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.

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:

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!

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.  

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?).

How to store your child's art

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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