Category: Behind the Scenes

Staysi Lee Bridal Boutique – Designer Spotlight

Staysi Lee is a very talented designer, whose designs embrace vintage and pin-up flare. She started off designing and selling her ever-popular infinity convertible dress, where you can wrap and twist the dress to create many designs. Taking inspiration from her own personal style, especially from her wedding, she expanded into creating customized wedding dresses.

Her wedding dress designs takes elements of both couture and vintage, with a nod to old Hollywood glamour. Want a dash of color to spice up your wedding dress? It’s customized, so why not?

She took notes from clients that would only like certain aspects of a dress, but not the whole thing. To solve that problem, she designed 2-piece wedding dresses where you can mix and match the top and the bottom. The greatest thing is that you can use an overlay or sash to make it look like one dress.

Staysi is also a collector of vintage dresses, where she buys many of them from an “undisclosed” location, fixes them up, and sells them again. If you truly want a vintage wedding with styles from the 1940’s through 1990’s, Staysi is your girl!

Visit Staysi’s online shops:

Custom couture wedding gowns –
Infinity convertible dresses –
Vintage dresses –

Dana Point Photo Shoot

Whenever I visit my family in Southern California, I always try to set up shoots during my visits just to break away from the usual locations I shoot in Vegas.

I put up a couple posts in a Facebook group for Los Angeles area photographers, models, makeup artists, and anyone in the industry. Not only I found a great makeup artist, but a hair stylist as well. By coincidence, the hair stylist is originally from my hometown and graduated from my high school!

I found my model through Model Mayhem via a casting call I posted on my profile. She was the perfect fit!

Whenever you work with new people and ones you have never met before, it’s always a hit or miss, but my team was terrific! We worked very well together. It unfortunately rained in Dana Point, but my team stuck it out with me. I was grateful they were such team players!

Model: Ashley (Website)
Makeup Artist: Karla (Facebook)
Hair Stylist: Rilesha (Instagram)
Dress Provided By: Staysi Lee Bridal (Website)

Sunset Portraits With Off-Camera Flash Meetup

When I first started photography, taking pictures of the sunset AND the subject with the correct exposure was a huge struggle of mine. Because I started off as a landscape photographer, I always wanted a scenic background behind the subject.

The problem with using natural light is your backgrounds will be blown-out and white, especially if you’re trying to properly expose the subject. If you expose for the sky, your subject will be dark.

Whenever I see ads on Facebook that sell sky overlays for Photoshop, I always smirk because I know there is a way to achieve the same thing straight out of camera. The solution is learning off-camera flash.

My Aspiring Photographers meetup group and I spent a Wednesday afternoon at Wetlands Park. We did a short walk to a pond area where the backdrop is a beautiful sunset.

Photo by Ken Elsner

Photo by Ken Elsner

Photo by Ken Elsner

I did not take very many shots because I was helping others out. But when I had a chance to shoot, here were my results.

Analisa Fashion Shoot

Analisa is a well-known fashion brand from Hungary. I had a wonderful time meeting Beáta (the designer), her husband, and friends. Beáta’s friend Charles, who is an American professional poker player, and his Hungarian wife Ilona were wonderful facilitators and translators.

Beáta chose to do the shoot at Eldorado Ghost Town in Nelson NV when she saw pictures I posted in a Facebook group. Nelson appears to be very American-looking and different from Hungary.

Models: Taylor (Facebook) and Erica
Designer: Analisa (Website)
Behind the Scenes Photo Credits: From Analisa’s Facebook Page

Here are the final images:

Published and Featured in Fisique Fashion Magazine’s “The Raven” Feathers Issue

I submitted a very short autobiography to the editor-in-chief in order to become the featured photographer for the Big Hair issue. She didn’t use my autobiography for that issue, but instead, she offered me a featured spread in her next issue, Feathers. When I mentioned collaborating and camaraderie in my writing, it obviously resonated with her because she wanted to feature my creative team in that issue as well.

When I thought about feathers, I immediately thought about Cheryl and her Best Showgirls in Vegas (BSV) Models. We spent a few hours on hair and makeup at the official BSV house/headquarters, which was full of beautiful and elaborate feather costumes.

