cashmere, sushi, champagne, and fashion steals as much as I do… then you need to beat it over to my Photography Studio this Friday for a fabulous Trunk Show by the Z.LARRIS line.  I am so excited to host this event with the super sweet and talented designer Kathi Berman.  At the show, you’ll have the opportunity to try on all of her beautiful and versatile pieces, chat with Kathi about how to put a look together, and walk away with some phenomenal deals. To view some of the hot items in Kathi’s line, you can see my pics from the fashion shoot here and here, as well as visit the Z.LARRIS website.  Details:










FOR MORE INFO… 310.901.1611


I’ll see you there!  I’ll be the one wrapped up in Kathi’s black cashmere tunic dress, looking all cool and all 🙂




Looking for Trouble

Nothing like getting into trouble with your younger brother. Remember this little heartbreaker from my recent post “A Good Jewish Boy”… he looked all sweet with that flower, didn’t he?… But boy, he was a handful!  and I think it was his sister who talked him into it 🙂

Tell me these two aren’t up for causing trouble!…


Two of my favorite moments from the shoot… Silly and Sweet…


Look at the body language on little miss thang…


Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Now, I’m in trouble!


Here’s their newly born cousin, and you can tell he’s going to be looking for trouble soon too…


I love these faces!  and I love capturing them with my camera – I feel like I’m squeezing their little cheeks with my lens 🙂

More cuteness, madness, and fabulous news soon…


Portrait of An Artist, Michelle Dunaway

You would be hard pressed to find a more soulful and endearing person than Michelle Dunaway. Michelle is a dear friend of mine, a talented fine artist, and an amazing woman.  She and I connect at such a core level – we can share a great laugh, a good cry, an interesting conversation, and always an inspiring creative collaboration. Michelle’s my soul sister 🙂  So I jumped at the chance when Michelle asked me to join her drawing and painting workshop and take pics for American Artist magazine.  Even though I had family shoots each morning, the past 5 days have been a whirlwind of inspiring art, geeking out on technique fundamentals and discussing light, shadow, color and line!  Thank you Michelle – I had so much fun. Who needs sleep?

This is one of Michelle’s beautiful portrait paintings… I saw it in the studio, and I used it to inspire my portrait of her (above).  I wanted it to look like one of her paintings… with soft blue tones and a gaze that draws you in…  (taken with my favorite 85mm 1.2 and letting light enter the lens directly.)


Michelle is a master of the 5 Minute sketch…


Here are a couple of Michelle’s 5 Minute drawings, published in an art book, “Strokes of Genius II, The Best of Drawings.”  Her work is incredibly inspiring to me – it’s confident, sensual, deliberate, and elegant.  There are subtle nuances in even her simplest strokes…


It’s great to have a teacher with a sense of humor and patience.  She always has a kind word of encouragement.


The picture on the left is my drawing of the gorgeous model (shown above).  And another of Michelle’s beautiful 5 Minute demo drawings…


The Workshop was held at the freakishly talented Jeremy Lipking‘s studio in Agoura Hills.  Jeremy, Michelle and I first met at an art gallery in 2001 when I did some posing for them.  Here are some of Jeremy’s figure demo’s and his latest painting…


A couple of interesting characters in the studio…


A couple of juicy close-ups to finish up. I think these pics truly capture Michelle’s sensitivity, beauty and spirit.


I loved switching back and forth from photography to art – what a great way to be challenged, grow and stay inspired!  I’m forever grateful to Michelle for the invitation and most of all… for her friendship.



PS.  Michelle is not only a fabulous artist, but she’s also a phenomenal photographer.  She was the gal behind the lens of my profile pic on the About page of this blog 🙂



Nude in Charcoal

The first lesson my Dad taught me was how to look at an object and see the light and shadow. I had the extreme pleasure yesterday of stealing a break from my busy fall schedule to meet up with my dear friend and incredibly talented fine artist, Michelle Dunaway.  Michelle called me up last week to let me know she’s back in town teaching a drawing & painting workshop and asked if I would photograph her for American Artist magazine.

Best of all, she offered me the opportunity to sit in on the class and draw!  Now, I haven’t picked up a piece of charcoal since 1992, but I was so excited!  Like a kid at Christmas kind of excited.  Michelle took me yesterday to buy supplies, and after taking loads of photos for her, I sat down at an easel bench and a blank piece of paper.  Michelle wandered over to give me a quick demo on drawing 101, and I began some 5 minute sketches.  The above picture was done in maybe 6 or 7 minutes. I had such fun with the process – very liberating.  I’ll be going to Michelle’s class over the next few days after my morning shoots, and will post pics of Michelle and her incredible work soon.

In other news, today is my 1st Anniversary! The Studio + Gallery, Christa Meola Pictures, is 1 Year Old!  The Grand Opening party last year was a blast, and today I’ll have to celebrate with a cupcake, candle, some friends, some photos, and a lot of nude drawing!