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I created this Blog for the sole purpose of providing value. You'll get tips & tricks from my latest portrait sessions & events here at Cheryl Bigman Photography, along with personal life stories that resonate. I hope you enjoy this Blog as much as I enjoy creating it...

Got Kids Coming Home from College for the Holidays?

November 25, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Got Kids Coming Home from College for Winter Break?

Planning to Travel Anywhere for the Holidays?

Inviting Family & Friends over for Thanksgiving?


Little Girl Tossing Fall LeavesLittle-Girl-Tossing-Fall-LeavesLittle girl anticipating the joy of tossing fall leaves into the air right before Thanksgiving.


It's the day before Thanksgiving. Most colleges are starting Winter Break this week. I've already seen many of your posts on social, SO excited to have your kids back home for the holidays. I honestly thought I would be right there with you!

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my doctor how to safely have my daughter (yep, that's my girl ~12 years ago) back in my home after being at college, going through 2 airports, and sitting on a plane for 6 hours. Here is what she said. Take what you need and do what you feel is best for your family.


Protocol for Kids Coming Home from College

From my doctor...

"Safe family gatherings do get complicated in the time of Coronavirus.

The ideal plan would be for her (my daughter) to quarantine for the 14 days before she comes home.  And then wear her N95 on the airplane, no eating while on the flight, hand sanitizer etc. Bring an insulated tumbler with a hard straw that she can fill up with water after she is through security so she can sip water by slipping the straw under the mask if she needs to hydrate.   Her apartment mate should also be extremely careful during those 14 days since they live together. Do they work from home or will they have to go into work? If they have to go to work outside the home then they should be masked 100 % of the time and not be around anyone who is not masked and  keep social distance.. 

She can do a COVID  Nasal Swab 3-4 days before she leaves Michigan, so she has the results before she gets on the airplane.

When she first gets home I would advise both of you to wear masks in all common areas . Have her use a separate bathroom if available. Weather permitting eat outside.

Then she can retest after she is home for 4-5 days. Schedule an appointment for her well in advance. After her 2nd COVID test comes back negative then you can be fairly confident that you are safe to be around her without a mask.  

For visiting  your parents, having her wait 14 days after she arrives would be safest."

(Add another COVID test before getting on the plane back to Michigan. And possibly and fourth test 4-5 days after returning.)


Our Decision

If you've listened to the news lately, you know about the recent (and predicted) surge in COVID cases, and the recommendations not to travel for the holidays this year. But when it comes to our own kids, the thought of not having them home for the holidays is heartbreaking, and unfathomable!

My daughter and I agonized over whether or not she should come home from Michigan. I have not seen her in a year. We've NEVER gone this long without seeing each other. I miss her terribly. Her grandparents miss her terribly.

After a long tearful video chat, we both decided it wasn't worth the risk. I'm gutted. But I keep telling myself this is temporary. Vaccines are coming. And eventually, we will feel safe to travel again.




Do What is Right for You

I'm not one to be preachy. I realize many of your kids have plans to come home or are already here. So please do what feels right for you and your family. But take precautions. This surge is no joke. Our college kids are the "wild cards" in our families. I know I would feel horrible if my daughter or I unknowingly exposed anyone to this nasty virus.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comments. No judgement. But I'm sure I'm not the only college parent thinking about this!


Wishing you all a healthy and safe Thanksgiving!


Much love,



My Heart Attack Story - Lessons Learned

September 13, 2020  •  7 Comments

"You're a healthy, young 57-year old woman with no risk factors. Your EKG is NORMAL. You are NOT having a heart attack."

Those were the words a paramedic said to me on the way to the hospital on Sunday, September 6, 2020.

Here's the rest of the story...

My-Heart-Attack-StoryMy-Heart-Attack-StoryMy heart attack story at 57 years old due to coronary spasm (prinzmetal angina).


Photographing a Bar Mitzvah!

As an Event Photographer during a time when most big events have been cancelled due to COVID, I was ECSTATIC to spend my Labor Day weekend photographing a Bar Mitzvah. It was outdoors with just close family and friends in Los Gatos, CA on one of the hottest days of the year.

Outdoor-Bar-Mitzvah-During-CovidOutdoor-Bar-Mitzvah-During-CovidAn outdoor Bar Mitzvah with close friends and family during the time of COVID. By San Francisco Bay Area Photographer Cheryl Bigman.

About an hour in, I began having chest pains. I just had an EKG & Echocardiogram a few weeks prior - ALL NORMAL - so thought it was probably from the extreme heat. Plus, I just lost ~20 lbs!

But as the day went on, the chest pain and pressure became more intense, and began radiating into my neck, jaw, and down both arms. "Crushing" is such an appropriate description. I got a hotel room to cool off and rest before the evening celebration and felt a little better, but as soon as I left the room, the symptoms came back.



I somehow managed to make it through the event and drove myself back home (about an hour). Still not convinced I was in trouble, I took a shower and went to bed. Stupid.

The next morning, I still felt off and knew something was very wrong. I googled all my symptoms over and over again, and finally called 911. Paramedics immediately hooked me up to an EKG and told me all looked normal, and I was NOT having a heart attack. They gave me baby aspirin and Nitroglycerin spray 3x, and the chest pain subsided.


IMG_0826My-Hospital-Stay-Coronary-SpasmMy hospital stay after suffering a heart attack due to coronary spasm at 57 years old.


The ER

Once I got to the ER, things moved rather quickly. I have to mention - the paramedics told the ER admitting staff that my EKG was normal, and half-jokingly mentioned I used WebMD to look up my symptoms!

The ER doc ran labs & EKG again, and told me my heart enzymes were VERY ABNORMAL.

Troponin - the measure of damage after a heart attack - is normally < 0.5 ng/ML. Mine was 14.9! My EKG only showed a subtle abnormality.

Then came the words I'll never forget...


You are being admitted.

We are taking you to the cath lab for an angiogram.

We will probably find at least one blockage and place a stint to fix it.


A swarm of people began prepping me en route to the lab, and even attached the "paddles" in case things went south. I've never been so scared in my life!

What they found was a Coronary Spasm (click on the link to learn more) in a small branch of arteries that cut off blood flow to my heart.

No other blockages found. Injected Nitroglycerin directly into the cath, the spasm relaxed, and the blood started flowing again. Crazy!


Hospital-Room-View-My-Heart-AttackHospital-Room-View-My-Heart-AttackView from my hospital room after heart attack at 57 years old from coronary spasm.


After 2 days in the hospital, I came home a bit battered and bruised, but physically ok. And feeling lucky to still be here!


When Your Dad Cries, You Know...

I think I finally realized the gravity of the situation when my father came over to visit. While hugging him goodbye, he broke down in tears. My father - the hard-ass, disciplinarian, perfectionist I grew up with. Turns out he is the most sensitive, caring, man I know.


The Mental Game

I've since learned that Coronary Spasm (also called Prinzmetal Angina or Vasospastic Angina) is rare and chronic, not a one-off event as I initially thought. Still not even sure this is what I have, but I'll know more soon.

While ok physically, the mental game is a different story. It was one of those "That will never happen to me" moments.

At first, I just couldn't process it. Didn't want to talk about it. Didn't want to write about it. Didn't want to think about it. Just wanted to go back to "normal".

After a week of rest, I've finally started coming to terms with the fact that I had a life-threatening event. A trauma. And I need to deal with it. I decided to share my experience publicly with the sole intent of possibly helping someone else prevent a disaster. The outpouring of concern and gratitude was overwhelming.


Cardiac Blues

I know I am not alone with feelings of fear and uncertainty after experiencing a heart attack. "Cardiac Blues" is an actual thing. For some great info/resources on Cardiac Blues, click this link - Australian Centre for Heart Health .

Here are Normal Reactions to a Cardiac Event:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Worry
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Relief

For Women - Heart Disease is the #1 Killer

We don't want to leave our responsibilities, we tend to dismiss our symptoms, and we delay getting treatment. I was actually cleaning up the house and paying bills before I finally called 911! What the hell???

And sometimes, even medical staff dismiss our symptoms. I'll never forget that paramedic making light of the fact that I googled my symptoms on WebMD before calling 911.


Here's a few things I've learned:

  • Heart attacks are not always text book pain on the left side only. Mine was in the center of my chest and bilateral down both of my arms.
  • Heart attacks are not always caused by blockages of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Coronary Spasm is a chronic condition that occurs in only 2% of people with angina (heart pain). Most never know they have it unless it causes heart symptoms or worse like mine, a heart attack!
  • Symptoms of heart attack in women can be VERY different than men, sometimes with no pain at all.
  • Women are more likely to delay going the ER than men which can be deadly.


What Does this Mean for the Rest of My Life?

I still have SO many questions about how this is going to affect my life going forward. I've always believed in living life with no regrets, yet here I am, not knowing if I can still do all of the things I love to do, and pursue all of the dreams still left to pursue.

I had plans to start taking small groups on safari in Africa. My personal lifelong dream has always been to spend time with the mountain gorillas in Uganda. Gorilla trekking trips are strenuous. I've been putting it off, and then COVID hit, and now this. Am I too late???

These are the thoughts running around in my head. For now, all I can do is learn as much as possible about what I have. This week I have follow-up appointments with my cardiologist and have my list of questions ready. My number one goal is to get back to an active, healthy lifestyle. I can tell you for sure, I will never take my health for granted again!


Have You Experienced a Heart Attack or Other Life-threatening Event?

