Archive for 'Family'

Winter Portraits of Carolyn and Stephen

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On family day, my parents asked if I wanted to join them for a snowshoe in the woods up the street. I asked them if I could create a film at the same time. Of course. Perfect.

I had a lot of fun with this project and it fits really nicely into my sports portraiture and filmmaking that I’ve been building over the past year.

Rather than wax on about the process and everything I learned, like how HARD it is to choose a soundtrack!!!!, here’s the film. I hope you enjoy, and please – provide your feedback! What do you think?


Barrie Orillia Family Photographer

This past summer we got together with the Greens to create their family portraits. I had found this huge field of Queen Anne’s Lace in a farmer’s field left to fallow for several years. I thought it would be a perfect place for their portraits. What I hadn’t anticipated was how difficult it is to walk through Queen Anne’s Lace, despite how pretty it is. Regardless of the walking challenge, we created some truly wonderful portraits for them. Of those portraits, this one is my favourite by a long shot. Sure, we have some really nice portraits of them looking a little bit more towards the camera than this one but there’s a powerful pull for me in this image.

Every time I look at this image, I wonder what they were talking about, what stories they were crafting about the field of wildflowers. I also feel a sense of them embarking on a journey into an exciting future or adventure.

For sure I’ll share some more images from the Green’s session in the future, but for now, I just want this single image to stand on its own, without the distractions of other images.


Innisfil Beach Multigeneration Family Portrait

Hi everyone!

This past summer I had the privilege of photographing another multi-generational family portrait.  Geez, I really love creating portraits that span the generations.  I think, too often, these moments are left as fleeting after thoughts attached to family gatherings like weddings and funerals.  Everyone’s together, for sure, but the photographer really is under the pump at these events so creating a relaxed, engaging portrait of the whole family is generally not on the cards.  Too, everyone is dressed up, which is great for a formal portrait though a relaxed casual portrait is just somehow out of place with everyone in their finest, ya know?

Anyhow, I connected with this wonderful family from Newmarket through our charity events at the Sugar Shack this past winter.  As with most large family portraits with grown and married children and subsequent grandchildren, it did take a fair bit of schedule finessing on everyone’s part to get a date that would work.  Everything came together beautifully in the end and we all met at a small woodlot in Innisfil to create their portrait.  While the full family portrait turned out magnificently, was very well received by the family and is now hanging as a 30 inch canvas over their mantle, it was this image of the grandparents with their grandchildren that really made me smile.

In fact, Joanne, the matriarch of this terrific family had this to say about the experience:

Michael, we are so happy with our family photos. Our canvas print is gorgeous and looks amazing on our wall. I thought it would have been a challenge with 7 adults, 1 baby, 3 toddlers and our dog Marley but it was well orchestrated. Its been a pleasure meeting you and Jen and hope to see you again. Thank you, Joanne, Mike and family.

As a photographer, there really isn’t any better feeling than setting up a scene, capturing the moment and creating a joyful portrait like this one.  So, I’m honoured to be able to share it with you today.

With Christmas and New Years rapidly approaching, this is one of those great opportunities for a family portrait of your own, so start planning now.

Alright everyone, until the next post…

Wardrobe Example for Casual Portrait Session

Wardrobe Example For A Casual Family Portrait Session – Compliments of Blink Branding & Design

“What should we wear?”

This is probably our most commonly asked question when we are consulting with our clients prior to a portrait session. Often this question is asked in an off-hand, casual manual.  Indeed, one of the biggest contributors to the look of your portrait (and consequently, how much you love it!) are your wardrobe choices.

If you are looking for a formal portrait for a formal dining room furnished in dark antiques, it doesn’t really make sense to have everyone dressed in brightly coloured, casual clothing and photographed in a relaxed, candid moment, does it?  A dressier wardrobe choice with the family posed in a more traditional style will fit the decor of that formal dining room much better, right?  Of course, traditional style doesn’t have to mean stiff and awkward! On the other hand, you might be planning to display your family portrait in a very relaxed, bright and comfortable family room with lots of natural light flooding into it.  That more formal portrait is going to look a bit out of place here, so we would suggest a clothing choice that is more relaxed and casual and then create portraits which capture your family in a relaxed moment, interacting with each other and not necessarily appearing to be aware of the photographer creating the portrait.

