Family Session at Toronto's Urban Waterfront

One of Toronto’s best places to visit is it’s downtown waterfront. Look one way and you can see Lake Ontario along with the Toronto Islands. Look behind you to find a perfect view of the downtown skyline. This family of four was on vacation in Toronto and wanted a location that was distinctly “Toronto”. We headed to the Harbourfront neighbourhood just south of downtown Toronto, which has a mix of greenery, colourful murals, a real sand beach (complete with yellow umbrellas) and of course some sailboats to entertain the kids.

A Session at the Beach in Toronto's West End

Life really does come full circle. I grew up in the west end of Toronto and one of our family’s favourite spots was a park on the edge of Lake Ontario. Now thirty years later, this Etobicoke park is one of my favourite outdoor locations for a photo shoot. The park has it all - a lovely little beach, grassy open fields and a hidden trail in the trees. It was the perfect spot to meet and photograph this sweet little family of three. Their little boy loved exploring but there was one small problem: he was so excited by the water he wanted to head right in (even though it was a still a chilly temperature in May)! Good thing the beach is shallow so he didn’t get more than his toes wet. You can see another of my favourite Toronto locations here.

5 Tips on finding the right family photographer for you

If you google “Toronto family photographer” you’ll get more than 12,000 results! So how do you find the best Toronto family photographer? Since I’m a photographer, you might think I would say “choose me”. But truth be told, best is a relative term. What is the ideal for you might not the best for your friend or neighbour. Here are 5 things to think about before hiring a family photographer:

1) Style

You want to look for someone who has a cohesive style that appeals to your aesthetic. Photography is an art form and the way I view a scene (and edit the photographs) can be very different from other photographers. My style is bright and airy, with a natural, modern aesthetic. I try to produce images that are full of emotion, joy and connection. While my pictures may appear more candid, they aren’t completely documentary (e.g. I will guide and suggest poses and activities for my clients).

Other family photographers have a more moody, artsy style, whereas still others have a more classic approach with everyone smiling at the camera. Before booking a photographer, make sure you take a look at their portfolio (on their website, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) to make sure their style is what you’re looking for and ensure that this style is consistent across many images.

Toronto Best Family Photographer Girl Smiling with Father

2) Skill

I’ve included skill after style because they are closely interlinked (but not the same). You might adore someone’s style but you also want to make sure they have the skill and experience to produce this style during your shoot. The subject matter (e.g. newborns vs. teens), lighting conditions (e.g. is the shoot at sunset vs. full sun vs. another time of day), location (indoors vs. outdoors) all require different photographic skills. One way to assess if the photographer will be the right photographer for you is to look for images that they’ve taken under similar conditions to your shoot. So for example, if you’re having a birthday party at an indoor location lacking natural light - but the only pictures you see in someone’s portfolio are outdoors - ask them if they have experience photographing in a similar setting and to see sample images.

It can also be helpful to look at a gallery of images from a single session (such as this) vs. single images. You can often find these on a photographer’s blog. Remember, it’s much easier to produce one, amazing “instagram-worthy” photograph than for a photographer to produce a single gallery full of strong images.

Top family photographer toronto newborn and mom kissing toes

3) Professionalism

You’ll also wants to make sure that that the photographer is professional and someone you like! You’ll be in front of the camera (which is often a pretty awkward place to be), so you’ll want to work with someone who makes you feel comfortable. It can be hard to assess from email but check to see if they respond in a timely fashion and are friendly.

Referrals from friends and family can go a long way here or look for positive reviews on Google and Facebook.

Toronto's best family photographer natural candid black and white photograph

4) Location

You’ll want to have an idea where your want the shoot to take place: some photographers work out of a studio space, whereas others work on-location (e.g. in a local park or in your home). Many photographers who shoot outdoors have their favourite spots in Toronto, so check their portfolio to see if these locations appeal to you.

best family photographer Toronto outdoor picture of mom and baby

5) Price

Family photography is often an investment but pricing can vary greatly. Is more expensive better? Not always but like any product, price can be an indicator of quality.

There are many different pricing models so make sure you understand the total price before booking. Some photographers charge a session fee (which covers the photographer’s time and talent only) and charge a separate price for images or products. Others have one all-inclusive price. Still others (like me) charge one price for a set number of images and a higher price for additional images. There isn’t a right or wrong way of pricing; it’s just critical that you understand the price before booking so there aren’t any surprises after the shoot.

Mini session pricing also differs from regular family photography pricing. Mini sessions are often priced lower because these sessions are shorter and you receive fewer photos, but also because the photographer is able to book many sessions back-to-back (making it a more efficient use of their time).

family_Photography_Lifestyle_Best_Toronto (9 of 30).jpg

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about hiring the right photographer for you.

