Clarissa + Jack | Norfolk Virginia Maternity and Baby Photographers

I’m reviving our blog for the first time in a year (!!!!) to share a few sweet photos of Clarissa + Jack’s at-home maternity session. Apologies for lagging behind on our blog game, but after giving birth to Ellie (follow my personal insta @dailyelliejoy for baby photo spam!) last year then doing a big office and house move/renovation at the same time, social media and other administrative duties for DCPG definitely fell by the wayside. We’re all moved into both home and new studio and FINALLY back in the saddle shooting regularly and devoting attention and love back to DCPG :)

Clarissa and Jack have been repeat DCPG clients since 2012; we’ve photographed two of Jack’s deployment homecomings and their tiny wedding in Norfolk:

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I remember  chatting with Jack’s mom back then and she said, “Maybe you can photograph their baby when the time comes!” And so, I am! I’m so happy Clarissa got back in touch in order to sign up for the Baby Steps plan :) She opted for one of our more popular combos – Maternity, Newborn and One Year. We decided to do at at-home session for maternity. I absolutely love doing at-home sessions for any baby steps shoot because not only does it add a layer of uniqueness to the portraits that can never be duplicated, when these photos are viewed by their future children, they’ll get to see the first place their new little family called home.


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I love that she chose to rock a glamorous, sequined dress!


She requested these poses and although their dog Rob was hilariously uncooperative, I loved the quick interaction I was able to capture:

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To book a consultation or a session under our Baby Steps plan, click here:

@dcpg on Twitter and Instagram






Tip Tuesdays | DCPG Photo Cropping Guide

A while back, I downloaded these great cropping guides from Paint the Moon. Since our full-frame camera crop does not automatically fit a standard 8×10 or 11×14, we thought this would be helpful to see how much of your image you will “lose” by cropping  it various sizes. Paint the Moon has a great ratio cheatsheet and more information on their site; it’s worth a look if you want to see the hows and whys!

We finally put the crop templates to use, so voila! Here are comparisons of a single photo, done in various crops. Please note; this is for crop reference only, it does not show relative size – for that, come into the studio and I can show you why bigger is better when it comes to wall prints :)

If you are interested in printing these out for future reference, just click on the photo and you will be taken to a link where you can download printable versions of each guide:


DCPG Cropping Guide VERT BLOG


Here is a horizontal version:


DCPG Cropping Guide H BLOG

But what about Canvases?

One last thing to note; if you are using our digital files to purchase a canvas wrap, you will need to ensure an additional 1 to 2 inches of clearance around the main parts of your image so that nothing important gets folded out of the way. If you are not sure, PLEASE always email me with the desired final image size and what vendor you are using, I want your photo to look the way it was intended to and will help you get it to spec. If the original crop is too tight, we can always add in a colored/textured border to make up for the wraparound part. This takes me only minutes and I am happy to do it for you!

Thank you to Livi and Lizzie for lending their adorable faces to these photos!

– Cies

We Are Not a Brand | DCPG Behind the Scenes

Unlike Beyonce, I did not wake up flawless, but instead with a phrase rattling around my mind.

We are not a brand.

We’ve been in this business for almost 10 years now, so we admittedly rose on the tide of digital photography to its current flooded state. If I were to believe the current social media landscape, the most successful photographers are walking perfection with their trendy outfits, impeccably decorated studios and stylish branding. They look amazing, seem to be making tons of money and are shooting lavish, magazine-ready weddings.

I mean, I know DCPG is great at what we do. And successful enough that I’ve been running it this whole time without having to work a day job (being your own boss totally rules, by the way)! But every now and then, a teenage sense of doubt creeps in watching these beautiful photographers with their Beyonce-level confidence and knack for self-promotion. I see the adulation they get from their lifestyle alone and secretly fret if that’s the ideal we need to live up to. In those moments, I feel like a brown Laney Boggs.

I mean, I’m over here wearing mismatched sweats (#iwokeuplikethis), typing this blog while sharing some Oreos with my daughter. I’m not at my studio/office because the elevator over there is broken and the only other way in is the creepy alley fire escape. There is a 75% chance we are eating cheap pizza for dinner and a 100% chance I will not move from this chair. No Louboutins or cake stands of artfully arranged macarons ’round these parts – the struggle is real!

However, once that flicker of doubt passes, I remember two things:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

(Side note: I love this quote, but I love even more that you can buy a print of this locally! Lettering, photo and print by Norfolk studio, Maple & Belmont.)