Do You or Someone You Know have Coronary Spasm?

Please leave a Comment here about your experience. Coronary Spasm is rare, and I would love to connect with anyone else who has it.



I will continue to update you on this personal story, along with my regular photography content. If you'd like to make sure you don't miss an update, please Subscribe by entering your email in the Subscribe Box at the top of this post. The Blog will be delivered right to your inbox.

Much love,


How to Make your Virtual Special Event a Success - My Experience Photographing a Zoom Bar Mitzvah

July 15, 2020  •  1 Comment

To Zoom or Not to Zoom Your Special Event?

Zoom-Bar-Mitzvah-Family-CelebrationZoom-Bar-Mitzvah-Family-CelebrationA family interacting with their virtual guests while live-streaming their zoom bar mitzvah. Captured candid moment by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.

If you have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Wedding, or other special event scheduled this year, you may be asking yourself,

"Should I pivot to a virtual event or postpone?"

While at first it may seem disappointing to "settle" for a virtual event, the idea of postponing until next year brings a whole other set of questions:

  • Will family and friends feel comfortable coming to our big celebration with 100+ guests by next year?
  • How do we even know how far out to postpone?
  • Will we still be able to use our same venue, photographer, DJ, and other vendors on our new date? And what happens if we have to postpone again?
  • How important is it to us to have a big party?

For Bar & Bat Mitzvahs:

  • Will my child still be excited to have their Mitzvah next year after all the months of preparation?
  • Will they feel like they are "too old" by next year?


As a San Francisco Bay Area Event Photographer, I've had numerous conversations about this with my own Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Wedding clients. To be honest, at first I had mixed feelings about pivoting to virtual events. But it wasn't until I actually got to photograph my first Zoom Mitzvah that I realized what a great choice virtual events can be!


Max's Zoom Bar Mitzvah!

I photographed Max's Zoom Bar Mitzvah in June 2020 - and it was AMAZING!

In fact, it was intimate, emotional, and every bit as meaningful as the 100's of traditional Mitzvahs I've photographed.

Virtual-Zoom-Bar-Mitzvah-ServiceVirtual-Zoom-Bar-Mitzvah-ServiceProud family watches their son become a Bar Mitzvah during his virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah.

I documented his special day in my usual storytelling style. The story may have been different than originally planned, but the feelings were exactly the same.

Happy-Tears-for-the-Bar-Mitzvah-BoyHappy-Tears-for-the-Bar-Mitzvah-BoyMom gets emotional with tears of joy during a proud moment at her son's virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah. By Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Zoom-Bar-Mitzvah-Family-MomentZoom-Bar-Mitzvah-Family-MomentA Bar Mitzvah boy is surrounded by his loving family as they interact with their virtual guests during his zoom Bat Mitzvah.

And now I get to share my experience and helpful tips with all of you! Here's how our day went:

Photography Timeline for the Day:

Before the Service - Zoom Test with Clergy, Lighting/Sound Check, Photograph Decor/Details, Candid Getting Ready Shots

The Service - Very much like a synagogue service with all the same candid moments of Max and his family

After the Service - Zoom guests "unmuted" to say Mazel Tov, candids, great reaction shots!

Family Portraits - In a shaded area of the front yard! (Could also be done before the service for better light.)

Themed Photo Shoot - Max's theme was basketball, so of course, we had to create some cool street photography of him doing his thing in his favorite hoodie and Jordans! Made his day even more special!

Luncheon Candids


Tips for a Successful Zoom Event

Creating "All the Feels"


Create a paper or electronic invitation announcing the change to a virtual event with date, time, and instructions on how to join. Send reminder the day before. Here are some great examples: https://www.mitzvahmarket.com/mitzvah-ideas/how-to-word-bar-bat-mitzvah-postponement-cards/



Use decor inside and outside your home with a theme just like you would for a traditional event. If you don't have time, an event planner can help you.

Bar-Mitzvah-Decor-Basketball-ThemeBar-Mitzvah-Decor-Basketball-ThemeBasketball themed Bar Mitzvah decor for a virtual zoom event held inside the family home. Photographed by Cheryl Bigman Photography.


Basketball-Theme-Table-Decor-Bar-MitzvahBasketball-Theme-Table-Decor-Bar-MitzvahTable decorations for a basketball themed Bar Mitzvah using childhood photos. Photographed at a virtual stay at home zoom event by Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Bar-Mitzvah-Boy-after-his-Virtual-Zoom-ServiceBar-Mitzvah-Boy-after-his-Virtual-Zoom-ServiceCOVID-19 didn't stop this Bar Mitzvah boy from celebrating his big day with a virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah at his home. Balloon letter decor added to the celebration.


A Few Live Guests

Invite just a few close family members to be there live - SAFELY- if you're comfortable. Personal choice.


Special Touches

  • Gift Bags - Send to family & friends with mini-challahs, custom/themed kippahs, candy to throw, & signs to hold up.
  • Mazel Tov/Congrats Signs - Send guests a Google or Word doc with Signs they can print out themselves to hold up at the end of the Mitzvah.
  • Candy Throw - Tell guests to throw candy at their screens when prompted.
  • Micro-Hora - Whoever's there lifts the chair! Prep some traditional Hora music to play.
  • Video Montage - Play it for your virtual guests by screen sharing in Zoom.
  • Special Calls - Arrange private video or voice calls with special family and friends to "socialize".
  • Themed Photo Shoot - A talent, hobby, sport, favorite outfit change, or anything your Bar/Bat Mitzvah is into!

*** Prep your virtual guests in the invite with anything special you'd like them to do.


The Candy Throw and Mazel Tov Signs

Virtual-Bar-Mitzvah-Candy-ThrowVirtual-Bar-Mitzvah-Candy-ThrowA boy is surprised when all of his virtual guests throw candy to say congrats at the end of his zoom Bar Mitzvah. Zoom-Bar-Mitzvah-Congrats-SignsZoom-Bar-Mitzvah-Congrats-SignsA family holds up congrats signs at the end of a zoom virtual Bar Mitzvah along with all the virtual guests.


Zoom Guest Congrats

At the end of the service, unmute virtual guests so everyone can say congrats!

Zoom-Bar-Mitzvah-FamilyZoom-Bar-Mitzvah-FamilyA boy and his family interacting with all of his virtual guests during his zoom Bar Mitzvah. By Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Virtual-Bar-Mitzvah-Family-HelloVirtual-Bar-Mitzvah-Family-HelloA family says hello to all of their virtual guests while celebrating their son's zoom Bar Mitzvah.


Themed Photo Shoot

Max's favorite part of the day was changing into his hoodie and Jordans, and doing a basketball-themed photo shoot!

Basketball-Boy-Street-PhotoBasketball-Boy-Street-PhotoStreet photography of a boy playing basketball in his hoodie and Jordans. By Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Dribble-that-Basketball-Street-PhotoDribble-that-Basketball-Street-PhotoStreet photography of a boy dribbling a basketball in his hoodie and Jordans. By Cheryl Bigman Photography.


Lunch or Dinner

Order your favorite Take-Out, make a favorite homemade dessert, and do NOT forget this... It's my favorite challah in the San Francisco Bay Area from Woodside Bakery and Cafe in Menlo Park.

Giant-Frosted-Challah-with-Rainbow-SprinklesGiant-Frosted-Challah-with-Rainbow-SprinklesGiant frosted challah bread prepared for a stay-at-home Bar Mitzvah from Woodside Bakery and Cafe in Menlo Park, CA. Photo taken during a virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah by Cheryl Bigman Photography.


For Fun

Movie Night, Game Night, Dessert-Making Contest, and if you're comfortable, outdoor Socially Distanced Get-Together with a small group of family or friends.



The Techie Side


Stay-at-Home-Zoom-Bar-MitzvahStay-at-Home-Zoom-Bar-MitzvahA zoom bar mitzvah service at home with a small group of close family. Photographed by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Designate a Zoom Manager

The last thing you want is to accidentally hear a Zoom guest's private conversation, or worse yet, see them doing something inappropriate! Appoint a friend or family member to manage your Zoom experience from their own laptop. Your synagogue, church, or DJ may do this for you. The Zoom Manager should:

  • Set up your Zoom event with security controls to prevent "Zoom-bombing" - just Google it for details, it's not hard :)
  • Explain Zoom rules to guests before the service starts.
  • Mute and unmute Zoom guests as appropriate - Ex. If a Zoom guest is participating in the service.


The Setup

This is a two-light setup with extra fill from a window. I recommend turning OFF overhead lighting.

Virtual-Bar-Mitzvah-SetupVirtual-Bar-Mitzvah-SetupA virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah with a few close family members in person and the rest on zoom. Ring light, desk lamp, and usb microphone help to make everyone look and sound their best. Custom kippahs go with the basketball theme.


Position your laptop so the camera is at eye level or higher for the most flattering angle. You can see in the above photo how the laptop is on a few upside-down baskets.


Lighting... is EVERYTHING

Adequate lighting is the key to looking good on the other end of a Zoom event.

Here are some great light sources:

  • Natural Window Light - Face a large window with open-shaded light, not direct sunlight. North-facing is ideal. If it's too bright, consider hanging a light sheer drapery or bed sheet over the window to soften the light.
  • Desk Lamp or Table Lamp with shade off - These can work great, but I tend to use as a 2nd light source.
  • LED Ring Lights - Great option for even lighting and come in a wide range of prices. 

