My name is Diana Elizabeth. I'm a journalist, photographer, graphic designer and FORD model who had memorable days reporting from the LA red carpet for E! Online. I love sharing my life as a creative professional and the things that I discover along the way - with camera in hand.

My husband and I live in a restored 1952 red brick home that sits on a former citrus grove in Phoenix. I love traveling, home improvement projects, sewing, gardening, and John Mayer and Twilight. This is a glimpse into my life and work.

Get In Touch

Kokoon-33 Yes, the backyard really sold me, but there was so much more to finding the perfect house

Sometimes when I give advice on a post I don’t want to give you the impression I’m an expert – they say you need 10,000 hours to be considered an expert.  If I were a real estate expert I’d be Donald Trump. I thought I’d just write a little post on buying a home if you’re hoping to one day and my thoughts and experiences.

My parents are into real estate in California and Mr. Wonderful and I own two properties – my sweet little town home will forever be our investment rental and and we have the house we live in now.  Even though I didn’t buy my first place until I was 23, my apartments were in prime locations.  I learned when you say, “Wow!  That’s a great location!” when you say where you live, it’s truth.

The best advice I have ever heard verbally:  Pick a house based upon location, not what the inside looks like.  You can always change the inside but never the location.

This advice was given to me by a makeup artist friend 10 years ago while I was looking for my first place.  He lived in an area that he hated but he lived in a nice new condo and he hated coming home and seeing an icky neighborhood. He couldn’t even sell it to move, either, he was stuck.

diana-elizabeth-home-phoenix-office-222 Our home is 1750 square feet, small, but I love it!

Where we live now we have flyers sent to our home introducing families hoping to move into our neighborhood and every so often the door bell rings with someone asking if we will consider selling.  This makes me feel super great about where we live, and as we continue to add things to the inside of our home to really nest and make it ours, it’s so worth it.

So that’s what I’ve got for you –  find a home in a good location that you love.

Things to consider when buying a home

  • If you’re able to meet one of your neighbors, do.  When I was looking at homes a neighbor ran up to me and my realtor and she was so excited.  She was adorable.  Then she proceeded to walk with us to the backyard and show us a tree she hated in that backyard and the story about the previous owner and how he wouldn’t cut it down since it was leaning on her property, yadda yadda.  After she left my realtor looked at me and said, “And that would be your neighbor.”  No thanks.
  • Don’t buy a home based upon where you work.  We all know being close to work is great, and I don’t know the average years of how long someone works at their job, but I doubt it’s more than 5 years.  You’re buying a home for long term, make sure you like the community, the people who go to the nearest grocery store, the school district, that stuff.  Don’t live too far (maybe 30 minutes max is decent) but if I had to buy a home where my old corporate job was, I would’ve been in a yucky neighborhood and stuck there.
  • Don’t buy a house in a weird location just because you can get bigger.  UNLESS this is what you really need and want, and be honest.  This is not from my experience but seeing others do this.  You have this big beautiful house with more space to entertain but no one wants to see you because you live too far, no one makes plans with you because you’re on the outskirts and by nothing fun.  Then you just get lonely in your big house.  Or you have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to do any social activity that you end up spending so much on gas or car repair expenses it may not make sense for your lifestyle.
  • Look past the wall colors, fixtures, hardware, and even carpet.  All can be replaced, and you probably will like that anyway.  I had to replace all the brass with knobs I preferred from The Home Depot, replaced the carpet in two rooms even though they were new (I didn’t want a brown, I wanted low pile carpet in a cream), and I painted and changed out every single fixture, ceiling fan, light, all of it.  That’s what makes it your own and so much fun!
  • Be honest with what you want in a home.  I bought in 2011 the right time before the buyers went crazy. I saw a really adorable home, I probably looked at 30 homes (right Kat?) and I liked it.  We stood outside and she said, “Well, what do you think, what do you like about this house?”  I told her I loved that it was new inside.  Then she asked me, “What don’t you like?” and I said, “If I could pick up this house and move it over there (pointing in the direction of where I live now), I want it in that neighborhood.”  And she said, “Ok, then let’s just concentrate on finding a home there.”  Don’t let anyone pressure you into something you don’t want to buy, it’s a lot of money.  My real estate agent and friend was so amazing and wanted me to be happy.
  • Buy a fixer upper.  This is called instant equity – once you put in the sweat.  If you buy an already done perfect home at the high price, you won’t really have much value increased unless the market goes up.  If you buy a fixer upper, you pay a low amount, throw in some G’s and make it how you want, and instantly you just increased the value by more than what you spent (if you do it correctly).
  • Know what you don’t want in your home.  For me, that was no pool.  I was searching as a single gal and I didn’t want the expense of maintaining one, even though growing up with one was amazing (if you have kids, it’s so worth it).
  • Don’t purchase on emotion.  We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars here.  Y0u shouldn’t overpay for a junky home, or any home if it’s over your budget.  Know your limit and what the market is.  I put in an offer for a home that wanted full price.  The seller’s agent was really rude to mine and laughed at my offer.  That’s fine, I’m not paying full price woman, not in 2011 anyway.  She got her full commission she wanted when some other family offered full price, and I found an even better home with a nicer larger lot in the same neighborhood for my price.  My bank account won.
  • Don’t go house poor.  I am going to write a post about the love for a tiny home, but for now, I’ll just say this quoting Dana Miller from House Tweaking who talks about downsizing, “We’re not looking for our dream house. We’re looking for a house in which to pursue our dreams.”  With a big house comes a big mortgage, which is fine if you can afford it, but wouldn’t it be nice to have your home paid off by age 40 instead of 65?  For me and the Mr., this is owning everything, financial freedom from banks, loans, all of it.  The ability to travel, buy things, and enjoy the good life, he can retire early.  The idea is for us to not be home as much, and be out enjoying life!