At the end of the day, I know who we are and believe in our work. We built our business slowly and steadily, so the foundation is strong. I know that we’re not “less than” others for just doing things differently. This isn’t to say rockstar or lifestyle marketing is wrong, because, let’s be real, it works amazingly well for a LOT of people. Nor do I believe our way of handling our business is perfect or better than another. Like the corner of Kempsville and Princess Anne Rd, we are a never ending work in progress. However we choose to present ourselves to the world, I just want it to be authentic to ourselves and always in service to others. Even if it means looking like a weird combination of these:

If you haven’t meet DCPG, these photos pretty much sum us up. We are a bunch of happy weirdos that love each other and what we do!  Keep reading for our “manifesto” and some of our favorite DCPG images.

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The moment Rina realized sh*t just got real

I know the angle says otherwise, but Lester is in fact NOT photographing my butt.



We are not a brand.

We aren’t concerned with labels. We can’t inspire you with a Pinterest-worthy lifestyle. We know you care more about substance than glitz. You’re not cookie cutter, and neither are we.

So, who are we?

We are family. Every single thing we do comes from a place of love. We love what we do the same way we love our families —

Wholeheartedly, selflessly, fiercely.


We are photographers. More so, we are your photographers.

This makes us both your historian and your mirror and we treat that responsibility with passionate care.


We are respectful of everything that you are and that you love.

We strive to create images that reflect the beauty we find in

your happiness, your life, your uniqueness.


So yeah, we’re not a brand, we’re just us.

We may not be the loudest or coolest kids on the block, but we don’t mind.

The love we put into our work speaks for itself and, hopefully, it speaks to you.

Because (your) life is beautiful.

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Wedding Wednesday | Nico + Wesley | Newport News Wedding Photographers

I knew I liked Nicolette from her first cheery, upbeat e-mail, but even more so when I spoke to her on the phone and chatted with her excitedly about how, even though she was initially wary of spending extra money on a tiny wedding, she was really happy and relieved knowing she would have beautiful photos to show the family that wasn’t able to be there. When she burst into my office the day before her wedding, in sweatpants and those crazy pedicure flipflops talking animatedly and dropping f-bombs everywhere (I do love when people are instantly that comfortable with me!) I knew right then her elopement would be fun and full of laughter.

Since their elopement was a true one, consisting only of her and her fiance Wesley, they opted for our 2 hour rate. We had some time before the ceremony, so we met them in front of the restaurant where they were planning on having their wedding dinner, Circa 1819. We shot a few photos outside on the quaint street, then the staff at Circa 1819 was kind enough to let us set up inside so we could all warm up and shoot a few documentary style shots.

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We headed over to the lions outside of the Mariner’s Museum for the ceremony, but the officiant was running a bit late so we squeezed in a few more portraits. There was also a jogger couple occupying the waterfront area they intended to the ceremony on, so we gave them some time to see if they would leave (Nico & Wesley ended up having to gently usher them out, but the jogger couple was super nice about it) and photographed them with some Mr & Mrs. props they purchased.


Susan Turner was their officiant and not only was she a super sweet lady who let us set up their position however we wanted; she also had the greatest Christmas cat sweater on, ever.  The ceremony was performed on a slab of concrete that jutted into the water, so their backdrop was beautifully simple; just the water of Lake Maury and the softly setting sun. We opted against lighting the ceremony; the concrete wasn’t huge and since both Mendell and I were shooting, I had this fear of tripping over each other and/or lightstands and falling into the water.

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Nico and Wesley were such a sweet couple and were such troupers because it was FREEEEZING cold out the entire time we were photographing! Even though it was a last minute job and we had to drive straight to Washington, D.C. right after, I am so happy we were able to photograph their fun little wedding. I really, really love elopements!

To see more photos, check out their full wedding set here.

Vendors + Details

Photographers | Ciesther + Mendell dela Cruz of DCPG

Officiant | Susan Turner

Hair | Yudy of RicaSha Salon, Yorktown

Venue | near the lions at the Mariner’s Museum, Newport News

Dress | H&M (on sale for $13, she says!)

Shoes | NineWest

Make-up and Flowers | Friends and family :)


Meet DCPG Mondays | Rina

Did you miss last week’s installment of Meet DCPG Mondays? Click here to meet Lester!

Today’s featured member of Team Peeg is Rina! Rina has been working with us almost as long as I’ve been in DCPG and has been my partner in crime over the years for many, many shenanigans including moving to Seattle, various musical groups, and brainstorming MANY business ideas ranging from t shirt companies to record labels to our current makeover photography, Malaya by DCPG.

