Wednesday, 29 November 2017

6 Activities to Document over the Winter Months

There is always a mad rush for Fall photos - and I get it, Fall is probably my favourite season too. The beauty of the leaves changing never gets old. But as Fall goes on and Winter settles in, there are still tons of opportunities for great photo sessions. 

I put together some ideas of activities in and around the home to help inspire you on what to capture this season right in your own backyard;  whether with your own camera or by hiring a professional photographer to document them for you. 

Build a snow fort, snowman, or make snow angels: a classic family activity that you have to do at least once each winter. 

Snowball fight: action shots and flying snow always makes for interesting shots and lots of laughter.

Sliding or skating: if your kids are lucky enough to have a rink or sliding hill in their backyard, how can you not want to capture that? 

Bring the fun inside: I love that in-home sessions can be done year round. Think about those rosy cheeks as the kids come in from the cold, hot chocolate and spending time relaxing together.  

Family game night: Does your family have a competitive streak? Winter is often when the board games come out in our family and is such a great tradition to capture.

Baking/Cooking: With the change in seasons, often comes new favourite dishes. Document the making of a winter meal or dessert. Especially around the holidays - this is one you won't want to miss capturing. Think about taking photos of hand written recipes, key ingredients and ask family to help prepare.

I hope you will take the time to document some of your family's moments this winter. One of the great things about in-home sessions is that there is no timeframe - you don't have to wait until the leaves are at their best or reschedule because it's raining. There is such beauty in the simplicity of everyday moments and these happen year round. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

What happens when I show up at your home?

A little behind the scenes look at in-home sessions with me

A client sent me these two photos that her mom had taken during our session (thank you again for these!). I had no idea that she was taking photos but I’m so grateful that she did because having photos that show me in my element, doing what I love, is really so special. Coming across these photos again recently got me to thinking that maybe some would be interested in learning a bit about how I work for in-home photo sessions. 

So what happens when I show up to your home? To answer that, maybe it’s better to back up a bit. Before a session, I have clients fill out a questionnaire about their family - a few simple questions that help me get to know them a bit and to highlight what’s important to them. Reading about clients beforehand is one of my favourite parts because I start to get a sense of what their story is and how I can capture it. I re-read the answers several times before the session and I’m not gonna lie, I have cried more than once when reading some answers. It’s very touching that some will share personal stories with me and I start to put myself in their shoes and imagine what their life may be like.

Getting back now to the earlier question about what happens when I show up at the door - after a quick introduction to put faces to names, I take out my camera and start shooting and following everyone around. It plays out differently every time with some falling into it naturally and others needing a bit of time to warm up or for the novelty of the camera to wear off. Sometimes I think clients may feel like they aren’t doing anything ‘photo worthy’ but it’s never true - the little things matter and that’s what I’m there to show. I always have the client’s answers to the questionnaire in the back of my mind and I wait to see some of those interactions or pieces of their story to show up in one form or another. It can be a glance, a smile, an object, a small detail that tells a bigger story. I ask questions, talk a little to the family and I wait for the moment I can see in my mind. I look for things like lines, light and shadows and think about how to compose the image to use those to shape the photo. I take a lot of photos, many won’t work - I try different angles, exposures. I don’t give much direction for the most part - you won’t often hear me ask “do that again” and instead I wait for moments to happen naturally. I may suggest that we switch activities or move towards a different part of the room for variety or light but most often, I let things unfold. Because of this approach, the majority of the photos that I will send clients will be candid, natural and real. I do include some more posed shots if the family wants those but I try to keep the feel more natural - for example, maybe not every shot shows everyone looking at the camera and smiling. Maybe the parents are looking at their child instead of smiling at the camera, maybe the kids are making silly faces. People hire me because I capture people in an honest way and so my posed work with families will be in keeping with that. 

Once I finish a session, my work has really just started as I start the culling and editing of photos.

So there it is, it may seem like I just show up and take a bunch of photos but there is more to it than that. I work hard to see those answers from clients come to life to tell their story in a way that makes you feel something. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

3 tips to get the most out of a personal photography project

Although summer isn't quite over, my #12weeksofsummer2017 project ended last week. This was the first personal project I've done in collaboration with another photographer (Myriam of Farah Photography). With the past weeks still fresh in my mind, I wanted to put together a list of things I've learned to help get the most out of these projects.

