Photography Tips

If you have been following me on social media for a while I have been talking a lot over the last few months about the launch of my newly updated photography course for moms called Life At Home. The purpose of the course is to empower moms to pick up their cameras and take more intentional photographs of their children. To create artist images that tell the story of their family. Images you can be proud of! I am sharing today 10 beginner photography tips for moms who might be feeling overwhelmed by a new DSLR, or who just want to get inspired to use their phone camera to better document their kids.

I think most mothers feel a pull to document their children’s lives – motherhood is my number one inspiration! Over the years I have learned and practiced this skill, but these tips I am sharing today are the exact things that have helped me to get to where I am today.

10 beginner photography tips for moms

1. Turn off your overhead lights

When taking photos inside, turn off your lights and use the window light exclusively whenever possible. Overhead lights can cause unflattering shadows on your subjects face. The temperature of overhead lights is also very different than sunlight, so when you mix overhead lighting with window light, your camera can get confused. This can cause your subjects skin colour to appear slightly different than natural.

10 beginner photography tips for moms

2. Learn the light in your house

Taking the time to observe which rooms in your house are brightest, and noting the different times of day can really help you improve your images. If you know your living room is bright in the morning, plan an activity with your child in that room for the morning. If your child’s bedroom gets lovely light in the evening, maybe you document your before bed routine in that room. Taking advantage of the best light in your home will hugely improve the quality of your images!

10 beginner photography tips for moms

3. Don’t ask your kids to say “cheese”

This is a controversial one, but I am a big believer in documenting your children as they are. Portraits of your kids have a time and place, but when we are trying to document the day-to-day magic, don’t make it a priority. I will guarantee your child’s cooperation will increase, and your stress level will decrease. Shift your focus to see the beauty in non-traditional images, such as the back of their head, their side profile, or the different moods they are experiencing on their face.

4. Leave your camera out so it is always accessible

If you are working with a DSLR and getting to know it, I recommend you always leave it out on the counter so it is within reach. When your child is working through an activity or doing something funny, you can quickly grab it. Leaving it out will also give you a visual prompt to encourage you to pick it up more often.

10 beginner photography tips for moms

5. Keep your lines and horizons straight

A very easy thing to do in camera! Making sure your horizon lines are straight is a very easy way to remove distractions in your pictures. If you’re indoors, use door frames or floors to straighten yourself up. You can easily add a grid line to your phone camera or DSLR – here is a quick tutorial for your iPhone!

6. Take 3 different images each time

Move around! Being sure to include 3 different perspectives of whatever you are photographing is a great tool to help improve your storytelling, as well as your camera skills! Try taking a wide shot of the entire space, a second with your subject filling most of the frame, and a third close up of the details (ie. hands, feet, hair, etc).

7. Stay engaged in the moment

If you are looking for authentic storytelling images, be sure to still be an active participant in the moment. Just because you pick up your camera, doesn’t mean you are now an outsider. Keep the conversation flowing. Set your camera down while you play with your child, and pick it up every few minutes. Staying engaged in the moment ensures you can create authentic storytelling images, and you are guaranteed genuine expressions out of your children.

8. Use the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is described as splitting your image with two evenly spaced vertical lines, and two evenly spaced horizonal lines. By placing your subject on the intersection of those lines, it helps create a more visually pleasing image. Keeping the rule of thirds in mind while you are photographing your kids can be a very quick and easy way to improve your every day images!

10 beginner photography tips for moms

9. Take photos daily

If you are new to photography, making an effort to take your camera out daily is a sure way to improve quickly. Practice makes progress, right? When I was just starting out in photography I completed a 365 project (one photo a day for a whole year), which allowed me to master my camera and create a gorgeous album outlining our year together!

10. Don’t forget the details

Sure it is nice to have your camera roll full of images of your kids smiling at the camera. But there is so much value and story in the details. Dirty boots, messy hair, favourite toys – just to name a few. Incorporating images of these sorts of details will help round out the story you are telling about your family.

Documenting your day to day with your kids doesn’t have the be all “look at me and say cheese!”. Have fun with the process, and take your time to document the little details that make your life fun. Only you can tell your story, and I know with a little effort you and your family can reap the benefits for generations. I talk about all of these things, and many more, in my e-book Life at Home, available for purchase. It is jam packed with tips, examples and education on embracing the chaos of your daily life and documenting your family as you truly are. You can read more about it and purchase it here!

