Christmas Mini Sessions with Santa!

Ok, I know. I know. I am the wooooorrrssst at blogging! I would much rather be in the studio, with my camera in my hand making beautiful portraits for people. Sitting still long enough to put thought onto paper has never been my strong suit. I have always wanted to write a children’s book based on a story my mother told me when I was little. I just know it would be hugely successful. Do you think I have sat down to write it? Nope.

I do want to share something I just started doing—seasonal mini shoots! I never thought of myself as a “mini” photographer, but when I dipped my toe in this last Christmas I found it fun and oh so rewarding. The little ones loved Santa and it was such an amazing honor to capture these memories.

Santa is a friend of mine from the Bay Area. He was been playing Santa (non professionally) for years. He finally decided to take the plunge, go to Santa school (mmmm’k, that’s really a thing!) and really do it well.  He is a natural and so kind and funny. I love him!

I have already asked if he wants to do it again for Christmas 2020…and he does! We expect these to book quickly, so if you want to be added to the list, shoot me a message♥

Santa having a great time laughing and posing with two girls in the Santa Experience StudioReading is part of the Santa Experience and Christmas mini in Los Angeles by Leona Darnell PhotographySanta dropping fairy dust during a Christmas mini photoshootSanta Clause spreading magic during Christmas Mini Sessions in Los AngelesSanta entertaining a babySanta talking to two little babies

Shows the Christmas Mini photoshoot

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Leona Darnell Photography in the News

It is always so exciting when a magazine reaches out to you. I had the maternity images below on my Instagram. VoyageLA sent me an email asking if they could use the image. “Of course” I replied. A few weeks later they contacted me again and asked if I would like to do an interview with them about my work. That got a resounding “of course!”.


I do hope you take a look and learn more about me and why I love what I do. The full article can be seen here:



The maternity images that started it all


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Childrens’ Headshots

Oh My River! This guy is such a character. He was so fun to photograph and watch out world-he is a serious actor n the making!!

I just love child actors. I love taking their pictures and see them come alive. River was no exception!

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There was so much about this beautiful woman that set my heart aflutter! She called me back when she wasn’t showing much and we talked all about dress choice, hair, makeup and location.

See, when you really plan out a shoot down to the very jewelry worn, the images go from good to fabulous.  She really listened when I gave her choices of places to buy maternity dresses…ones that will really pop off the page.  Ones that will flatter not only her curves, but her skin tone. I drew out locations with those dresses in mind.

What elevates photography, in my opinion, is getting to know the person the images are for. What is their style and what will make them happy? What are they looking to frame and remember for the rest of their life?  What touches their soul? Take those ideas, mentally see where those images will come to fruition and execute what your mind envisions.

This woman was more than beautiful. Mothers to be have an intangible quality to them. It’s something that can’t quite be explained. Seeing a woman radiate with pregnancy shows that the world is still right even when terrible things happen all around us. There is something hopeful in a woman who will soon be a mother.

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Male headshots

I love actors. I really do.

Having my own child in the acting world, I understand how important the headshot is. When casting is going through shots, you wont be there to tell them how fabulous you are, how perfect you are for the part, that’s where your headshot comes in. It must convey who you are, who you can be and stand out among all the others. My job is to listen, find out who you are and what you want to convey and build a set of images that are authentic to you. You want the viewer to have an emotional connection to you with images that will get you in the door and get you the job. I am not here to make you perfect in your pictures, my goal is to showcase who you are and what you bring to the table.

Los Angeles headshot photographer

Los Angeles headshot photographer



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headshots for the young actors

Hi all. I am snuggling in nicely to my Burbank digs. I love love LOVE (did I say love??) my new apartment and neighborhood. Have I mentioned I found a fantastic new studio in North Hollywood? It is really convenient on Laurel Canyon with plenty of parking. There is a ton of shooting space and an area I can open up and do natural lighting if the urge hits. Now that we are coming into fall, this doesn’t matter as much, but it does have central A/C and WiFi. This is a perfect place to do headshots for actors and models here in Los Angeles.