1) Stay on track by partnering with someone else
I didn't always feel like carrying my camera or taking photos. Knowing that I was doing this project with someone else kept me accountable - the buddy system really does work. The proof - since finishing this project, other than for work and a birthday this past week, I didn't reach for my camera. Myriam and I were able to bounce ideas off each other, push and encourage each other when we were struggling. I had tried other photography projects before but had a hard time staying motivated. Having someone there who was counting on me is what made the difference.

2) Get creative
One of the best things about a personal project is that you don't have to please anyone but yourself. You can be creative, try new techniques and challenge yourself. Take a few steps outside your comfort zone. This really helps strengthen your skills, develop your style and discover ways to breathe new life into your work.

3) Give yourself a constraint
Start with a clear idea of what story you want the project to tell and stick within those limits so that you don't lose focus. Myriam and I had outlined certain general criteria for the photos we were allowed to submit. They had to be taken within the week (no cheating) and they had to include our children. We also decided to limit the project to 12 weeks which seemed manageable (and it was even if some weeks were easier than others!). Constraints can really force you to be creative.

This project resulted in not just these 12 photos but many more that I plan to put together in an album. It really helped me to both document moments with my family and reminded me of why I'm a photographer in the first place - to tell stories and to find beauty in the everyday.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

3 Composition Tips to Help Strengthen Your Photography

You could be the most technically skilled photographer but without strong compositions, photos will fall flat. Composition gives you the power to lead the viewer's eye to what exactly you want them to see or feel in an image.

Have you noticed that some images draw your attention more than others? You may not even realize why but usually composition has a lot to do with it.  Photos that use elements of composition to allow the eye to move around the image are typically more pleasing. Here are 3 simple tips you can try when composing your photos.

1) Rule of Thirds
You may already have heard about this one and let me start off by saying that there are also exceptions to this rule. Sometimes a photo with the subject in the middle can be powerful depending on the message but generally photos that place subjects off center will be more pleasing. Avoiding the center helps to create a more dynamic image that allows the eye to move around and rest. By leaving some negative space around the subject, the photo will feel more balanced and it puts the emphasis on the subject.

You can test this rule by taking a shot with your subject in the middle and then another shot where they are off center. Which one do you like better? Why does it work?

3) Perspective and Focus
This is a biggie and can really bring your photos up a few notches. When I'm shooting, I rarely take photos from the standing position. I squat, sit, stand on chairs, lie down, I creep over people's shoulders, I move my feet almost constantly. I would love a video of this since I'm sure it looks pretty funny but it's a way to find the strongest angle and photos that tell the story of what I'm shooting. If a family is busy doing an activity, I'll take shots from every vantage point and shift the focus from one family member to another, take a detail shot of someone's hands or pull back to take the entire family. These are the shots that make you feel like you were in the room with them. Think also about what to include and what to exclude from the frame.

Challenge yourself to take photos in any position other than standing. Especially working with children, getting down low or up high opens up a whole other world of possible compositions. Take a scene and take shots from a wider perspective, close-up, from above and from below. See how they can work together to tell the story.

3) Lines
Lines are everywhere if you look for them. Diagonal lines in particular really have a way to lead the eye to the subject if you use them right. Countertops, patterns in flooring, walls, fences, windows, arms, legs, footprints, play structures, horizon lines - the possibilities are endless.

Try making images where those lines shoot diagonally up from the corner of your photo.

To see these composition elements at work, check out the photos below.

In this image, you can see the lines in the flooring, the lines created by the shadows from the window and the wall all leading back to the subject. Even the father's hand is angled diagonally which helps the eye move up to the scene. I was kneeling down when I took this shot so that I would be at the same level.

I got down low and used the table to lead the eye to this little boy playing with his puzzles. 

In this photo, the angel of the light/shadow in the floor, the bent arm and the leg are all drawing the eye up towards the subject and to her face. I composed the photo so that she was off center, allowing the eye to move around the photo. I was standing on a chair to get a higher vantage point for this shot.

The negative space here helps to keep the focus on the couple, you also see lines from the dress, mouldings and the railing in the back all pointing towards the subjects. I shot this from a crouching position to include all of the lines and to introduce a more dynamic perspective. 

It's all about perspective and lines in this shot. The lines actually work to frame the subject as well and the fun perspective adds interest. 