Enjoy the process of making a home your own, it’s so fun!  Have you learned anything from searching for a perfect home?  What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Diana Elizabeth and Mr. Wonderful might want to add on, but right now, the size is great!

Home

turk-wedding-145

I’m going to start a very slow series – slow as in – I’m not sure when the next tip is coming, haha!  But, I know this needs to be shared, and I want to help with your shooting and showcasing techniques that you might find helpful in attracting certain clients.

When I first entered weddings I started at $1,200 for 8 hours of coverage and that was made before I paid my second shooter Amy who has been by my side from day one!

I have loved every single one of my clients from the beginning of my career to now, but when I first began, my goal was to get better at my photography talents, continually learn, and to charge more.  My package is now at $6,000 and it’s taken a lot of workshops, marketing, equipment, hard work and money to get to where I am – that’s where the price increase is justified.

With that said, I know some of you want to increase sales, bookings, and perhaps reach a new clientele.  So today, let’s talk about the important shoe shot.

montelucia-el-chorro-wedding-scottsdale-arizona-wedding-photographer-portraits023

Know your shoe designers

If you’re one of my 10 male readers, you should start watching the Style Network, pick up Vogue, or ask your girlfriends the names of labels.  Louboutin (not the same as Louis Vuitton even though it sounds close), Valentino, Jimmy Choo, Manolo, maybe you can turn on Sex and the City to hear what Carrie talks about – shoes!

If you have a bride who didn’t buy designer shoes, do not showcase the label, don’t emphasize a huge shoot from up top because no one cares, including the bride because that’s not why she bought those shoes.  She bought them because they are cute.  So, prop the shoes creatively and show the details of the shoe.  By not showcasing the non-label, when you blog post it potential clients will focus on the shot itself, not being distracted by the Mossimo shoes, other random thoughts, and perhaps disregarding your photography services.

Photographing Non Designer Shoes

Now the following images are by the one and only Kate Spade but here are some ideas where you don’t see the label that still allows you to show off the cuteness of the shoe.  You can do this with non designer shoes because I’m sure they’re still cute, after all the bride liked them enough to wear on her big day.

Take any shoe sole pads out too.

turk-wedding-5 turk-wedding-3

You want to make people love your shot of the shoe, not be distracted by the non-designer label.  Below, these are designer,but nevermind that, showcase the back details!

