Posts in “Photography”

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Friday, December 22, 2017

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Merry Christmas everyone! I can’t believe there only 2 days to go before Christmas. I hope everyone finds peace and embraces the season with loved ones, even if it’s one of the busiest time of the year. Since I rarely post my whole family’s faces on my blog and Instagram to set some boundaries, here are my beautiful boys who always make my day so alive (starting at 6:30 AM or earlier…) and my man. Having family and kids makes my Christmas more meaningful and exciting! One of the other reasons I love Christmas now is that we can have a family photo session, even though it is quick (like I shared some editing tips in my previous blog post). Obviously, our baby was photoshopped since he sleeps unpredictably. 😉

Thank you for continuing to stop by my little blog. I hope everyone has a safe trip if you are traveling for Christmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas time with your family and loved ones!


Baby’s First Christmas Shoot + Photo Editing Tips

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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Our baby will be celebrating his first Christmas in the next few days!! Since our baby arrived last summer, he has given us so much joy, especially for his older brothers. Having another baby taught Brent and me to be more mature, though it is really hard most of the time. However, we can’t wait for all of them to play together next year!! It will be awesome… And loud! 😉

We had our Christmas family photoshoot last week and it was the quickest shoot ever (less than 15 minutes). I wanted to share with you all a DIY Christmas box that we used as a prop with the boys. My friend Sabine suggested wrapping a box to use as a prop, for a family shoot. It was a great idea for the toddlers to make sure they stayed in the same place. Since I love doing fun and creative photo manipulation, I thought to apply some editing for our baby’s photos. I thought it was cute!

Here is a simple and quick DIY gift box to try for your Christmas family shoot.

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Kraft Paper



Hot Glue


I used a medium sized box in which ideally, my baby would fit inside. I did not put him inside though and I don’t recommend that you actually put your baby inside either. 🙂 Wrap up the box with kraft paper or any Christmas wrapper of your choice. I wrapped the box on the inside as well just in case the camera can see the inside of the box. I used thick ribbon and hot glue to make sure everything was set for the shoot. That’s it!

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If you ever use Photoshop or are planning to learn about this software for your Holiday card, here are some tips from yours truly:

  1. Take a lot of shots of you and your props from different angles. I also use a tripod and remote to make sure everything is in the same frame and to make the shoot fast and easy (before the boys wake up!).
  2. Take photo of you and your baby in the same location to get the same lighting.
  3. I like to use a vector mask so it’s easy to remove the background or to undo it. Sometimes, I also use the pen tool.
  4. I consider the shadow of my baby as well to make it more realistic, when I overlap him onto the main image.

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P.S. I also love to style myself, wear a pretty sweatshirt from Pink Blush, and put some makeup on (I love this brand! 100% natural that works! ). Santa hats are also cute to add for the shoot! 🙂

I hope my little man brightened your day today! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.

God bless, friends!




Tips for blogging

Monday, November 20, 2017

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Today, I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned from blogging, that can help those interested in launching a new blog. My blog originally started as my makeup portfolio, before I was a stay-at-home with three kids. I find blogging to be one of my favorite hobbies. It helps me unwind and do something else while my kids are on their nap. Here are some of my favorite notes to share for those planning to blog, or who are new to it.

Know Your Topic

I started to blog about makeup and also photography because that is something I love to do. But as the years past and I became a mom, I also shared about motherhood, DIYs, etc. I think you will know what your favorite topic will be, based on what you love to do and what you are excited about sharing to your readers.

Know Your Readers Wants

It’s also good to know what your readers want to see on your blog. I tried surveys before, and even used Instagram stories to ask my friends and followers, what they wanted to see most on my blog. This is a good way to help you to determine what topic you should post about more often.

Use Side Bars

Aside from your profile photo and bio, try to use this area to promote your other posts, like your most popular ones. Be sure to put an email subscription form, so readers will be notified if you have new posts or giveaways. Adding a search engine helps too. It makes it easy for your reader to search for something on your blog, or to link your social media platforms like Instagram. All these tools help your readers connect with you.

