Our First Meeting & Overcoming Failure

It was the morning of our very first meeting with a potential bride and groom. I had taken about a year off from Photography and decided to begin a new venture with my wife, not thinking that much in the Wedding industry had changed. When Natalia and I decided to start our own Photography business, together, we didn’t do our homework… and we learned that the hard way.

Here’s how the day unfolded.

I waited last minute (that morning!) to print out our price sheet and contract. We were almost all out of black ink, which meant, half the page was faded. And then we ran out of computer paper. Frantic, I called my older brother who lived just down the street. I emailed him our documents and had him print them out for us. And then, we couldn’t find a professional folder to put all our paperwork in to make it look more presentable. Rushing, still trying to get ready ourselves to look the best we could, I drove to the local Walgreens and bought a black plastic folder. While driving on the way home, I tried peeling the price sticker off and it would not peel off! “Are you serious?!” I peeled and I peeled, and half the second layer of the sticker stayed on. Once I got home, I put the folder through running water from our kitchen faucet hoping the warm water would wash it away. WRONG. Sadly, we didn’t end up using the folder! It was a waste of much needed precious time.

Ah, what else could go wrong?

We arrived at an unfamiliar Starbucks in Brea, nervous as can be. Natalia and I practiced asking questions to each other and constantly reminded each other to do our best to speak like professionals. “We look young, so we need to speak like adults!” We thought we were ready. So we proceeded with confidence (although it was buried underneath layers and layers of nervousness!)

We met with our potential Clients and things began well, until the future-bride asked us questions. “What material are your Wedding Albums made of? Faux Leather? Umm… What’s that?” Natalia and I both looked at each other, hoping one of us would have the right answer… “Oh, the good kind!” … Yes, the best answer we could come up with! Unimpressed, the bride proceeded. “You still print out 4x6 prints? Not many photographers do that these days. The new thing is printing images on hard-cover paper, like in a book.” Embarrassed, we reassured her we could do the same, too!

“What happens if you get sick and can’t photograph our Wedding?” … Our answer, “That would never happen!” The questions continued, and the look on their faces said it all. Natalia and I felt more and more defeated. WE WERE NOT PREPARED. 

The future bride and groom told us they’d contact us. It was one of those: Don’t call us, we’ll call YOU type of goodbye’s. We walked away knowing that it was a catastrophic failure. Needless to say, we never heard from the couple again. Not even to say that they didn’t want us. Were we a little down? Of course. 

THE MOMENT WE GOT IN OUR CAR, we promised ourselves that we would never be as unprepared for a meeting like we were for this one. When we got home, I logged onto my computer and began researching the best Wedding Albums out there. I BEGAN TO DO MY HOMEWORK. I read up on products, became an expert at what I was showcasing as my own. I emailed the manufacturers and asked questions, lots of them. Natalia and I enrolled in a “How to Create an Effective Contract” class and transformed our 1-page contract into 8-pages of informative, beneficial information that covers almost all the questions a potential client might ask us. We decided that we needed to become experts in our photography and in everything that entails.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS THIS: We failed. Miserably. We could allow each failure to define us and bring us down, or use it as motivation to get right back up and become better. We chose option 2. We chose to not give up but to give our all. We want to be transparent about our mistakes and give someone, anyone, a glimmer of hope in the mistakes or failures they have made along the way. We are all human and we all makes mistakes. For every failure, there's an alternate course of action. It’s your choice to make a decision of defeat or of victory. “Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)… “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.” (Michael Jordan)

Yes, we’ve failed. We’ve made mistakes. And we will continue making mistakes! But Natalia and I now embrace each mistake with the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to become better. We hope you will do the same! 

May these two verses encourage you today:

"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, 
that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, 
for He cares for you." - 
1 Peter 5:6-7

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength 
of my heart and my portion forever." 
- Psalm 73:26


Learning and growing together,


If it bends, bend it

Whether it’s a Bride, a Groom, a group, or an individual, posing your “model” is essential, and something a photographer should strive to be an expert in. Posing isn’t always necessary, but there will come a time when you will definitely (and I mean DEFINITELY) need it.

The first thing we tell our client(s) before we take hundreds of snap-shots of them is, “Be yourself. Pretend like we aren’t here!” For a couple in love, the first 5 minutes may be a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera, but after a little time passes, they are totally opposite! After about the first 10 minutes our clients are so comfortable and we love capturing those real moments where they are hugging, laughing, and enjoying being in each other's arms. Generally a session is 1-2 hours long. During that time you’re going to want to add some creative ideas - perhaps posed shots. Maybe the Groom dipping his Bride as they slow dance, or a  group jumping up and down on the count of three. Whatever the pose, it sure will add a twist of fun and add some excitement to your photos.

Today’s tip: If it bends, bend it.

One of my favorite poses is when a Bride looks over her shoulder as she is walking or when a Groom bends one leg against a wall as his eyes fall in love with his soon-to-be wife. Whatever your favorite pose is, perfect it. Adjust your model to fit your vision. Assure them that they are doing great and they are looking beautiful. And then gently instruct them to firmly place an arm on their hip, or to look intensely over their shoulder... to simply give their best! You won’t be disappointed and most importantly your client will love the final results. 

