Behind the Lens | Why I’m Crazy About Lifestyle Photography

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably heard me raving about lifestyle photography a lot in the past few months. It’s a style I’ve always loved, but something clicked when I had my daughter last year… I realized just how passionate I am about capturing those everyday moments, because those are truly the moments that memories are made of.

Don’t get me wrong, posed shots definitely have their role, and I enjoy these types of shoots as well. But there’s just something about being a fly on the wall and grabbing onto those fleeting moments that slip away so quickly. As a new mom, the “lifestyle” photos of my daughter are my most treasured keepsakes. Sure, she is adorable in her headbands and dresses, sitting in crates and on quilts and every other way I’ve posed her. But these shots below of her quietly basking in the morning light, playing in her room, wearing only a onesie? Be still my heart. This is my girl, and looking at these photos reminds me how she used to do this every single morning, and it fills my heart with joy.

And then there are those photo of her taking a morning snooze on our big bed. Every time I see them, I melt into a puddle of mush.

Or this shot of her at the beginning of the summer, wrapped up in a towel after experiencing the kiddie pool for the first time. There is something about this photo that I just love. Her dripping eye lashes. Her quiet expression. How she looks so snug and warm. It’s a real moment, and I couldn’t have posed it if I tried. For years to come, I will look at this photo and remember that summer day.

Lifestyle photography tells a story. And when I started to see how much I loved lifestyle photos as a mom, I became even more passionate about offering this type of session to other families who might be skeptical about – or unfamiliar with – lifestyle photography.

I had the pleasure of doing a couple of lifestyle sessions this summer for some lovely families who had never been photographed in this way before. It was a new experience for them to just be in front of the camera. But after a few awkward minutes everyone was able to relax, and life just started to unfold naturally. And I snapped away while moments happened.

Like a little boy who is crazy about cars proudly driving his ride around the yard and then running into his mama’s arms for a hug.

Or a neighbourhood walk before bedtime followed by snuggles and a story.

I also love to capture the details during a lifestyle shoot. I love this shot of the pjs and diaper laid out by mama right before bedtime. It might seem like a mundane detail today, but when this little sweetie is 15, a shot like this will bring back a whole slew of babyhood memories.

A far cry from most scenarios where families coordinate and dress up for their photo session, this sweet family opted for pyjamas and some big bed snuggles and stories. This laid back in-home lifestyle session perfectly captured where this family was at that moment – adjusting to a new little family member, a little tired, extremely happy and totally in love. These guys were no strangers to being photographed, but this was a completely new experience for them, one that captured real life and really documented their sweet relationships (and allowed them to stay in their pjs – score!).

There really are no rules or standards when it comes to lifestyle photography. These sessions can take place in your home, at the park, or on a family outing. If you love getting ice cream as a family on hot summer evenings, why not make a lifestyle session out of it? Capture that experience through beautiful photos that will not only capture your family as they are right now, but will always remind you of this special experience. Do you want to remember your trip to the beach? Your Saturday afternoon baking with your daughter? Playing in the snow? No matter what it is you want to capture, a lifestyle session can be tailored to meet your needs and capture those moments you never want to forget. And, because we know that grandparents want that perfect mantle portrait, we can always throw in a few formal family poses here and there to make sure you truly get the photos you want.

If you’re interested in booking a family session or have any questions, drop me a line here!

Have a great day, everyone!

London Ontario High School Senior Photography | Seb

Everyone has that person that will forever make them feel “old”. When they hit a milestone, you realize how much they’ve grown up, and consequently, how much older you are. For me, this person is my little brother. With 7 years between us, we were close enough in age that we spent an incredible amount of time together growing up and developed a really close bond, but far apart enough that I babysat him, picked him up from school, prepared his snacks and tucked him into bed. When Seb started highschool, I felt ancient. How was this even possible? Now that he’s moved away to attend college out of province on a soccer scholarship, I’m a little blown away. He is officially an adult, independent, and off to discover the world for himself. I am so incredibly proud of him, and so thankful we were able to squeeze in one last “hang out” session before he left. He’s always up for being in front of the camera, so I was thrilled when my mom requested I do a little senior session with him before he left, and he agreed! We found a fun little rustic spot and had a blast laughing and doing different poses. Here’s a peek at our session.

Seb – I already miss you so much, but I am super proud of you, and I know you’re going to rock it. Love you!!

Behind the Lens | Let the Littles Be

Alternate titles for this post include: “Please don’t say “cheese” “, “It’s OK if they don’t smile”, “Kids will be kids” and “Nagging probably won’t help”.