I love photographing people, but the young ones–the headshots for children- that get me every time. Their gorgeous little faces without a self conscious bone in their body.


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LA or bust!

So y’all. So I have packed my bags, loaded up my kiddo and have ridden off into the proverbial sunset they cal Los Angeles. To be more specific; Burbank. I LOVE my cozy little spot located just under the big B.

I am working diligently on making my space perfect for a little studio for headshots. It will be just the right amount of natural light combined with strobe to make images leap off the page, shake those casting directors and agents by the collar and make them take notice. I am also combing the area for fabulous outdoor locations as well.

For bigger shoots for families and those high flying dancers, I have checked out a number of studios in my area. I have narrowed it down to one in Burbank and one in Glendale. Plenty of space for shooting on various backgrounds, perfect little make up and hair stations, private dressing areas and well equipped bathrooms. I am so excited to start my new journey here.

Here is a recent senior shoot. Both stills and video. This young lady was not only photogenic, but she shone with such an inner light. She was free, life affirming, smart and oh so fun.


Till then sweet friends,




The video below is Kristie’s senior portrait experience. Her high school portraits were shot in studio and outdoors. I love adding video into the experience, so not only do you have portraits, but you also have a little video that you can treasure always.

**Remember, to view in full screen, click the little box thing in the lower right corner.


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The start of an amazing new year

There is nothing better for me that enjoying the holidays with loved ones, eating way too much and using my camera for my own family memories. But, the holidays are over and we are moving into a new year, with new hopes and renewed dreams.

I have been working hard to bring you you a special Mothers Day Event in April. I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but it will be an indulgence for the wonderful mothers out there…a day of pampering so to speak. I have been working with some local mothers and daughters, talented makeup artist and exceptional hair stylists to make real heartfelt memories with professional portraits.

As soon as I have the details ironed out, I will officially announce the event.

For now, please enjoy the images below…

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Senior Portraits

As I wrap up my senior portrait season, I am reminded how totally awesome my very own senior portraits were…from 1987!!!! Could I be any more sarcastic? First of all, senior portraits weren’t “a thing”, the guy came to our campus and snapped pictures of us on a gray backdrop sitting on a “fashionable” old wicker chair. My big hair was the lovely icing on the cake. Oh wait, maybe it was my fabulous blue eye shadow that stole the day? Oh hum…maybe when I am a bit more brave I will post my senior pictures, circa the fabulous 80s, here one day. In the meantime, I just love this young lady’s images…

I made this little video so you can get an idea of what a senior session with me entails.:)

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Missing In Action?

I did take a 30 day hiatus…a roadtrip around the country with my favorite 3 year old. We went camping literally across the United States. Keep in mind, I am NOT a camper. I have never camped in my life before now. Well, that’s not entirely true…there was a time my mom took m camping (she wasn’t a camper either) in the Oregon mountains. A friend dropped us off in the woods. I was 12 and hated it thoroughly. She mistakenly put the tent atop a yellow jacket nest in the ground and well I just lost it. We were unarmed in bear country. We froze and were scared to death. Starving and depleted of all spirit, we made it through the night. Our friend came and got us the next day and that was the end of my camping…until now.

I swore I would teach my little one to camp, to reply on our wits, to enjoy the outdoors. The first  night was just awful. I could not get the tent up. It was 105 degrees in Arizona and I literally started to cry. I think we both had a touch of heat stroke. I could have (and thought about it endlessly!) given up and found a hotel for the night, but what kind of example to my would that make?

We zizagged from California to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and then Florida. Then up through Georgia, across Tennessee, Kentucky and up through Illinois and Wisconsin and across Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. After spending a good deal of time in Northern Idaho, back down through Washington, Oregon and back to California. Whew…that made me tired just typing it.

Here are some images both with my “real” camera and with my cell phone…

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