Find the angles that work best with your client. Each person is different, so work in such a way that you capture their best qualities. Take chances and position them in creative ways. At first the shot may not turn out how you first pictured it, but be patient and try again. And always, ALWAYS assure your model that they are doing a great job. If you aren't liking the pose and you express it through your facial expressions or with your speech, your model's confidence will drop and it will reflect in the photographs. So be encouraging and work in such a way that your model is constantly assured that they look great.

Have fun the next time you photograph a client. Give your best, be unique, and you will see amazing results!

Until next time, 

Below is a preview of our model Giorgio from our recent trip to Italy. After our Wedding Session, we were also fortunate to photograph Giorgio individually. Tomorrow we will feature his shoot in our blog.


Wednesday Tip 

Hello Photographer friend! I hope you are having a wonderful week so far! I love Wednesdays. Maybe because tomorrow is Thursday: a day before Friday: a day before the Weekend? Hehe! Well anyhow, whatever the case be, I hope you are finding joy in the gift of Today. 

I wanted to share a Tip with you that has been of personal help to me and can hopefully be of some added benefit to you. 


So here it goes..Today's tip is 444.


444 is a helpful technique to remember when photographing INDOORS. I don't know about you, but if you are like me, you need "guides" or (cheat So 444 is a guide that has helped me much like the "sunny f/16 rule" or the "rule of thirds".

So how do you apply the "444 rule?" Easy...Check this out!

When INDOORS set:

your ISO at 400, your Shutter speed at 1/40th of a second and your aperture at f/4.0. 

(Notice all the fours?) 

But please Note!! Just because you set everything on your camera to the above settings does NOT mean your photograph will turn out absolutely stunningly beautiful! It will only give you a better approach to the settings you should change. 

For example: you are photographing timeless memories at a Wedding Reception. You take out your camera and begin adjusting to the 444 rule. When you view your image you notice you need a higher aperture or a smaller ISO. Thus you begin to adjust to what you feel is suitable for you to capture the perfect photo! 

Try it next time you shoot INDOORS. Whether daytime or nighttime, the 444 rule applies to both! Let me know how it goes and if it actually helped you get a better understanding of what settings you need to have adjusted. 


So in conclusion. WHEN INDOORS THINK 4-4-4. Hey that rhymes!!! ;)




Here is a preview of our unforgettable Italian Wedding Session. The model Bride and Groom were such a joy to be around!  The full blog of all the bella memories will be up tomorrow!

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  Ecclesiastes 3:11



An Italian Holiday - Fall 2010

Sammy and I were blessed beyond words to have had the opportunity to travel to Italy. It truly was a dream come true. I remember shortly after getting married Sammy asked me, “Natalia, if you could choose to go to any place in the world where would it be?” Just ONE place? I mean I would travel the world if I could! So to pick one place seemed nearly impossible.  But my answer was: Italy. It was always a dream of mine to be in the most romantic country and experience unforgettable moments that will live forever in my heart. In the summer we booked our trip and the countdown began for our trip to Italy! There are truly no words to describe our time in Italy. We spent a total of 9 days in Italy. We visited Rome, Venice, Verona, and Florence. Each city was full of culture and life. I can say so much about each location, however, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. 


Introducing, the beautiful Italy.


The Vatican. Left us in awe. All the intricate detail put into EVERYTHING is mind-boggling.

These statues inside The Vatican were HUGE.

The famous balcony where the Pope holds his services at The Vatican.
(side note: The Vatican (like everything else in Rome) was TOO BIG to fit into one photograph. We did our best to capture it but it was massive!) 

Accordion players in the streets, the buses, the metros... They where serenading us everywhere we went!

We got smart and finally decided to rent bikes on our 4th day in Rome. We rode the streets of Rome and got to witness some beautiful neighborhoods that most tourists probably haven't had the chance to see.

We snuck in a few photos (cameras are not allowed) of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. This was BY FAR Sammy's favorite moment of the trip. We were amazed at how beautiful, intricate, and detailed this place was. Words and pictures simply cannot give it justice. As soon as we entered the room, it felt so surreal! We were truly in awe.

Flower shops on every corner!

Our view from the famous Spanish Steps on a rainy Fall night.

The highest point in ROME, where we were able to see the entire city.

Ferrari motor scooter.

This statue was HUGE. It's of Caesar the Great.

The famous Roman ruins.

Walking towards the Colosseum. Once again, it felt so unreal to be somewhere so ancient and overflowing with history.

Ah, the famous Colosseum. We had to touch it to feel like we were a part of history!

Riding through the streets of Trestevere, Rome. We surpassed all the busy traffic and went next to the peaceful famous river that runs through.

Two men fishing! We had to snap this shot... Perfect post-card image:)

View from the Spanish Steps during the day.


Oh Venezia... you were too good to us! Venice, Italy. Simply beautiful. Built entirely on water.

Now this is CLASSIC ITALY - Gondola rides.

Did you know Venice is sinking? We found out it floods 100 days out of the year. On this particular day, we had to just take off our shoes and walk through the water. This was right before we entered the famous St. Mark Square.

