how to include pets in your next in-home photography session

I’m not joking when I say the number one question I get asked when planning photography sessions is “How can we include our pets in the session?”. And of course my answer is a resounding YES!! There are a number of ways we can make sure they are incorporated into your family session, in a safe and realistic way. They are very important parts of your family, so we want to make sure to capture them, too! Today I’d like to share a few tips on how to include pets in your next in-home photography session

3 Tips on how to include pets in your next in home photography session:

1. Set your expectations ahead of time

You know your pet better than anyone. Adjusting your expectations to match their personality is always my number one suggestion. If your dog is very hyper around strangers, maybe we don’t include him in photos until I have been in the house for a while. And what if your cat is really antisocial? We can move the crew into the room they are and capture them where they are comfortable. If you’ve got a new puppy who loves to play catch, we can get the family involved for some back yard fun and incorporate that into the shoot!

No matter the personality traits, taking them into consideration before hand and adjusting your expectations accordingly will set us up for success. And I can guarantee their personality will shine through in the photos!

how to include pets in your next in-home photography session

2. Have treats on hand

Especially with dogs, treats can help motivate them. It’s a shame they can’t quite understand that we just want them to sit pretty and look into the camera for 10 seconds! However, having some treats on hand can definitely help me get their attention. I have found there are some dogs who are very put-off my by camera and do not want to look into the lens, but sometimes treats can get them more comfortable with me so I can get a look or two.

how to include pets in your next in-home photography session

3. Safety first, always

I always use the utmost caution when including pets into sessions, especially with newborns. No matter how well trained they are. I will never leave your baby alone with a pet, and we use an extreme amount of caution when laying a baby near a pet. Like I mentioned earlier, you know your pet best and know what your comfort level is, but I will always air on the side of caution. Taking photos with the pet and baby in your arms, or you holding the baby near the pet is always the safest scenario.

how to include pets in your next in-home photography session
how to include pets in your next in-home photography session

At the end of the day, I can’t wait to include your furry bestie in your next session! They are important parts of our family and our stories. So the next time you are asking how to include your pets in your next in-home photography session, we can work together to make it happen! Get in touch today so we can start planning!

How to include pets in your next in-home photography session

There are so many cute outfits available for babies, but they may not always be the best for family photos. Don’t get me wrong, I love how adorable matching baby sets are with the patterned puppy pants and a puppy shirt, but that may not have the timeless look you will be looking to display on your walls. See below for some tips for dressing baby for your next family session:

Tips for Dressing baby

Keep it simple.

First and foremost: keep it simple. Simple textures and patterns (ie. a quiet plaid, small polka dots, stripes) are a great thing to incorporate into the outfit without it being over powering. Avoid loud patterns (like unicorns and trucks) and opt for something neutral and simple in order to ensure your photos are timeless. Often the simple outfits photograph the best, and allow the viewer to focus on the baby and family connection. They also generally make for the most comfortable outfits – putting your newborn in jeans and a cardigan may look absolutely adorable (I can confirm it does!!), but it may not be the most comfortable option for the session. I suggest a modern neutral onesie or two-piece outfit that you can pair with blankets or headbands.

Avoid tutus and choose simple accessories

Being a boy mom, I LOVE when I see little ones in tutus. No one in my house has ever owned or wanted a tutu and when I see one, I melt. They are so fun and whimsical, however they are also itchy and don’t “sit” well. Especially on babies who are laying down or being held the majority of the time. They may have a place for a toddler during a family session, but consider them a fun addition, not the base of the outfit.

Accessories like headbands are so fun to incorporate into the session. Keeping the bows small and simple allow for a feminine touch without the viewer being distracted.

Tips for dressing baby for family session
Tips for Dressing baby for family session

Avoid bright colours

Bright colours are common in kids clothes, but they can cause reflections of that colour on baby’s skin, or onto the skin of those holding them. Keeping clothes neutral ensures that any reflection that does happen, doesn’t cause a colour cast. Side note, this is why I always wear white or gray to sessions 🙂

Tips for dressing baby for family session

Coordinate with mom & dad

One of my top tips for dressing baby for family photos is for mom to choose her outfit first. After having a baby, your clothing options may be limited, and you don’t want to go investing in an new outfit that you don’t need. Choose your outfit, then make sure everyone else’s compliments yours. During a newborn session, your baby is being held for the majority of the time, so making sure your outfits are cohesive is important.