Rina, like our older sister Carrie, is a multi-hyphenate mama. She is a senior photobooth technician, but you’ve also seen her work as a make-up artist and hairstylist on my fashion/boudoir shoots, or helping me out with my baby sessions. She is also a working musician, occasional actor, wife of Zern and mama to the sweetest little boy, Tonio. Here’s Rina, in her own words:


  1. When you’re not twerking DCPG, what is your day job? Insurance agent
  2. If you were on death row, describe your last meal and drink. Ezogiku’s chuka ramen with an order of their gyoza and their fried rice. Topped off Southern style with a big ol’ rocks glass of Jack Daniels.
  3. If you were on Death Row Records, what would your rap name be? I actually was in a rap crew once, the aptly named Rap Crew, and my name was Lunchbox.  But that may sound “soft” for Death Row so maybe Hilary Shank?
  4. If you could have an artist alive or dead follow you around and provide your theme song, who would it be? M.I.A. Bad Girls. I’d feel like such a bad ass and that I could do anything.
  5. Which actor would you like to portray you in your biographical movie and why? That’s a tough one. I don’t know who I’d like to play me but I know that I would want Bolo Yeung to play my dad. That casting is mandatory.
  6. Name three things that drive you absolutely crazy. These are in no particular order . . . Girls that still use scrunchies, kids with excessively long fingernails (if your kid visits my apartment and has long nails, they’s gettin’ cut!) and people without manners
  7. What are three things you are madly passionate about? Again no particular order . .My family, the belief in basic human rights and equality for all, and music.
  8. The title of your autobiography is: Make Em Say Uhhhh . . Rinanana
  9. Formulate your spy alias by adding your favorite adjective + your childhood best friend’s first name +your favorite rapper/MC’s stage name. Arbitrary April B.I.G.
  10. Shirts or skins? Blouses!
  11. My favorite thing about DCPG is: The staff! It’s all family and close friends so it never feels like work :)

You’ve seen her makeup and hair work on many shoots. We started Malaya by DCPG many years ago together to give women makeovers with sessions that made them feel beautiful. Instead of marketing these types of shoots as holiday or Valentine’s gifts to other people, we encouraged our clients to do them just because (treat. yo. self.) It’s such a fun job and some of the girls come back more than once just as a confidence booster, to celebrate, to heal or just for fun. She doesn’t just do the makeup and or hair, she instrumental in the styling and even the posing of the clients. We made such a great team that I brought her on for weddings and senior portraits as well!

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Speaking of her makeup work, here she is at a shoot a few years ago displaying just how big of a difference expression, makeup, angles and lighting make for a photograph. Pretty much the greatest before and after of ALL TIME! Another reason I heart Rina is that she not only lets make take these photos, but lets me post them :)

She is also a regular fixture at the photobooth and baby sessions. I love when she’s on either of these because she’s such a quick hands on learner that, after initial instruction, she is the model of an independent worker. She’s self-reliant, confident and able to problem-solve very quickly.


This photobooth job below was special because it was the wedding of her son’s father, Rene.  Rina and her husband Zern worked the booth together and she loves this photo because it showcases how happy their little blended family is and how Tonio is all the better for having so many people that love him.

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She loves working with kids and has been such a natural with them even when we were kids ourselves. She loves them so much you will usually see her on her off time surrounded by a gaggle of beautiful, multicultural kids courtesy of our friends. Ask any one of them and they will tell you how much they love Auntie Rina.  Halloween is her favorite holiday since it combines makeup, dressing up and all of our kids:

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If you caught the video from April’s wedding, you saw/heard that homegirl can SING.  She likes to keep super busy in the music scene, you may have seen her rocking the stage with 2UpHigh, the various groups Carrie and I have also been in, or whipping her hair back and forth at a Pharaoh and the Manhattan Project show.

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This is a quick promo shot of our most recent group, Parks & Wrecks:

You can also find her on Youtube playing fun covers and making guest appearances in Happyslip videos as Auntie Girly, Auntie Baby’s even louder bestie (she is wearing all our mom’s clothes for this character, btw. Hahah):

Anyone who knows her or has worked with her also knows she is not only talented, but also one of the funniest people EVER and is one of the few people that I can spout off old TV show or movie quotes/references to (even if it’s something we haven’t watched in years) and she gets them right away.  In that spirit, I will leave this post with a final shot of her laughing :)

Follow Rina on the internets here:


Meet DCPG Mondays | Lester

Meet DCPG Mondays is an on-going series where you will get to know the various members of Team Peeg.  If you missed last weeks installment, click here!