Shooting Tip: Shallow depth of field, shoot the shoe detail, focusing on the end of the shoe.   Shoot the shoes on with the bride wearing them.

Showcasing Designer Shoes

If you have a stylish bride who spends $1,200 on an amazing pair of Louboutins, Jimmy Choo’s, or Valentino’s, you better showcase that label because that tag alone cost half the price of the shoe.  Make sure it’s real big on your blog to attract the clients that will think, “Oh my gosh those shoes, I die!”   I know this sounds crazy, but even the designer labels are pretty.  They just are.

Shooting Tip: Shoot at an F stop that focuses on the label AND the shoe detail, red sole included if applicable – avoid missing the mark and only having the label in focus.

The goal is to shoot the shoes tastefully showcasing the designer because it’s important to the bride, but also for this bride, the shoes were just as important as the dress!

montelucia-el-chorro-wedding-scottsdale-arizona-wedding-photographer-portraits021 silverleaf-club-scottsdale-arizona-wedding-monique-lhuillier-wedding-photographer-phoenix-bride-diana-elizabeth-photography004

I even spotted the bridesmaid and had to pull her aside to snap a photo of the red sole!  But of course, I focus on her because the photo is about how gorgeous and stylish she is, but it’s a just a little hint of the obvious.

Do this with guests too – if you see a red sole, chase it like there’s a 50% off clearance on them! In my dreams…

odiorne-wedding-356

 Diana Elizabeth had Badgley Mischka shoes on her wedding day – designer but not overly priced.

Photography

7-must-have-under-garments-underwear

Half slip / Satin Petals / T-back or Racerback Bra
Strapless Bra / Seamless Thong / Fashion Tape / Bandeau

I believe the only way to utilize the most out of your closet and make shopping for cute outfits easier is to already have a dresser with the right undergarments to begin with.  I believe everyone needs a half slip as most dresses nowadays are unlined and sheer.  I use this white one by Kokoon.  A bandeau top is excellent for slightly sheer tops, or any low cut or loose fitting tops so you don’t flash anyone bending over – try bright colors or lace for fun. Different than a barely there g-string, these seamless thongs are amazing because they actually lay flush with your body with no squeezing.  Fashion tape while not an undergarment is a necessity to keep straps in place for normal strapped bras, or secure clothes from shifting.  Since I bought a racerback bra earlier this summer I no longer have to worry about looking tacky as my straps are hidden under my clothing, such a relief.

I also found a nude and black in each is best – white doesn’t seem to make much sense since it practically draws more attention.  Do you have any other must-have suggestions?

Diana Elizabeth thinks even a fun bright color is great for the tops that might show a peek that is unavoidable, a little pop of color is always fun.

Style

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-10

We were overdue for a girl’s get together so I picked a time when there was no baseball game at Chase Field to eat at the Friday’s attached to the stadium.  The reason being, so we could have a quiet table to ourselves, and also find plentiful downtown parking.  Downtown Phoenix is very quiet when there’s no sporting games going on.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-11

Yeah you recognize that face?  She’s a former Miss Arizona USA.  And I may or may not have taken lots of her photos.

Our waitress was adorable.  As the girls trickled in to join our table, she said, “You keep getting prettier and prettier, how do you all know each other?”  And we admitted it was from pageants – LOOOOONG ago.  Then a memory surfaced between three gals of being at this very same restaurant years ago in 2005, when Brenna won the 2006 title.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-2

Soda cheers to true friendships made from pageant land long ago and making time to catch up!

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-9

We like family style ordering – a few appetizers, entrees and dessert to split.  A little bit of everything fantastic at TGIFriday’s - in this particular case, Front Row.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-8

It’s time to pick out a dessert ladies, hope you all saved room.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-6

You mean we get to pick out any of these fantastic looking plates?  Brownie and Oreo madness, yes please!

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-7 tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-5

No spoon wars!