Maternity and Newborn Bundle; Tips for Dressing Baby
Maternity and Newborn Bundle

Match the room/blankets

If you have just spent time and money decorating a nursery of course I will incorporate it into the session. Finding outfits that look good in that space is important. Be sure that whatever baby is wearing compliments those settings well. If you have patterned blankets, I suggest a solid neutral coloured outfit.

If you are shopping online for neutral and inexpensive outfits for the whole family, I recommend Zara, Old Navy or Shop 61 for a local (Blenheim) option! I love what Shop 61 has to offer for the little ones in your life and highly recommend them!

When you book a family session with me I always share my session prep guide which also outlines other tips for preparing for your session. Reach out today to book your session and we can start planning together!

Brittany VanRuymbeke is a Chatham-Kent and Sarnia area lifestyle newborn and family photographer specializing in at-home sessions with families with young children

Tips for Dressing Baby for Family Photos

There are three things to consider when determining the best time of day for family photos for your crew. I have been photographing families for over a decade now, and taking these three things into consideration can help you decide not only the timing of your session, but also the location and time of year that is best for your family. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines and suggestions, but ultimately you know your family best! Let’s dive in!

1. Location

If you have a specific location you would like to use, take note of the lighting there throughout the day. If you are hoping to take photos at home, watch the light for a few days to see when your home is brightest. Is there harsh sunlight coming in? Which rooms are best lit during the morning? If you want to focus your time in your living room, what time of day is that room well lit?

The Best Time of Day for Family Photos

Similarly, if you are hoping for the beach, there is typically little shade so you will want to shoot at the times where the sun is least harsh: golden hour and sunrise. Golden hour is always hailed as being the best time of day for outdoor photography, and when shade is sparse that is certainly true, but certain locations get dark quickly in the evening and earlier in the evening might be better.

The Best Time of Day for Family Photos

2. Your family schedule (Naps/Bed time)

The majority of my families have little ones that are still napping, and we all know toddlers can be awful when it comes to skipping or cutting naps short. Every family has their own schedule, and some families are less flexible than others with bed times. Each parent has different opinions on this, and I totally understand that many people’s sanity is reliant on a schedule. If that is the case for you and your family, what time of day is best for everyones mood and engagement? If your toddler is happiest first thing in the morning, maybe we choose a morning in-home session. Or maybe your kids love the option to stay up late and play at the beach, then maybe a summer golden hour session will work for you.

The Best Time of Day for Family Photos

3. Season

Have your heart set on a fall outdoor session? Keep in mind that here in Ontario fall is generally damp and cloudy, so even though sunset is not until 6-7pm, it is often too dark to shoot at the typical golden hour times. In the summer we are looking at harsh sun from 9am-5pm, which means a mid day session might be best indoors. Taking the season and weather into consideration is an important step in determining the best time of day for family photos.

The Best Time of Day for Family Photos

Like I said off the hop: you know your family best! The best session is one that is low stress and high energy, so choose the best time of day for your family, and choose one that will allow you to be present in the moment with them. Still curious when you should book? Reach out today and we can discuss!

The Best Time of Day for Family Photos

We are so fortunate where we live to have some beautiful spots so close by that are the perfect backdrops for family sessions. With two lakes surrounding us and endless kilometers of farm and woodland between, there are so many possibilities! Each location brings a different look and opens up new opportunities for activities. I have made a list of my tried-and-true locations for outdoor family sessions

My favourite local spots near Chatham and Sarnia for family photography


Erieau has so many great things to offer: beaches, pathways, the pier and cottages. Not to mention the fish and chips or the woodfire pizzas and craft beer to grab after your session! It is the perfect spot for families to play, and for couples to get cozy.

Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography
Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography
Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography
Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography

Nichols Memorial Trail

This one is a bit of a hidden gem in the Wallaceburg area. Many people tell me they have driven by this spot for years and never stopped. It used to be a memorial forest owned by Nichol’s Funeral Home, but it is now owned and maintained by St. Clair Township. The beautiful trail leads back to some pretty rolling hills (as rolling as we can get in Southwestern Ontario!). This location is great during the fall and winter, but can get wet and very buggy if it’s hot and humid weather. The sunsets at this location are also the best!

Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography
Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography
Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography

Wilkesport Greenhill Gardens

Wilkesport Gardens are an absolutely beautiful and relatively new addition to our area. This is a privately funded park that offers a wide variety for any type of session, but it is a favourite of mine for extended family sessions because there is a large amount of space and activities. I will say that because the trees are young, it is best suited for evening sessions because the shade and light filtration is limited during mid day. However, it is a great central location for Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography Session.

Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography

Brander Park

Everyone local knows Brander Park. It has a reputation as being the photographer go-to spot, and for good reason. The pond is beautiful and the willows create and awesome backdrop. Don’t mess with a good thing!

C.M. Wilson Conservation Area

This park has some amazing options in it, with the pond and the wooden bridge, multiple outbuildings, and some beautiful wildflowers it makes for a great spot to explore with a large family or small children. I often use this spot for extended families since there is so much space to work with!

Canatara Park

Canatara is a gem because it offers so much variety! Located right in Sarnia and on Lake Huron, you get the best of both worlds with green trails, and beachy vibes. This is a beautiful option year round, but also offers some gorgeous colours in the fall, and wicked sunsets in the summer.

Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography Session

Your home/farm/business

So many of us locals live in the rural areas of Chatham-Kent/Lambton, and it is always a pleasure to work with families on their own properties (or their friends/relatives). Having a connection to the location brings another level of personality to your images, and it is always fun to incorporate family heirlooms into sessions. Sessions at your own home or farm allow for a backdrop unlike any one else’s, and you know I love a cozy in-home session

Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography Session

Studio Sisters

Studio Sisters is a lovely little studio downtown Chatham that offers a warm dry place in the winter months! They always have it decorated beautifully and the neutrals are always the perfect backdrop for any kind of session, be it family or branding!

Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography Session

Other locations I would love to try for your Family Photography Session:

Downtown Wallaceburg, Chatham or Sarnia

There are some really wonderful spots downtown that are hiding in plain sight. Downtown sessions are great for a more urban feel – and are usually close to craft beer (just sayin!). Urban session are a fun way to play with light and lines, and they also offer so many options for things to do. We can even grab a pint at Sons of Kent, Refined Fool or Glasstown Brewery before, during or after your session!

Sarnia Art Gallery

I’ve shot a wedding here, but it would be really fun to explore with a family! It is so bright and fun, and they are so helpful there. Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

I am always up for exploring a new location with you! If you’ve got something in mind, let me know and we can make it happen for your next Chatham-Kent Sarnia family photography session!

My favourite local spots for family sessions | Chatham-Kent Sarnia Family Photography

Dresden Newborn Photographer

I have at the utmost privilege of documenting this family from the beginning. Ian and Stephanie asked me to photograph their engagement session and wedding in 2019, their son’s newborn session in 2020, family sessions with extended families, and now their daughter’s newborn session in 2022 (yes, I am a year behind in blogging sessions!)

As always when you are welcoming a newborn to a home with a toddler, there are lots of breaks and snacks, but there are also lots of snuggles and giggles. This sweet little family does not disappoint when it comes to showing affection, and it makes for a smooth and fun gallery of images.

Dresden Newborn Photographer, In home photographer, Chatham-Kent photographer
Dresden Newborn Photographer, In home photographer, Chatham-Kent photographer
Dresden Newborn Photographer, In home photographer, Chatham-Kent photographer
Dresden Newborn Photographer, In home photographer, Chatham-Kent photographer
Dresden Newborn Photographer

Dresden Newborn Photographer in home session checklist

If you are looking to book an in-home newborn session with me in the Chatham-Kent/Sarnia area, here is what you need:

  1. A newborn baby. Although I am just as happy to do any type of family session in your home
  2. At least one room in your home with a bright window and neutral colours. Most homes these days are painted in neutrals which is great for an in-home session. Variety is great, but don’t worry too much if there is only one bright spot in your home. 90% of this session was shot in the dining nook of their kitchen because the light was prettiest there.