Lester “Moto” dela Cruz  is the creative soul behind DCPG. When he and Mendell joined forces, their combined photo + design skills not only formed DCPG, but inspired me as well to pick up a camera and develop a critical eye for design. The camera is almost a natural extension of his arm that we always joke that he makes Mendell and I look terrible because we’ll be packing our gear up and he’s still shooting away because something caught his eye, haha.  Because of that passion, I am taking forever writing up this post because he has SO many great photos to sift through and I’m having a hard time choosing.  This one was a no brainer, though:

Here’s the Moto in his own words:

  1. When you’re not twerking DCPG, what is your day job? Twerking on Church St. and Brambleton. Just kidding. I’m a Senior Creative Manager at and I make things visually pleasing!
  2. If you were on death row, describe your last meal and drink. Sushi — Mermaid Roll from Kyushu and May Roll from Domo. Drink of choice — Orangina! Wait, and a side of Tuna Poke.
  3. If you could have an artist alive or dead follow you around and provide your theme song, who would it be? Jose Gonzalez. He has a lot of songs from the soundtrack of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and it’s pretty epic with a nice and soothing ambiance.
  4. Which actor would you like to portray you in your biographical movie and why? Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street. Just kidding! This is a tough question! Possibly Paul Rudd because he’s likable, funny, doesn’t take himself too seriously, nice and low-key. He’d have to tan a little, wear some glasses, take some design and photography classes, have a little bit of eczema and lose a few inches on the height to play me.
  5. Name three things that drive you absolutely crazy. Not being punctual (both for me and others). Drivers who pull out in front of you and don’t speed up. Slow people in the fast lane.
  6. What are three things you are madly passionate about? Arlyn + My family, photography + design, happiness.
  7. The title of your autobiography is: Hello Moto.
  8. Formulate your spy alias by adding your favorite adjective + your childhood best friend’s first name +your favorite rapper/MC’s stage name Delicious Valencia Biggie Smalls.
  9. Shirts or skins? Skins. No pants policy at the moto household. Beware and be ready.
  10. My favorite thing about DCPG is: Me? Just kidding. Getting to work with my family and do what I love!

More about Lester:

Lester’s shooting style is characterized by wide angle, dramatic shots that often employ his signature low perspective.


More often than not, you’ll find Lester rolling around on the ground because he will do ANYTHING to get that shot, such as putting his hand in a patch of burrs and later accidentally breaking Robyn’s sunglasses while making this amazing photo of her and Mark:


He’s a great business partner to work with. I started out in DCPG knowing next to nothing and he and Mendell encouraged and celebrated my growth as a photographer instead of feeling threatened or crowded when 2 shooters became 3.  Of course, he is also a very creative and super skilled photographer on his own; game for anything. I have thrown him into many situations where he was totally unprepared and shooting solo and not only does he take these assignments cheerfully, the photos always come out totally BOSS. Things like, “Hey, our new clients want to shoot their engagement portraits in a glow-in-the-dark indoor mini-golf park and maybe at outside at night; we’ve never met them before, can you do the shoot in 2 days?”



Or, “Our friend just broke both his arms, can you go cover the wedding he was supposed to do tomorrow?” Why not, indeed!

He is obviously great at lighting and setting up portraits, but since he is constantly finding moments as well, he is amazing at capturing these beautiful split seconds like this one of Bylle and Doug after she walked him down the aisle:

He is a strobist at heart, consistently employing the classic DCPG dramatic lighting:

But he can work natural light like nobody’s business as well:

He is amazing on his own, obviously, but when we are all together, it’s like a photography Voltron!  At both weddings and portrait sessions where 2 or more of us are present, we will take turns being principal shooters and will often hold lighting and assist for one another. No egos, just teamwork.

In the photo below, Lester is holding the backlight (Mendell was shooting and I’m holding the main light) but all three of us put the shot together almost by telepathy. We literally had only seconds to make this shot happen; it had just started pouring rain and the sun was just about gone. I handed Nedie and Edmond an umbrella, we all instinctively moved into position and ended up with this one-of-a-kind portrait:


Lester is just a happy, fun and kind person that people genuinely like being around. Every wedding we photograph, some dude develops a a man crush on him and/or tries to get him to drink up with the groomsmen. He is the kind of person who will bring his mother-in-law along on what could have been a romantic European getaway for him and Arlyn. He is also the guy who will buy a single taco in the middle of the night and deliver it to Arlyn while she works the night shift at the hospital. I personally appreciate the way he lets me talk his ear off the rare times we get to sit down together in our fun business strategy/catching up sessions that we have.