Then we were introduced to a free App called Perfect365 – you take a photo of your face.  You then select the type of makeup to add to your face!  Since Melayne didn’t have any makeup on, she was the perfect test subject.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-4

Like so.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-3

Oh dear. Maybe you need to pay extra for the really good makeup looks.

Several hours later, after full bellies, laughs, sharing news, our beds called and we had to say goodbye.  We hadn’t been together since early spring in Vegas.

tgi-fridays-front-row-girlfriends-12

More on our matching necklaces next month!

Diana Elizabeth became hungry by the time she got home and wrote this post – that’s how long they stayed at Friday’s – on a Thursday night.  But she’ll blame it on the atmosphere because in there it’s always Friday.

Life

IMG_9914

Hi! I thought I’d throw up a quick Sunday night post to say hello from Nor Cal, I’m back home for a week and a half visiting my parents and trying to avoid the Phoenix heat.  After this trip I have a week back in Phoenix and then I’m off to NY for a fantastic wedding I’m photographing!  By the time I return the weather will be just perfect and I’ll stay put in Phoenix, as far as I know – hee hee.

Paris is almost 12 years old and the first morning it was pretty precious – he forgot I was home!  I called his name from the stairs and he kept running back and forth to mom and dad because they are typically the only ones home.  He was so confused until he saw me and realized, I was home!  He forgot!   He was excited all over again as if he saw me for the first time and it was just precious.  What can I say, he’s getting a little old.

I got here Friday afternoon, the Phoenix airport was pretty busy – Friday summers are packed because everyone is trying to get out of dodge, typically for just a quick weekend.

IMG_9853

I have this thing for not wearing opened toed shoes for flights over 1 hour.  The longer the flight the higher the altitude which can make my toes feel super cold!  Overseas flights especially, I’m all bundled up!  These foldable flats by Yosi Samra in so many different styles, I love that they fold up in your bag.

I never know which gate I am by, I always hope it’s by the LGO, but this time I was happy to see Cartel and got the yummiest iced vanilla latte.  I have to admit I am not a Starbucks fan, I find myself nursing the drink all day, it’s just so hard for me to drink!  The only way I can drink it is if I order a tall for the milk to espresso shot ratio, just too bitter for me.

IMG_9855

About to land in Sacramento – yep, lots of farm land!  Did you have any idea?  Betcha didn’t!

With all my traveling lately I sure wish Southwest Airlines would sponsor my blog – as if they needed the publicity.

IMG_9864

I was happy to find my mom finished my seed stitch scarf.  Each row is 99 stitches and there are probably 70+ rows of each skein, I’m bad at guessing, but I’ll also guess that means it’s over 1,000 stitches.  I did bind off in the seed stitch so I kinda felt like I was able to “complete” it even though mom did the tedious part I just couldn’t do anymore!  I need a break from knitting!

IMG_9879

The best snacks come in cute little bowls – now I know where I get it.  My mom gave me a little antique bowl of washed strawberries for a snack.

Is that weird that I caption my photos before the photo? I just think it makes more sense when you scroll down, it’s in order.  I might be weird.

IMG_9906

In other news, I went to church with mom and dad and got to worship with Lincoln Brewster!  He’s the worship leader of our church back home – I seriously look so much forward to it every time I go home that I always try to make it to two Sundays that’s how much I  love my church back home.

IMG_9934

Lincoln Brewster’s new album called Oxygen comes out this Tuesday.  He had a pre-sale at church and dad bought three of them, one for me.  I wasn’t sure how creative to get with photographing an album so I made my dog sit with it.  He looks pretty excited.

Hope you are all having a restful Sunday.

Diana Elizabeth will start seeing high school friends this week!  She also has an equestrian shoot this week too.

Life, West Coast

Kokoon-156

When I was a little girl, probably in the 2nd grade, my mom cut my hair above my shoulders and I cried the entire time.  In college, I went to get my hair cut and the stylist I had been going to for years who knew I loved my long tresses cut my hair right below my shoulders – I put my hair in a ponytail until it grew out and never saw her again.

