I'm a Southern California based wedding photographer, specializing in beautiful and authentic storytelling. 

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It’s my 25th birthday! A look back at 24.

Well, it’s here.  It’s my 25th birthday!  I am officially… gulp… “a quarter of a century”.  And I have to admit, it’s a little weird to think about, ha.

24 has been a whirlwind of a year.  There has been so much change and growth in both my personal and work life.  Some days were incredibly challenging and pushed me way outside my comfort zone while others were filled with adventure and more joy than I could describe.  It’s been one hell of a ride, to say the least.

I feel the need to admit that I’ve kind of been low-key dreading this birthday.  I mean, 25, a quarter of a century, it feels so… adult.  But now that it’s here and I’m taking a look back; I have to say, this has honestly been one of my favorite years thus far.  It’s been a year of adventure, learning, heartbreak, healing, travels, friendship, love, disappointment, growth and a lot of hard work…  and at the end of the day, I’m so grateful for all of the experiences and really am very excited to see what 25 has in store for me.

I wanted to share some highlights from this past year and a few lessons I’ve learned along the way, but I’m finding the words a bit difficult to form.  So I thought, what better way to share them than in the best way I know how; in picture form!

A Look Back At 24

Bishop, California (Sep 2016)

My family road-tripped it out here for a weekend for my dad’s birthday.  The boys wanted to go fly-fishing and my mom and I thought we could go and enjoy some time outdoors and do some hiking.  But, regardless of the directions we were given, we could never find the hiking trail.  This city was so boring, the most interesting thing we could come up with to do was to pull off the side of the road and have me sit on this rock.

Lesson learned:  Don’t go to Bishop unless you like to fly fish. 


France & Italy (Oct 2016)

We lovingly referred to this euro-trip as our “Friendsmoon”.  Why you ask?  Because two of my best friends, Dom & Janelle, got married 2 months prior and instead of taking this trip alone for their honeymoon, they invited us to crash it.  Which we obviously could not turn down.  So, a “friendsmoon” it was.  (Side note, they did actually go on a smaller honeymoon just the two of them right after the wedding… so, not to worry ha)  But the best part?  They initially invited us to join them because they didn’t think they’d have an opportunity to travel like this again, so what better way to travel Europe for the “first and last time” than with your closet friends, right?  But, in an amazing turn of events, they were bit hard by the travel bug while we were over there and guess who already has plans to travel overseas TWICE next year?  Oh yeah.  France and Thailand, we’re coming for you 2017!!

If you see one thing while you’re in or around Rome, go and visit the inside of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  If you’ve ever been curious what it would feel like to be ant-sized, this is a great opportunity.  This place is impressively massive.  You can so easily envision the likes of Zeus stomping around you in here, it’s really neat!

We were all hurting just a little after the 463 stair climb up to the top of the Duomo here in Florence… but you just can’t beat that view.  It was definitely worth it!

Iceland (Oct 2016)

This was my first time in Iceland and oh my word, I am obsessed!!  I have never seen anything like this place before.  The whole country is essentially lava rock.  So the ground is black and sometimes red and instead of seeing grass and tress like you’d expect, there’s just moss – everywhere.  This place is trippy and so fascinating!

Don’t be surprised if you visit and find that random parts of the country & their hot water smells intensely like eggs;  it’s just sulfur.  Luckily the hot and cold water comes from two different sources; the hot water coming from hot springs and the cold water coming from glacial runoff.  So while you should avoid drinking the hot tap water (… and yes, prepare yourself for some nasty eggy-smelling showers), you can help yourself to the cold water as it’s some of the purest in the world!

We hiked a glacier!  I repeat, these Southern Californians HIKED a GLACIER!!

Lesson learned:  Food here is expensive!!  Because the ground is lava rock, they can’t grow much and have to import most things.  We found shopping at the grocery store “Bonus” and making ourselves food/packing lunches was the most economic way to eat while we were there.  Although, if you like beef, then I highly recommend sitting down at a restaurant and trying whale while you’re there.  Trust me… it’s not what you think.

South of France (Jan 2017)

My family heads to France just about every year for New Years.  We usually leave the day after Christmas and come back 10-14 days later.  However, this year I took almost 6 weeks off and just traveled around.  This was the first part of that 6 week trip.

Fun fact:  I lived in Nice for 9 months after I graduated high school at age 17.  Then I lived in Paris for another 3 months before coming home and starting college.  One of the best years of my life.  So many incredible memories.  I do love Nice!

Some of our favorite Frenchies!

Iceland… again (Jan 2017)

Because once just wasn’t enough.  This place is entirely different during the winter, but just as magical.

The ice in front of me leads down into a “lava cave/tunnel” that you can tour.  It’s pitch black in there, so you have to use flashlights to navigate around and is pretty cool to experience!

Trying to stay warm in 10 degree weather while chasing the elusive Northern Lights…

Tip:  The Northern Lights are not easy to find.  You need a combination of clear skies, complete darkness and sheer hope that there’s enough of the right activity going on up there to produce the coloring.  The season for it is around Oct-March.  If you have a car, you can use this website to help you navigate over to where there’s the least amount of cloud coverage… but this didn’t work for us.  We happened to run into them by accident over by the Blue Lagoon.  We were also told we missed an amazing sighting over by the airport (similar area) as well.  So… I would start there!  Otherwise, hop on a tour – you pay once and get to keep taking the tour until you see them!

Canary Islands (Jan 2017)

Unless you like to party, and I mean just party, I would not recommend this place.  It’s basically Palm Springs… in island form.  But, we did get to watch the sunset from sand dunes by the beach and ride a camel for the first time.  So, that was pretty cool!

