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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Winter Photo Challenge week 1

I am playing along in a weekly photo challenge.  This is my entry for the first week.  If you want to play along you can click on over to Photography Awesomesause.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting Great Photos of Your Child With Special Needs

I was extremely excited and flattered to have been interviewed recently for an article on the Huffionton Post blog by fellow momtog and amazing writer, Jamie Davis Smith.  It is such a great article and I am so proud to have been featured in the Huffinton Post, I wanted to not just link to the article but re=post it here in it's entirety as well.  Happy reading:

Getting Great Photos of Your Child With Special Needs 

by Jamie Davis Smith

Photo: Squeaker and YoYo Photography

I love photographing all of three of my children -- their achievements, their everyday routines, and the little things that make them who they are. But, capturing my child with special needs can be a challenge. She has a range of disabilities, including autism, that pose challenges to getting her to look at the camera or even to look up from whichever favorite picture book or colorful magazine has captured her attention. She also has a range of adaptive equipment she uses daily, including a wheelchair, hearing aid, and orthotics. Deciding how, or even whether, to include these tools she relies upon in photographs poses challenges as well.
Photo: Squeaker and YoYo Photography

So, I was beyond thrilled when I picked up a copy of the new book, Your Child in Pictures: The Parents' Guide to Photographing Your Toddler and Child from Age One to Ten by famed "momtographer" Me Ra Koh and found an entire chapter dedicated to photographing children with special needs. Given how many families have a child with some type of special need this topic deserves a lot more attention then it gets. All parents want good photos of their children and children with special needs deserve an equal place in family photos as well and they deserve just as many photos documenting their childhoods as their typically developing peers.
Me Ra explains why she included an entire chapter on capturing children with all types of disabilities in her book, Your Child In Pictures:
One of the most incredible honors I've had in my career is to photograph the beauty of children with special needs. These moms have taught me how difficult a family photo can be. The term Special Needs seems to blanket over a myriad of scenarios. This is why I dedicated a special section to this important, often undiscussed topic, in my latest book. There isn't one photo tip that will work for all. But I have learned that, for example, if you are working with an autistic child, it's imperative that you don't cover up your face with the camera when taking the photo. They need to keep eye contact with you to stay engaged. Instead, use your Live View to compose the photo so that your face can stay uncovered. They may still look away but their engagement will be felt in the photo.
I have picked up in looking for ways to photograph my own child with special needs, both from experience and from a photographer very experienced in photographing children with special needs, Sylvia Eng of Squeaker and YoYo Photography. Also, check out this article for tips on photographing any child. Some may work for your child as well!
• Whenever possible ask for your child's input. You may be dreaming of garden photos in a pastel dress, but by allowing your child to have as much input as possible into the process you are more likely to have a happy and cooperative child. There are lots of decisions to be made, from location, to time of day, to wardrobe, to theme or activity, to displaying or hiding special equipment. Once you have started the shoot, be ready to follow your child's lead even if it's not exactly what you had planned or agreed upon in advance.
• Have patience. Photographing any child relies on patience and a little luck, but this is even more so with children with special needs. Allot sufficient time to get "the shot." If you taking a photo for a holiday card or to document another special occasion start early to reduce stress and try again if you need to.
Photo: Squeaker and YoYo Photography
• Be ready. When photographing a child with special needs shoot constantly and always be ready for the moment when they make eye contact, smile, or let their guard down to allow their personality to shine through. This also means using a higher shutter speed, if your camera allows, to make sure you get a sharp photo of what could be a fleeting moment. If your camera has continuous mode use it to get multiple shots quickly. Also, have your camera with you as much as possible to help ensure you do not miss an unexpected opportunity to get a great shot. I invested in a cute camera bag, the Cabriolet by ShutterBag, so that I don't mind lugging my fancy camera with me and not look like I'm carrying a camera. I also have a LowePro NovaSport that is waterproof so that I can take my camera with me in bad weather while still having enough room for all the kid stuff I always need.
• Choose a location in which your child is comfortable. This could be a favorite park or as specific as a particular place in your home. If possible, choose a time with good light and, if going out in public, few crowds.
• Try to set everything up for the shoot before your child is brought over for photos. For example, if you want a family photo in front of the Christmas Tree make sure the tree is exactly as you want it before calling your child over. If your child will be drawing or playing with LEGOs during your shoot have everything set out before your take out your camera.
• Consider allowing your child to hold a favorite toy or lovey. Not only will this provide your child with some comfort and give them something to do with their hands, it will also give you the opportunity to capture your child with a cherished part of her childhood.
• Avoid using the flash, which may startle or upset your child and, at the very least, will draw more attention to the fact that the child is being photographed. This may result in darker photos, but that can be solved easily by doing some basic editing to brighten the photo using a free program such as PicMonkey or by using an editing program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, which can be purchased for under $100.00.
• If the child has a hard time making eye contact try to have someone or something near the camera to capture their attention. The person could be a parent or someone else who is trusted. Alternately, someone could hold a prop near the camera that interests the child. It can be a favorite toy or even a phone tuned into YouTube.
• If you are using a DSLR, use an aid, such as a DaisyGrip or ShutterBuddy to help get your child's attention. The DaisyGrip is ingenious because it attaches to your camera's hot shoe and can hold nearly anything. For example, If a child is obsessed with trains you can put a Thomas the Tank Engine toy in the DaisyGrip and ensure the child looks right at the camera. You can also use it to insert a phone playing a video, which works well for my daughter. Another idea is to stick puppets right on top and have the puppet dance, fall off, or engage in whatever activity will get the child to look. Colorful toys that move around might also work to get a child's attention. ShutterBuddies are another option. They fit around your lens, come in a variety of styles, and even have squeakers, which can often get children to look at the camera.
• Allow your child to play or engage in a favorite activity, such as drawing or playing with toy cars. By getting on the same level as your child while they are doing something they enjoy you may be able to capture some wonderful natural expressions, even if direct eye contact is not being made. By asking the child about the activity you may be able to get her to look at the camera just long enough to get a shot with great eye contact.
Photo: Squeaker and YoYo Photography