Of course I think as humans we all have preferences on how we prefer we look – but sometimes you have to think, Is it really because I look better this way or Is this an unhealthy security blanket?  I found security in my hair, I can’t explain it, it sounds ridiculous and it wasn’t this way all the time.  Or perhaps it was, but I never realized it because I always left my hair long.  Security turned into an idol.  Now not all women who have long hair idolize their hair.  But for me, deep down, I knew there was something wrong. I kept looking at photos of myself and thought, it just looked too long, but why couldn’t I seem to cut more? Why was it giving me anxiety that even when I went for a trim I’d come home and declare, “It’s too short!” ?

I’ve had many idols in my life.  Some were things, vanity, other times it was a person, or a goal.  My idols have changed and lessoned as I’ve matured spiritually and come to acknowledge them.  I know people who have idols of things that I particularly couldn’t ever imagine  idolizing (at least it’s not for me at the moment) – idols change and they hold different weight depending on who you are.  None of us though are ever free from them.

I had never cut my hair short since that accidental college chop I mentioned earlier in this post.  But then I did it this summer – you may or may not have noticed and if you didn’t, you may be thinking I could’ve gone shorter to really make a point.  The cut was a cut, one I would have never done before and two months later, I went back and cut it again.  I actually walked away disappointed my hair wasn’t shorter – such a change.  Something happened after that.  There’s a feeling of freedom – I can cut my hair and I can grow it out, what-ev-er.  It’s just hair, it’ll grow back. Honestly, I’ll probably let it go long this fall because I think I my fall outfits will look better with longer hair, and I may cut it when it annoys me again.  That’s just one recent example of my latest idol.  Hair – so silly.

There’s something about letting go and realizing you’re still the same person with or without your idol.  Your idol is just a temporary fixation making something more important and bigger than life and God.  It’s putting too much weight on something that won’t last forever – beauty, a thing, person, job, car, home, you pick your poison.  How do you know if you have one?  What creates fear in you if you suddenly lost it?  What can’t you give up right now?  There’s your answer.

Once you admit it, do something – let it go in your heart, cut the ties.  It’ll be so freeing.  Chop chop.

Have you ever realized you had a security blanket/idol? What did you do to free yourself from it?

{Photo by Melissa Louise for Kokoon}  Outfit:  Kokoon top / Free People denim

Diana Elizabeth believes if you idolize something, you can let it go in your heart and still have it in your life – with a different perspective.  Getting rid of an idol doesn’t necessarily mean you have to say goodbye physically, but other times, you may.

Life

birch-museli-cold-oats-recipe

I think this is my first recipe I’m sharing.  Oh dear.  I swear to the moon and back that you will LOVE this!  What is Bircher Museli?  Well, there are many versions of it – it’s pretty much oats, grains, nuts, yogurt and fruit – many different varieties.

Guests always ask for the recipe and it doesn’t take a lot of time and you do not need the exact amount of ingredients.  Eyeball everything, add more of what you want, take things away.  See how I cook?

IMG_1278

Ingredients

  • Old Fashioned Quaker Oats (not quick oats)
  • Milk or soy
  • 1 thinly sliced banana
  • 1 thinly sliced orange
  • 1 grated (with skin) granny smith apple
  • Handful of blueberries (can be frozen and de thawed)
  • Almond slices
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

Know that these ingredients are estimations, you never have to measure, other than having a whole piece of fruit.

Steps

  1. Fill a bowl with the Old Fashioned Quaker Oats and milk just so the oats can soak in the milk.
  2. Prep the fruit (slice, dethaw if frozen, grate) and put into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Drain access milk from oat and milk bowl if needed, then add to the large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in vanilla yogurt to desire of creaminess
  5. Add handful of almond slices on top!

Serves 3-4.  You can change ingredients depending on the season and preference.  Leftovers will keep for one day – but best eaten the same day.

Diana Elizabeth loves different versions of museli, if you have one, share it with her.

Home

Ha – get it. It was 3:30 p.m. on a day when I needed to take pictures of some polish for a blog post.  I went around the house (because outside is too hot and I was also still in my pajamas – don’t judge me).

As I tried to find good lighting, I thought these shots would turn into a good blog post on lighting.