Key Features to Look for in LED Ring Lights:

  • Adjustable Brightness - dimmable lights give you more control
  • Adjustable Temperature (or filters) -  warm, natural, and cool skin tones
  • AC Power (vs. USB) - gives you more power
  • Tall adjustable light stand - most come with a stand, but make sure it's tall enough to light your face when you're standing
  • Swivel/Tilt head - gives you more options to creatively light yourselves, not just straight on.


Here are some Ring Light options with great reviews:

Good Quality

Neewer 18-inch SMD LED Ring Light Dimmable Lighting Kit with 78.7-inch Light Stand, Filter and Hot Shoe Adapter for Camera Photo Studio LED Lighting Portrait YouTube Video Shooting - Neewer is a well-known reliable brand and offers a whole line of ring lights.


Less Expensive, but Still Great Features

EICAUS 10” Ring Light with Stand and Phone Holder, Cell Phone Tripod with Ring light for Live Streaming/Makeup/Photography, Compatible with Phones and Cameras(Black)



Lighting Setups

The goal is to make sure everyone in front of the Zoom camera is evenly lit. Experiment with different setups to see what works best in your environment at the exact same time of day as your event. Here are some examples of One-Light and Two-Light Setups.

One-Light Setups:

  1. BIG window facing you with even soft light. Diffuse with a sheer panel if needed.
  2. One large LED Ring Light (14" or larger) either just to the side of your laptop at eye level OR above your laptop and pointed down slightly (works great if you need to reduce eyeglass reflections too).


Two-Light Setups:

Set up one light ~45° to the left and the other ~45° to the right of where you will be standing.

  1. Two LED Ring Lights
  2. One LED Ring Light, One Desk lamp or Table lamp with shade off
  3. One LED Ring Light, One big window


Pro Lighting Tips:

  • Do NOT have your back to a window! You will turn into a shadow.
  • Avoid direct overhead lighting. It's unflattering and can create wacky skin tones. THIS is the one thing I would have changed in Max's setup.
  • Match temperature - When using Two-Light Setups, try to match the temperature if possible. Many ring lights have a few temp settings. Ex. If you're using a tungsten table lamp, it will give you warm skin tones so adjust your ring light to a warmer setting to match the temp.
  • Stand back a bit from your laptop camera. The light emitted from your laptop is usually much cooler than your other light sources, and will cause whoever is right in front of it to have a cooler skin tone than everyone else.
  • Bounce! - Another light source - If you have a light colored wall facing you, either white or grey, use it as a reflector by pointing a light source such as a desk lamp directly at the wall. Soft light will "bounce" back onto your faces!



Laptop Built-in Microphone vs. External Microphone

While your laptop has a built-in microphone, and Zoom does a decent job adjusting that sound, the quality is not nearly as good as an external microphone. Zoom gives you the option to use an external mic.

The easiest to use are USB microphones that connect directly to your laptop. You can attach what's called a "Microphone Windscreen" or "Pop Filter" to eliminate or reduce that annoying noise "P' sounds make in the microphone (called "plosives").

Popular USB External Microphones:

Blue Yeti USB Mic


Foam Microphone Windscreen for Blue Yeti - Aedor Quality Sponge Mic Cover as a pop filter for Blue Yeti


Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (ATR Series) - I use this one for my own Zoom meetings, currently less expensive than the Blue Yeti


Studio Microphone Mic Wind Screen Pop Filter/ Swivel Mount,360° Flexible Gooseneck Holder


Do a Test Run!

  • Well in advance of your big day, do a test run with Zoom and all of your equipment. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Mark the exact spot(s) for placing lights and microphone with blue painter's tape.


Family Portraits

Just like a traditional Mitzvah, it's important to take time either before or after the service for professional family portraits, even if it's just your immediate family. We kept it simple by finding the best spot in the front yard for all of Max's portraits.


Bar-Mitzvah-Boy-in-BlueBar-Mitzvah-Boy-in-BluePortrait of a Bar Mitzvah boy after his virtual zoom bar mitzvah by Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Bar-Mitzvah-Family-PortraitBar-Mitzvah-Family-PortraitFamily portrait taken after a virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah service at the family home by Cheryl Bigman Photography. Bar-Mitzvah-Boy-and-GrandparentsBar-Mitzvah-Boy-and-GrandparentsProud grandparents hug for a family portrait after their grandson's virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah. By Cheryl Bigman Photography. Family-Portrait-after-Zoom-Bar-MitzvahFamily-Portrait-after-Zoom-Bar-MitzvahA Bar Mitzvah boy surrounded by his extended family celebrating after his virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah. Family portrait by Cheryl Bigman Photography. Bar-Mitzvah-Boy-and-his-CousinsBar-Mitzvah-Boy-and-his-CousinsFamily portrait of a Bar Mitzvah boy and his adorable cousins. Taken after his virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah by Cheryl Bigman Photography. Bar-Mitzvah-Boy-and-his-MomBar-Mitzvah-Boy-and-his-MomMom giving her boy a big hug after his virtual zoom Bar Mitzvah. By San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Is a Virtual Event Right for You?

If you decide a Virtual Event is for you, I hope you now feel reassured that your event will still be just as special, and you find this Blog helpful as you plan all the details. If you know anyone who's planning a virtual event, please feel free to share this Blog with them.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out in the comments. And if you have any experience planning or attending a virtual event, please share with the rest of us!


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Photographing Sunflowers near the San Francisco Bay Area - Tips & Tricks

June 29, 2020  •  3 Comments

Photographing Sunflowers - Tips, Tricks, & Pics

Photographing fields of sunflowers in Northern California has been on my bucket list for a LONG time! But personal projects always seem to take a back seat. Can you relate?

Being a full-time Family, Senior Portrait, Bar & Bat Mitzvah, and Wedding Photographer here in the San Francisco Bay Area doesn't leave a lot of free time, but with all the recent changes in the event industry, personal projects have become my therapy.

SOOOOO, last weekend on Father's Day, I invited my dad (a photography enthusiast himself) to check off that bucket list item, and join me on a photo shoot in the sunflowers.

Sunflower-Field-Fisheye-ViewSunflower-Field-Fisheye-ViewA sunflower field at sunset with a different view. Photography tip - Use a fisheye lens to give a unique, artistic, look to your landscape photography. Try tipping the fisheye lens at different angles for even more creative fun. Use elements such as these two trees for added interest.


The Key to Great Sunflower Photos

Catching sunflower fields at their peak is the key to great photos. Selecting a location for our shoot took a lot of googling and searching through Instagram and Facebook. I finally selected M3 Ranches (also called Muller Ranch) in Woodland, CA.

After our shoot, I realized just how tricky photographing the fields can be. And now, you get the benefit of my experience!

Here are my top Tips & Tricks with example photos to help you get the best possible sunflower shots.

Sunflower-Panoramic-Woodland-CASunflower-Panoramic-Woodland-CAPanoramic crop of a sunflower field in Woodland, CA. Photography tip - when the sky is too bright, shoot low and fill the frame with our subject. The crop as a panoramic.


General Tips for Photographing Sunflowers

  • Ask permission from ranch owners whenever possible.
  • Always be respectful of their private property.
  • Bring extra shoes or rain boots - Fields can be muddy from irrigation.
  • It's HOT! Sunflowers love the heat. Bring a cooler with water, wear a hat, etc...
  • Bees - Sunflower farmers need bees to pollinate the fields which means bee hives. They are less active at sunrise & sunset. They don't bother you if you don't bother them.
  • Mosquitos - Bring insect repellent. After sunset, these guys are pesky!


Where to Find Sunflowers:

Yolo County is the place to be! Here are a few of the best sunflower fields.

M3 Ranches (Muller Ranch) - Woodland, CA - Great trees in the middle of the field at sunset. A bit off-the-beaten-path. Check their Facebook page for sunflower updates and dm them for permission.

Here are the exact coordinates on Google Maps to take you right there: https://goo.gl/maps/wJb5jFD8fvs62LSSA

Dixon, CA - 8747 Currey Rd, Dixon, CA 95620 - Check online for reviews first as I read this field was cut down early this year. But photos look amazing!

UC Davis - I've read you'll find sunflower fields driving on the outskirts of UC Davis.


When to Go:

July is typically when sunflowers peak in Yolo County. But this year, M3 Ranches planted early, so mid-June was ideal. Keep checking websites as peaks vary year-to-year.


Time of Day:

SUNSET! Colors pop, flowers are backlit, and fewer bees. Midday light is way too harsh. We arrived an hour before sunset to shoot close-ups and details until the light softened.

Sunflower Trivia (and photography tip) - Did you know sunflowers follow the sun? They actually face the direction of the sun... until sunset that is. That's when they turn back away from the sun, waiting for it to come up again the next morning. And that's why you see them facing the camera in these shots!

Backlit-Sunflower-Field-at-Dusk-Woodland-CABacklit-Sunflower-Field-at-Dusk-Woodland-CASunflowers turning away from the sun as it sets behind them. 3M Ranches in Woodland, CA has the perfect sunflower field for creating backlit shots at sunset with the benefit of trees for added interest. Photography tip - use a wide angle lens to capture the vastness of the scene in a large landscape photo like this.


Photography Tips for Shooting Sunflowers

Gear I used:

Camera - Canon 5D MkIII

Lenses - 16-35, 24-70, 70-200, Fisheye (and if you like super close-up shots with bees, bring a Macro lens!)

