Ask Raisa

Five Common Posing Mistakes (and how to fix them to achieve a flattering pose)

Has this ever happened to you?: You got all dressed up and perfected your makeup for an event or to hang out with your friends and were feeling really confident about how you look, until you saw an iPhone photo of yourself...

You are not alone girlfriend! I have been there many times, even during the fittest days of my adult life like at my bridal shower leading up to my own wedding. I have good news for you though, an unflattering pose (not you and your body) was the reason you ended up looking larger than life. I'm going to walk you through simple adjustments that you can make to look and feel more like you in photos. All the photos in this post were taken within 10 minutes of each other, same camera and lens, same spot, and absolutely no retouching or photoshop. I wore a tighter fitting shirt than I am comfortable wearing as a 6-month postpartum mama to really show you the difference that posing can make.


Mistake #1: Standing with feet square, side-by-side


When standing straight forward, a still photo misses the curves that you actually have when walking around as a woman in the real world. (Side note: this is actually a really flattering pose for men because it makes their shoulders look as broad as possible.)

Instead: Stand at an angle and with a slight bend in your front knee

This creates a flattering shape and accentuates your curves.

Mistake #2: Hips too close to the camera

Left photo: I'm pushing my hips forward. Right photo: I'm bending my hips back away from the camera.

Left photo: I'm pushing my hips forward. Right photo: I'm bending my hips back away from the camera.

A lot of optical illusions can happen in photos. One of the major ones is that objects look larger when closer to the camera. This can happen to your hips.

Instead: Bend at your waist and bring your hips away from the camera

I'm exaggerating to the extremes in both photos, but I wanted to show you how big of a difference this can make.

Mistake #3: Putting weight on front leg

Left photo: My body weight is on my front leg towards the camera. Right photo: My body weight is on my back leg away from the camera.

Left photo: My body weight is on my front leg towards the camera. Right photo: My body weight is on my back leg away from the camera.

Standing with your weight on your front leg will result in your hips being closer to the camera, which makes them look larger than life. It's that optical illusion that I talked about in tip #2!

Instead: Shift your body back and rest most of your weight on your back leg.

This will also help you create the slight bend in your front knee that I talked about in tip #1.

Mistake #4: Arms hanging down

Neither of these are the ideal pose, but avoiding hanging hands makes a big difference in how toned my arms look.

Neither of these are the ideal pose, but avoiding hanging hands makes a big difference in how toned my arms look.

When your arm muscle is relaxed and resting on your torso, it ends up looking like untoned fat, which it isn't!

Instead: Give your hands something to do while keeping arms off your body.

To give you some ideas, you can rest your hand on your waist or on your hip bone while holding something (like a clutch, sunglasses, whatever you're holding), put them in your pockets, pinch your dress, or wrap your arm around someone.

Mistake #5: Facing too much towards the side


When we face too sideways when posing alone, our arms end up being closer to the camera than the rest of our body. My belly looks bigger in the photo on the left compared to the photo on the right. Resting my hand on my waist makes my arm and elbow look disproportionally large as well because it is close the camera leading to that dreaded optical illusion. As women, it is really common to be insecure about our arms and our midsection, so we really want to avoid making them look big. (This does not apply to when you are posing next to another person because you can rest your hand on them and if you squeeze in tight with your belly button to their hip, you can avoid a bigger looking belly).

Instead: Turn to open up your chest towards the camera and lean forward

By having your chest and your head be the closest parts of your body closest to the camera, you can avoid both your hips and your arms from looking bigger than they really are. It also comes off as a friendly pose on camera as long as you are smiling!

Put them all together for a flattering pose!


Combining all of these adjustments can be a little challenging at first especially if you have never done any of them before, but like with everything else, you will get better with practice! I take a lot more photos behind the camera than in front, so even I can work on improving :)


Resources: I learned a lot of what I know about posing from Katelyn James Photography and Amy and Jordan.

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5 common posing mistakes and how to fix them to achieve a flattering pose

4 things I love about my new GoPro video camera


As someone who loves to be in the water when the sun is out, I have been looking for a camera that lets me document moments in environments that my iPhone can't.  I absolutely love snorkeling and have used othe underwater cameras, but unfortunately they were not very reliable and broke on me even after using them just a couple times. This made me especially sad to lose a some footage when I swam with whale sharks in the Philippines :(

Adventures look a lot different for me nowadays with a 5-month-old baby girl, but they are even more precious to me!  I didn't put as much as I could have on our baby registry when I was pregnant, but I added a GoPro Hero6 on it in hopes we might receive it as a group gift because I knew I would use it on trips for family videos.  As we packed our towel and diaper bags to take Lacey to the pool for the first time, I made sure to put our new GoPro Hero6 in the bag to try out!