I love photographing children. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for kiddos, and I worked with them in the Early Childhood Education field for 6 years. Or maybe it’s because they keep things exciting, unpredictable and fun. Either way, photographing those lively littles is one of my favourite things to do. But it doesn’t come without its challenges.

I think the most important thing to remember when photographing young children, for both parents and photographers, is that they probably don’t fully understand what they’re getting into. They don’t know that their parents might have saved up for this family session forever, agonized over the perfect location and gone over budget on the adorable coordinating outfits. They don’t fully understand that this may be the only date that worked for each member of the extended family and that this is a one-shot deal. They don’t care that you wanted four separate poses of them smiling with their sibling to fill the four-frame arrangement in the living room.

serious but oh-so-sweet. We got lots of smiles from this little guy, but this shot just stands out to me. I feel like his parents must see this sweet serious expression all the time.

The simple reality is that young children won’t fully grasp the importance and meaning of what’s going on, and as much as both parents and photographers try to plan out a session to perfection and find potential solutions for every possible outcome, children are unpredictable. So we can all get ridiculously stressed, or we can just go with it.

Sometimes we need to ditch the quilts and crates and fancy chairs and just let them walk around to capture those natural expressions.

It’s no secret that I love a good candid shot, one that shows a person as they are, without a fake, forced smile. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good genuine smile. But I’d rather frame a real expression than an awkward grin. When I’m photographing your child, I start out with no expectations. I usually take the first little bit to get to know them, chat with them, ask them about school, their favourite colour, etc. We might pick flowers or explore the location a bit. I’ve found myself collecting pinecones, playing “alligator hug attack” and singing ridiculous songs while making funny noises. The most important thing for me is that they have fun and don’t feel pressured, cornered or forced to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing. Some of my favourite shots are of children exploring and just being themselves. And as a parent, the same goes for my favourite shots of my own baby girl. The smiles are lovely. But those photos that show her just being her? Priceless. 

I just love this set of these two cousin-buddies. One of them was extremely shy, but when I let them just play together, I was able to really capture their sweet relationship.

Perhaps not a smile, but what a stunningly gorgeous expression from this lovely little girl!

Now, moms and dads, don’t worry. I do my very best to get some smiles for you. And I almost always do. But here’s the key. For real smiles to happen, we all need to back off a little bit and figure out what produces a grin. Sometimes that means I need to make a fool of myself and dance around and make silly sounds and play peek-a-boo relentlessly. Sometimes that means asking them about their favourite TV show and proceeding to imitate some of the characters. Sometimes that just means letting them pick up rocks for 15 minutes and catching a spontaneous smile as they show off their treasures. Sometimes, that means I need to stop asking them to sit on my pretty quilt because it’s just not going to happen. But these smiles – these genuine expressions of joy – are so worth it when they happen.Because let’s face it, children aren’t quite so skilled as many adults are when it comes to faking a smile. They haven’t all figured out that a giant toothy rigid grin isn’t quite their best look.

This was one of the last shots of this gorgeous girlie. For almost an hour she was unsure about smiling and gave us a rigid, forced grin. But when she finally let loose near the end we got a fantastic set of genuine smiles, and some of my favourite photos ever.

sometimes silly shots are the best!

When we force children to sit still and “say cheese”, often we get smiles that no one is too excited about. So often I hear parents pleading with their kiddos to give their “real smile” – but the thing is, these smiles need to just happen. Which is why I always tell parents that I’d rather go with the flow than push children to the point where they are cranky, upset, and no longer wanting to participate. You can usually work with a busy, silly, shy child. But a child who is pushed to the point of tears and frustration is usually all done.

We never did get a shot where everyone was looking at me. But I just love this moment – they were just happy to be together.

I do understand that desire parents have to capture that beautiful smile they know their child has. I know that the intentions behind bribing and pleading and threatening consequences and insisting on cooperation are good. And I certainly never judge whatever method a parent chooses to try and make things work. I’ve been there, both as a parent and a teacher, where you’re grasping at straws to just try and make things work. I’ve also been in a situation where I’ve paid for family photos and my joyful, happy-go-lucky baby decided to be cranky and serious. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. But it’s life. So don’t worry if your child isn’t on their best game the day of the photo session, and please don’t feel the need to apologize for them. I’ve worked with children for years, and I know that, like everyone, they have their good and bad days. I also have a very good understanding of child development and adjust my expectations accordingly. Sometimes, a three-year-old miraculously sits, poses, tilts their head and gives me the most gorgeous, natural looking smile with no coaxing at all. But most times, by the end of a child or family session, I’m sweating, dishevelled, and I’ve spent the last hour or so running around and being silly to try and capture the essence of who your child is.