Tripod - Gitzo

Nice to Have - ND (Neutral Density) and/or Polarizing filter. I did not use filters, but with bright backlight in a cloudless sky, would be very useful.

Wish I Had - Ladder! Forgot to bring one. With tall sunflowers, would have been cool to get a higher perspective. Over the head works if you're not vertically challenged like me!


How to Shoot:

  • Go for Variety
  • Tight shots of small groups of flowers, play with composition
  • Closeups of individual flowers
  • Shoot Low & Fill the Frame - especially when the sky is still bright and boring
  • Wide Shots - Once the sun gets low on the horizon, go WIDE, use other elements to add to your composition (trees, buildings, fences, etc...), envision a panoramic crop
  • Starburst - When the sun is partially obstructed by trees or sunflowers, this is your opportunity to add a cool starburst to your composition. F/11 is the ticket, shooting directly into the sun
  • Look at the Sky - If you have a cloudless, bright sky, turn around and see where the best colors are as the sun sets. It may not be right in front of you. Adjust your position to have the best possible sky, and still get the sunflowers in the shot the way you want.
  • Don't Leave Too Early! - Tripods allow you to shoot when it gets darker using slower shutter speeds. Your best shots will be from the time the sun sets to when the sky dims and better matches the light on the sunflowers. All of my sunset pictures taken on a tripod were at ISO 100, F/11, with shutter speeds from 1/60 to 10 seconds
  • Rule of Thirds - Compose your shots so horizon is on a third, and any additional elements are on a third (where lines intersect). And sometimes, it's ok to break the rule!


  • Fisheye Fun! - If you have this lens, go for it! Play with tipping the lens up and down vertically for different looks. Very cool.


Here are some examples:

Tight Shots, Playing with Composition

Sunny-Sunflowers-Woodland-CASunny-Sunflowers-Woodland-CAComposing photos of sunflowers in a large field can be challenging, but this stalk of flowers had the perfect artistic composition. Get low with your camera when the sky is bright and fill the frame with the flowers.


Wide Shot - Panoramic Crop

Panoramic-Sunflower-Field-at-SunsetPanoramic-Sunflower-Field-at-SunsetA wide angle landscape photo of a sunflower field at sunset with a panoramic crop. 3M Ranches in Woodland, CA is the perfect place to capture these beautiful sunflowers. Photography tip - Get creative by composing your shot using added elements such as this tree and the rule of thirds.


Shoot Low - Fill the Frame when the sky is too bright

Sunflowers-at-Dusk-Woodland-CASunflowers-at-Dusk-Woodland-CAJust before sunset, sunflowers face away from the sun. Close-up sunflower photo taken at 3M Ranches in Woodland, CA by Cheryl Bigman Photography.


Starburst Effect

Sunflower-Landscape-with-StarburstSunflower-Landscape-with-StarburstLandscape photo of a sunflower field at sunset at 3M Ranches in Woodland, CA. Photography tip - Create a starburst effect when the sun is partially blocked by trees by setting your aperture at f/11 and shooting directly into the sun.


Fisheye Lens

Sunflower-Field-Fisheye-ViewSunflower-Field-Fisheye-ViewA sunflower field at sunset with a different view. Photography tip - Use a fisheye lens to give a unique, artistic, look to your landscape photography. Try tipping the fisheye lens at different angles for even more creative fun. Use elements such as these two trees for added interest.


My primary goal for this shoot was to get great landscape shots, but I was a little sad that I didn't spend more time getting close-up macro shots. Next time!


Leave a Comment

I hope you enjoyed this Blog as much as I enjoyed creating it! Have you ever spent time in the sunflower fields? Have you found a great location?

Leave a Comment and tell me all about it!


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A 50-Something Birthday Blog - And Lavender Fields

June 19, 2020  •  2 Comments

Yesterday was My Birthday...

What is it about birthdays anyway? Especially birthdays after 50? Yesterday, mine was number 57 to be exact.

Yikes! How did this happen??? (And why did I just tell the whole world my age?)

I've always prided myself in thinking young. Doesn't hurt that I spend every weekend photographing 13-year olds dancing their faces off at Bar & Bat Mitzvah parties! I know all the current music, dances, and yes, I even like hip-hop!

But this year, all that has changed. I haven't photographed a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in almost 4 months. And I miss it terribly!

I also haven't traveled anywhere since my photo assignment in Africa last December. And I miss that terribly too!

These are my passions - my therapy. And with all the uncertainty in the world, my "photo therapy" is on hold!


#57 Isn't all Gloom and Doom. Quite the Opposite!

Plateau-of-Valensole-Lavender-FieldPlateau-of-Valensole-Lavender-FieldBreathtaking landscape photo of an endless lavender field at the Plateau of Valensole in Provence, France featuring a typical provencal stone building. Taken at sunrise while teaching a photography workshop.

Yesterday, I decided to take another look through all of my travel pictures and start working on adding a Fine Art section to my website. That's when I realized I never wrote a Blog about the incredible photography workshop I led in Provence!

With so much going on in our world at the moment, seems trivial to even talk about travel. But for many, travel is like therapy.

  • It takes you out of your day-to-day routine.
  • It broadens your view of the world, and the diversity of people in it.
  • And sometimes, it forces you WAY out of your comfort zone. 


Maybe if more of us traveled the world, we would have greater tolerance for our differences, and more empathy for injustices against those who are different from ourselves.


SOOOO... Here is your photo therapy for the day - Part I of the Provence Blog.


The Lavender Fields of Provence

Plateau de Valensole

Woke up at 4:30am to drive to this famous spot before sunrise. SO worth it! My clothes smelled like lavender for weeks. Oh, how I miss that smell!

Diagonal-Lavender-Field-Scenic-ProvenceDiagonal-Lavender-Field-Scenic-ProvenceFrench countryside with lavender field at the Plateau of Valensole, Provence, France. Diagonal leading lines in the field take you to a typical provencal stone building. Photo shot at sunrise while teaching a photography workshop.


Abbaye de Senanque - Our First Day, and Our First Lavender Sighting!

Abbaye-de-Senanque-ProvenceAbbaye-de-Senanque-ProvenceAbbaye de Senanque with a small field of lavender. First lavender sighting while teaching a photography workshop in Provence, France.

Abbaye-de-Senanque-Provence-LavenderAbbaye-de-Senanque-Provence-LavenderA portion of Abbaye de Senanque with lavender field in foreground. This provencal landmark is a beautiful stone structure surrounded by lavender fields. Taken while teaching a travel photography workshop in Provence, France.

Busy Bees

Bee-Pollinating-Lavender-ProvenceBee-Pollinating-Lavender-ProvenceClose-up shot of a bee pollinating lavender flowers. Shot while teaching a photography workshop in Provence, France at the Abbaye de Senanque.

Another Beautiful Lavender Field -  Love the Trees!

Lavender-Field-with-TreesLavender-Field-with-TreesScenic lavender field with lone tree in foreground and forest in background. Taken in Provence, France while teaching a travel photography workshop.

Lavender-Field-of-ProvenceLavender-Field-of-ProvenceLow angle depth of field landscape photo of a beautiful lavender field in Provence, France. Taken while teaching a photography workshop. Lavender-Field-Detail-in-ProvenceLavender-Field-Detail-in-ProvenceA close-up detail shot of a purple lavender flowers taken in Provence, France while teaching a photography workshop.


Provencal Market Day in Bonnieux

Bunches-of-Lavender-at-Provence-MarketBunches-of-Lavender-at-Provence-MarketThe scent of freshly harvested lavender fills the air at an outdoor market in Provence, France.

Lavender Field at Dusk

Lavender-Field-at-Dusk-ProvenceLavender-Field-at-Dusk-ProvenceLavender fields in Provence turn a deep purple color at dusk as the sun sets. Taken while teaching a photography workshop.


I sincerely hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I enjoyed creating them. Someday we will all be able to travel to our dream destinations once again. I will be SO ready! How about you?

Leave a Comment and tell me where you want to go first!


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Lessons from the Class of 2020 - A Letter to You

May 31, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Lessons from the Class of 2020 - A Letter to You


Dear Class of 2020,

First off, BIG congratulations to all of you graduating seniors (and 8th graders, kinders, and preschoolers too)! Such a huge accomplishment, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

For many of you, this week should have been filled with all the fun senior activities leading up to Graduation Day.

Alexa - Class of 2020, San Ramon Valley High School
Senior-Portrait-Girl-Danville-CASenior-Portrait-Girl-Danville-CACustom high school senior portrait taken at Oak Hill Park in Danville, California by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


My first reaction was to feel sorry for you. I remember how exciting and fun my last week of Senior year was. Such a special time!

Being a Senior Portrait photographer here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I've had the opportunity to talk with many of you (and your parents) about how you've handled the disappointments.

I have to say, I've been SO impressed by the Class of 2020!

In fact, I think you are handling it better than us parents! We don't always give you enough credit for your resilience and ability to adapt to change because WE want to fix everything. While there's no way to take away the disappointments, most of you have accepted the things you cannot change, and found new ways to celebrate. 

Maddie - Class of 2020, Monte Vista High School

Senior-Portrait-Girl-in-PlaidSenior-Portrait-Girl-in-PlaidHigh school senior portrait of a girl dressed in red and black plaid. Taken in Danville, California by San Francisco Bay Area Senior photographer Cheryl Bigman at Hap Magee Ranch Park.