The theme was “Phoenix Rising”. I used 4 models – 2 to represent “dark angels” and the other 2 to represent the “phoenixes”.

Because the theme was a bit more darker, I had the models wear the feather “backpacks” with only a bra and laced panty. I was trying to emulate the Victoria Secret Angels.

Dark Angels: Cherish (Instagram) and Eunice (Instagram)
Makeup Artist: Michelle (Facebook)

Phoenixes: Esonica (Facebook) and Nicole (Instagram)
Makeup Artist: Constance (Website)

Hair Stylist, Wardrobe, and Models’ Manager: Cheryl of BSV Models (Website)

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

It is always fun catching the makeup artists and models off-guard with candid behind-the-scenes shots! LOL

Get your copy of this issue here!

Published in Fisique Fashion Magazine’s “Teased” Big Hair Issue

With the help of an awesome team, I submitted this editorial to Fisique Fashion Magazine’s “Teased” Big Hair Issue and it was accepted! The concept was 1960’s Mod and Hippie Flower Child.

Model: Brooke (Facebook)
Makeup Artist: Michelle (Facebook)
Hair Stylist: Jenny (Facebook)

Fisique "Teased" Big Hair Issue

We had such a fun time, just grooving to the music and making magic happen. During the shoot, we pulled some inspiration photos of models of the 1960’s Brigitte Bardot and Twiggy to help Brooke with her posing.

Get your copy of this issue here!

I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of Jenny King, who passed away on August 2, 2015. Her creativity and warmth will be greatly missed!

Avant-Garde Balloon Editorial

Credits: Models – Melynda and Keith (Facebook)
Melynda’s Makeup Artist – Sheena (Model Mayhem)
Keith’s Makeup Artist – Tatiana
Hair Stylist – Brittany (Facebook)
Balloon Dress Designer – Marie (Website)
Balloon Collar Designer – Chris (Website) and Marie

Final Images: Melynda | Keith

I originally set up a rocker/futuristic avant-garde shoot for my submission to Jute Magazine, but when I saw that Marie was looking for photographers to take pictures of her balloon dresses, I quickly changed the direction of my shoot. Because Marie’s creations takes a few hours to create and only lasts one day, doing a TFP shoot with her one of her balloon dresses is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Marie’s dress was inspired by a Maya Hansen corset, but it was made into a mini-dress instead.

     Balloon BTS

I gave the makeup artists and hair stylist freedom to do whatever they wanted, since it was an avant-garde shoot.

Balloon BTS     Balloon BTS

Balloon BTS

Lighting test with Keith and Tatiana. I guess they were trying to rock out with the devil horns.

Balloon BTS

Balloon BTS

I believe it’s a must to do a blooper shoot whenever I can during these editorial shoots!

Balloon BTS

A couple days later after the shoot, I put the balloon collar around my pugs. Because Percy is blind, he didn’t know what was going on when I put the balloons around his neck. As for Penny, she tried to wiggle out of them.



Unfortunately, my editorial did not get picked up by Jute, most likely because there was another editorial with balloons. Oh well, it was a fun shoot!


AFuller Style Model Shootout

I met Annvi through her Facebook post on a local photography and modeling group, asking for photographers and models to attend and collaborate. We all met at the Elara, which was an awesome place to shoot! There were many areas to choose from.

I am always willing to help up-and-coming makeup artists and hair stylists. Over the past couple of years while building my photography career, I’ve learned they are vital to have on hand for every photo shoot. Makeup done by makeup artists versus the models themselves is like night and day and clearly shows in the pictures. They are trained to make sure makeup looks correct on camera.

Annvi held this event to build her makeup artistry business. She is one talented lady! It was also nice to meet a new friend. We’ve kept in touch and collaborated on other projects together.

Jewelry provided by Cheryl DeJesus, an Independent Stylist for Stella and Dot.

“Beauty in Culture” Editorial – China

Credits: Model – Catherine (Facebook) | Makeup Artist – Danielle (Website) | Hair Stylist – Tiffany (Facebook)

For the fourth day of shooting, Catherine was a perfect match not only because of her heritage, but because of her title of Miss Asian Las Vegas 2014. Danielle did an incredible job on the makeup, adding some gold to just make things stand out against the white powder.

