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.

How to Find the Best Family Photographer for You

If you google “Toronto family photographer” you’ll get more than 43,500,000 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).

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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. 

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.

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...)?

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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

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.

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:

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,

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!