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. 

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.

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:

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 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.  

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

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?).