When we start to talk about clothing choices for portraits with a casual feel to them, it can be seem a bit overwhelming trying to work out what everyone should wear.  Most everyone understands how to coordinate clothing for a formal portrait as this is pretty easy to do by selecting shirts the same colour and pants and skirts the same colour.  Note that a semi-formal look can be created even in jeans.  However, when we get to a casual look, well… how about I just give you some ideas and you’ll see what I mean.

When we start talking about wardrobe choices one of our favourite ways to describe it is to ask our clients to imagine if just one person were to wear everything, would they still look good?  Of course, I’m not suggesting that Dad wear the little girl’s dress!  What I’m talking about are the colours and patterns of the clothing.  Do they clash if they are all assembled into one outfit?  Moms are usually pretty good at knowing if clothing choices clash!  Not always though, so Jen has an awesome eye for spotting clash hazards and is ready to help!

A particularly effective wardrobe planning technique is to choose a dress or blouse with a fine, multi-coloured print pattern for your daughter to wear.  Then, pulling from the colours in your daughter’s dress, you can create outfits for everyone else.

The wardrobe selection at the top of this page, created by a friend of mine at Blink Branding & Design, is a great example of this last method.  The tight pattern on the girl’s dress isn’t big and loud, so it won’t be distracting.  The main colours, red and purple, of her dress pattern are then pulled out for the rest of the family’s outfits – blue for dad’s and the boy’s outfit and the red for mom’s dress.  By coordinating like this the whole family pulls together really well AND all the smaller combinations are going to look great too (Dad with son, Dad with daughter, mom with son, mom with daughter, son and daughter together).  You can also see how you could put all these colours and patterns on a single person and not have any clashing – so it passes the single person test with flying colours.

It’s so important to consider wardrobe styling in preparation for your portrait session and to have a really good conversation with your photographer about this.  One of the biggest mistakes I see people making in having portraits created is not working out a coordinated wardrobe that fits with the style of portraiture being created.

One of the things that sets us apart from other studios is that all of our portrait sessions include a consultation session prior to our clients booking with us.  In fact, we provide this as complimentary service to everyone who inquires about portraits, regardless of whether they commission us or not, because we believe it is an absolutely vital step in creating portraits you love.  We accomplish many things during this consultation.  We get to know you.  You get to know us.  We learn about what types of photography you like and don’t like, how you plan to decorate your home with your portraits, the style of decorating you prefer, to name a few.  All of this information helps us ensure that we create images that you not only love and will treasure forever, but that will look spectacular in your home and fit with your decorating style.

Can you just imagine how awesome your portraits will be when you both adore the portrait AND it fits into your home and lifestyle perfectly?


Picking up where we left off with our family portraits that I created back at Christmas my sister was really keen for us to create family portraits for her in the forests surrounding our Sugarbush homes.

We actually went out twice to really capture the images she was looking for.  Both walks in the forest yielded some absolutely magical images of her family and both were incredibly different in the feeling and atmosphere created.  In the first case, we focused on capturing images of them as a family.  In the second, the focus was squarely on Erik and Anna and their relationship with each other.

Not to say that I didn’t capture some beautiful images of each of them alone, but this image above just rocks my world.  My nephew, Erik, is at that awkward age when being photographed means making funny faces and clowning around.  Jen and I are quite used this behaviour in kids and just rolled with the punches.  Eventually, Erik found this fallen tree to climb on.  After a couple of minutes, Anna wanted to try too, but she didn’t have the confidence to climb the log on her own.  Big brother to the rescue!  I just love how Erik is taking care of his little sister and helping her get her balance sorted.  After a couple of tries she was on her own, mastering that log!