Life at the Lake

Cottage life is pretty special. Endless hours spent lazing on the dock, boat riding, playing card games and BBQing (plus of course the prerequisite mosquito swatting and obsessively checking the weather forecast). The lake can also be a family gathering place - and a place where so many memories are made so it makes the perfect place for an extended family photoshoot.  

At this spot on Lake Muskoka near Gravenhurst, we captured so many different looks: the water, trees, dock, pathway and boathouse. Plus tonnes of laughter and candid moments. Take a look at some pictures from the session.

Best things to do in Prince Edward County with Kids

At the end of August we went away for a couple day with my extended family. We were looking for a place that was an easy drive from Toronto and had great activities to keep both the kids and adults entertained. Prince Edward County checked all the boxes and here are a couple of recommendations of the best things to there with kids!

Do

Our main reason for choosing Prince Edward County was the beaches and they didn't disappoint. There are a couple different options at Sandbanks Provincial Park but the Dunes Beach was our favourite. It has a shallow, calm area that was great for swimming with little kids and gorgeous high dunes that were a dream for kids to run up and down.  

After a day at the beach, we walked around the cute town of Picton to check out the shops, visited the local library for a break from the heat and enjoyed an ice cream at Slickers.  

And we also managed to sneak in a visit to a couple wineries. The two we visited were surprisingly kid friendly: Hinterland's patio opens up onto a nice field for the kids to run around and the Grange had a couple board games and decks of cards in a cozy corner. 

Eat

We looked for restaurants with great food and a great atmosphere, but also places that wouldn't mind the four (sometimes lively) little people we brought along. Thankfully the County is pretty laid back when it comes to that kind of thing. We had a tasty brunch at the gorgeous  Drake Devonshire, which has a kid's menu and rocky beach (perfect place for the kids to blow off steam after breakfast).  We also filled up on Mexican food at Chilango's on our way into Prince Edward County.

For lunch we picked up picnic baskets at the Agrarian Market, which the kids (and adults) happily devoured. 

Stay

We found our Instagram-worthy hotel on Instagram (surprise, surprise). The June Motel had rooms large enough for our families and included small kitchenettes. I'm not sure what my daughter loved more: the bunk beds in her grandparent's room or the smores  at the nightly bonfire. 

First Day of Kindergarten Sign with Self Portrait

This year I wanted to do something a little different for my daughter's back-to-school photo. Her handwriting and drawing skills evolved so much during her first year of kindergarten and I'm sure she'll grow in leaps and bounds this year. To document this in her back-to-school photo, I asked my super talented friend Nat for help. Nat runs @littlechestnuts and makes the most amazing, hand-lettered signs (and at the same time raises money for charity). She made the cutest sign with space for your child's favourite activity, dream of what they want to be when they grow up and a self portrait. 

You can download a copy of the back-to-school sign here.

My daughter loved the chance to colour and I got a cute keepsake. Win-win!

If your son or daughter isn't quite at the writing stage, feel free to fill in the written sections yourself and have them draw a self portrait (or scribble a picture!)

back to school sign example.jpg

What makes a great black and white photograph?

There are many factors that come into play when deciding if a picture will be a strong black and white image. Photos with strong contrast - the difference in brightness between the darkest darks and lightest whites and all the shades in between - can make compelling black and white pictures. Also converting an image with shadows or texture to black and white can add dramatic and moody effect. Also taking away the colour from a photograph can sometimes help to simply the image and minimize distractions (I've used this trick many times when my house is a bit of mess!).

But it's not always so black and white. Sometimes a photograph looks amazing in both colour and black and white, so it can be hard to decide which one is best. And "best" is often subjective anyways. The good news is that with all my photography sessions you don't have to decide. I provide my clients both the colour and a black and white versions of each image. I love the diversity that this provides. My photography style is generally bright and airy but by converting to black and white, I'm able to give a totally different feel to the exact same photo. Often a black and white photo conveys more of a moody, emotional and raw feel to the photograph.

Here are some favourites from an in-home newborn portait session in the east end of Toronto. So you can decide which do you prefer: Colour or black & white?

A Summer Night at High Park

I met this lovely family on one of the hottest nights of the summer. In fact just a couple minutes before the session started I briefly thought "Is it too hot for this? Will we melt?" But we pushed ahead and braved the heat and I am so glad we did!  