The Class of 2020 Advantage

Always remember that even though it wasn't what you expected, graduating in the Class of 2020 is actually a HUGE advantage. You have learned really important life lessons in a way that no other graduating class has learned.

  • How to deal with major disappointment
  • How to adjust expectations
  • How to adapt to change
  • How to persevere through adversity to reach your goals

These lessons will serve you well in college, your future career, and throughout your adult life!


Alysa - Class of 2020, Granada High School

Senior-Portrait-GirlSenior-Portrait-GirlRustic high school senior portrait of a girl under the arch of an old adobe building at Alviso Adobe Park in Pleasanton, California. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


While there is still uncertainty about college campuses opening up in the Fall, hopefully you'll all be able to move on to the next chapter in your journeys as planned. I have NO DOUBT that whatever happens, you will adapt just fine. You have already proven your resilience and determination in the face of adversity!

So again, BIG congrats!!! I wish you all the very best, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for you!


Virtual Hugs,



5 Tips for Epic Senior Portraits...during a Pandemic

May 21, 2020  •  1 Comment

Class of 2020 - This was supposed to be YOUR YEAR!


You were looking forward to Senior Ball, Graduation, Grad Night, and getting epic Senior Photos to share with friends...

Then came a global pandemic like nothing we could have ever imagined. And everything stopped.

By now, you may be adjusting to the new norm, but nothing can take away the disappointment of losing all the things you were looking forward to for the last 4 years.


Mind Shift

No doubt, it's a sucky situation! But there is another way to look at it - if you're willing. After all, graduating high school in the middle of a global pandemic after being forced to stay home, take classes online, (and see none of your friends) is a HUGE accomplishment that deserves to be recognized! So what can you do?

How about creating a Custom Senior Portrait Experience with a professional photographer! I'm not talking about studio fake drape cap & gown shots. Think cool locations, fun outfits, your hobbies, talents, sports, and maybe even the family pets! Even with current social distancing guidelines, you can still have an amazing Senior Portrait Experience!!!


HIgh-School-Senior-Portrait-GirlHIgh-School-Senior-Portrait-GirlCustom high school senior portrait by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman in black and white.


Here's what you need to know:

5 Tips for Epic Senior Portraits - from a San Francisco Bay Area Photographer

  1. Before the Session - Set up a virtual (or in person) meeting with your photographer to plan the details of your session (style, locations, clothing, etc...).
  2. Decide on Locations that match your Style (ex. natural/park/rural, urban/downtown/city, grunge/graffiti, artsy/architectural, beach, etc...)
  3. Make it Personal - Incorporate the things you're into (sports, hobbies, interests, pets), cap & gown, and college logo gear (clothes, banners, college town momentos).
  4. During the Session - HAVE FUN WITH IT!!! Your best pictures will be the ones where you're not looking stiff and posed.
  5. After the Session - Meet with your photographer for a virtual (or in-person) Ordering Appointment where you can see your pictures up on a big screen, and look at samples of all the cool things you can do with our pictures.

    * For the Girls - Do professional hair & makeup. Your pro photographer should have hair & makeup artists they regularly work with.


Here's a few portraits from a recent Senior Portrait Session, all done at a local park with 5 different outfits... and socially distanced.

High-School-Senior-PortraitHigh-School-Senior-PortraitCustom high school senior portrait by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Senior-Portrait-StylingSenior-Portrait-StylingHigh School senior portrait girl showing off her sense of style. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Monte Vista High School.

Senior-Portrait-GirlSenior-Portrait-GirlCustom high school senior portrait by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Senior-Portrait-Ready-for-CollegeSenior-Portrait-Ready-for-CollegeHIgh School Senior portrait of girl proudly wearing her new college logo shirt. By San Francisco Bay Area senior photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Senior-Grad-Portrait-Cap-and-GownSenior-Grad-Portrait-Cap-and-GownCustom high school senior portrait in cap and gown by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Monte Vista High School grad.

Senior-Portrait-Girl-Black-and-WhiteSenior-Portrait-Girl-Black-and-WhiteCustom high school senior portrait by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman in black and white.


Senior-Portrait-CloseupSenior-Portrait-CloseupHIgh School Senior portrait closeup shot by San Francisco Bay Area senior photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Celebrating-Graduation-PortraitCelebrating-Graduation-PortraitHigh school senior portrait of a girl celebrating in her cap and gown. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Monte Vista High School grad.



What to Look for when Choosing a Professional Senior Photographer

  • Genuinely interested in getting to know YOU - your personality, what you're into, style, etc...
  • Offers a pre-shoot Consultation (virtually or in person) to plan the details of your Senior Portrait Session.
  • Customizes your session vs. doing the same boring cookie-cutter shots for every client.
  • Willing to travel to multiple shoot locations, allow several outfit changes, and be flexible on time.
  • Gives you suggestions on locations that match the look and feel you're after.
  • Meets with you for an in-person (or virtual) Ordering Appointment, showing you samples of all the things you can do with your Senior Portraits.
  • Offers both Senior Portrait Packages and a la carte options that include unique high-quality custom products.



Things to Consider - Portraits in the Age of COVID-19

With restrictions slowly loosening, here are some things to consider in order to stay healthy during your portrait session:

Photography Equipment - Make sure your photographer has a long telephoto lens to get close up shots while remaining socially distant.

Location - For now, I'm choosing locations which don't typically have a lot of other people in close proximity. Consider locations closer to home.

Bring a Mask - Most seniors aren't interested in taking portraits with a mask on, but you should still keep one on hand in the event you run into other people.

Bring Hand Sanitizer/Wipes - To use before & after session. As always, don't touch your face.

Do what makes you comfortable - We all have our own comfort levels with regards to keeping healthy and safe during this unprecedented time. Do NOT do anything that feels risky or uncomfortable. A professional photographer should never put you in an unsafe situation!



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When Life Gives you Lemons... a Bat Mitzvah Story

May 12, 2020  •  1 Comment

When Life Gives You Lemons... at 13

Imagine being 13-years old, working hard for a year or more learning to chant from an ancient text in a foreign language, preparing to teach a lesson about your interpretation of this text to an entire sanctuary filled with your family and friends, some of whom travelled great distances, and planning an amazing party to celebrate your accomplishment. And then, a global pandemic hits. Your entire event is cancelled.

No Bat Mitzvah.

No party.

No family and friends coming together to celebrate with you.

Sadly, this is the reality for most of my 2020 clients.

For my client Naomi, this past Saturday was supposed to be the day of her Bat Mitzvah. I had already photographed Naomi's big sister's Bat Mitzvah about a year and a half ago, and I knew how much Naomi was looking forward to her turn. Heartbreaking for the entire family.


Making Lemonade

Thankfully, Naomi's mom reached out to me on Saturday to see if I'd be willing to do an impromptu, socially distanced portrait session in her backyard. After two months of photographing NO ONE, I could not wait to do this for Naomi and her family!

Bat-Mitzvah-PortraitBat-Mitzvah-PortraitBat Mitzvah portrait of a girl, taken on the day her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By Bar Bat Mitzvah photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Rosie getting in on the action...

Bat-Mitzvah-Portrait-with-DogBat-Mitzvah-Portrait-with-DogBat Mitzvah portrait of a girl and her pet dog, taken on the day her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By Bar Bat Mitzvah photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Gotta love those high tops!!!

Bat-Mitzvah-Portrait-with-Pink-RosesBat-Mitzvah-Portrait-with-Pink-RosesBat Mitzvah portrait of a girl sitting on brick steps in a rose garden on the day her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By Bar Bat Mitzvah photographer Cheryl Bigman.


The whole family dressed in the clothes they had bought just for Naomi's big day, and the girls did their hair and makeup. While it wasn't the same as having an actual Bat Mitzvah, the portrait session definitely helped lift everyone's spirits on what otherwise would have been a sad day. Of course we had to include the family pets, Russell and Rosie, which made it even more fun (although I think they thought I was nuts with all the crazy sounds I had to make to get their attention)!

Bat-Mitzvah-Family-Portrait-with-PetsBat-Mitzvah-Family-Portrait-with-PetsBat Mitzvah family portrait with pet dogs taken on the day their Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Mother-Daughter-Bat-Mitzvah-PortraitMother-Daughter-Bat-Mitzvah-PortraitBat Mitzvah mother daughter portrait taken on the day her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Father-Daughter-Bat-Mitzvah-PortraitFather-Daughter-Bat-Mitzvah-PortraitDaddy Daughter Bat Mitzvah family portrait taken on the day their Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Sisters-Bat-Mitzvah-Family-PortraitSisters-Bat-Mitzvah-Family-PortraitPortrait of a girl and her big sister taken on the day her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


How did we do It?

In order to comply with current social distancing guidelines, we made sure to stay at least 6 ft. apart which was no problem thanks to my very long zoom lens, and Naomi's large backyard. And of course, we all had masks on hand. So you know we had to do these...

Bat-Mitzvah-Family-Portrait-Coronavirus-StyleBat-Mitzvah-Family-Portrait-Coronavirus-StyleBat Mitzvah family portrait wearing face masks, taken on the day their Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Bat-Mitzvah-Family-Portrait-FacemasksBat-Mitzvah-Family-Portrait-FacemasksBat Mitzvah family portrait wearing face masks, taken on the day their Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Big sister Lindsay, all grown up since I photographed her Bat Mitzvah!