While Erik was having some fun on the log and had his attention focused on his balance, guess what?  Guard was down, and check out this truly magical portrait of a boy at play.

Anna, at nearly 3.5 is very much into running and loves an opportunity to show off how good she is at it.  (Crocs, not withstanding!!!)

Portraits of children are always fun, however what I get a huge amount of pleasure from is capturing the relationships between children and their parents.  After all, it’s the relationship between parents and their children that is most precious in our memories and creating images that capture this is, in my opinion, the highest goal of a family photographer.

This series of Erik and his dad, speaks an entire story of their relationship.  I won’t go into all the details, but my sister told me a story about Erik the day before I started processing these images.  I knew I was capturing gold during the moment, but the meaning didn’t burn through until I put Sarah’s story together with the power coming through these images.  Meaning so deep that these images reduced me to tears and I had to take a day off from processing them to get my head around it.  Not sure if I was just making it all up on account of my sister’s story, I forwarded these images to my good friend, Pamela Joye, whom I’ve featured here in the past, and asked her to tell me what she saw in the series without knowing any of the background of the relationship.  Darned if she didn’t write back and sum up Erik and Jason’s relationship to an absolute tee.  Magic.  Here it is. (Hit play and the full-screen button to get the full impact of this series.)

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A family interaction story isn’t complete with just half the family, though, is it?  My niece Anna, loves to laugh and play and giggle.  She loves attention like only a 3 year old can. And, like most children, and especially little girls, she loves her mommy…. Oh and wearing crocs in the forest gives her very dirty feet….

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This final image requires some introduction.  My sister’s family isn’t about frilly goodness and make-up and dressing up in the latest styles.  Jason runs a triathlon business and my sister, while a teacher, is just as deeply committed to physical fitness with a goal of completing a half-Ironman triathlon by her 40th birthday.  Their lifestyle is all about getting outdoors and enjoying nature.  Thus, we decided that their family portrait should reflect this outdoor focus to their lives and feature them hiking the trails in our local county forests.  I love this image of them hiking hand in hand, complete with day packs for everyone….

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Hey there everyone,

There’s been heaps going on around Houlden Studios lately and I have many blog posts waiting in the wings to be written and published.  Stay tuned around here over the next couple of weeks as I fill you all in on all the goodness of the past couple of months.

I wanted to very quickly share with you the results and photographs from our most recent charitable event.

Back in late winter we met with the Orillia SPCA to find out how we might work with them to help with their fundraising.  They told us about their Friends for Life walk-a-thon, one of two of their major, annual fund raisers.  After learning a bit more about the walk-a-thon, we put plans in motion to set up our charitable photo booth and create Facebook Profile photos of the participants’ dogs.

I’ve gotta say, we had an absolute blast creating these pet portraits.  It was definitely hard work though, lemme tell you!  Some of the fabulous furry buddies were very well behaved and posed magnificently.  Others, though, well, required a bit of patience, a whole lot of time and a sprinkling of luck.  You know, I wasn’t 100% convinced that we nailed it for every dog when we were packing up, but by the time I had the images downloaded and started looking at them on the big screen… wow!  Once again, we created some terrific pet portraits.

While I loved shooting these dogs, I loved even more getting out and around meeting all the dogs and owners that had come out to help support the SPCA with the walk-a-thon.  I met some pretty cool people and some really awesome dogs, even if I didn’t get to photograph them all.

As for the set up for these, I decided to try something a bit different from our previous photo booth set ups.  Instead of setting up a backdrop or using a wall as a background I decided to shoot into the light with Orillia’s Lake Couchiching as the background.  With the sun coming in from rear camera left, I set up a strobe rear camera right and a key light at camera left.  This created a lot more definition in my photo booth lighting than previous set ups.  I am really thrilled with how this turned out.  Yay!

Okay, without further ado, here’s a very short, very fun video slideshow of the pets and some of the people, too, who we photographed during the walk-a-thon.  I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave us a note in the comments below.

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