Backlighting

Let’s start with the obvious, go-to lighting type – backlighting.  While it’s definitely a good go-to way for portraits, this is just a terrible photo.  The background is blown out and while it might be the first thought of good photography, I’m going to be real – not all backlighting is good.  This is a perfect example.  Why backlight inside? In some cases it might be great but in this instance, I don’t think so.

summer-fall-polish-colors-112

Window Light

I turned the polishes around to get the window lighting – much better.  I’m not absolutely crazy about the background light, I could have pulled the curtains to have less distractions and diffuse the light in the back.  This shot was better than the first shot but it still didn’t do it for me.  My kitchen lighting during that time was a bit too dark and the polished look dark therefore this photo just looked drab.

summer-fall-polish-colors-113

Bird’s eye

I think of this lighting is fun, maybe for small objects.  I’m always thinking wedding details.  I do think wedding details should be outside – even if it’s blazing hot outside because you can’t beat natural light.  I think an aerial view is still fun especially if you find a good texture – like my concrete island.  In this case, I don’t think my background complimented what I was photographing.

summer-fall-polish-colors-114

Side window light, lighter room

I walked around my house poking my head into rooms.  Our mirror dresser right by the window that faces south was the answer – the background is light and it was a good contract with the nail polish colors and caps.  The light was coming from my right side as I was looking at these bottles.  This was clearly the winner for these small subjects.

summer-fall-polish-colors-115

The key is, don’t be lazy and don’t be scared to try something else.  If you don’t love the photo, take another, move, change the direction of light, change the surrounding.  Do not move onto to the next detail until you feel you nailed your shot.  If you can’t see the object well in that lighting, your camera won’t either, trust your eyes.

Diana Elizabeth says also be cautious about the colors around – warm tones like brick can bounce colors around, this can be fixed in post a bit, but it’s best to try to find what will create less work in post.

Photography

diana-elizabeth-112

I can’t wait to wear my favorite print this fall, I paired this silk blouse by Diane von Furstenburg I ordered during the Saks Fifth Avenue sale, with bright colored tie front shorts which has been my summer staple.  I wore a beige cami under to brighten up the print, but come fall I’ll probably be wearing black under.

Earlier this week I put it on and actually paired it with Paige black moto jeans and then looked in the mirror – I was too anxious for fall and it is still 100 degrees out.  I was so disappointed, I would love to live where it’s permanently fall, it’s my favorite season!

diana-elizabeth-111

Now what I’m most excited about is changing my nail polish colors to darks!

Diana Elizabeth will change her polish later this week, reds are the best way for the transition!

Style

Kokoon-46

I’ve always been healthy – although accident prone which has landed me several times in the ER over my lifetime.  Over the past year I’ve been a little out of it – light headed, forgetful, migraines, fatigue, just really not myself – I even did a sleep test to see if I had sleep apnea because I never felt well rested even after 10 hours of sleep.  Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I saw a naturopath and the diagnosis was - my body was in shut down mode.

I also never knew I could have low Vitamin D living in such a sunny state (lotions, hard water, getting older will do that to you), and that eating good foods at the right time is really what it’s all about.  No more 11 pm munching and unintentionally fasting until 2 pm.

This is when my best friends stare at me across the table, eyebrows raised and say, “Di, what have I been telling you?” and I change the subject, to, “Oh my gosh, your hair looks SO pretty today!”

I’ve had friends who have solved their health issues simply by a diet change – taking one thing out and it solved everything.  Isn’t that funny how life is like that in general – remove that toxic friend, quit that demanding job, the removal of a single source of pain can change everything.

So I force myself to eat better, drink more water, and be a wee bit more aware that the amazing cinnamon roll won’t give me enough energy as the omelette first thing in the morning.  The trade off truly is much sweeter.

{Photo by Melissa Louise for Kokoon}

Diana Elizabeth now battles the, “I want to do everything now that I am feeling better” bug. Not a completely terrible thing, but she needs to slow it down.

Life

Google Analytics integration offered by Wordpress Google Analytics Plugin