Portrait-of-a-Teenage-GirlPortrait-of-a-Teenage-GirlPortrait of a teenage girl. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Teen-Portrait-Girl-in-a-Rose-GardenTeen-Portrait-Girl-in-a-Rose-GardenPortrait of a teen girl sitting in a pink rose garden with brick steps. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Once we finished all the dressy family pictures, it was time to change into a more casual look...

with Russell & Rosie...


Portrait-with-the-PupsPortrait-with-the-PupsSisters pose for a family portrait with their two pet dogs. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Rosie got a little camera shy...

Camera-Shy-PuppyCamera-Shy-PuppyA camera shy puppy hides her face during a family portrait session with her big sisters. Taken by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Beautiful Naomi.

Tween-Girl-Portrait-in-PinkTween-Girl-Portrait-in-PinkBat Mitzvah portrait of a girl sitting on brick steps in a pink rose garden on the day her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Black & White or Color???

Sisters-Portrait-in-Black-and-WhiteSisters-Portrait-in-Black-and-WhitePortrait of two teenage sisters in black and white. By San Francisco Bay Area family photographer Cheryl Bigman.

Sisters-Portrait-in-Pink-Rose-GardenSisters-Portrait-in-Pink-Rose-GardenPortrait of two teenage sisters sitting in a pink rose garden. By San Francisco Bay Area family photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Last bit of golden hour light (with help from an off-camera flash).

Portrait-of-a-Tween-Girl-in-PinkPortrait-of-a-Tween-Girl-in-PinkPortrait of a tween girl casually laying on the grass during the last few minutes of golden hour light.


It's Part of the Story

As weird as these times are, it's part of the story of Naomi's Bat Mitzvah. A BIG thank you to Naomi's mom for asking me to do this for her.

Naomi's story will be continued on a rescheduled date later next year...


And these pictures will forever be a reminder of the day we chose to turn lemons into lemonade.


Have you had to cancel your special event this year?

I feel for you. Our lives have really been turned upside down, and I totally empathize with all of you who have been dealing with the uncertainty and disappointment of cancelling a special event. If there is ANYTHING I can do to help you and your family get through this challenging time, please don't hesitate to reach out!


If you have any great advice for others in the same boat, PLEASE SHARE IN THE COMMENTS!


And most importantly, please stay healthy!!!



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The Day I Got Charged by an Elephant

May 01, 2020  •  1 Comment

The Day I Got Charged by an Elephant

Elephant-Herd-under-Baobab-TanzaniaElephant-Herd-under-Baobab-TanzaniaAn elephant herd enjoys the shade of a beautiful baobab tree in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa. By Cheryl Bigman Photography while on a photo assignment.

As many of you know, last November I was lucky enough to land a photo assignment in Africa which included the safari experience of a lifetime! We spent the better part of a week in Tanzania observing and photographing animals in the wild. The one animal we saw every day was the elephant. Herds of elephants! It was wildlife photographer paradise!


At first, I was amazed by how casually they seemed to walk right past our safari vehicles without a care in the world. Elephant-Crossing-TanzaniaElephant-Crossing-TanzaniaAn elephant crosses the road near a safari vehicle in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa while photographers take pictures from the roof. By Cheryl Bigman Photography while on photo assignment.


Many of them were tinged with the reddish orange color of the soil.

Elephant-Tarangire-TanzaniaElephant-Tarangire-TanzaniaA wild elephant covered in red dust from the soil in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Photographed on assignment by Cheryl Bigman Photography.


Tarangire National Park's lush green landscape and beautiful Baobab trees made the perfect setting to photograph all the wildlife. Those babies... SO CUTE!

Elephant-Family-with-Baobab-TreesElephant-Family-with-Baobab-TreesAn elephant family passes by beautiful baobab trees and lush green landscape in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa. By Cheryl Bigman Photography while on a photo assignment.


We were even lucky enough to stumble upon a playful group of adolescent elle's splashing about in a watering hole. Quite entertaining!

Elephant-Swimming-Hole-Tanzania-1Elephant-Swimming-Hole-Tanzania-1Juvenile elephants play in a swimming hole in Tarangirie National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Captured by Cheryl Bigman Photography while on a photo assignment with Topguides Safaris and Topguides Bush Camps.

Mama's watching... Elephant-Swimming-Tanzania-2Elephant-Swimming-Tanzania-2Juvenile elephants play in a swimming hole in Tarangirie National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Captured by Cheryl Bigman Photography while on a photo assignment with Topguides Safaris and Topguides Bush Camps.

Snorkling anyone? Elephant-Swimming-Tanzania-3Elephant-Swimming-Tanzania-3Juvenile elephants play in a swimming hole in Tarangirie National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Captured by Cheryl Bigman Photography while on a photo assignment with Topguides Safaris and Topguides Bush Camps.

The last to get out, this little guy had a full on temper tantrum complete with trumpeting when the adults told him, "Time to go!". Elephant-Swimming-TanzaniaElephant-Swimming-TanzaniaJuvenile elephant plays in a swimming hole in Tarangirie National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Captured by Cheryl Bigman Photography while on a photo assignment with Topguides Safaris and Topguides Bush Camps.


By the end of our safari, we all fell in love with the elephants!

But then...


The Moment my Heart Stopped!

My travel buddy and I were running a bit late to catch our flight out of Tanzania, so our guide Victor offered to drive us to the airport in his own personal car.

But before we could get out of the park, we hit a BIG roadblock... an elephant! She was happily snacking on a bush while standing in the middle of the road.


The video you're about to see pretty much says it all. In the beginning, it was funny. Victor was talking to the driver of the safari vehicle right next to us about what we should do. At one point you can hear him say, "Twende" which means "Let's Go" in swahili.

But the driver was too afraid to pass, so we all just parked.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited for this elephant to move off the road. Time was ticking away!


Finally, Victor decided we needed to try something else to get this elle out of our way. Elephants have very poor eyesight, but they can hear from 2.5 miles away! So began the clapping.


What happened next was one of the most heart-stopping moments of my life.

Here's the video I managed to shoot with my phone... go Full Screen, Sound ON!


I can't even explain how HUGE this elephant looked as she came at us in our little Toyota. It's times like these when having an expert guide like Victor is invaluable! I'm sure he knew all along it was most likely a fake charge (right Victor?), and thankfully the elephant never actually hit us.

But damn, she came close!


And then she went right back to enjoying her bush (and blocking the road), giving us a few side eyes before finally crossing the road.


So then What Happened?

What you don't see is when the other vehicle's driver decided to "go for it", and drive around us and the elephant. All I saw was the back end of this enormous beast chasing down the safari vehicle at a speed I could have never imagined. I think I was so freaked out by being charged, I didn't have the presence of mind to keep recording!


You Cannot Put a Price on Experience 

Needless to say, I have a whole new respect for the "wild" in the word "wildlife"! And how important it is to do your research when booking a safari like this. There are a LOT of safari companies out there with less experienced guides who do not have the same level of knowledge about animal behavior as Victor and his team at TopGuides Bush Camps and TopGuides Safaris have. I completely trusted them to keep everyone safe while getting us close enough to capture amazing photographs.


Guides-Topguides-Safaris-TanzaniaGuides-Topguides-Safaris-TanzaniaThe talented guides from Topguides Safaris and Topguides Bush Camps in Tanzania, Africa pose for a portrait during the last sundowner of our safari in Tarangire National Park. By Cheryl Bigman photography.


When are you Going Back to Africa, Cheryl?

Well.... before worldwide travel came to a screeching halt, I was offered the opportunity to take my own group of travelers on an African safari with Victor and his team! I had just started the process of putting together the trip of a lifetime for a small select group - a truly custom boutique travel experience. I honestly can't think of anything more enjoyable than sharing the incredible experience of being together on safari! Those of you who have already done it know exactly what I'm talking about. Africa is just one of those places that calls you back again and again!


With some patience, we will all get back to traveling to our dream destinations once again. And I will definitely be back to Africa, sharing the experience with some of you!



What's on Your Bucket List?

NOW is actually a great time to revisit your own "bucket list" of travel destinations! My list is a long one, but my #1 dream trip is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda! (I know, I'm a little crazy.)


Tell me what's on your list in the Comments!


Below is a list of questions to help you start planning your next dream vacation.


Until we can travel again, please stay healthy and safe!

Much love,




Questions to Think about when Planning your Next Travel Experience:

What time of year can you travel and for how long?

Will you travel with kids or adults only? What ages?

Do you want a high-end, mid-range, or low-budget experience?

What level of activity are you comfortable with?

What destinations intrigue you?

What are your interests?

  • art & culture
  • architecture
  • history
  • immersive experience with the locals
  • wildlife
  • volunteerism/conservation
  • adventure/sports
  • guided tours vs. on your own
  • foodie trips
  • wine experiences
  • solo travel

NEGATIVE for COVID-19 - A Lesson Learned about Community

April 23, 2020  •  2 Comments

NEGATIVE for COVID-19... A Lesson Learned about Community

COVIDTestResultsCOVIDTestResultsLab results after testing negative for COVID-19.

It's been a crazy few weeks! As you saw in my last Blog post, I finally got tested for the coronavirus after 2 weeks of fever, cough, fatigue, etc... To say it was a scary time is an understatement! But through it all, I learned one very important lesson.




I admit it - I'm stubborn. I'm independent. I'm a perfectionist.

Asking for help doesn't come easy.

When our shelter-in-place order began, I took responsibility for helping out my aging parents. I did their grocery shopping, ran errands, and yes, scored toilet paper!