Take some time to study images that inspire you and see if you can figure out why - what elements of composition are they using? Examining images and understanding why the photographer chose that composition, why it works or why you like it is a great way to really strengthen your photography.

As always, I'd love to see your images and how you use these elements. Feel free to contact me or to ask questions!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Personalize your Space with Photos - Guest Blog Post by Melanie Neault

Several months ago I started following the very talented Ottawa Interior Designer Melanie Neault on Instagram (Launch Your Space). I just love her style and when I sat down and started to think about writing a post about photo display ideas, the light bulb when off - why not ask Melanie to give her insight on how to use all those moments captured in photos to personalize your home. Luckily she accepted the challenge and provides some inspiring ideas below. As I mentioned to Melanie, I'm so indecisive when it comes to hanging things on my own walls and her post helped me to finally get to those neglected walls and spaces in my home.

Thanks Melanie for the wonderful ideas and photos below!


Photographs are a moment in time captured in a still frame. These moments are beautiful, raw, and frozen while the world continues to spin, while you continue to grow, and while life moves forward. How you display these memories help to create the story of telling that particular time that you can now look back on forever.

Here is list of different ways you can display these framed photographs in your home:

Gallery walls 
Gallery walls are like a commissioned art piece that was made just for you. They hold a sentimental value, and represent many memories for others to see. They are best located above a seating area in a living room, or over the dining table, where people gather to eat, converse, and share stories along with bites of delicious food.

When creating a gallery wall, there needs to be a fluid theme amongst the frames. Having all one colour works, but if you want to make it a little more eclectic, having a collaboration of different frames works best if you use 3-4 colour tones only. For examples, off white, grey, and blues look great together. Or perhaps wooden frames mixed with some yellow and grey ones. Doing mixed frames this way allows the eye to focus on the photos rather than just the frames themselves.

The photos in the frames can be anything. A more modern monolithic look would be to use all black or white frames with black and white photos only. This look is timeless and looks great paired with any d├ęcor or style. Going to the more organic and rustic side, you can use coloured photos in the coloured frames, creating a dynamic gallery wall.

A tip for the wall layout is to lay the frames with the photos in them on the ground first. Position them in the shape and formation you wish. This way you see which photos and frames look best beside each other. It’s important to balance out the colours of the frames and photos within the gallery wall. Then, once you’ve gotten the layout on the ground to your desired look, cut out paper to match the sizes of the frames and lay them up on the wall, mimicking the floor layout. Once you’re happy with the look, put your nail in and pull the paper off. Hang your photos one by one, and voila! Your photo gallery is complete.

 (gallery wall)

Single Frames 
If you don’t have the wall space for a gallery wall, or simply have a few framed photographs to display, hanging them on the wall alone is beautiful and makes the focus more specific on that particular photograph. Hanging the frame at eye level is more aesthetically pleasing and having the frame surrounded by other pieces in the room creates a separate environment for the photograph. For example, if you have plants or a floor lamp near that wall, putting a framed photograph between the two creates a nice niche for the frame to look part of the overall design of the room.

(Single frames)

Shelves and Bookshelves 
One of my favourite ways to display photographs is on shelves. It’s non-permanent because no nails are required, and you can add objects and other small details around the frames. It can be on an open shelf, or in an enclosed glass cabinet. Regardless of where, you are able to add other memories with the frame. Shells from a trip down south paired with a photograph of you on the beach, your wedding veil draped around your favourite wedding photo, books of the places you visited beside photos of that place…the possibilities are endless. This creates almost like a shadow box for the photograph and items you wish to display.

Wedding Album 
You can treat a wedding album the same way as the shelved photography. Pair it with a vase of dried flowers from your bouquet, or even with candles beside it. Another fun part of a wedding album is to keep it on the coffee table. It’s a great book to flip through, and it’s also adorable catching your significant other glancing through it down the road. :)

(Open shelves)

(Glass cabinet and album above)

Blog post and photos by Melanie Neault of Launch your Space

Monday, 19 June 2017

Five Outings to Document Summertime with your Family

A few weeks ago, my talented photographer friend Myriam and I were scouting some locations together. We both brought along our kids and our cameras and had an afternoon of exploring and documenting our adventure. It was so fun to see how the photos turned out and how our styles and perspectives showed up in our work.