• Try to be in some shots with your child to make her more comfortable. This can be done with a few inexpensive tools. A tripod will help you get the right angle. The Joby Gorillapod is made in a variety of styles to handle everything from DSLRs with zooms, to point and shoots, to phone cameras. It's affordable, can be brought anywhere, and bent into nearly any position you need to get the right perspective. Joby also makes other tools that make it easy to get into photos for those using DSLRs, such as the UltraPlate and a handstrap with UltraPlate that make it a cinch to quickly attach and detach your camera from the tripod while still using a study strap. Once your camera is on the tripod set it to self-timer and get in position. If you are using a DSLR, you can purchase a camera remote for about $10.00 or use interval timing on your camera as an alternative. SONY also has an innovative new device that allows you to use your phone to preview and trigger your camera. Me Ra Koh explains how it is used. Rumors are that other manufactures are developing similar technology.
• Give lots of praise throughout the shoot and show the child any great photos you get on your camera. This may help put the child at ease and boost their confidence.
• Be prepared to move a lot and change things around. It may be difficult to move around much with children with special needs. So, you should be prepared to get lots of different angles by moving yourself and getting a different perspective. Get up high, down low, move from side to side. You should also be prepared with ways to make shots more interesting with the child in the same place. One idea is to change the background by incorporating balloons, streamers, flowers, etc. to give shots taken in the same place a different feel.
• If the child uses adaptive or medical equipment, if possible ask them if they would like the equipment incorporated into the shots or not. Some children may consider a hearing aid or wheelchair part of who they are. Some may not. Consider a variety of shots with and without the equipment. For shots without equipment, you could safely place a child who uses a wheelchair on soft grass or a chair with a lot of support. Breathing tubes could possibly be covered with coordinating scarves or even a toy. Be sensitive to your child. Do not send the message that a wheelchair should be hidden by suggesting that your child get out of her chair for a photo. On the other hand, if it is your child's wish to be photographed out of her chair then do what you can to make this possible even it means not using your ideal location. Plan this out carefully ahead of time.
Photo: Squeaker and YoYo Photography
• Approach your photos in new ways. Instead of going after the "smile for the camera and say cheese" approach, approach your photo taking as a documentary of your child's life through "lifestyle" photos that capture the everyday from reading with Daddy to getting ready for school. You may even consider a "day in the life" or "week in the life" project where you choose a day and take a photo every hour of whatever your child is doing for a day or a week. You can choose to include therapy and doctor's visits as they may be an important part of your child's story.
• Consider creative ways of getting family shots. It can be a challenge getting everyone to look good in family photo even when all members of the family are typically developing. You can use what works to try to get the shot -- for my family using the DaisyGrip with my iPhone tuned to cartoons usually works. If that fails, consider using a montage or storyboard to include the great photos you do get of your child with special needs into a variety of shots that are put together to tell the story of your family.
• Finally, let go of the idea of the "perfect shot." Have fun, capture your child doing what she loves where she loves to do it, and enjoy the time you spend planning and having the photo shoot. Many Moms find the images they love most are not the ones with a child smiling perfectly for the camera, but the images that capture the essence of who their child is. Those are the memories you will treasure.
Photo: Squeaker and YoYo Photography
Now go get some beautiful photos of your child!
Here's one of mine. She's not looking at the camera and she's squinting, but she's radiant and smiling and I think it captures her perfectly.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Play time photoshoot on the farm - Georgetown, Ontario