But when I started having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, my doctor ordered me to self-quarantine. Suddenly, I could no longer be that person for my parents.


Sharing Personal Experience

The night before my COVID test, I hesitantly shared my very personal thoughts here, and then made a heart-wrenching video right after taking the test (you can view it here).

The video was raw, emotional, and captured what happens when real fear bubbles to the surface.

My intention was to emphasize the importance of staying vigilant about doing all the things we need to do to keep ourselves and those around us safe. But the response was completely unexpected. I think when something like this happens to someone you know, things get REAL!


My posts were flooded with comments from all of you expressing concern, sending well wishes, and offering to help. Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness you all showed. One comment in particular really hit home:


"170. I think that’s what it said. 170 people pulling for you. Sending their love and strength. A community you’ve cultivated who care about you."


A community I've cultivated? Never thought of it that way before.


Over the last 15 years of being a professional photographer, I've met SO many incredible families, event industry colleagues, photography educators, and international tourism professionals. We've shared some of the most important times of our lives together.


While you don't all know each other, you know me. And I know you. And we are a Community!

(Ooh, that sounded way too much like a "Barney" song - Sorry!)


We NEED More Kindness

We NEED More Compassion

We NEED Each Other

We ALL have communities that we can lean on in difficult times. We just need to reach out and LEARN TO LET PEOPLE IN. It took a catastrophic event for stubborn me to get it. But community along with kindness and compassion is what keeps us sane during tough times.

We need each other now more than ever!


What Can I Do?

Since my "corona scare", I've been thinking a lot about how we can provide value to each other, and for me, it has nothing to do with taking your picture. It's all about creating connection.

Starting this week, I've been calling people in my community just to say hi and see how you they're doing. Many of you did this for me, and it meant more than you know. Most importantly, it meant none of us have to go through this alone.



If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, if you need help, or if you're just F'ing DONE with all of this, maybe it's time for some "CoronaTherapy" a.k.a. reaching out! Chances are whoever you reach out to will be needing connection just as much as you, and will be SO grateful that you took the time to do it.


So THANK YOU for being my community!

Leave a comment even if it's just to say "Hi"!

I miss you all and look forward to the time we can all be together again.


And here's a little quirky CoronaTherapy Humor c/o my parents... Thanks Mom and Dad!

Kay-Pruitt-DIY-Face-Mask-TutorialKay-Pruitt-DIY-Face-Mask-TutorialKay Pruitt diy face mask tutorial humor.


Much love,




What is it Like to be Tested for COVID-19?

April 15, 2020  •  1 Comment

What is it Like to be Tested for COVID-19?

Yesterday, I experienced it firsthand. In a word, AWFUL!!!

Awful not just because it's so physically uncomfortable. Awful because it plays with your mind.

I really thought I was handling all of this ok, considering I might actually have coronavirus. But after going through the test, I LOST IT!

Every emotion I'd been holding in for the last 2 weeks came rushing out like a tsunami. All I could do was drive to a local park, sit alone in my car, and sob uncontrollably.

Because I want to keep it real with all of you, I decided to record my thoughts at that very real moment on video.


It's personal.

It's raw.

It's emotional.


I can barely re-watch it myself. I debated for hours whether or not to share it. I didn't want my parents to see it, especially after my father called me this morning in tears with so much pain in his voice, worried sick about me. Heartbreaking!

But if sharing my personal experience gets just one of you to NOT tempt fate, STAY vigilant on social distancing, and understand why we CANNOT "open up the country" before we have appropriate testing, I think it's worth putting out there.


So here it is... Please feel free to share, and leave a comment with your thoughts.


What-its-Like-to-be-Tested-for-COVID19What-its-Like-to-be-Tested-for-COVID19I made this video after being tested for COVID-19 on April 14th, 2020. I hope by sharing my raw, emotional experience, it helps you understand what it's really like to deal with the possibility of having the virus, and why we need to stay vigilant about social distancing.


Scared as Hell - The Night Before my Coronavirus Test

April 14, 2020  •  9 Comments

I wrote this Blog post in the early morning hours before being tested for COVID-19. I had the test at 11:30am, and recorded a video of my unexpected, very emotional reaction which I'll share with you in my next post, as well as on social media as I think it's important to see what it really feels like to go through it. We're all experiencing this pandemic in different ways. How are you dealing with it? Please feel free to share in the comments.

I'd like to thank all of you who reached out to me during this challenging time. It truly means the world to me and my family. Stay well!


Scared as Hell - The Night Before my Coronavirus Test

Waiting-for-Coronavirus-TestWaiting-for-Coronavirus-TestSan Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman in self-quarantine waiting for results of her coronavirus test.


It's 2:27am on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. I can't sleep and I'm scared as hell. After two weeks of feeling "off", I finally had to admit to my aging parents that I can no longer do their grocery shopping or run errands, and it's time to get help. Things just got real.



My symptoms started with a weird dry sore throat that felt like I swallowed gravel. Then a low grade fever off and on, body aches, headache, fatigue, and a dry cough that got progressively deeper in my chest. Being asthmatic, I knew it was time to call my doctor. Thankfully, I have the BEST! She's been closely monitoring me for the last 6 days, and yesterday she decided I should be tested for COVID-19.


Is it Enough?

Keep in mind, for the last 2 weeks, I wore a mask every time I went out. I used antiviral disinfecting wipes on everything before I brought it into the house, I wiped down all surfaces in my car, in my house, even the bottom of my shoes! I washed my hands until they cracked from being so dry. But if I end up having the big one, I caught it despite following all the guidelines. And I know I'm not the only one. Can't help but wonder if we all should have started doing this much sooner.


2nd Guessing

I can't tell you how many times I second-guessed myself before finally reaching out for help. When that fever suddenly disappears, you think, oh, it's all in my head. I'm just being paranoid. But when my asthma kicked in and I realized my rescue inhaler (which I haven't used in 2 years) had expired, I got scared. I called my Asthma doctor's office, but was told they couldn't refill my prescription without scheduling a telemedicine appointment. The first available was in three days! Really? My primary doctor refilled it immediately. These are the times when I am SO thankful to have a proactive health care provider!


Deep Dive Tomorrow

Covid-19Covid-19Covid-19 the novel coronavirus.

Tomorrow morning at 11:30am, I've been instructed to drive to my local hospital where they just started offering drive-up tests this week for the dreaded deep-dive nose swab. They're telling me my doctor will get the results in 48 hours. To be honest, I'm not sure what's worse - finding out I have it and worrying about things going downhill, or finding out I don't have it and still not being able to help out my parents because I'm sick with something else.



We're all still dealing with so much uncertainty which is stressful enough. But I have to admit, this totally threw me off my game! I'm pretty good at distracting myself with work (yes, still working on your albums, etc...), but if I'm being totally honest, I've really struggled with all of the unknowns...


  • My daughter is still at college out of state doing online classes, and may not come home.
  • My business calendar is completely cleared through the end of July.
  • I feel for all of you who have no idea when to reschedule your events.
  • More and more of you are losing loved ones, so I'm combing through all my event photos to send you what may be the last pictures you have of them.


I'll Keep you Posted

I know I've been completely MIA on social media for the last 2 weeks which is not like me at all! I just needed time to focus on figuring out what to do next. I'll hop on a Facebook and Instagram Live to give you an update as soon as I get my results. In the meantime, PLEASE stay vigilant and take good care of yourselves. I'm thinking about all of you and would love to hear how you're doing!


When Hearts are Breaking... What to Do if Your Event is Cancelled

March 27, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

My Event is Cancelled - Now What?

Corona-SelfieCorona-SelfieSolo trail walk during the novel coronavirus lockdown shelter in place in the San Francisco bay area of California. San Ramon.


The last couple of weeks have been filled with heartbreak as many of you have had to cancel, postpone, or reschedule your Bar & Bat Mitzvahs and Weddings. And if you're anything like me, you've been bombarded with emails from everyone you do business with, telling you it's all going to be ok. As much as we'd like to believe that and stay positive, the truth is, we just don't know how long this pandemic will last.

I want you to know I TOTALLY understand how trying this has been for so many of you. As your photographer, there's nothing worse than having to tell you that I'm booked on your rescheduled date!

So, thought I'd share a few practical suggestions to help you navigate changing plans for your upcoming event. And if you know anyone who could use this information, please pass it on.


Event ReschedulingEvent ReschedulingEvent rescheduling due to the novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

Things to Think About When Changing Your Event Date

  1. Prioritize what's important to you - the date, the venue, a particular vendor you really want to work with (DJ, photographer, etc...
  2. Ask your synagogue/service venue for a list of available dates.
  3. Be flexible on how far out you are willing to postpone. I'd hate for you to have to reschedule twice if this virus hangs on through August!
  4. Contact your party venue, and all of your vendors as soon as possible to see if they are still available on your new date. If you can give them a couple of options, even better.
  5. If a venue or vendor is not available, ask for referrals. All of us here in the SF Bay area event industry know each other, and we've worked in MANY different venues, so we're happy to help you however we can.
  6. Be open to something different. Some of my favorite events have been held in non-traditional places!



Be Gentle with Yourself

If there's one key piece of advice I would give you, it's to be gentle with yourself and your family. Months and months of planning have gone into your special day, and to have it all taken away is quite devastating for everyone.

Once things settle a bit, and you have a new date to look forward to, things will be better. And while the details of your event may not be exactly what you originally planned, the event itself will still be a wonderful celebration filled with the love of family and friends.