This family wanted a relaxed carefree session close to their home as they recently welcomed a new baby into their family. We played, ran and explored the trails in beautiful High Park. I had such fun capturing the joy (and craziness) of life with these three adorable girls. Take a look at some of the best photos from this outdoor summer session.

Toronto newborn photography: at home vs. in a studio?

When you're searching for a newborn photographer there are tonnes of options out there. One question to consider is: an in-home session vs. in a studio? What is the best newborn photography style? The truth is, there is no right answer. Each style has it's unique benefits, and thankfully there are many talented photographers in Toronto and the GTA who specialize in these genres.

Here are a couple key differences between studio and in-home (lifestyle) newborn photography: 

1. LOCATION:

Studio newborn photography takes place in you guessed it, a studio. The studio lighting is controlled and backdrops are neutral. All the supplies needed for the shoot are on hand and your photographer will usually keep the studio warm to encourage sleeping babies. On the other hand, in-home or lifestyle newborn photography takes place in the comfort of your home. Your house is an important part of your family's story and will be featured in your lifestyle session!  Your photographer will shoot in the rooms with the best natural light, such as the nursery, master bedroom and living room. Images will capture the small details that make your home yours. Favourite shots might include the new family snuggling together on the bed, the baby sleeping in the crib and mama siting in a nursery chair looking adoringly at her new baby. 

2. TIMING: 

Timing is critical for posed, studio portraits: most photographers prefer to photograph newborns at less than 2 weeks of age. Younger newborns are more likely to fall into deep sleeps necessary for the poses, and are more flexible to curl up into the desired positions.  Lifestyle newborn sessions have more flexibility when it comes to timing. Babies change so fast, so I tell my clients that it can be nice to capture them at this unique stage when they are only a couple weeks old. However, lifestyle newborn sessions with older newborns have some advantages:  it gives parents more time to adjust to life before stepping in front of the camera and babies who are little older make better eye contact when awake.  

3. LOOK AND FEEL:

Studio newborn photography features posed newborn and family shots, with adorable babies curled up in womblike poses (or propped up on hands, etc.). It often includes props, such as baskets, headbands, coloured wraps, etc. Lifestyle newborn photography focuses more on the interaction between the new family, with less importance placed on the perfect pose. It is typically more candid in nature, although your photographer will likely guide you and provide suggestions on how to get a natural look. Instead of using props, lifestyle newborn photography typically includes items you already have in your home, such as a favourite blanket or the child's nursery as the background. 

Hopefully now that you know some of the key differences you can decide for yourself what is the best choice for your family. My style of photography is lifestyle: I love to focus on connection and photograph the intimate environment of my client's home.  

Here are a couple of my favourite shots from a recent newborn shoot. 

Baby Nora

I met the adorable little Nora just a couple weeks ago. She was such a dream baby and her parents did great job too (they were so natural in front of the camera). 

So it was a bit of a suprise afterwards to receive a message from the mom thanking me and saying that they don't usually enjoy having their picture taken but that the session felt relaxed and they didn't feel awkward at all! Because let's face it - getting your photo taken can sometimes feel unnatural. I sometimes forget that fact since I'm the one usually taking the picture. Just today my husband took a picture of me. So many thoughts were racing through my head "Does this look natural"?, "What should I do with my hands?" and "Does this smile look fake?". 

But in the end getting your photo taken doesn't have to be a stressful experience, and is so worth it. Time moves quickly, so it's so nice to have photos to look back on and remember your life in different phases. With my approach to photography, for most of the session you'll be interacting with your family, laughing and having fun. The goal is really to make you not aware of the camera at all!

Here are a couple of my favourites from the session.

Getting a natural smile

How do you get a child to smile for a photograph? Probably the first thing that pops into your mind is "Say cheese!". The trouble is that while this works, more often than not it results in a forced smile (either "I'm-only-smiling-because-you-told-me-to-are-we-done-???" or "I-am-smiling-super-super-super-wide)?". It can be tricky to catch a candid smile the very moment that you've decided to grab your camera (or phone). So what's the alternative to "Say cheese?"

I've found a couple different tricks that work with kids but mostly they boil down to encouraging the child to play a game, tell a little story, or do something that really engages them...and then catch a real, true candid smile right after the activity. That's why I often use little prompts during my family photography sessions to encourage laughter and natural expressions. 

Here are a couple of activities I used at a recent lifestyle session - give them a try with your own kids! 

1) Play broken telephone

2) Look at the person who is THE craziest (or funniest...)?

2018-05-23_0004.jpg

3) What is the silliest thing about your brother?