This is one of my favourites from her session with her sister. She was a willing participant and smiled a ton. But this expression was candid and in the moment. She was excited to show us the flowers she had found.

Parents, you have to believe me when I tell you that it’s not just your child. This is just the way it is most of the time.

And it’s totally OK.

And while I can’t 100% promise that you’ll get that perfect smiling pose (although I can promise I will try my best!), I can promise that you’ll get photos that really tell the story of who your child is right now, and that when you look back on these photos, you’ll see their personality shine through.

He was shy about giving me smiles, but eager to play with the dandelions in the field. So we went with it. How cute is he?

London Ontario Children’s Photography | Bella and Gracie

A little while ago I had the privilege of capturing some photos of Bella and Gracie, two sweet and beautiful sisters. It’s always so fascinating for me to photograph siblings together and see their similarities and differences shine through. These girls are opposites in so many ways, but both were a delight to photograph. Little Gracie made me work for a smile, but it turned out that the candid shots of her natural, inquisitive expressions ended up being some of my favourites from the session. I love capturing children as they are, because years from now, when mom and dad look back at these photographs, my hope is that they see their girls’ personalities shine through.

Here are some favourites from the session.

Behind the Lens | The Time of Day (and why it matters for your session)

When I first started experimenting with photography on a more serious level, I had very little concept of natural light and how it changes throughout the day. While I have loved my journey as a self-taught photographer and wholeheartedly believe that all the knowledge you need is out there if you intentionally seek it out, one of the challenges of taking this route is having to learn the hard way on a lot of topics. I knew in my mind the kind of light I wanted to capture. Soft, golden, hazy, delicious light. I wanted my backlit subjects to be softly framed and enveloped by this dreamy glow that is universally flattering. But I kept booking portrait sessions at 10am, or 1pm, or 3pm. The result was a harsh, heavily contrasted light, yucky shadows on smiling faces, blown out backgrounds, squinting eyes, underexposed subjects… need I go on? When I learned about this magic little timeframe that photographers refer to as the golden hour, I just about lost my mind with excitement. When I learned that, to get soft, dreamy, hazy light, you need to be shooting an hour or two after sunrise or an hour or two before sundown, all of a sudden I could produce the images I saw in my head.

I wanted to find a way to illustrate this concept clearly, so I enlisted my 1-year-old to be photographed in the same location, by the same photographer (me), with the same equipment, on the same day, at different times. Have a look at the photos below.

 

The goal of this little exercise wasn’t to take mind blowing photos that would push my limits of creativity – they were snapped quickly throughout our day between naps and meals and playtimes and diaper changes, and my girl was less than impressed with the crate after our initial mini session. But the point of these photos is more about the changes in light than it is about composition and style. Make sense? Furthermore, I intentionally kept these images clean with only minor editing (although they all underwent the exact same editing process) to really emphasize the natural effects of the light.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the 7am and 7pm shots. Do you see that gorgeous flattering haze? Dreamy, yes? The only difference between the way these two photos were taken is that Neve was facing different directions so that in each, the light source (sun) was behind her. I love backlighting my subjects, but many photographers also enjoy photographing their subjects facing the sun at these times, with great results (just not my style). Either way, the light at this time is delicious.

Now, look at the 11am photo. It’s not horrible. But it’s not great. Look at the ground. Do you see how contrasted the light is? My driveway (because that is the oh-so glamorous location these photos were taken in) is literally divided in half – shadow and light. Look at the 3pm photo – there’s no escaping the sun. No shade in sight, and regardless of which direction my girl is facing, the sun is in her eyes. Look at those harsh shadows on her face… yuck. Now, there are times (like at a daytime outdoor wedding, for example), where you can’t avoid these types of midday lighting. In these cases, when possible, we look for open shade to protect our subjects’ faces from the harsh sun. But as you can see in the 11am image, by correctly exposing the subject (who is in s spot of open shade), the background is blown out. Alternately, if I had exposed the photo for the sunny background, my daughter would have been severely underexposed. (have you ever been there? You’re enjoying a day at the beach with a camera set to AUTO, you snap a photo in the midday sun and you end up with dark faces you can barely make out?)