Capturing families playing always makes for excellent photos.  Piggy back rides, exploring new spaces and textures and even a little bit of dress up and pretend play made this session show off the essence of this family.  This family is very special to me. I first photographed them as a gift to them, and that was a turning point that made me think that I might want to have a photography business one day.  Ely's warmth and generosity gave me the first bit of confidence I needed to start this very scary (at the time) venture into business.  It was so great to have them back again and to document their family.

"I hope you know how talented you are! You were not only patient with us, you were kind and really helped bring out the best in our pictures even though both kids were having a tough time." -Ely

I received the above message from the mother in this portrait.  It is very common that we feel a lot of pressure leading up to and even during a family portrait. Taking the time and making an investment in family portraiture can be daunting.  Why is it our husbands are always so reluctant!?!  Sometimes it can feel like, as the mom, we are the ones pulling the whole day together trying to keep every one ship shape and best behavior so we can capture perfect moments in time.  I can tell you to relax and not to worry, but I know that would be pointless.  I know because I myself was staring at a blemish on my son's face this morning as I sent him off to school photo day, literally trying to wish it away, so that it would not be forever documented on his very first school photo ever.  I was getting totally melodramatic over this ill timed little pimple, cursing it under my breath. We are moms we can't help it.

However, I can help you to worry less.  If you just show up I can manage the rest, I will polish your images and create genuine opportunities for your family to just be your selves.  I am not phased by temper tantrums or a huge case of the wiggles.  I have never once had a child who I thought to be uncooperative (especially not yours Ely!).  It all comes down to the fact that if the kids are not meeting my expectations I adapt my style to meet them where they are comfortable.  I am the professional here after all!  I specialize in photographing what some would consider difficult or unique families, none more difficult then my very own darling daughter.  I guess you could say that I studied photography in the school of hard knocks!  I always find your children immensely easier then my own.  I suspect part of that is the very specific special needs she has but also because our own kids either listen to us less or know how to get under our skin more.  LOL.  

Looking forward to many more great family holiday images in the coming weeks, so for all of you in the queue, try to keep calm and leave it to me.  :)
Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography Christmas

Georgetown Ontario Family Photography Holiday

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fashion Inspired Maternity Shoot

Lately I have found myself very inspired by fashion editorial photography.  Because of my background as a model this style has always been of interest to me, and I always bring some of that feel into my work through the posing. I coach my "models" in each shoot how to pose to bring out their most glamorous side.  I like to bring a smidgen of glamour and romance to every shoot regardless of the subject.  I want all the moms in my images to feel just as beautifully captured as their darling little ones.  I love to see the romance in an expecting mothers' eyes as she gazes adoringly at her blooming belly.  And the soft everlasting love pass between two parents as their eyes meet over top of their children's heads.  
I strive to create images that are more then just "cute", so I was thrilled when this expecting second time mama, decided to make her shoot all about herself in this moment in time.  A celebration of womanhood was perfectly reflected in the bounty of nature that is harvest season.  My creativity was sparked on this Indian summer evening and we got an amazing array of moods and images with the changing light. 
romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

romantic glamour pregnancy maternity brampton photography photoshoot fall farm

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What to Wear for a Fall Photo Shoot

What to wear for fall photoshoots toronto brampton georetown family pictures

don’t match!
The biggest misconception I get for portraits is that everyone in the picture should be matching. This isn’t true! Your entire family doesn’t walk around the kitchen wearing white shirts and khaki pants, so why should you do that in your pictures?  Being identical has it's time and place (I just ordered identical mommy and me outfits from Asia for me any my girl, I love to break the rules!) but in general you will look more natural and candid if you are not dressed like clones.