2018-05-23_0001.jpg

4) Give your mom a nice gentle kiss (then a Wet kiss)

2018-05-23_0002.jpg

But truthfully there wasn't really any work involved with getting this family to smile naturally since they were so fun loving. Here are a couple more of my favourites from the session.

Motherhood Portraits

Being a mom (or dad) of a little one can be tough. Really tough.  But in between the frantic moments of frustration/tears/exhaustion, there's also so much laughter, joy and adorable silliness. Kids grow up in a flash and your time as a mom of a little one is short (although somedays I admit the days feel very, very long!).  A motherhood portrait session is the perfect way to capture the connection, love and candid moment between your and her minis. 

Here are a couple of my favourite images from a recent mom and me photography session at the gorgeous Mint Room Studios in the west end of Toronto.

What to expect in an in-home newborn photography session?

Newborn photo shoots are some of my favorite pictures to take since I adore little babies and selfishly they allow me to spend time with newborns without having to add a third baby to my family’s crew!  In-home sessions (unlike studio portraits) are more documentary in style and allow me to capture a little slice of what your life is like during this special time. Although I admit it's a little bit of an idealized version of this time:) To help my clients prepare and feel confident about their session, here's the advice that I usually give:

Family & Newborn During this time, it’s not uncommon to feel like you're on cloud nine one minute and a complete disaster the next:) So instead of trying to capture total perfection, I focus on connection. My newborn photography style is fairly relaxed and organic, so I focus on “baby led” poses as opposed to highly posed positions. If there is an older sibling in the house, I’ll usually try to include them in shots first to ensure he/she doesn’t have to stay focused on the session for too long (toddler attention spans are short!).

Clothing: I suggest neutral colours, and softer tones like whites, creams and light grey often lend themselves to the light and airy feel of newborn photography. As with any photo shoot, my advice is to coordinate your family’s outfits, but avoid a matchy-matchy look. Here is a Pinterest board with some suggestions for clothing. 

Timing: I usually schedule newborn sessions in the morning when babies are usually less fussy. Newborn sessions can take time (usually about 2.5 hours), and I’ve found that patience is key during these sessions. I like to allow lots of time for feeding breaks, time for newborns to settle into a deeper sleep, etc.

Your Home: Once I get to your house, I’ll look around for areas with the best lighting: often I use the couch, master bedroom, and nursery. I know what it is like to have a newborn, so I tell clients not to stress about having their house super organized.

Here are some pictures from a  recent newborn shoot, where truth be told, they probably didn’t need any of this advice since they were so cool, calm and collected throughout the entire session. Contact me if you have any questions about a newborn photoshoot!

The Best Gift for a Grandma

Grandparents have a special bond with their grandchildren. After so many years (and hard work) spent raising their own children, they've earned the right to be called the "fun" grownups. They're the ones who'll let the kids have an extra treat or watch another cartoon. They're always up for a snuggle or silly game. Yet grandparents aren't often the focus of photographs, even though these pictures are so priceless. So when a client mentioned she wanted to give her mother-in-law a photography session for her birthday, my immediate thought was that it would be perfect gift.

Here are some of my favourite pictures from this recent extended family session:

Soon to be a family of 4

This adorable family wanted one more photoshoot before their family of 3 turned into a family of 4. I was so happy I got a chance to photograph them in this gorgeous outdoor location one sunny evening (at my favourite time, the hour before sunset!). See some of my favourites below.

Letting kids be kids

Whenever I photograph a young family, I remember to let kids be kids. Kids are great at playing, moving and being silly. I use that to my full advantage during my sessions,

For some of the photos below, I suggested that the sisters run together or play a game of Simon Says. In others, I just let them explore and captured them enjoying the joys of the beach (without any pressure of posing and smiling for the camera).

Here are my favourites from this session at the beach,

Why I'm in love with twilight at the beach

A couple of nights ago, the kids and I headed down to the beach for an impromptu visit. We live less than 10 minutes from Lake Ontario, but we don’t go there nearly enough. Plus, my absolute favourite place to take pictures is at the beach, at twilight (so of course, I brought my camera).  Why do I love it so much? 

  1. Light, light, light – During the hour before sunset, the light is a photographer’s dream and has almost magical qualities. It is soft and super flattering.

  2. Beach tones – I am a sucker for the muted colours (blues, greys, tan, pastels) of the beach at dusk.

  3. It’s quieter – On this beautiful weekday night, there were just a handful of other people there.

  4. The kids love it (the most important reason!) – At the beach, there are so many things to do. Throw rocks, splash in the water, play in the sand. My kids are far happier playing while I snap a couple pictures, instead of posing for portraits.

Reach out to me if you're interested in booking a twilight beach session!