Now – a good photographer can make it work if they need to.  If we are outside in this type of lighting, there are things we can do. As I mentioned earlier, we can look for vast areas of open shade. We can also look for covered areas with directional light. We can use a reflector to brighten faces and a deflector to block the sun at certain angles. We can use fill flash if we really need to. We can take several photos at different exposures and try to get the best possible result in post processing. I will always do my best to ensure that my clients get the best possible results, even in tricky situations. (remember, the photos above were taken to intentionally show the effects of light, very little was done to try and improve the natural conditions.) But when we are shooting at these times, especially on sunny days, a lot of effort will go into “fixing” the conditions and trying to “make the best” of the light, instead of being in a situation where we are so blown away by the breathtaking golden sun that our creativity skyrockets.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that even on a cloudy day, when the harsh sun is tucked away, the midday light falls flat compared to the dreamy evening glow. Check out these examples below.

With that said – when you do have a choice about the timing of your session, do yourself a favour and book during the golden hour!

I understand that for many families, aiming for the morning golden hour is nearly impossible, and that early evenings are prime time for dinner preparations, bedtime routines and everything else on your plate. Now that I’m a mother, I understand more than ever the importance of respecting bedtime. If my girl isn’t well on her way to being asleep by 7 (7:30 if we’re pushing it), it’s not a good situation.  But if you’ve decided to make the investment and pay to have your photos taken professionally, it might be worth looking at a temporary adjustment to your schedule to get the best possible light. Also, don’t forget that with changing seasons comes shorter days, which means that while right now the best time for evening photos is between 7pm and 8pm, in a few months is will be between 4pm and 5pm, which might make it easier for your family to make it work.

I promise if you try to align your session with these prime shooting times, you won’t be disappointed. And you’ll have a very happy photographer. :)

Behind the Lens | My Philosophy on Newborn Photography

Hi everyone!

I’m so excited to be posting my first blog on the new website. In honour of the new site and new beginnings, I decided to start a new recurring series on the blog called Behind the Lens, where I will post my photography thoughts and tips and anything else that I feel inspired to write about. I hope this series will be helpful to both clients and photographers reading, and I encourage you to drop me an email at sophie@rawfootagephotos.com if there’s any particular topic you’d like me to address! Anyone who knows me knows I am a lover of writing and blogging on a personal level, so I’m excited about transferring that to my business and revamping the Raw Footage blog to make it more active and (hopefully) interesting!

Today I want to write about my philosophy on newborn photography. There are so many photographers out there doing newborn photography, and if you browse around the web a bit, you’ll soon realize that there are lots of different approaches to the art of capturing those first few photos of a precious little bundle. When choosing a photographer to take your newborn’s photos, you’ll want to make sure that their style is one that you feel comfortable with and inspired by.

When I first started experimenting with newborn photography, I wasn’t entirely sure what my style was. I was nervous about the baby potentially crying/peeing/spitting up and that I wouldn’t be able to pose him or her properly. I worried that I didn’t have enough hats and booties and baby costumes to give the family photos that were varied and creative enough. And I stared at endless photos from other photographers, completely baffled by the insane poses they managed to get these babies in. I’m sure you’ve seen them – the babies seemingly supporting their tiny, fragile little head in their hands, or dangling from a branch in what looks like a hamster hammock. I wondered how on earth they did it. And I am so glad I never attempted such poses before learning about composite images. Photographers who take these types of photos actually take a series of photos with supporting adult hands placed in different areas on the baby’s body. In post processing, the “hands-free” parts of the photos are stitched together to make an image that looks as though no one was supporting baby. (if your photographer is attempting these poses without adult support for the newborn, abort mission. Safety first!)

I decided I was going to produce these mind blowing images. I bought a beanbag, my husband made me a backdrop stand and I bought some blankets and pieces of fabric I thought would make cute newborn backdrops. I ordered some adorable headbands and mini knit hats with matching booties. I bought a white noise machine. I did my homework. I was ready to take on the newborn photography world by storm. But here’s the thing, every time I attempted to pose a squishy little bundle in an unnatural position with hats and booties and backdrop changes, it just felt, well, unnatural. I was happy with the results, clients were happy with the results, but I was unhappy with the process. This approach to newborn photography is such a contrast to my photography philosophy in general, which is to capture clients in their element, naturally, to let their personalities shine through. Real. Simple. Pure. Raw. I soon realized that it’s just not for me.

Now let me clarify, there are some amazing photographers out there, and even here in London, who do beautiful posed work with newborns, who put safety first and provide parents with adorable images of their fresh babe. I look up to many of these photographers and follow their work. It’s just not my style. And as I gain more experience and grow my business a bit more, I’m really discovering what my style is, and trying to embrace it. Because my best work happens when I am totally passionate and completely inspired.