I’ll leave this post with a bunch of photos showing his own personal photos of his most favorite things*:  planes, traveling and of course, his beautiful wife, Arlyn.  I asked her for her thoughts on her hubby and she says, “I love that he loves me back as much I love him and more, he is always kind, patient, he laughs at my jokes, he is adventurous, he sees beauty and kindness in everything and everyone and he tolerates me and pays me no mind when I whine.” (haha love that last part)

*Note that cars and food are conspicuously missing.  He has a million car and food photos and I could not choose one; hit up his Facebook or Instagram if you want to see them!

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Throwback Thursday | Cabatit Family Portraits turned Proposal!

Did you miss yesterday’s amazing Wedding Wednesday post? Click here!!

For Throwback Thursday, I dug up our old blog and am reposting one of my all time favorite shoots/posts – a family session that ended up being a sneaky premise for a proposal! One of the most fun sessions we’ve ever had.  Disclaimer: this was back from August 2009, so our style of shooting and editing has changed a bit since then.  Read on below!


August 27, 2009

A few months prior, I did a Malaya shoot of super nice, aspiring photographer Pam.    So pretty!


She really dug our style, so she asked to book family portraits for herself, her boyfriend Chris and their 6 year old daughter Paris.   Due to Chris’ insane travel/work schedule, it took another 3 or 4 months before we were able to coordinate a shoot day.

The day of their shoot rolls around and I wake up late, due to a gig the night before and see that I missed eleventy billion phone calls from Pam and Chris.  I panicked, assuming an emergency came up, but when I finally got in touch with Chris, he told me he had a BIG surprise planned that he wanted us to capture.  And so, through a few more sneaky phone calls,  we devised a loose plan which included a series of signals and semi-code phrases to use when the time/place was right.


Btw, huge style points to all of them!  They were a perfect example of coordinated yet fashionable outfits that didn’t need to resort to that whole white shirts and khaki pants standard.   I honestly don’t know how Chris wore a sweater vest with a long-sleeved shirt in that heat, but it worked out well!

Such a beautiful family.  They were so fun to shoot too; willing to try anything and not taking themselves too seriously:



Here’s their satire of those uber-serious family portraits.  Little Paris is a pro, she went w/ the flow of whatever her parents were doing and pulled it off perfectly.  She was a total sweetheart too:


They wanted a fair amount of real moments and ended up buying this next photo as a huge canvas wrap.   I heart their choice because it’s definitely reflective of how they are as a family and it’s an unusual (in a good way) pick for an enlargement.  It’s pretty sweet having clients who think out of the box…or frame, as it is.  Oh and I believe what led to Paris’ laugh in this photo was her dad asking, “Hey, remember that time you farted on your mom’s neck?” Classic.


This was the last location on our photoshoot, so it was time for the “big show”.    Chris gave us the signal and we responded in affirmative with our code phrase, “We’re going to change our lenses” –  we actually did change lenses, to buy a little bit of time and get everyone in place.  Meanwhile, Chris nervously chain smoked cigarettes while Pam and Paris were completely oblivious.  Finally, we got all of them into position and stood there awkwardly for a moment (I honestly wanted to yell, “Do it now!!” but thankfully, refrained) and then, to Pam’s complete and utter shock…


I remember her being so caught off guard, she asked him, “Why are you doing this here?” not realizing that we were all totally in on it the whole time and it was set up.   She hugged me twice afterward.  And look how cute and stoked Paris is for her parents…this photo was so precious, they chose it as the cover to their engagement album:


So CONGRATULATIONS to Pam and Chris on their engagement and big ups to Chris for having the foresight to do it during a photoshoot.  Not many people get their proposal caught on camera, let alone professionally, so I thought this was a pretty awesome way to put a ring on it.   Here they are, freshly engaged:



We were super excited for them to see their photos, so there’s a quickly edited slideshow up I did the day of, if you’d like to see more:

– Cies

April + Ken | Halekulani Waikiki Beach Wedding Photography

DCPG is starting a series of daily themed blog posts! Let’s see how long we can keep this up! Did you miss yesterday’s Tips Tuesday? Click here!

This Wedding Wednesday post puts me in a glass case of emotion!! Why? Well, the bride is Rina’s best friend of 27 years and honorary 4th Parrilla sister, we spent Christmas + the wedding day in Hawaii, the wedding itself was every single thing I love – intimate, warm, beautiful, hilarious and full of great food and music and again, we were in HAWAII.   As Rina would say, this wedding gave me life.