My thoughts on using the GoPro for the first time:

#1: It is easy to use

It only has 2 buttons (power and record) and a touch screen. I'm really glad it has a screen so I can see what I'm recording. It takes a little time to figure out how to use the touch screen menu, but no more time than you would need to figure out a new app on your iPhone.

#2: It is small and discreet

I didn't feel like I was drawing attention to myself when using it like my pro Nikon camera does. Not that I'm trying to spy on people or anything, I just would rather people not know that I'm a crazy millennial momtog who constantly records everything my daughter does!  I'd say it's even less obtrusive than a phone.

#3: It is waterproof right out of the box

For some reason I thought I needed an additional housing for the camera, but I was wrong!  As long as you make sure the memory card and battery slots are closed and sealed, you can definitely submerge it in water (as long as you're not going deeper than 33ft like you might when scuba diving).

A couple optional accessories I'm thinking of buying are a floaty wrist band (to keep clumsy me from dropping it to the bottom of a lake or something) and a hydrophobic lens protector (to prevent beads of water getting in the way of my shot).

#4: The video quality is really nice!

My husband and I were surprised with how great the video quality was when we uploaded the footage to our computer. The colors pop. The brightness is pretty well adjusted. The picture is crisp. See for yourself with the video below! Besides using specific clips, adding a title at the beginning and fading out at the end, I didn't do any editing. The color, exposure, and everything else is how it looks straight out of camera!

So far, I am really happy with my GoPro Hero6! I will continue to use it on my family adventures and keep you updated with any new things I discover about it :)

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4 things I love about my new GoPro Hero6 waterproof video camera

How to avoid looking bigger in photos than you actually are


Ladies, have you ever dressed in baggy clothes to try to hide your body?  I have!  As women, it is pretty common to feel self conscious especially about our arms and tummy area.  Unfortunately when we try to cover up with loose clothes in front of the camera, it has the opposite effect of what we intended and our strategy actually ends up making us look bigger than we really are.  To show you what I mean, I spent a few minutes with my camera and a tripod on the same day, in the same light, with the same pose.  The only thing I mixed up was what I wore.  No photoshop at all!  Here are my 3 tips:

Tip #1: Wear something with a fitted waist


As you can see, the shape of your dress can make a huge difference.  The tent-style dress on the right is draping over and covering the parts of my body that I should show off!  As women, the narrowest part of our torso is around our waist or where our rib cage ends on our sides.  So, wearing something that is fitted around the chest and waist (like in the picture on the left) highlights our thinnest parts and turns out the most flattering.  Skater dresses look great in photos because they show off a woman’s chest and waist but flare out at the hips.   You can experiment with different dress shapes, but make sure they give you a shape! 

Tip #2: Skip adding bulky covers


The cardigan in the right photo hides my waistline even more than the tent dress.  It completely obscures any hint of the hour-glass shape that we all strive for and makes me look more round instead. 

Tip #3: Don't hang your arms at your side

This last set of photos illustrates the reason why I always give my couples something to do with their hands during their photo sessions.  It might feel more natural to have them hang where they are, but it ends up looking awkward and unflattering.  Also, simply by holding my arms slightly away from my body by resting either a wrist or hand on my hip bone, they look more toned and defined.


Take home: The bigger the space between your arm and your body, the more slender you look


Believe me, I have a long way to go before I am totally confident with my body, so I understand why wearing more fitted clothes can make us feel uncomfortable.  I am currently still bigger than my heaviest before getting pregnant, but that gives me even more reason to wear outfits that give me a shape and accentuate my curves.  

My theory on why we can look bigger in photos than in real life is that a photograph is missing the real-time motion that we see with our eyes in person.  Because a photo is a frozen moment in time, what we wear and how we pose have a huge influence on what the viewers think they see.  A gust of wind might blow past and make your tent dress billow, but the viewer of a photograph taken in that moment doesn’t see the wind and doesn’t know it was there. The same goes for the gap between your body and arms, if the viewer of the photo can't see it, they don't know it's there.

