lea smith portraits » bay area custom portraits

Back in September of 2013 I headed to Southern California to participate in an amazing workshop by Work of Heart Photo. It was a mind blowing workshop that provided me with lots of wonderful experience and a beautiful portfolio of work. When I was finished with the workshop I headed down to my old stomping grounds (Orange County) to meet up for some fun with a dear friend and fellow artist, Kim Lynh. She brought along this beautiful kimono and we went down to Redondo Beach and created some beautiful imagery. We intentionally waited until sunset so that we could play with some back lighting. I love shooting back light images, they take a little practice to get just right but when you do they are magical. Below is what you get when two artist converge. And after soaking in the beautiful back light images below, check out Rockie’s gorgeous back light imagery and the rest of my blog circle friend’s work!

lea smith portraits bay area photographer

lea smith portraits - bay area photographer
lea smith portraits - bay area photographer
lea smith portraits - bay area photographer


This month’s theme is appropriately Spooky, but I’m not one to settle for spooky, my son and I and our obsession for zombies flew past spooky and went straight for scary. Yes we wanted to convey scary because spooky is too simple for our grandiose ideas. 😉 It may be strange to for a children’s photographer to blather on about zombies as I so often do, but I’ve always had a tendency for the strange and scary since I was a kid. I blame it on late night shows with my dad watching The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. In my younger days I had dreams of becoming a special FX make-up artist, so naturally halloween is a favorite time of year for our family. My son has not fallen far from the tree and has a fascination with all things zombie, so much so that this years birthday party was zombie themed. So when working on this project it only seemed fitting to have a zombie dress-up day and my son gave a performance of a lifetime. This image was part make-up, part my son’s abilities at being a creepy zombie and part photoshop. Once you have taken in all of the spookiness (or scariness) you can handle head on over to Katie’s blog and check out her awesomely spooky images!

spooky | three lil

  • KatieW - So glad you did this, this is amazing Lea!!!! Love it!!ReplyCancel

  • Andee - Whoa. Excuse my french, but damn. You nailed it girl! Awesome makeup, lighting, edit, expression. Shall I go on?ReplyCancel

  • Jamie Loomis - Wow Lea! Love it! You two make a great team!ReplyCancel

  • Donna - Oh my Lea, I love everything about this image! You can tell him that he definitely scared me!ReplyCancel

  • Barrett - Very scary and creative! Good job!ReplyCancel

This month I start a new project with some fellow photographers from around the world. The “I am here” project encourages photographers to step in front of the camera and become the subject. This is a huge challenge for me because like most women I have insecurities about how I look. I look at images of myself and only see the flaws and imperfections so I signed up for this challenge to allow myself to be creative and to find the beauty in me. This project is a journey into self acceptance and creating for the love of creating. When I originally wrote this blog post I intended on making it a sort of tutorial on make-up, but as I thought about what this challenge was truly about I felt I was avoiding the true nature of the challenge, so here I am re-writing this blog.

This image has morphed from a make-up tutorial image to more of a statement image for me. I have included a quote said to be from Dr. Suess with this image as a mantra to be who you are.

Please share your thoughts on stepping in front of the camera, what are your insecurities? I challenge you to embrace all the many faucets that make you unique, especially those you make think are flaws.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please check out Amanda Adams interpretation of this challenge and the rest of the wonderful female photographers in this blog circle!


i am here | blog circle | three lil


This months blog circle challenge was motion blur. I was definitely a little late on working on my project this month, heck I literally waited until the last possible minute. But I got to try something I’ve been dying to try for a while – light painting. This was fun for everyone in the house! We turned off all the lights I set my camera up with the following settings f/8, ISO 100-200, & 4 sec. Because I waited until the last possible minute to work on this, I couldn’t find the base for my tripod or my remote control ::sad face:: So I handheld the camera as still as possible for 4 seconds and let my son run around with a flashlight and glow stick. Next time I try this I will make sure to have the tripod and remote so everyone can participate. But I have to say for a first time run, this was a BLAST! I’m thinking up all kinds of things I could do with this technique! If you haven’t tried it, do it now!

If you like what you see, please take a moment to check out Amanda Borst’s motion blur, in fact, check out all of the ladies in this month’s challenge!

motion blur | blog circle | three lil




I am one of those people who, as my husband puts it, “gets ready to get ready”. I am a career student. I LOVE to learn, but I’m also too timid to DO. My close friends might disagree with this as I am considered an extrovert, but I am guilty of the most common fear of all – fear of failure. Needless to say, I’ve been to and paid for LOTS of workshops, online courses, ebooks, real books, expos, and Creative Live courses, and I’ve learned A LOT. I’ve applied some things that I have learned, but there was always this self doubt underneath it all, this constant jabbing that my work is not worth what I charge. Heck, I’ll admit it, I still have self-doubt. But I want this to be a true career because I LOVE photography, because I LOVE capturing the beauty of every person I photograph and because I AM talented. (Wow, that one affirmation is hard to look at without thinking “that sounds arrogant” and wanting to erase it.) This new found confidence is in large part to an amazing woman Spanki Mills and a host of other amazing female photographers I had the opportunity to get to know and grow with during our workshop. Our day with Spanki was more like a weekend with Spanki and we all got to know each other bounce ideas off of one another. Spanki shared with us every detail of her business from marketing to editing images. We ate together, talked photography and photographed models. Even weeks after the workshop all of us girls including Spanki reach out to each other to bounce ideas and provide honest feedback to one another. I came home from that weekend with new ideas, new goals and new found confidence that I can do this! So now that it is out there, take notice my friends, because a whole new Lea is going to emerge. I have in mind where I want this business to grow and how to do it. It’s all going to start with a name, mine. I have for a long time been using three lil’ birds and while it is cute and has meaning to me, it is also a very popular and common name (for photography even), heck I don’t even have a dot com, but instead a dot net. 2014 will bring a new brand and name: Lea Smith Portraits.

This is my love letter to Spanki and my Monterey girls, thank you for the confidence, the honesty, the laughs and the support. But most of all thank you for being amazing, beautiful friends. I can’t wait for a reunion!

workshop models | three lil

  • Anouck - I’ve known you for a looooong time, so I do know that underneath that often times loud and extroverted image lurks a pretty insecure person sometimes. But you know what, you ARE talented, you DO take amazing pictures, and you DESERVE to be recognized for that. There is nothing wrong or arrogant about recognizing your own talent.

    I’m proud of you, and I know you’re going to do great!

    P.S. I can’t wait for you to take pictures of my dad and us in less than 2 weeks!ReplyCancel

  • Barrett - I am so jealous that you got to learn from Spanki! We actually went to high school together! Small world, huh? She’s so talented and so are YOU! =)ReplyCancel