The months prior to April and Ken’s wedding were crazy busy; we shot a bunch of weddings in the fall, then did a lot of traveling for both work and pleasure (NYC, LA, DC). I actually flew out of Atlanta to Hawaii because we attended a surprise party/family reunion down in Auburn, AL (War Eagle!) a few days before the wedding. Long story short, I was bummed to leave my family behind but at the same time, very, very ready for an island getaway. Rina attended alone as well, so we made it into a sister trip (and by sister trip, I mean we did nothing athletic/touristy and instead ate and drank our way through Waikiki).


Rina did April’s hair and makeup, so she was technically a vendor as well.  Or as Auntie Anna awkwardly and hilariously introduced us at Christmas dinner, we were April’s “friends with benefits!”.   The pre-ceremony prep team was just Apes, Rina and myself in her Halekulani suite. It was like a baller island version of our 80’s era sleepovers, with food, 20+ year old inside jokes and laughing so hard we were all crying.  Between April’s parents trying to “baon” her leftover room service bread, Rina’s MUA lunges and April and I making nerdy Lord of the Ring’s references, it was so fun and definitely did not feel like work. While Rina beautified April, I took advantage of the gorgeous hotel room and photographed her wedding finery.

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Rina kept April’s makeup clean and classic, letting her cute freckles shine through; she looked amazing.

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While April and Rina were finishing up, her awesome coordinators and I went to find Ken and give him a heads up on the first look process and scout locations.  We found him and choose a lush green courtyard area and put him in position for April’s reveal.  We were all quiet as April walked up, but right before she reached Ken, she broke the ice by blurting out, “Ya’ll Ready For This?!” (yes, the classic Jock Jams song).  We were all rolling with laughter, Ken was wow’ed by his stunning bride and they were adorable together.  One of the funniest and sweetest first looks I’ve ever photographed.

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As to be expected of Hawaii, the weather was a cloudless 80 degrees the entire time.  She and Ken tied the knot outdoors on the Hau Terrace of the amazing Halekulani hotel on Waikiki Beach.  I particularly loved the terrace as a ceremony location because we had great views of the water and surrounding landscape, I didn’t have to trudge around in the sand, plus I was able to plug in my studio lights and use them during the ceremony for an extra pop of light.  The wedding colors reflected the natural beauty of Hawaii;  the ocean blue of her Badgley Mischka shoes and Halekulani’s branding plus the orchid-inspired fuchsia, forest green and dark brown of the wedding party attire.  It was pitch perfect palette for a Hawaiian wedding.


I loved this moment between April’s dad Ed, Ken and April where he gently reminded them to take care of each other before he stepped away.  This mini-speech and his speech later at the Reception were simple and beautiful.  For a guy who once stood on their driveway in only short shorts and a cowboy hat for the specific purpose of embarrassing whichever family member came home next, the restraint was admirable (we’ve got lots of Uncle Ed stories; he’s awesome).

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One fun things about photographing your close friends is the occasional eye contact they’ll make with the camera.  I laughed when I saw this during my initial review of the photos:

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April and Ken’s officiant Kahu Bruce was such a joy to work with.  He was probably one of the most photographer-friendly wedding officiants I’ve experienced.  He performed a spiritual Hawaiian ceremony with touches of Catholic, which was new to me, but he was kind enough to make a point of gesturing or making eye contact to me if something significant was happening and welcomed my occasionally close proximity (another reason I like small weddings).  There was lots of laughter during the short ceremony and I loved how he made them say “forever, and ever, and ever and ever” louder and louder.

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April laughed and cried her way through the entire ceremony and here was a great little moment where Kahu Bruce let her take a break to grab an extra tissue from Rina since she ran out so quickly. That’s what best friends are for!

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They ended the ceremony with a flower petal shower followed by a lei ceremony where April and Ken gave us all lei’s as a thank you for attending (cue the “We got lei’d!” jokes here).

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With a wedding party that was less than 15 people, we all sat together at a one long table festooned with classically beautiful touches like floating candles and orchids.  The elegant bamboo styled chairs were  a great dark accent to the white linens and made the fuchsia and green really pop.  The floor to ceiling windows in the dining room allowed for panoramic views of the gorgeous sunset.

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Midway through the cocktail hour, I grabbed Ken, April and Rina (for lighting assistance) to go down to the beach for some sunset portraits.  The beach was already small and littered with tourists, so we encountered mini Jason Mraz’s everywhere:


We worked fast; a kind passerby told us a boat would be landing where we were very shortly, so we snapped some shoreline shots.  Ken’s huge smile stayed on his face for the entire wedding; it very sweet to see how happy he was on their wedding day.