Sitting down and enjoying a Cappuccino with every meal! This was one of our favorite treats.

We HAD TO enjoy an authentic Gondola ride. We had to pinch ourselves - A GONDOLA RIDE... IN VENICE!! It was, once again, such a surreal feeling. We tried our best to soak in every moment.

Our Gondola driver. There were many to choose from, but he was the best choice! He whistled through the canals and sang a few songs in between.

One thing you have to know about Venice: THERE ARE NO CARS. So all traveling is done on foot or by boat!

St. Mark's Square was full of pigeons. It's hard to tell, but this man was holding his son and his son was having a good time with all these birds! It was a classic father/son moment we just had to capture.

Can someone tell us, PLEASE, what happened here?! Haha. We tried to figure it out but no such luck! We laughed every time we saw this sign... We just thought it was a little odd:)

Simply beautiful.

Paninis. Wow! We never tasted such good food in our lives! The pizzas, the pastas, the CARBS! Oh, we loved every calorie:) We indulged our hearts out!

A tip we learned about choosing the best "local" restaurants to eat at: Eat where the elderly hang out. They usually have the best taste buds..hehe. This lovely couple was playing cards at their table just as the restaurant was coming to a close.

This trio was amazing! They serenaded the crowds with songs like "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic and threw in some fun tunes like "The Pink Panther" theme song. This is when Venice gets romantic. We slow-danced to their music and watched other lovebirds do the same. Venice at night is just perfect.

Our hotel was across Venice on a little island named: Murano. They are known for being spectacular glassmakers! We sure saw a lot of glass..and we mean EVERYWHERE!!!

Venice prides itself in having clean, pure water, safe to enjoy and drink on a nice warm day:)

VERONA. This is the famous wall where all the lovebirds leave a love note or their initials. We followed the tradition, borrowed a big thick marker, and wrote S + N.

The famous statue of Juliet.

Now this place was a highlight for us. All the letters that are sent to Juliet are sent HERE. We saw countless folders full of letters to Juliet, asking for "love" advice. We browsed through a few ourselves. No one was working on this particular day so we had access to this room all to ourselves. We ended up writing a note and sticking it on this wall. It was such a fun experience!



The highest point in Florence, overlooking the entire city. It was right after the rain cleared up, so we were able to see far as our eyes would allow us. We were speechless.

Sammy trying to scare the birds. Some pigeons never budged. They're used to all the tourists taking over their town!




Define your Style

Before understanding what defines your style, you first need to understand what style is. To better understand style you need to embrace the photographer that you are. Browse through your images and point out your strengths. Maybe you enjoy creating photojournalistic images, or perhaps you love simple portraiture. You may admire photographing fashion, models, or nature. Whatever the passion of your eye, focus on deepening the meaning of your captured moments. I truly believe that every image should tell a story. 

Before marrying Sammy I always felt that his images were very special and uniquely uncovered. I love how God placed it on my heart to partner with him as a husband-wife team. Now together we are creating images that reflect our style. 

Something Sammy told me a few weeks ago will always remain with me. I was looking over some moments Sammy captured of a previous wedding and I said, "Sammy I love how you capture memories, they are very creative and they stand out." And he responds back saying,

"God's people should be the most creative, because we see things from His eyes now."

That response will always be with me when I capture memories. I will remember to see things in the eyes of my Creator. He created people in such a profound way and even nature...oh, I could go on an on how nature is so beautifully designed! But I believe that as His child I now see things the way He wants me to: detailed, expressive, deep, and beautiful.  

This then is what defines our style. As Sammy & Natalia of Closer to Love Photography our ultimate desire is to bring glory to our Maker and King by capturing moments the way He created them to be. We love stopping a moment in time that displays true emotion, endless expression, and deep love. What daily drives our passion is seeing gratitude in the eyes of our clients and hearing words like, "I never thought we could hold memories like this." We want to give our clients what no one else can: priceless memories. We want our clients to obtain only the best of our work. We promise to give them true expression, creative energy, and deep love. 

As a photographer I want to encourage you to find your style. Run with that style and create images no one else ever has. For a while there has been a perception that photographers must conform to tradition. But this is not true. Don't conform to one photographer's style just because you feel they have higher clientele than you do. Find your own style and work on developing it every time you press down on that shutter release. You just might be surprised; a client will love your work because it's you: freshly unique. 

Final Tips for defining your style:

-Have a little bit of you in every shoot.

-Connect and experience the moment for yourself. 

-Create images that tell a story. What is it that you want your images to say?

-Show your clients what they otherwise would not have noticed for themselves.

-Be passionate. What drives you? 

-When you see the perfectly right moment, capture it. You'll never regret raw emotion. 

-Remember this Style Equation: Passion+Emotion+Decisive Moment=Style.



This preview of Sandy and Ignacio's Anytime Session expresses our definite style. We wanted to express the true definition of their love: fresh, growing, and endless. Their love is one that has grown immensely over the last couple of years and we can not wait for tomorrow's blog dedicated to their inspirational love story.

"I will declare that your love stands firm forever..."
Psalm 89:2