Image Quality

Opt for quality vs quantity. I always like to take photos at home with natural light. I’m so in love with the lighting in our new place here in Galveston Island. It helps me take pictures easily and saves time, as I don’t have to sit down editing photos on my computer as much… If different lighting is something I need, I like to use my studio lights to help brighten the area where I’m shooting. For example, when I took pictures of our old guest bathroom, I needed more light, so I used studio lights. I also use editing software like Photoshop to edit my images as needed. Larger image sizes instead of thumbnail sizes are way better for viewing on blogs. I like to make my images around 600 pixels in width.

Naming Your Blog

It is always good to use a blog name that your readers will remember. If it’s too long and the hard to pronounce, chances are it will be forgotten…  I decided to use “Hello Island Mama” since I came from the islands of  the Philippines, and I’m a mother now. Try to connect your blog name to your personality or something from your life. Something catchy will be great!

Balance Your Posts

I like to balance my posts with images and words. I try not to show tons of images unless it supports the story, is a makeup tutorial, or has step-by-step info for DIYs. Arrangement of the images to flow with your post will look nice on the blog too. For example, you could do a portrait shot, then a whole body shot like I did for this post. I think it shows good movement or sequence when your viewers read your post.

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Lipstick from Beautycounter

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I hope these tips and advice help you if you’re starting a blog! Have fun and feel free to share your blog tips or new blog in the comments below! I love checking out new blogs!

Dress sponsored by Pink Blush. Floppy hat from Target.


Taking photo of your own baby bump (Styling & Photo tips!)

Monday, June 12, 2017

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Once my baby bump began to show a lot, I planned to have a mini baby bump photo session at home while the kids snooze. It’s been difficult to find a time for an outdoor shoot while pregnant since everything feels “heavy” for me, especially with the Texan weather. I’ve always thought indoor shoots are comfortable to do when you’re pregnant. You’re able to style yourself comfortably, have a cooler room, and most importantly, have bathrooms always available. 😉 I wanted to share today how I take photos of my baby bump, in a silhouette inspired style. I also wanted to share some tips that I’ve learned from the past few years with my photography background, as well as photo editing. Here are a  few of my photography works if you’d like to browse through them.


I used my old Nikon DSLR camera to take these shots. It’s in automatic mode and I used a tripod and remote/clicker, so it would be easy to take pictures and pose compared to using a timer. When I click to start shooting, it automatically focuses on me. If you don’t have a DSLR, you can use your phone camera as well. There is a tutorial online like this where you can learn how to do it.


Some pregnant women who do maternity silhouette shoots wear fitted pants and tops. This time I tried on a black, fitted off-shoulder dress (similar piece) that I got before I became pregnant. It’s a matter of finding clothes that fit your body and your baby bump well, when it comes to choosing a wardrobe. I also used a necklace (similar like this) that would reflect on the silhouette, to add some style to my outfit.


Since it’s indoors, I chose the window in our room where there was good lighting. Our window has a sheer white curtain which creates a soft light. You also need to consider the surroundings to be more on the clean side, so that your photos’ backgrounds don’t look messy or too busy.


I like to take photos with different angles so I have different choices. When I setup my tripod and camera, I like it more in position so that the subject (me, the preggy) will look taller in the pictures.


I use Photoshop to adjust the lighting, to edit the color, and polish the photo. I like to use “Levels” in adjusting the lighting. Below is before-and-after of a photo that I edited. I made it black-and-white and used “Levels” in Photoshop to adjust the brightness and contrast. You can also see that I removed my right hand (where I was holding the remote of the camera) by using “Clone” in Photoshop. If I didn’t use Photoshop, I would probably use smartphone apps like “Snapseed” to edit these photos, along with VSCOcam to get a good photo filter.


I hope this helps those who are expecting and planning to save some money by taking their own maternity photos. These photos will make great memories for yourself and loved ones of your pregnancy. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions! I would love to help!