10 Beginner Photography Tips for Moms to Try Today

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

Booking a photographer for your wedding can be an overwhelming task. There may be a ton of photographers in your area, and the internet can be a scary place – it’s hard to know where to begin! I recently saw a story of a couple who booked a “reputable” photographer online and their wedding gallery was returned with out of focus and incorrectly exposed images. Their photographer completely ghosted them after the wedding, and they came to find out his website was full of stolen images. Stories like this break my heart for that poor couple, because ultimately you cannot get that day back. Today I am sharing a few tips on how to find a reputable wedding photographer that you can trust to document your day.

How to find a reputable wedding photographer

How to find a reputable wedding photographer

1. Make sure their website has an updated portfolio, blog and links to social media

It is not just enough to visit the website of a potential photographer. Websites can be designed so easily with fake content (similar to what I described earlier), so be sure the photographers website has an updated portfolio. Even better would be to view recent blog posts. many photographers who are actively building their business will be posting regularly on a blog to boost traffic to their website. Finally, most websites these days can link to a social media account. Do they have an Instagram that they are actively posting on? Are the images different than their website? Do they share on stories? If all of those answers are no, that could be a red flag.

2. Ask to see a full gallery

Keep in mind that every wedding gallery is going to be different, but requesting to see a full wedding gallery from a photographer is a great way to see what to expect. You cannot trust a website or social media alone – those are are just highlight reels, remember! I openly share wedding galleries with inquiring couples so they can get an idea of what to expect from me.

3. Read recent reviews

Google and Facebook reviews are a great place to check out a potential wedding photographer. If clients are taking the time to write a review after their wedding or session, that must mean they had an experience worth talking about – whether it be positive or negative. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t buy an item of clothing online without reading the reviews let alone spend thousands on a service. Being sure there are reviews on their Google page within the past year is a good indication they are in business.

How to find a reputable wedding photographer
How to find a reputable wedding photograher

4. Word of mouth

The last and MOST IMPORTANT tip is to talk to your friends. Ask around for recommendations, ask your friends to see their wedding galleries. Have them share their experiences with you. The number one way I receive referrals is by word of mouth from clients and their families. Talking to couples who have been recently married in your area can help you determine if a photographer is going to be the right fit for you!

How to find a reputable wedding photograher

What do you think? Do you feel more comfortable knowing how to find a reputable wedding photographer? Do you have any other tips for couples? I would love to hear from you.

For those of you looking for information on this gorgeous venue, the Chatham Armoury is a beautiful spot in Chatham for a larger wedding. Four Diamond Events is amazing to work with! Or if you are planning a more rustic event, check out my recent post about Camp Weddings!

How to find a reputable wedding photographer

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

Coming from a blended family myself, I can appreciate that photographing blended families may be stressful or intimidating. Having a few tactics to help you navigate family dynamics and ensure everyone has fun is important for creating lasting client relationships.

1. Start with a group shot

photographing blended families

No matter the family, I always start with a more posed group shot. Especially when you are dealing with younger kids (or teens!), getting that shot off the hop saves you from a potential melt down getting your way later on.

2. Read the room

Family dynamics are tough. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings around the experience, and getting family photos might not be their first activity of choice. Respecting their feelings and boundaries is important for creating trust and connection. Ultimately if someone doesn’t want to be there smiling you aren’t going to change their mind, but by showing respect for their feelings you might make an otherwise uncomfortable situation an enjoyable memory.

photographing blended families

3. When photographing blended families, focus on the kids individually

Grouping kids is often requested (usually for the sake of sharing images with grandparents) but it can also make kids feel excluded. Spending time chatting with each child individually makes them feel special and builds a rapport that can extend through the whole session. It can also provide you with talking points and bonding opportunities later on in the session.

photographing blended families

4. Gather information ahead of time

Having an intake questionnaire or email conversation before any session is important for you to gather information about the family structure and any potential roadblocks. Prior to photographing a blended family you may want to know what sorts of groupings they want, if anyone is hesitant to be there, or what the kids are interested in. The more you know, the more you can prepare yourself and show compassion.

5. Most importantly, have fun

A blended family session is a family session. The most important part of my family session experience is creating a fun memory for the entire family. I treat every family with equal respect and kindness, in the hopes of creating a relaxing and enjoyable encounter that will leave them feeling good. I bring compassion and understanding to all of my sessions so we can create a comfortable environment to have fun in!

Photographing blended family sessions is always special to me, being from one myself. Bringing two families together is tough for a lot of reasons, but is can also be amazing. If you’d like to book a family session with me, get in touch today!

Photographing Blended Families: 5 Tips for a successful family session

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

imagery by BRITTANY VANRUYMBEKE | site design by LUNAR & CO