If you are looking for a Dresden Newborn Photographer who specializes in at home sessions, please reach out today! I can’t wait to meet you!

Dresden Newborn Photographer | Badder Family in-home newborn session

Mother daughter session

Lakyn is also a family and wedding photographer in my area, and she is just as lovely in person as she seems on social media. She asked me to come to her home for a mother daughter session, and we had so much fun together. Here little Elle is a fire cracker – and not just because of that beautiful red hair! She was full of energy and sass, and all the things we love about strong little women.

mother daughter session
mother daughter session

A mother daughter session is a great way to get in the frame with your kids

Most moms are not the ones in front of the camera. We have tens of thousands of images on our phones and computers of our kids, and even our partners, but very few of us. Booking a mother daughter session is a great way to get some pictures with your kids. Images of your mother are rare, but so incredibly meaningful for kids to have! So book the session, get in the frame, and my goodness print the pictures!

mother daughter session
mother daughter session
mother daughter session

Our little ones grow up so fast, and time really is a thief. Making the time to book family photos and prioritizing these simple moments is so important. Having images of you jumping on the bed together, holding your little one in your arms, or curled up on the couch together with your favourite book will never be something you will regret. These types of sessions make the perfect coffee table books so you can continue to look back on them whenever you are missing those toddler days. If you are interested in booking an in home mother daughter session, or a motherhood session, reach out today! These sessions have my heart, they are the most rewarding to deliver and I know you will not regret it.

Mother Daughter Session at home in Petrolia, Ontario

I often get asked whether I will be offering Mini Sessions anytime soon, and while I do enjoy offering them once in a while, they are not for everyone. Today I am sharing some pros and cons of mini sessions so you can decide whether they might be a good fit for your family

Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions
Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions

Pro #1: Short and Sweet

Time is valuable, no matter who you are, and I can certainly appreciate that. An evening long lifestyle session might not be in the cards for your family or this season of life, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t update your family photos. Mini sessions allow you to get those updated images of your family without requiring a big time commitment.

Con #1: Short and not-so-sweet

Some kids are shy or play strange when they meet a new person, and warming up to a new adult can be hard. If your toddler or pre schooler is shy, a longer session may allow us more time to get to know each other. A 20 minute session may not allow me a lot of time to get those genuine smiles and laughs that photograph so beautifully. Mini sessions are typically stacked back to back, which also does not offer a lot of flexibility with timing.

Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions
Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions
Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions

Pro #2: Budget friendly

Typically mini sessions are priced accordingly. When mini sessions are stacked throughout a day, there is limited travel required, and of course the shooting time is also shorter. This, as well as the decreased amount of photos being edited and delivered allows for the price to be cheaper.

Con #2: Smaller gallery of images

Shorter sessions mean smaller galleries. Of course if you are just looking for a few new updated photos for your holiday card, this may not be a bad thing, but my full session galleries are typically 100-200 images, whereas a mini session would give you 20-30 images. Not only do you get less images in your gallery, but you also get less variety. My family sessions are a mix of posed and lifestyle, but working with a limited amount of time means there may not be enough time for details or candid moments.

Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions
Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions
Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions

Pro #3: No planning required

Mini sessions are typically pre-planned at a specific location and time that you can choose from easily. This takes any stress out of deciding a location or activity for your session. All you need to do is show up!

Con #3: Not as personalized

Choosing to do a full lifestyle session gives you a more personalized experience and images that reflect your family. In a mini session there is not enough time to incorporate the interests of your family, and the gallery may not reflect your personality as well. In a full session we have more flexibility, we can explore your home or another location, play games and relax a bit more which provides a personal touch to your gallery.

Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions

After hearing about some of the pros and cons of mini sessions, what do you think would work best for your family? Remember, what works for you now may be different another year and choosing what is best for your family right now is what is most important!

If mini sessions are for you, I always invite my email list first – you can join my email list here to be the first to know!

Thinking a full session might be more your style? Reach out today to reserve your session!

The Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions

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imagery by BRITTANY VANRUYMBEKE | site design by LUNAR & CO