Dream Engagement Shoot in the Annex, downtown Toronto

A few months ago I threw a contest in Toronto for a complete engagement photography session on me - all I asked was to describe what your dream engagement shoot would look like.

One of the entries really stood out to me as genuinely romantic, exciting and fresh. Yuri, the winner wrote:

"My dream engagement photo shoot would be atop a large building with the skyline starting to brighten up the darkening city. There would be lots of movement in the photos, sort of like dancing lights and and a lot of warmth. It really represents how I feel towards Emily because she is my warmth, my bright lights, my feeling of whimsy and the only one I want to dance with!

I shot their engagement session this past Friday all around the Annex in downtown Toronto. We tried to make it as epic as possible. We started on their rooftop, walked all around the Annex, took an awesome pizza break then came full circle back to their rooftop for some dancing night shots.

I love Emily's BLERG tattoo. I love Yuri's Cuban coolness. I love how funny they both are. It's safe to say I LOVE THIS COUPLE!

Scarborough Bluff's Maternity Shoot

I've been thinking a lot about life's unexpected turns. When I was younger the scope of my future seemed to look quite particular. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I thought I knew more or less what would happen along the way. Then life sneakily tapped me on the shoulders a few times, often yelled SURPRISE, and on occasion even kicked me in my (symbolical) nuts.

Never in my life did I think I'd be a wedding photographer. Now, three years since I picked up a DSLR, I am falling deeply and madly for shooting love in any form - engagements, weddings, and definitely maternity shoots with beautiful couples and gorgeous baby bumps.

A lady by the name of Sara contacted me to photograph her in her 7th month of pregnancy. She said it would include her man, Jonah, and their two dogs. I was SO excited right from the get-go. We met up in Scarborough Bluffs and explored the gorgeous landscape from Scarborough Bluffs Park all the way down to the marina. 

Love is beautiful.

123's of Prepping for a Photoshoot!

 1. Don't panic! Remember that the more you prepare in advance the smoother your shoot will go. Unfortunately that's only in theory - things can always go wrong regardless of how much you prepare. But you make your life easier by not winging a shoot and your chances of killin' it certainly increase.

2. Make sure you know in advance what your purpose is - what exactly are you intending to create and WHY? Once that's figured out, every aspect of the creating process becomes much easier. By reminding yourself what you're setting out to do, you can become an active decision-maker and conscious photographer. Photography is not just clicking a button, after all.

3. Now that you know your purpose - do your research. Make sure what you are creating is as believable as possible. I find that pinterest boards help in organizing my research, thoughts, ideas, and inspiration.

4. If you're as senile as I am, you're going to need to make a checklist of equipment-related items you bring with you on every shoot. My problem is that I sometimes forget to check the checklist, but that's a different story!

The following is my basic checklist. It doesn't include gear rentals, or lighting equipment. This works for my basic fine art portraiture sessions, where I'm not using much lighting equipment if at all. It works for me and hopefully might help you too!

  • Nikon D700
  • Tripod and tripod head
  • 35 mm lens
  • 50 mm lens
  • 1 - 2 reflectors/diffusers
  • charged batteries
  • 1-3 empty memory cards
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Safety pins
  • Cell phone charger
  • possibly 1-3 speedlights
  • Wardrobe & props
  • Snacks for everyone
  • Purell
  • Towels (in case the scenario involves water, mud, etc)
  • Contracts
  • Contact information of everyone involved in the photoshoot (models, MUA, assistant, etc)

Remember that there are also shoot-specific lists of things to bring. For example, when shooting underwater I have a very different list of gear and items that I bring!

5. Contracts are incredibly important and when you're just starting out, they can be very overwhelming. I completely understand but I assure you that they can cover your ass. You can believe that you are being as clear as possible but later on down the road your clients, models, or coworkers might disagree. And that's when you may run into problems. "Oh I wish I never made them sign a contract" said NO ONE EVER. Take the time to write contracts/release forms. Expect your contract files to stay in the editing process for a while. Review them with a lawyer. It takes time. But once they're done, they're done and you will never regret taking that step.

6. Ultimately, the whole point of this post comes down to one thing: taking yourself seriously. The best advice I can give anyone who is considering doing photography professionally is this: The goal is always to take your craft seriously, because if you don't why should anyone else? You might not feel like a "professional" in this moment. You might not believe you deserve that level of respect. In which case I'd say that taking the steps to fixing that IS taking your craft seriously. Preparing for your photoshoots ahead of time, being ready for any situation that you may face - these are small steps you can take to taking yourself more seriously and improving your craft. Always try to improve! :)

**All the photos in this post are behind the scenes of shoots I've done over the last couple of years**

DIY Handpainted Backdrop

In my dreamworld I'd love to own several high quality Oliphant backdrops but in my dreamworld I also have a much higher budget for this and generally much more money in my bank account. And so enters the do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude and some crossed fingers praying that I'm not crazy, wasting my time, or wasting my clients' time.

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