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 drama and interest. Removing colour from a photograph can also 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 - Toronto Family Photographer

I photographed 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 in Toronto's West End 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 little girls. Take a look at some of the best photos from this outdoor summer session.

When is the best time of day for photographs? - Toronto Maternity Photographer

This maternity session had it all. Adorable toddler? Check. Glowing mom-to-be? Check. Dad who was game to have fun? Check. Amazing location full of greenery? Check. And of course a spunky little dog too. Plus, it was taken at my favourite time to shoot - during the hour or 1.5 after sunset on a weekday evening. Why is this my favourite time? A couple reasons. On a sunny day the hour or so before sunset is often the most ideal time. The sun is low in the sky and soft, creating a beautiful, flattering glow for my subjects. I also like weekday evening sessions because shooting locations are often a little less busy, so you don't need to worry about dodging the crowds to get the perfect shot. 

I met this family at a secluded park near the lake in the east of Toronto, close to the Beach. We walked around, spotted a bunny, played and captured some beautiful memories of their little family before their whole world changes in just a couple short weeks.

Take a look below for some of the highlights of this session.

Lifestyle vs studio newborn photography: what is the difference?

When you're searching for a newborn photographer there are tonnes of options out there. One question to consider is: studio vs. lifestyle? 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 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, 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 - Toronto Newborn Photographer

I met the adorable little Nora just a couple weeks ago in her home in the east end of Toronto. 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 - Toronto Child Photographer

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 in Toronto - give them a try with your own kids! 

1) Play broken telephone

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

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3) What is the silliest thing about your brother?

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

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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 - Toronto Lifestyle Photographer

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 - Toronto Family Photography

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:

Letting kids be kids - Toronto Family Photographer

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 lifestyle family photo 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 the session that took place near the beach in the east end of Toronto!

Why I'm in love with twilight at the beach - Toronto Child Photographer

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!

Welcome Avalon - Toronto Newborn Photographer

A couple weeks before Christmas, my newest niece Avalon made her debut into this world! She joins the ever expanding crew of Fallis cousins under the age of 5 (yes, family parties are a little insane these days, in the best possible way). The boys still outnumber the girls 4 to 2, but the girls are slowly catching up!

I photographed baby Avalon when she was just two weeks old - take a peak at some of my favourites from the session below.

When is the best age to take newborn photos?

I’m often asked about the best time to take newborn photographs. The short answer is "it depends”. For some types of newborn photography, such as posed portrait sessions like this, taking pictures 5-10 days after birth is highly encouraged. At this age, newborns are more likely to stay asleep and curl up into "womblike" poses. But since my newborn style is more natural and lifestyle in approach, there's more flexibility in terms of timing. I take a combination of documentary/true-to-life shots along with some "baby-led" poses (e.g. arms outstretched and yawning, or baby swaddled in a favourite blanket in mom's arms). While it can be helpful to have the baby sleep for the session, it's not something I stress about, nor is it critical to the session's success.

So all things being equal, I will usually suggest that clients take newborn photos within the first two weeks of life when the baby is at its tiniest and newest. Babies change so fast, so it can be nice to capture them at this unique stage. But I'm also more than happy to schedule older newborn sessions. In fact, there can be some advantages to waiting: it gives mom and dad a little more time to adjust to the craziness of new parent life before getting in front of a camera, plus older newborns are often more likely to make eye contact.  

Here are pictures from two newborn sessions: one with a younger newborn and other with an older newborn.

1 week old newborn

3 week old newborn

Beach Family Photography Session

Surf, sand, sun. Anna Maria Island had it all.  Plus, the beaches are pretty much a photographer's dream, so I was lucky to get to sneak in a photo shoot while on vacation. This family was one of the first families that I photographed a couple years back. It was great to recapture them again now that they have grown by one with the addition of a little girl. And it's pretty evident that she's a lucky lady, given how sweet her brothers were with her during the shoot!

Newborn Quinn | Toronto Baby Photographer

My latest newborn session was a special one. This adorable little boy is my fourth nephew under the age of 3! I can only imagine the craziness that will unfold in a couple years when there are so many little boys running around at family gatherings. 

I photographed Quinn when he was just 8 days old and he was pretty angelic during the session. His older brother happily took part in some pictures, but I'm pretty sure his favourite shot was the one where he got to hold his beloved guitar (future rock star?).