The reception was short and sweet as well, with most of the time spent mingling and enjoying each other’s company.  Ken’s family and friends made up the bulk of the attendees but they were all warm and friendly and Rina and I really enjoyed our time with them, as well as with April’s family, whom we’ve known forever. David Asing played guitar and sang during the ceremony and reception, which I thought was the right touch for such a small wedding party.  And of course, where there is a guitar and a Parrilla, there will be song! April’s mom alerted David that we were singers, so he graciously handed his guitar over to Rina so she could serenade her BFF. She sang “At Last” by Etta James and it was, per usual, amazing. I overheard Ken’s mom say, “I’d choose her for my best friend, too!” So adorable. You can watch the quick video here (please enjoy the beautiful voice and ignore the terrible filming quality and plates clanging!)


Oh and the FOOOOOD (said in my best Oprah voice).  Halekulani’s restaurant was rated 5 stars by Forbes and we can attest to that quality because, man, that was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  I was sitting next to all the kids in the wedding, so I took advantage of their picky eating (and the fact they were filling up on never-ending bread) and ate their and my share of ahi tuna poke.  Also, Rina and I have food allergies and the Halekulani staff went above and beyond making sure our food was safe for us; I am thankful for their attentiveness and kindness.  April’s wedding giveaways were french macarons, which are traditionally made with almond flour, but she had them create a nut-free version specifically for Rina since she is deathly allergic.  Rina was so touched at the gesture and overjoyed because she was able to try a food that is usually completely off limits.

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These photos are mere highlights of an amazing day that none of us will ever forget and I am eternally grateful to April and Ken for trusting me with documenting this day for them.


All the vendors and details are below; if you are getting married in Waikiki PLEASE contact all of them, they were all amazing to work!

– Cies


Wedding Day Vendors*:

Tips and Tuts Tuesdays | First Look

DCPG is starting a series of daily themed blog posts! Let’s see how long we can keep this up! Did you miss yesterday’s Meet DCPG Monday? Click here to meet Carrie!

Our Tuesday blog series will be tips and tutorials! I’m hoping the “tutorial” part will get the dudes more involved w/ the blogging, but for now, we will start with just the tips. (Side note: ew.) Today’s topic:  First Looks

I am thankful that the First Look is becoming a frequent wedding trend.  We LOVE them so much and have been trying to get people to do them for years! For the uninitiated, a First Look  is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time prior to the wedding and, if time permits, take a few couple portraits before all the wedding madness begins.

Why should you do a First Look? Your personal reasons may vary, but here are the advantages we’ve observed from both a photography perspective and yours:

  1. Typically, a wedding timeline has both parties arriving to the ceremony venue an hour or two prior to the ceremony.  If you do a First Look, we can make the most of that idle time.  Aside from your couple portraits, since you won’t have to be separate, we can also photograph some family portraits and bridal party portraits as well.  This way, post-ceremony won’t have to be so packed with picture taking and you may actually get to breathe a bit before diving into the reception.
  2. Addendum to the item above: Photographing the bridal party in particular prior to the wedding means they are less antsy (bridal parties have a “school’s out for summer!” mentality the second the ceremony is over) and probably/hopefully not drunk yet.
  3. A lot of anxiety can build when you are nervous, but can’t seek comfort from the one you love most on your big day.  A First Look gets that nervousness out of the way and gives you both a chance to talk together, touch, laugh and settle your nerves.
  4. A wedding is a whirlwind where you are surrounded by people for 12 hours straight, so a First Look gives you a truly intimate moment for just the two of you to look into each others eyes, embrace and quietly reflect on the enormity of the day without a 100 people watching you. Like a pre-game huddle with two people!
  5. Hair and makeup is at its’ freshest point here, which is great for photos :) Also, if you were secretly worried about ugly crying face in front of your guests, a First Look allows you get that out of the way privately and still leave you time to wipe your nose and/or touch up your makeup before the main event!
  6. From what we’ve seen; a First Look doesn’t diminish the emotions of seeing each other walking down the aisle.  If anything, we’ve noticed the smiles are bigger since neither of you are nervous anymore.

As my lovely recent bride/sister from another mister April Mac said,

“In what was sure to be a busy day, we knew that the moments where it was “just us” would be few and far between. Doing a first look gave Ken and I the opportunity to steal a moment that was just for us. And I am so glad we did it. It set the tone for the rest of the event…intimate, warm, and full of love.”