Want to make sure you remember these tips in the future?  Here is an image you can pin to your Pinterest board!:


7 tips on how to plan a wedding schedule that runs on time and minimizes stress

Planning a wedding day schedule can be the biggest challenge to overcome while planning your big day.  A lot of times, it is hard to even figure out where to begin.  How would you know?  You've never done this before!  You probably have dozens of questions you keep asking yourself.  What order should I do things in?  How long will this or that take?  I take on a lot of the wedding day schedule planning because as the photographer, unlike most people who have only experienced weddings as a guest, I play a major role in making day-of timeline decisions and I have felt the direct impact of those decisions right along with the bride and groom.  I have witnessed planning decisions that turned out beautifully and other choices that resulted in unwanted rushing around leading to tense-looking brides and grooms.  Most brides can't help but feel stressed if they see things needing to be pushed back on the schedule that they worked so hard to make.  Here are my top 7 tips to create a schedule that actually runs on time:



1. Plan events/tasks in 30-minute increments  

I can pretty much tell in a glance which timelines will not run according to the schedule.  It's tempting to plan in 5-15 min increments (for example: "cake cutting at 7:10pm") in order to jam pack as much as you can in an allotted time, but this type of planning fails to factor in transitions, miscommunications, hiccups, etc.  Everything seems to take longer than you'd expect on your wedding day.  Planning in larger chunks of time gives you some cushion which will reduce stress on the Big Day.


2. Get your hair and makeup done on-site  

You will save time and transportation by getting your hair and makeup done at the same getting-ready location where you will be putting on your dress.  Any opportunity to eliminate travel on your wedding day will reduce your stress. 


3. Make sure you build in time to eat and relax

These downtimes are important to break up the go-go-go nature of a wedding and can often lead to special moments.  On multiple occasions, I've seen the most touching conversations happen when bridesmaids decide on a whim to take turns saying something nice about the bride during a resting period.


4. If you aren’t hiring a 2nd shooter and you want shots of the guys getting ready, have both the guys and ladies get ready in separate areas at the same location   

It is difficult for a single photographer to capture getting ready shots of both the ladies and the guys if the photographer has to drive between two locations.  Try to stagger when the guys get dressed with the ladies.  For example, have the ladies eat a pre-ceremony meal while the guys get dressed and vice versa.  Then the photographer will be able to efficiently move from one group to the other without missing moments that would be nice to capture on camera because, let's be honest, no one wants photos of them eating.


5. If you are not planning a first look, consider lengthening your cocktail "hour" to 2 hours

This will allow you to get all the photos you need, and you might even be able to mingle with your guests and enjoy the end of your cocktail hour if photos happen to finish early.  (Have someone save you hors d'oeuvres just in case you miss cocktail hour, and you can enjoy them during down time). Having a longer cocktail hour will also allow your photographer to get some great shots of your empty reception venue before anyone touches the beautiful details you planned.


6. Plan for flexible time immediately after your ceremony

You may not think you want a receiving line right now as you plan your wedding, but you might feel very different as a newly wed couple.  If you are the type of person who loves getting hugs from people who are excited for you, definitely don’t skip it!  If you don’t have a specific plan, just be prepared for a receiving line to naturally happen.  You might plan a special exit instead, and that can be a fun alternative.  If your officiant is not going to be with you for the rest of the day, be ready to sign your marriage license with witnesses around this time as well.  These are a few things that you might not have considered that could delay your schedule if you didn't budget this post-ceremony flexible time into your timeline.


7. Consider doing your cake cutting immediately after you make your grand entrance into dinner, right before you take your seats

This flows surprisingly well and takes another thing off your list that you won't have to be be interrupted for later.


Wedding planning can be stressful, so I hope these quick tips are helpful at whatever stage in the process you are at.  Keep in mind that even if you do a great job at preparing, there are probably going to be a couple things that don't go according to plan, and it isn't your fault!  Just remember to tell yourself that no one is probably going to notice besides you.  


If you would like a little more help to kickstart your wedding day schedule planning, here is a free Wedding Timeline Guide that I made to help couples like you!  It includes sample timelines that you are free to use as models as well as a blank schedule that you can use for your schedule.  I hope this makes wedding planning a little easier for you!

Want to save these tips for later?  You can pin this image to your Pinterest board!:




What to wear for your engagement session

One of the most common questions I get from my couples before their engagement session is: "What do I wear?"  I tend to give the same pieces of advice, so I thought it was about time I made a blog post that I can share going forward.  Some couples get super excited about shopping for new outfits, but for others, choosing their engagement session attire can be overwhelming!  I laid out 5 tips that I hope will help guide you on your search :)


Tip #1: Make sure you feel comfortable in your outfit

You will be moving around a lot during your session which might include walking, sitting, hugging etc, so try to avoid picking super tight clothes around the hips that don’t allow you to move easily.  You also want to feel comfortable emotionally as well as physically, so pick an outfit that makes you feel confident and looking your best. Try to avoid clothing that you think you might be constantly readjusting because of bunching, riding up, or falling down.  If you are questioning “Do I look good in this?” it might be better to try something else like your good ol’ stand by date night outfit or something similar to it.  Choose clothing that accentuates your favorite parts of your body.  Also keep temperature in mind, if you are significantly cold or hot during your engagement photos, it will be harder for you to relax during your session. For colder weather, a jacket that is fitted around the waist will be more flattering than something baggy.