This outing inspired a joint blog post all about helping you document your summer. Now that summer is FINALLY here, it will be over before you know it. Think about it, how many summers will you spend with your kids being kids? 18 maybe?  And let's face it, those teenage summers may not include a whole lot of family time.

To help make the next several weeks count, here is a list of 5 outings to do with the family, each of which will provide you with lots of opportunities to preserve summer memories with your family.

1. Exploring a trail
We are so lucky to have this amazing park just a short drive away. Gatineau Park has something for everyone. Seek out a trail that will work for your family and enjoy being surrounded by nature. Collect rocks, maybe spot some wildlife and stop to enjoy the wildflowers. Make your way to the look out for an amazing view that makes you feel small against the landscape.

2. Ice Cream Shop
We love La Cigale in Chelsea Quebec because of the homemade ice cream, the happy setting and the play area to keep the kids busy for a bit while you enjoy a spot in the colourful Adirondack chairs. There is so much potential here for beautiful shots. The colours really pop and add a playfulness. Having kids focused on eating ice cream gives you that chance to take some detail shots of them while they are still for a change.  From checking out the flavours to ice cream moustaches, this is summer at its its best. If ice cream isn't your thing, any frozen treat will do - popsicles, freezies on the front porch can just as easily make for a sweet moment.

3. Discover the museums
There will inevitably be those rainy days or maybe days when you just need a break from the heat. Take the fun inside and visit a museum in the area. Our kids love the Aviation Museum and the Children's Museum. It's so great to have a space dedicated to kids or a section with kids in mind where they are free to explore. Each museum has something great to offer - keep up to date on the latest exhibits for ones that will really speak to your kids. The more they are interested, the more you can catch those real moments of awe and excitement.

4. Splash pads and neighbourhood parks
Are you doing the park circuit this summer? We drive around to find new parks and the kids love discovering new structures and sprinklers to run through. Bring along the camera to catch kids in their element: their pride as they show off their new climbing skills or the monkey bars they can now conquer. Try to visit earlier in the morning or late afternoon not only to beat the heat but to avoid the harsh midday light.

5. By the water
Summer is short. Getting outside is what summer is all about. Pack a picnic and head to the marina, a lake or if you are lucky enough -  a family cottage. Feeding the birds (or kids are not big fans of being surrounded by geese and ducks), skipping some stones over the water, watching the sunset or going for a swim. Maybe your kids are still learning to swim - catch them with their floaties as they dip their toes in the sand or water for the first time. These will be the moments that you want to remember.

I hope you will try some of these outings or maybe do them again this summer!  For some great tips on photographing your kids this summer while you are out and about, check out Farah Photography's blog post: Out & About: how to document summertime adventures with kids

Myriam and I will be continuing our collaboration by launching a project all about documenting summer. Stay tuned!


Monday, 5 June 2017

First Birth

I still find it hard to believe that I had this amazing opportunity to shoot such an intimate and life changing experience. A big thanks goes out to Stacey and Cory who trusted me with these moments. I will remember it always.

I spent some time with the family the day before Piper joined this world while Stacey was in labour. The following morning I was asked to make my way to the hospital. I fought the early morning rush hour traffic to get back to the hospital, scrambled to find parking, ran through the hospital and when I approached her room, I was told by the nurses that she was delivering right now. I literally walked through the door and had time to grab my camera just as this tiny miracle was born. Not long after Piper was whisked away to be monitored and assessed as she needed some help breathing. That wait between the delivery and seeing Piper again is difficult to describe. As a mom, I can only imagine how that felt. When she finally made her appearance, so tiny, so vulnerable - I was so happy for Stacey to see her baby but also a little heart broken for her that she couldn't just hold her in her arms right away.

The one word that comes to mind when I think about Stacey is strength - from beginning to end. I think baby Piper was lucky enough to inherit this trait.

Photo taken at the Ottawa Civic Hospital during birth photography session by Melanie Mathieu Photography

Photo taken of baby just minutes old at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Ottawa birth photographer Melanie Mathieu Photography

Ottawa Gatineau birth photographer Melanie Mathieu capturing birth of preemie baby girl at the Ottawa Civic Hospital

New baby being born captured by birth photographer at the Ottawa Civic Hospital

Dad cutting the umbilical chord of new baby girl who was born at the Ottawa Civic Hospital following labour.