When I became a mama, I had my headbands and baskets ready to go. I took a few hours and put my baby to sleep, posed her, carried out various wardrobe changes, and took cute photos of her that now hang on my wall and adorn the refrigerators of anyone who still has her birth announcement displayed.

I still love those photos. How could I not, they’re of the cutest baby on the planet (don’t mind my mama-goggles, hehe). But I soon realized that my mom instinct quickly teamed up with my photographer instinct, and the photos that I truly treasured more than anything, the grab these and run if there’s a fire images, were photos of my husband holding our daughter close in the kitchen while I made dinner, or the one of me laying on the bed with her tucked under my arm. Or the one of her laying on a blanket, fully awake, making the sweetest faces.

I decided that, as a mom, if these are the photos I truly treasure, then I mustn’t be alone. And while there is definitely a huge market for posed baby shots (and, as I said, amazing photographers to meet those demands), I’m sure there are mamas out there who want a different approach and who might embrace my newfound  lifestyle approach to newborn photography.

So – I have a few rules now.

1. If the baby can’t get into/stay that position on his/her own, not happening.

This seems self explanatory, right? No dangling babies. No poses that require extensive photoshop work to make it look real. I’m more interested in capturing what really is real. I am passionate about capturing moments that you will look back on and reminisce. I totally remember when little Mark always stretched his arms out as a newborn. Or, I remember how Maya always put her tiny little hand on her cheek while she slept. Here’s the thing. I firmly believe that babies pose themselves. Sure we can place them on the bed on their bellies and try and coax their arm out of their face. But we are not going to spend 15 minutes propping their head up and crossing their legs just so and figuring out which headband matches the diaper cover the best, because while this is happening, we’re missing out on moments.

During one of my baby-posing sessions, I really struggled with getting this sweet little boy to stay scrunched, for lack of a better term. He kept stretching his whole body out so that his feet stuck out beyond the crate we were using, and he’d wake up every time we tried to coax his little bum in the air so we could get that pose. You know, the classic scrunched-baby-with-cute-bum-in-the-air-and-feet-tucked-just-so-with-ridiculously-adorable-hat pose. This little guy was not having it. We eventually moved on to other ideas and ended up with some really cute photos, but most of them were of him on his back. Because that’s just how he rolled. We wasted so much time trying to get this sweetie in a pose that was so unnatural and uncomfortable to him. What I really should have been shooting were the moments while he was in mama’s arms being put back to sleep. But instead I was rearranging the next prop set-up.

This sweet little man just wanted to be awake and on his back…

2. If the baby is awake, it’s okay.

We photographer’s are so focused on getting newborns asleep. And I get it, they’re always cute, but when they’re asleep, the aww-factor sky-rockets. Not to mention, they are more easily posed. I have sleepy photos of my own daughter as a baby, and I worked hard to get them. Shhhh-ing, bouncing, nursing, rocking, white noise, more nursing, a lot of “come on baby, just sleep!” whispered under my breath. I’ve witnessed other mamas go through the same thing. No matter how relaxed an environment you provide, if mama wants sleepy photos and baby isn’t staying asleep, the stress level is likely to increase a bit for both mom and baby, and in turn, for photographer. Here’s my philosophy. If the baby is sleeping, awesome, let’s take some amazing sleepy photos. If baby is awake, fantastic. Let’s take some amazing awake photos of those shiny little newborn eyes.

We tried every pose in the book with this little guy and worked hard to get him sleepy. But my favourite shot was one of him just comfortably laying in the cozy crate, eyes wide open, looking at mama.

 

3. Interactions and Emotions before Props and Staging. 

I still have my hats and headbands. Not gonna lie, I still think they’re crazy-cute. I photographed my little girl in them and I still oooohh and ahhhh when I see the new creations that some of my favourite newborn vendors make. If a client wants to put a bow on her sweet little girl’s head, it’s all good. If she wants her little man to wear an adorable little diaper cover and booty set, no worries. The point is, the number one thing I will be photographing will be the interactions and emotions that surge to the surface when parents and siblings love on their new little baby. The backdrop will be a client’s home or backyard. The money-shot will not be baby scrunched into a basket with a frog costume on (not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s your style), it will be of baby being cuddled in dad’s arms while mama looks on proudly, a soft smile on her face. It will be of a protective sibling kissing baby’s head and stroking her soft cheeks with his finger.

If you’re reading this and you’re looking for a talented photographer to pose your baby with cute props and costumes, email me. I have a few well-respected and uber-talented photographer friends I’d love to refer you to. But if you’re wanting to capture those sweet, everyday moments with your new bundle and capture them as is, I’m your girl, and I’d love to help you make some memories!