A First Look might not be for everyone, but we hope you at least think about it for your wedding day! Either way, we are happy you chose DCPG.   Thanks again for reading and stay tuned for tomorrow, which is Wedding Wednesday.   This Wednesday we are blogging April and Ken’s beautiful, intimate Hawaiian wedding.

Stay warm, friends!

Meet DCPG Mondays | Carrie

Being that our last blog post was in October, I think it’s safe to say we are terrible at blogging regularly.  We brainstormed over the snow days and came up with a different theme (or two, depending on the day) for each weekday to at least give us a starting point so we’re kicking off the new year with Meet DCPG Mondays!!

If you’re familiar with DCPG, you’ve probably discovered that there are a LOT of us; 10 in total.  We started out as just family, but added some close friends as new associates over the years.  I decided to give the inaugural post to my sister Carrie since I had her come up with the silly survey questions and she and our little sister Rina are the two people who have worked for us the most over the last 9 years.

Meet Carrie in her own words:

1. When you’re not twerking DCPG, what is your day job? I’m an apprentice instructor at IMPACT Martial Arts Academy and an apprentice entrepreneur at Virginia Benefit Corporation, Norfolk Fair Trade Company.

2. If you were on death row, describe your last meal and drink. Southern Comfort Foods. My aunt Jeanne’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, collard greens, and baked macaroni and cheese with a gallon of Chick-Fil-A’s sweet tea and Left Hand Milk Stout in the bottle. Mint chocolate chip gelato in a waffle cone.

3. If you were on Death Row Records, what would your rap name be? It’s a tie between C-Note (thanks, Uncle Sino!) and Sweet Riot.

4. If you could have an artist alive or dead follow you around and provide your theme song, who would it be? Wu – Tang forever, baby.

5. Which actor would you like to portray you in your biographical movie and why? Aziz Ansari because I feel like he’s more vulgar Indian male version of myself.

6. Name three things that drive you absolutely crazy. Weak and flaccid hugs. The current lyrical content of unintelligent hip-hop and r&b. People who are inconsiderately condescending.

7. What are three things you are madly passionate about? Facilitating learning and growth (geek alert!). Effervescently encouraging people especially children. “Loving the crap out of everything.” – The Optimism Revolution

8. The title of your autobiography is “A Fun Sized Memoir : My journey with Jesus into womanhood and martial arts”

9. Formulate your spy alias by adding your favorite adjective + your childhood best friend’s first name +your favorite rapper/MC’s stage name.    Delightful Jewel Q-Tip

10. Shirts or skins? Game, blouses.


11. My favorite thing about DCPG is…working with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Carrie through DCPG’s eyes:

Carrie is what I lovingly call the James Franco of our group because she enthusiastically dabbles in a million different things that are dear to her.  She’s an entrepreneur, mental health advocate, mama, honeybadger, martial artist, poet, etc and so on! Not only is she a multi-hyphenate mama, she is also the kindest, selfless and most humble person you will ever meet, who is more than happy to greet you with a tackle hug, even if you just met 10 seconds ago.


You’ve probably seen this beautiful face delivering your album to your door, guiding you through the photobooth, or snuggling your baby while I set up lights at a Baby Steps session.  Or perhaps you’ve seen her when we post her annual TreatYoSelf portrait session:



Which over the years has morphed into the annual Bad Ass Extravaganza with our bro Costa:


Or you’ve seen her and Costa as teachers/students at IMPACT Martial Arts Academy:


You may have also seen her at Last Tuesday’s or Fuzzy Wednesdays blazing the stage with her poetry, either solo or part of all-girl music/poetry supergroup, Parks & Wrecks.   She would be too modest to tell you, but she has a great singing voice too; it’s bluesy in this awesome Amy Winehouse way.  Btw, big thanks to Neleh for permission to use this photo :) (I don’t have any of these pics because I”m on stage w/ Carrie, haha)

Photo by Neleh Sawsiengmongkol


Or perhaps you’ve seen her enthusiastically telling you about B-corps and selling beautiful fair trade items in Downtown Norfolk’s cultural gift store, Norfolk Fair Trade Co with her mini-me Cordie usually in tow:


I mentioned at the top that she is a mental health advocate and with her permission, I wanted to post this photo of her and her late husband and Cordie’s dad, Christopher, who they lost to suicide 10  years ago.  I mention him because although she doesn’t let the term “widow” ultimately define her or overshadow her life,  she still honors him by being candid and passionate about bringing more light to mental health and suicide related  issues.  A few links she wanted me to mention:

  1. AFSP
  2. Stop Soldier Suicide
  3. To Write Love On Her Arms
  4. Ransomed Heart Ministries

Thanks for reading and happy Monday!