Tip # 2: Dress on the same level on the formal vs casual scale as your fiancé

Think about it like a date, you want to dress formal when your fiancé dresses formal and vice versa.  For example, if the bride-to-be is in a dress and heels, her man wouldn’t look the best next to her in photos next to her if he is wearing gym shoes.  If you have multiple outfits, try to choose one dressier outfit and one more casual outfit for each of you.


Tip #3: Matchy-matchy isn't ideal

In general, it looks better coordinate different shades or similar colors with each other rather than to try to match to the exact color with each other's outfits (for example, coordinating warm tones with warm tones or cool tones with cool tones). Try to contrast textures and colors, so if the bride is wearing a colorful flowery patterned dress it would look great to contrast that with the groom wearing a solid more neutral colored shirt.

Tip #4: Consider the colors of your location

Based on what type of location you choose, you might want to think about what colors will compliment the background or help you pop in photos.  For instance, if you are going for a soft portrait by the water, you might want to dress in calm color tones.  Also try to avoid blending into a green background; if you decide to take photos in a forest, it would be hard to stand out in those photos if you were wearing a forest green dress. Try to keep colors muted and soft, neutrals are always a safe bet!

Tip #5: Don't hesitate to doll yourself up and accessorize :)

Jewelry and other accessories look great especially if they compliment your personality.  Try to get your ring cleaned and your nails done before your session because your photographer will likely be getting some close ups of your bling!  I am giving you an excuse to get your hair done and a mani/pedi ;)

I hope you enjoyed these tips!  Remember that these are just guidelines and there are always people that are able to break the rules and still knock it out of the park.  Whatever you end up choosing to wear, have fun with it!  Stay tuned for more engagement photo prep tips coming in the next couple of weeks :)

Want to make sure you remember these tips in the future?  Here is an image you can pin to your Pinterest board!:


You can follow me along on my life adventures on Instagram :)

Six tips on how to prepare for your engagement session with your dog

Couples tend to take on new adventures around the time they get engaged and this sometimes including getting a dog together!  People have asked me how they can prepare for a photo session with their dog, so I decided to write a blog post that I could share with you all that can be applied to any sort of couple's session :)


Tip #1: Start the session without your dog

Let’s be honest, most people don’t feel natural at the start of a photography session.  It is normal to feel a little awkward being lovey-dovey with your fiancé while someone you probably just met takes photos of you, but you will get the hang of it as the session goes on!  However, throwing a dog into the mix during this warm-up time can potentially make the session start on a stressful note if your pup doesn’t end up behaving like the angel you hoped they’d be.


Tip #2: Designate a friend or family member to be responsible for your dog during your session

Constantly thinking about your dog throughout the session can be a source of stress and stress is the enemy to being photogenic.  Having a person separate from you, your fiancé, and the photographer to watch over your dog when puppy is not in photos puts you much more at ease throughout your photography session.

Tip #3: Plan for separate locations with and without your dog

Taking photos with just you two at a location away from your dog can help you be in the moment with your fiancé without worrying/looking at what your pooch is doing.  This will ensure you have the essential couple portrait photos in the bag and you can relax even more when you join up with your doggie at the next location.  It might work best to choose your backyard or a quiet park near your home as the location for photos with your dog.  Locations with minimal distractions are best when it comes to photos with pup; it is hard to get dogs to look where you want them to when there are other people walking around.


Tip #4: Have your dog exercise before your session

Releasing some energy beforehand can minimize your dog being super hyper and hard to settle down while actually taking photos.  A calm dog is a photogenic dog. Your designated dog-watcher can help by playing fetch or taking your dog for a walk while you are taking your couple’s portraits.  Older dogs may be calmer to begin with and might not need this activity, so keep in mind that you know your dog best.


Tip #5: Remember to bring the essentials!

Remember to think about what collar and leash you want showing up in photographs.  Toys and treats can be great for the photographer to hold and get your dog to look at the camera.  Don’t forget to bring poop bags!  A bag with all of these items consolidated together is helpful (even better if your friend/family member can carry it along).


Tip #6: Relax and enjoy your time :)

As dog owners, I’m sure you know that these fur-babies don’t always act the way we expect, but these candid interactions with you and your silly puppy can end up being the photos that you cherish the most.  Try to be patient and have fun!


You can follow me along on my life adventures on Instagram :)

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