Hello Parker | Toronto Newborn Photography

I have a confession - I always thought that I wanted three kids. But now that I've become a mom, I'm starting to think that I might only be cut out for two! So I'm pretty impressed (and slightly envious) of those families who are able to have three kids and keep it all together.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to photograph a family with three adorable little girls. Newborn Parker was a dream baby and slept through most of the session, while her two older sisters provided lots of high-energy entertainment (along with some affectionate moments too). And their parents were unbelievably relaxed, especially considering they had just completed a home reno days before Parker's arrival.

Here are some of my favourite shots - enjoy!

How to store your child's art - Toronto Family Photographer

My daughter’s first year of kindergarten is flying by. She’s grown in leaps and bounds in terms of her writing, numbers and drawing. One thing that’s a constant reminder of everything she is learning is the pile of school projects that keeps growing, and growing…and growing. While I love the idea of keeping these adorable mementos, I am a bit of a clutter-phobe. So this weekend I start looking into how to archive my daughter's art. First, I sorted through the art to find the best pieces. Next I took pictures of my favourite art (I used my digital SLR camera but you can easily use your smartphone instead). It is helpful to take the pictures on a surface with even lighting for best results (i.e. you do not want to take them in a spot that is half sun/half shade).

Toronto Documentary Photographer Child  Home

After I had took the photos, I looked into a couple options:

1) Make a photo book

This is my favourite solution: it allows you to have a physical memento of your kid's art, while keeping it an organized. If you are taking photos on your smart phone Chatbooks is a basic and inexpensive option that  you literally can do in minutes. But of course there are so, so, so many photo book options if you want something fancier or more customized.

Chatbooks Child Art Storage Reduce Clutter

2) Make a collage and frame it 

Another option is to create a collage and frame it - this is great as it allows you to display many images all at once without it taking up your whole wall!  You can switch it up with new versions each year.  I made the collage below using befunky and I'll print it to frame in my daughter's room.

Archive Children's Art Ideas

3) ORGANIZE IT DIGITALLY

There are lots of art apps available like Artkive, Cansvly and Keepy. They allow you to organize your kid's art in an easy, user friendly manner and share with family and friends. While I love the user interfaces of these and how convenient they are, there is one important caveat to remember here. Some have a subsription fee once you save above a certain number of images (which may increase over time) and/or there is a risk that the digital provider may not be around 10 or 20 years from now. So if you like this solution it's probably also best to have a plan b.

After doing this, I feel a little less guilty discarding most of the pieces but I'm still going to keep a  a couple pieces around in a shoe box to show her when she grows up. 

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5 Back-to-School Photo Ideas

My daughter will be starting kindergarten in just a couple days. She is super excited and the feeling is infectious. I want to capture this feeling so that I can remember it when the newness of school has worn off and it just becomes a typical part of her routine. Photography is a great way to do this. Here are five back-to-school photo ideas (I took the pictures below of my niece just before she started JK):

1) Include favourite back-to-school items – Take close up shots of any special things that help to tell the story of back-to-school, whether it be your child's very first “big kid” backpack, a new special outfit or their current favourite book.

First day of kindergarten photo

2) Hold a cute sign – There are lots of free back-to-school templates online (like this one) for you to customize and print. This can also be a great idea for creating an annual series of photos, where you update the sign's contents each year.

Toronto Child Photographer Back to School Sign

3) At the school yard – Take a look around the school yard for interesting backgrounds. The colourful mural below added a splash of colour to the picture, but simple brick walls are also great option. Or have your child play in the jungle gym to take some fun action shots!

Back-to-school Photo ideas

4) First day and last day of school portrait – Take a classic portrait at the beginning of the year, then repeat the same pose at the end of the year to see what a difference a year makes (I'll do that with my daughter, I didn't get a chance to with my niece below)

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5) Ask your child for ideas - Kids can sometimes be reluctant to pose for photos, so it's a great idea to include them in the process. My niece wanted a silly photo wearing her mom's glasses to complete the "school teacher" look.

Girl holding apple photo toronto

Final tip! Don’t stress about taking photos on the actual first day of school if you find it’s too hectic. The idea is to capture the beginning of the school year (not necessarily the actual day itself), so taking photos just before or after the first day is totally fine.