Have a blessed week!


Merry Christmas from our family!

Friday, December 23, 2016



Here’s our photo for Christmas family photo session! It took me awhile for me to pick which photos I’ll post today, since my kids were running around and didn’t want to stay in one place 😉 Check my previous post here to see our Christmas photo card! 🙂

Kids – Mid-top Canvas Boots / Black sneakers (similar) / Dark Wash Jeans (similar)

Brent – Brown Leather (similar) / Grey wear-to-work shirt (similar)

Em – Black Pants (similar)  / Black Bootie (similar)


Merry Christmas everyone!


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


Romantic Mediterranean Inspired Wedding Ideas

Monday, November 28, 2016

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Today, I’m excited to share with you a collaboration I did a few months ago with some talented vendors. This is a Mediterranean inspired wedding captured by Claire Casner Photography. I had worked with Jennifer from Harper Hadley Events, on a previous shoot. (link) She invited me to join her as a makeup artist and collaborate with other talented vendors. Together, we were able to execute a romantic and lovely set for this photo shoot. Here are the amazing vendors you need to check out! Plus, this shoot was featured on Check it out! 🙂

Photography: Claire Casner Photography // Design & Styling: Harper Hadley Events // Floral Design: DIRT // Rentals: Pretty Little Plates // Linens: La Tavola Linens // Paper/Calligraphy: Prairie Letter Shop // Gown: Saint Isabel Bridal // Makeup: Em Smith // Hair: Macey Burns // Jewelry: Shapiro Diamonds // Favor Boxes: Marigold & Grey // Model: Alice Mamula



Portrait Session With Dr. Tran

Friday, November 4, 2016



Since we moved back to Houston, we’ve been reconnecting with our old friends. One of those friends is Jana. I met her through my husband’s grad school and clicked. Plus, we both like makeup. 😉 I’m glad we had the time to see each other, chit-chat, and have a fun time during this photoshoot. I’m proud and happy for Jana and the others my husband and I met through his psychology grad school program.After long years of studying and hard work, they now have their doctorates and are happy with their field of work. Here’s some info to get know a little more about Jana.

Dr. Jana Tran is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Houston.

She works full time as a staff psychologist at the Houston Fire Department, where she provides therapy services to firefighters and responds to critical incidents, such as line of duty deaths. Dr. Tran also has a private practice aimed at supporting survivors of trauma, including combat Veterans and survivors of childhood abuse, rape, and interpersonal violence.

Her research interests center on the impact of trauma on sexual behaviors and functioning, and she recently published a paper on this topic in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. On a more personal note, Dr. Tran has a passion for yoga, lifting weights, salsa dancing, camping, and spending time with loved ones, including her pug, Leo.

If you are looking for a therapist to give you advice or tell you what to do, then Dr. Tran is not the right person for you. She regards clients as the experts of their own lives, and she honors and respects their beliefs, values, and goals. As your therapist, her job is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space to facilitate your own healing, self-discovery, and personal growth. Dr. Tran offers a free 5-minute phone consultation to determine if her practice is a good fit for you.





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If you’re interested in having a makeup or portrait session, please email me at: 🙂


First Birthday Photo Shoot

Sunday, September 18, 2016

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Say hello to the precious Zoie who just turned one this month! These are the pictures I took from her first birthday photoshoot, together with her mom and dad. It was so sweet of her mom Charm to create and prepare props for her shoot. They made it so much fun and cute, just like Zoie! I love how Charm did the DIY cardboard sign saying “One”. Great job Mom and Happy 1st Birthday Zoie!

Photography by Em Smith (me)

What’s your ideal photoshoot theme for your little tot?

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10


Welcome to Hello Island Mama! I love to share about motherhood, makeup, DIYs, home styling and faith. Based in Houston, Texas. Originally from Philippines. Thank you for your time to read and don't forget to subscribe above! - Em

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

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