mix it up!
Try choosing a colour family (for instance, all warm colours such as red, brown, and gold) and then add some variety within that colour family. It’s okay to mix patterns and fabrics as long as the colours tie everything together.  Texture and layers are magic in the camera, we can also create a variety of moods by removing and adding layers and accessories.  Using a scarf to frame your face bringing all the focus to your eyes or chandelier earrings that will bring drama to a close up portrait.

be comfortable!
Don’t let your clothes distract from the main focus of your portraits - YOU!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Photographing Airport Arrivals – New Adoptive Families

Toronto Ontario Adoption Photography China
I began photographing my friends at the airport arriving home with their newly adopted children about a year and a half ago.  Now as a fledgling business these micro sessions hold a valuable place in my business plan for two main reasons.  Firstly this is where my two passions collide, adoption and photography, and I just feel so lucky to be able to have them mesh.  The raw emotion of stepping off that plane with your child on your home soil for the first time is just brimming with emotion.  I am an adoptive mom myself and each time I stand as a witness to this event I am moved to tears of joy for the parents and family.   I have photographed grandparents, siblings and even one father meeting this long awaited for child in the flesh for the first time.  It is truly a gift and honour for me to be able to point my camera at these events.

I do this service completely voluntarily, only asking for the $12 to cover my airport parking (darn that parking is expensive!).  Even though I don’t gain any financial compensation from these shoots I do gain amazing referrals. The main reason I get so many referrals is because almost 99% of the moms first words to me when they see me is “I wish you had not come, we are a mess!”, even though they asked me to be there.  At this point I let them know that everyone tells me that, don’t worry, I won’t let that show.  I keep my promise and when they match up their memory of how they felt with the image they are so impressed.  Honestly they feel a thousand times worse than they really look, they are actually radiating joy that no makeup or edits could ever hope to duplicate.

To be fair this is not your typical photo shoot.  There is no coordinating outfits, makeup, or even brushed teeth.  At the point I meet these parents they have survived two weeks isolated in a foreign country with a child who is old enough to know they are being removed from everything they have ever known, and then they flew 12-15 hours only to find me on the other side of the gate with my camera out.  That flight will bring even the most experienced parent to their knees, there are diaper blow outs, nonstop screaming, sleep deprivation, drool and a host of other unmentionables that are just part of the journey for these brand spanking new parents. 

Toronto Ontario Adoption Photography China

If this type of photography interests you here are few tips to keep in mind:

  •  A typical airport arrival shoot lasts about 5-20 minutes of shooting time.  Give yourself about an hour to make sure you are there for the gate exit and check the flight status often though out the day, one family was about 2 hours early and I almost missed them.
  • Try to find the waiting family ahead of time, they will probably have signs or balloons, or ask for their photos ahead of time to help you spot them in the crowd.  I introduce myself to everyone waiting with a balloon or teddy bear.  Even if they are not the family I came for I introduce myself, give them my card and snap a few for them after I am done with the primary family who requested me.

  • Be a fly on the wall.  You will likely not get one single posed shot, this is life style shooting to the extreme.  It moves fast, the lighting sucks and you don’t get a redo.

  • Use a zoom lens.  You need to be a witness to this event not an orchestrator.

  • Don’t use a flash.  Many of these children have never left the one room orphanage in their entire life.  This airport experience is already traumatic to the extreme so don’t add to that with a flash in their eyes.  Also you don’t want to give the family a feeling that they are being documented, it will interfere with the real emotions that are playing out.  A flash popping can remind them they are on film.

  • Try to keep your interaction with the child to the minimum.  They are still learning who mom and dad are and using typical toddler photography tricks like bribes, treats, or trying to get eye contact with them is inappropriate.  I suggest bringing them a flag, this always gets them looking where I want them to look.  I wave it above my head while I get a nice close up, then I give it to them to play with.  Very patriotic too.  I get them in bulk at the dollar store and send each child home with one as a welcome gift.  Mom or dad can also stand behind you to bring baby’s attention to your direction, if they want, just leave that up to them.  Another trick I use is I speak Mandarin to them.  I only know about 10 words but they seem to get a kick out of it.

  •  If you would like to photograph a new family contact adoption agencies in you area to volunteer or ask an adoptive family to spread the word for you.  You will love the challenge and the experience!

Toronto Ontario Adoption Photography China

Toronto Ontario Adoption Photography China

Toronto Ontario Adoption Photography China
Just a little reminder to all, if you are going to be passing through Toronto International Airport or it is your final destination, please contact me, I would love to be there for your arrival!

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