China BTS

China BTS

China BTS

China BTS

I loved the fan that Tiffany selected for Catherine’s hair. It worked very well with the shot, especially when I used a yellow gel as a back light. In these couple shots, it looks like she was wearing a yellow fan.



Ultimately, to keep things consistent with the rest of the shots which used a black background, I selected this shot because Catherine looked powerful and regal.


I’ve had an amazing time working with such talented people during all my shoots. I was also relieved to get all the shooting finished before my Rio de Janeiro trip, which left me more time to edit the photos after my trip. Unfortunately, Jute Magazine did not pick up the editorial. If I don’t first succeed, I must try and try again!

“Beauty in Culture” Editorial – Mexico

Credits: Model – Ana | Makeup Artist – Michelle | Hair Stylist – Brittany (Facebook)

For the third day of shooting, I selected Ana to represent Mexico. We did this shoot around Mexican Independence Day, so we incorporated the Mexican flag in some of the shots.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I tried to make sure the concepts were not cliché. When I was doing Google and Pinterest searches for inspiration, most of the results had Day of the Dead makeup, which did not fit with Jute’s beauty issue. Instead, I used Frida Kahlo as inspiration, in which Ana truly embraced the concept.

Mexico BTS

Mexico BTS

I chose the shot below because I already had established a pattern from the first two shoots in which the flag’s colors are prominent from both sides. Also, Ana’s neck and shoulders are very gorgeous in this shot.


Again, when my beauty dish does not fire, it’s not usually a bad thing.


Since Mexican Independence Day was just within a few days after the shoot, Ana wanted to incorporate the Mexican flag.


“Beauty in Culture” Editorial – USA

Credits: Model – Jasmin (Facebook) | Makeup Artist – Monique (Website) | Hair Stylist – Brittany (Facebook)

Although I’m proud of my Filipino heritage, I was born and raised in the United States, so I’m also proud to be an American as well! I didn’t want to leave out the good ol’ red, white, and blue in my editorial.

For the second day of shooting, I selected Jasmin to represent USA because, for some reason, I always envision an All-American girl to be a blond. Jasmin’s fair skin complemented well with the red and blue makeup that Monique used to achieve a “avant-garde patriotic” feel to the shoot.

I wanted to pay homage to Martha Washington, America’s very first “First Lady”, so I asked Brittany to style her hair that resembled a powdered wig. Brittany did an amazing job turning Jasmin’s fine hair into a powdered wig. She achieved this look by crimping her hair, adding tons of hair spray, and creating rolls. It stayed throughout the course of the photo shoot!


Although I tried different variations using blue and red colored gels to the light the background, I felt a black background really made everything stand out. It was also consistent with the best shot from the Africa shoot. I love this profile shot of Jasmin because it resembled a quarter.


Sometimes things that are unintentional can still create wonderful shots. My beauty dish did not fire and therefore, did not light Jasmin’s face. However, the gelled back lights created a purple hue on Jasmin face, which resulted in this cool shot.


“Beauty in Culture” Editorial – Africa

Credits: Model – Salwa | Makeup Artist – Jolene (Website) | Hair Stylist – Dee (Facebook)

The theme for my submission to Jute Magazine’s beauty issue was “Beauty in Culture” in which the makeup and hair reflected the model’s heritage. I wanted the colors of the makeup to match the colors of the flag, but I did not want the theme to be cliché or look similar to a National Geographic photo.

I selected Salwa to be one of the models for the editorial because she truly is of African heritage. Her family’s origins come from Sierra Leone. I asked Jolene to use green, turquoise blue, and white in the makeup because those colors are represented in the flag. The biggest cliché for an African theme is using a head wrap, so I asked Dee to come up with something different and unique. Her solution was to use braided extensions, making the hair appear like coils.

The African shoot was the first shoot for the editorial. Because Jolene and Dee have many years of experience in their fields, not to mention that Dee is a salon owner, it set the bar for the rest of the of the shoots. I was very blessed to work with some talented people!

My dining room doubled as a hair and makeup station and a studio.

Here are a couple of the final images. I tried different lighting setups, especially lighting the backdrop with a either a light blue or green gel.