My Baby Sister Turned 21!!! (Feb/March 2017)

We had a lovely day of escape rooms and lots of food here in LA and then booked it out to Las Vegas to celebrate it “right”…

Celebrating it “right” included a showing of Thunder Down Under… (you’re welcome ladies… ha!)

BACKSTREET BOYS  (The teenager in me can officially die happy now…  I fan-girled a little hard…)

And clubbing with Nelly.  Vegas doesn’t get much better than that!

Grand Canyon (March 2017)

We had a couple of our family friends from France come out to visit us.  So, of course we had to show them the Grand Canyon.  But we ended up touring it in such a cool way!  First we took this little plane from Vegas to the Grand Canyon…

It was tiny in there!

Then we got to take a helicopter ride down into the Canyon and took a boat ride through the river.  It was such a fun way to experience it, I would definitely recommend it!

New York (April 2017)

I am so proud of myself, because I actually blogged this trip… I really need to get better about that.  But, we saw some amazing shows and ate some really good (gluten free) food.  If you want to read more about it, head over here!

Gotta love the old man photo-bombing us… haha

Mini Cooper Love (April 2017)

I was reunited once again with my first love, the mini cooper.  <3

Is anyone else as in love with this car as I am?  It’s just so stinkin’ cute!

Pennsylvania & New Jersey (May 2017)

I was flown out to Cape May to help a friend shoot a wedding (which was such a blast!) and ended up flying out a few days early to explore, because I’d never been to either of these states before.  While getting to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall were very cool, my favorite thing about Philadelphia was touring Eastern State Penitentiary!

And I don’t have too much to say about Cape May, NJ… except that it was ridiculously ADORABLE.  I mean, look at that architecture!

Work, work, work! Behind the scenes.

This spring was the busiest season of my business to date!  From weddings, to corporate events, engagements, birthday parties, proposals, bridal showers, modeling portfolios, stylized shoots, corporate headshots, family shoots, destination shoots, you name it…  I was running non-stop.  It was absolutely amazing and so fulfilling.  And when summer hit, I rested and vacationed hard.  This spring definitely required some serious R&R to fully recover, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.  It was absolutely amazing!

I, truly, truly love my job.

Pro tip:  If you’re a wedding photographer and experience the dreaded “wedding hangovers”, I would HIGHLY recommend trying THIS.  It alone has cured my wedding hangovers (and my insanely bad jet-lag when flying overseas, for you travelers!).  I drink one the day before and/or the day of the wedding (or travels) and I am as good as new the next day.  No crazy side effects, no jitters, no sugar crash, nothing.  Trust me, give it a try!

Maui (June 2017)

Aside from a few activities… I vacationed hard here.  Drank fruit smoothies, laid out, swam… it was the ultimate vacation.

Do:  Take a trip up to the Haleakala volcano/crater to watch the sunset.

Don’t:  Be among the 3%, like us, who got clouded/fogged out and couldn’t see anything.

Do:  Bike back down the volcano.  If you just so happen to be as unlucky as we were, this makes it a little more worthwhile.

Marrakesh, Morocco (Aug 2017)

The #1 thing we wanted to do while in Africa?  Ride camels.

Best part of this camel ride?  Our amazing guide (in the tie) brought along a wifi hotspot with him… so we were in Africa, in the middle of nowhere, riding camels… with wifi.  Haha!!!  We died.

Lesson learned:  WEAR PANTS WHEN RIDING A CAMEL.  The material they had me sitting on nearly rubbed my leg completely raw.  About halfway through I had to switch to sitting “lady like” (as seen on the left) to avoid losing all skin on the inside of my legs.  You’ve been forewarned.

Friends & Family

From family outings, to friend gatherings, game nights, picnics, dueling piano bars, cooking classes, clubs, paint nights, celebrity spottings, birthday parties, bowling nights, karaoke, swing dancing nights, improv shows, girls nights out, tv binge nights, road trips, concerts, comedy clubs, fairs/festivals, lunches, dinners and coffee dates… there is never a dull moment around here.  (You all add so much to my life and I’m so blessed and grateful to call you my friends/family!)

This year is also when this cutie snuck up on me…  he’s sweet, thoughtful, passionate, driven, funny, supportive, encouraging and oh-so dang handsome… aka, my unicorn.  If you couldn’t tell, I’m kinda crazy about him.  <3

In Summary

Business has been expanding.  I’m (albeit slowly) getting better about balancing work/life and putting more time and attention back into my personal life.  I have been traveling and adventuring more than ever.  I have an incredibly supportive and loving boyfriend, group of friends and family.  And I’m even working towards buying my first place!  24 hasn’t been so bad.  Who knows what next year’s blog post will consist of… but I’m very excited to find out!

Stefani Ciotti excited in the Southern California desert because It's My 25th Birthday!

Thanks to all of you for helping to make this year so incredibly special!  Love you all!

Stefani Ciotti

Logo of Stefani Ciotti Photography, a Southern California Wedding Photographer

  1. Karen Shoufler

    September 20th, 2017 at 4:03 am

    What a great year! I love seeing all of your travels! I’ve got to figure out a way to do more of that! :) Happy birthday Stefani! Hope 25 is even better!!

  2. Kelli Kamph

    September 20th, 2017 at 1:20 pm


  3. Vix.

    September 20th, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Wow!! How amazing can a year be??!!?? If you do that in a year time, there will be great opportunities waiting for you in the next quarter of your life!

    Happy birthday Stefani!!

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