Stay safe, stay connected, and please feel free to reach out if there's anything I can help you with.

Much love,

Journey to Happiness - Thoughts on a Plane to Africa

February 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment


I wrote this blog last November 2019 while on my way to a photo assignment in Africa. It's personal. It's raw. But it's authentic. It's me. And maybe some of you can relate...


Thoughts on a Plane to Africa - How did I even get here?


Plane to Africa. Thoughts on happiness.Plane to AfricaBlog post from Cheryl Bigman Photography. Thoughts on happiness while on a plane to a dream safari in Tanzania, Africa.


As I sit through the final leg of my 24-hour journey back to Africa, I can’t help but feel emotional. It's kind of a miracle I'm even here! My lifelong dream has been to experience and photograph animals in the wild. I was lucky enough to co-lead a photography tour a couple of years ago in Namibia and got a taste of it, but the real highlight there is the desert landscape. This trip is all about the wildlife of Tanzania.


I know I don’t often share personal things here. But suffice it to say, my life has had many highs and many very low lows. It’s been a long journey of healing and finding my true calling. And the further along on this journey I go, the more thankful I am for the challenges life has thrown my way. It’s very easy to fall into the pity party trap, or the blame game when bad things happen. But at some point you realize you are so much stronger for having not only experienced those challenges, but survived them! And at that moment of realization, EVERYTHING CHANGES.


Fulfilling dreams has been my priority over the last 15 years. I decided a long time ago that REGRETS STINK, and I did not want to grow old having them. We all know someone who at the end of their life had regrets over things they did not say or do while they were still able. The worst!


Cheryl Bigman photography blogCheryl-Bigman-Thoughts-on-Happiness-BlogCheryl Bigman is a professional photographer and educator from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a published writer, and and leads photography tours internationally. Her blog features her latest work as well as personal inspirational stories.


My own journey through ending a broken marriage after 19 years, depression, eating disorders, major surgery, and a huge career change took time... and patience... and more patience. And now, at 56, I see the payoff in taking whatever time you need to heal and explore how to get to your next chapter. Once you feel that twinge of excitement about the dreams in your heart becoming a reality, you become fearless. There is no turning back. Happiness is all that matters.


That doesn't mean I don't still struggle from time to time. I do. That is real life. But I've learned that the long view is what keeps us moving forward in the direction of our dreams, and the short-term setbacks are what is necessary to make us strong enough to get there.


The key to real happiness is within all of us. Inevitably, it reveals itself through our life experiences. Some take longer than others to find it. But if you are open to the possibility. If you are willing to take the journey to get there with all of its unknowns. With all of its wins and all of its losses. YOU WILL FIND IT.



I know this is not the kind of thing I usually talk about here. I hope you find it useful and if you can relate, please share your thoughts in the Comments. I truly believe that by being open and vulnerable, we create space to grow and maybe even help someone else while we're at it. Don't be shy. I'd love to hear from you!


And if you'd like to see more personal posts like these, simply Subscribe to the Blog using the SUBSCRIBE box above. The Blog will be delivered right to your inbox.

Magic and Miracles - Blackhawk Auto Museum Bar Mitzvah Planning

October 24, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Planning a Themed Bar or Bat Mitzvah Party

Blackhawk Museum Event Space - Magic ThemeBlackhawk Museum Event Space - Magic ThemeThe Blackhawk Auto Museum event space decorated for a magic themed Bar Mitzvah celebration in red, black and white. Photo by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.


As a San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah photographer, I see a LOT of party themes! Everything from casual and fun, to elegant and classy, specific themes and color schemes.

And when you're in the early planning stages, I know it's super helpful to get ideas and inspiration by looking at pictures from other Bar & Bat Mitzvahs.

So, thought I'd share some tips and a recent favorite Bar Mitzvah that was not only done really well, but from a pro photographer's perspective, made for some really great pictures too!

But first...


Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Theme

  • Is your party a mix of kids and adults, mostly kids, or mostly adults?
  • Do you want elegant and classy, casual fun, or something in between?
  • What is your child's "thing" (sport, talent, hobby, etc...)?
  • Are you a "do-it-yourself" person, or do you need the help of an event planner?
  • And of course, What is your budget?


How to Execute a Great Theme

  1. Choose a venue that lends itself to the look and feel you want.
  2. Use table decor, props, and lighting to create the ambience of your theme.
  3. Provide activities around your theme for both the kids and adults.
  4. Give your DJ theme-based prizes to hand out to the kids during games.
  5. Work with your DJ if you have special theme-based music requests.
  6. Work with your caterer to create themed desserts.
  7. Create themed gifts for your guests to take home.



Magic and Miracles - Daniel's Bar Mitzvah

Daniel's "thing" is magic! And he and his mom decided they wanted a fun, but classy party to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah.

Magic Themed Bar Mitzvah PartyMagic Themed Bar Mitzvah PartyA Bar Mitzvah boy celebrates at his magic themed red, black and white party at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. Photo by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


The Venue

Blackhawk Auto Museum was the perfect choice for the look and feel they were after. If you've never been, it's a must-see in the San Francisco Bay Area! "Shiny" is the best word to describe the interior. A gorgeous event space surrounded by a collection of glitzy classic cars.

Blackhawk Auto Museum Event Space - Magic ThemeBlackhawk Auto Museum Event Space - Magic ThemeThe Blackhawk Auto Museum event space decorated for a magic themed Bar Mitzvah celebration in red, black and white. Photo by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.


The Decor

Lights dripping from the ceiling, colored uplighting along the walls, and the cutest magic-themed table decor complete with top hats and magic wands, all came together to complete Daniel's vision. And a red, black, & white color scheme was the perfect touch.

Kid Tables

Magic Theme Party Blackhawk MuseumMagic Theme Party Blackhawk MuseumTable decor for a magic themed Bar Mitzvah party at Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Adult Tables Blackhawk Auto Museum Event DecorBlackhawk Auto Museum Event DecorBar Mitzvah party table decor at Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. Photographed by San Francisco bay area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Table Placecards

Table Placecards for Magic Theme PartyTable Placecards for Magic Theme PartyTable place cards for a magic themed Bar Mitzvah party at Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.


In the lobby, a Step-n-Repeat for iphone photo ops included magic hats and wands for props.

Magic Theme Step-n-RepeatMagic Theme Step-n-RepeatCustom step-n-repeat for a magic themed bar mitzvah party with top hats and magic wands for props. Photo by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography/




What magic-themed party would be complete without a Magician? Card tricks and slight-of-hand magic worked perfectly for mingling with the guests during cocktail hour and dinner. Both kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed it!

Magician Performs at Bar Mitzvah PartyMagician Performs at Bar Mitzvah PartyA magician entertains guests at a magic themed Bar Mitzvah party at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. Photo by San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography. Magician and Bar Mitzvah BoyMagician and Bar Mitzvah BoyA magician added to this boy's magic themed Bar Mitzvah party at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. Photo by San Francisco Bay Area Bar Mitzvah photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Giveaways and Gifts

Cameron and the team from Denon & Doyle ran kids games and gave magic-themed prizes throughout the evening. Decks of cards placed at each table setting for the kids to take home was another nice touch.

DJ Setup for Magic Themed Bar MitzvahDJ Setup for Magic Themed Bar MitzvahDJ setup for magic themed Bar Mitzvah party at Blackhawk Auto Museum with stuffed rabbit giveaway prizes for the kids.

Magic Theme Bar Mitzvah DecorMagic Theme Bar Mitzvah DecorMagic theme table decor for a bar mitzvah party photographed by San Francisco bay area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.


At the end of the night, guests enjoyed a red, black, and white themed candy bar with to-go boxes filled with all their favorites!

Candy Bar Decor - Magic Themed Bar MitzvahCandy Bar Decor - Magic Themed Bar MitzvahEvent decor for a magic themed Bar Mitzvah party at Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. Candy bar with classic cars in the background. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman Photography.

Bar Mitzvah Candy Bar - Red Black WhiteBar Mitzvah Candy Bar - Red Black WhiteCandy bar from a magic themed Bar Mitzvah party in red, black, and white. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman. Enjoying the Candy Bar - Bar Mitzvah PartyEnjoying the Candy Bar - Bar Mitzvah PartyKids enjoying the red, black, and white candy bar at a magic-themed Bar Mitzvah party at Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA. By San Francisco Bay Area photographer Cheryl Bigman.


Got More Tips?

I hope you've found these tips for planning a themed Bar or Bat Mitzvah helpful. If you have any other tips or recommendations for families planning a themed mitzvah party, PLEASE DO SHARE WITH ALL OF US IN THE COMMENTS!



If you enjoyed this Blog and you'd like to hear more helpful tips on event planning in the San Francisco Bay Area, or just want to follow along on all my crazy photography adventures, simply Subscribe in the box above and the Blog will be delivered right to your inbox. It helps to keep this Blog going and I'd so appreciate it!



Service Area

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers event photography services throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area including the East Bay cities of Lafayette, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon in Contra Costa County. Dublin, Pleasanton, Sunol, and Fremont in Alameda County. South Bay cities including San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, and Mountain View in Santa Clara County, Peninsula cities including San Mateo, Burlingame, Foster City, Menlo Park, Woodside, Atherton, and Redwood City in San Mateo County, San Francisco, and North Bay cities in Marin County including Tiburon, San Rafael, and Sausalito.


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