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A documentary session walk-through

Documentary photo sessions are so much fun! Easy-going and custom made for your family, they capture memories of where you are in your life at that moment in time.

I had the pleasure of photographing Kim's family for the 1st time in the summer of 2017. For their session, she wanted me to document their family enjoying themselves at a local park.

A few months ago, Kim contacted me to organize her 2nd shoot: a November session that would focus on outdoor winter fun. Via email we discussed timing, location and what she envisioned. While keeping her ideas in mind, I scouted some possible locations and offered a couple of suggestions. Having never been to the Mer Bleue Bog, she thought it would be the perfect opportunity!

Here is a look inside a documentary photo session:

Our morning together

Our 45 minute family session was scheduled on a Saturday morning following her son's hockey practice. We woke up to the perfect winter weather: 2 degrees Celsius, no wind and lovely slow falling snowflakes.

I always aim to arrive about 10 minutes early to access the location on the day of. I've had many surprises in the past- impromptu plays on the beach, unscheduled birthday parties at the park, and once the Rideau Canal had been unexpectedly drained! On this day in November, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we had the whole Bog to ourselves.

In the first few minutes of a session, I get to know the family and walk them through my ideas. By taking a few shots here and there, I get to observe family dynamics and let the kids warm up to the idea of being photographed. For outdoor shoots, I always keep black sunflower seeds in my bag in case we encounter Chickadees. That day, the parking lot was filled with them!

For a family with young kids, I often start by getting a few posed shots of siblings together while everyone is fresh and happy.

Since this was their first visit to the Bog, I wanted to show them the boardwalk. Walking together is always a great opportunity for candid moments.

The 1.2km boardwalk can be quite lengthy to explore in winter with little ones so we focused our attention on the 1st section of the bridge. As interactions unfold, I make sure to capture a few individual portraits of each child. I want their expressions to be as natural as possible. To slow kids down, I sometimes use prompts to guide their attention to certain objects or a certain action: can you make a snowball bigger than my head? How far can you throw it? Where am I hiding?

45 minutes can sound long, but it goes by quickly, especially when visiting a special location. Before we start, I create a list in my head of 'must-shots' and check them off as we go. I also keep in mind various techniques and compositions that are useful for each, specific environment.

Having scouted the location beforehand, I had already chosen 3 specific spots within walking distance that would offer different backgrounds and light. These spots have to be interesting to the kids, as their attention winds down. In this case, with a few minutes left in our session, we went to the forest area and trails. As it got colder, and everyone slowed down, it proved to be the perfect time for some family cuddles and a few last portraits of everyone together.

As we wrap up and head over to our cars, past clients will attest that my camera is never too far and that I often say "just one last shot"!

In this case, it was Kim that took her camera out swiftly and took of a photo of me... as I took a picture of my new little friend!

I hope you found this walk-through interesting!

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