Why Photography Is Important To Me For My Clients!

It wasn't until I established myself as one of Toronto's leading newborn photographers that I recognized how important my job truly was. Sometimes clients haven't always been aware of the importance of family photographs, but education has been key to my success as a photographer. It's evident that newborn and family portraits are important to those that invest in it, but what about us photographers who create the work intended to be shared and archived for generations to come.

In this article I have listed my top 5 reasons as to why photography is important to me for my clients as a newborn, child and family photographer.

  1. Preserves Family History

    These images will be around from generation to generation & they will be the one thing that keeps memories and experiences alive long after the photo session. One day our future generations will look back on their great-great-great-great grandparents!

  2. Quality Over Quantity

    Delivering quality work to my clients (especially products) that will preserve my client's images is my main goal. I love when clients are able to appreciate printed work over digitals.

  3. Great Family Experience

    Photo sessions are a great way to bond with family, enjoy new moments & boost everyone's confidence!

  4. Documents Milestones

    Annual photo sessions ensures that my client's family's milestones and their children's growth is being documented!

  5. Shopping!

    My sessions are a great reason to take a trip to the mall and buy a brand new outfit, coordinated and freshly pressed out for the entire family. Who doesn't like shopping!

How often should you do family photos? Since I started newborn photography, I've encouraged my clients to capture their baby's first year at least for their newborn, 6 month and 1 year milestones. After that time frame I highly encourage getting family photos done at least annually. Children grow so fast, their expressions and personalities change rapidly and it's important to document these changes as they grow. These are experiences and photos that will mean so much 50 years from now & you'll be happy that you invested in as they grow up.

 

 


Baby Alyssa Part 1.

I met Sara while she was still pregnant, back in June for her in-person consultation. During that time, she expressed a bit about her pregnancy journey and how important it was to capture her precious daughter's first few weeks in the world. She said she didn't care for cute mom gifts or hospital care kits from her husband, instead she had requested that her daughter's session with me be her gift! I carefully went through the expectations of the session, how each step worked before, during and after the session, how to prepare for parent shots and at what point to contact me once the baby has arrived. We connected right away with our very similar sense of humours and taste in colour and props she wanted to incorporate into her daughter's session. She signed the contract, paid her booking fee and we had her booked in for August.

Baby Alyssa finally made her arrival and we planned out the session details as soon as mom was home and settled. Mom expressed that her c-section was a little troubling and had her experiencing some discomfort. Since I try to promote a stress-free process, especially within my newborn sessions, I was able to book parent shots in on a separate evening for an hour after Alyssa's original shoot. This allows for mom to have a few extra days to feel more like herself and be more confident in her session.

The morning of baby Alyssa's session it was like any other day for me. I set up the snack table for mom, set up my bean bag & pre-set up some props so I knew what my workflow would be for the day. Mom came in, accompanied by her friend since dad was working. Baby Alyssa was sound asleep in her car seat. I always ask parents to leave baby in the car seat for a few minutes to adjust to the new environment before we disrupt her slumber.

We decided to start the session with my usual "potato sack pose" on the dog bed with my favourite Hello Little Props posing blankets. From the beginning of the session until the very end she was a dream. She slept throughout all of her set-ups and only needed to be topped up a few times with food. We were able to do a variety of posed shots on the dog bed, baskets/buckets & on our mother bean. One of my new favourite shots I do are baby headshots. These are a great way for the baby's personality to be captured and since mom expressed during her consultation that she wanted to see her face well in her images, I made sure to grab these precious shots of her!

I always guarantee my clients 3-4 set-ups depending on how the baby cooperates; however Alyssa was such a great baby I was able to do more than enough. We could have easily finished the session within 2.5 hours, but when I have a baby that works so well, it's easy for me to get carried away and want to try all of my other fun, creative shots that I don't always get the opportunity to do.

Sunday of the same week, mom and dad brought Alyssa back to the studio to complete their family shots. Again, since I like to provide a stress-free/worry-free process for my new moms, I had my makeup artist Angela booked for the session to complete mom's makeup. I started with "bum up" pose with the baby by herself. I completely forgot mom had specifically requested this, so fit it in while her makeup was being completed. Alyssa was a bit fussier during this process, which can be normal since it was about 5 days later and she was becoming more and more aware of the world and her preferences (lol). Nonetheless, she mastered the pose and we were able to quickly move onto shots with her and her dad. Daddy and baby shots always have a special place in my heart. They are always so sweet and dad's always melt while holding their daughters. Once makeup was ready, we got mom in with the famjam and created some absolutely breathtaking shots for them to cherish for a lifetime. I always try my best not to show my clients too many photos on the back of the camera throughout the process, as it takes away the suspense from their actual reveal date, but I just couldn't help myself and showed mom a few of the family shots. Her "oohs" and "awes" were reassuring enough that I did a great job.

After we finished up with their shots, Alyssa's shoot was fully completed. Mom and dad thanked me for my time and I let them know that we'd set a date shortly for their reveal session!

Stay tuned, for "Baby Alyssa, Pt.2" blog on how their reveal session went and what they purchased!


Trauma, Self-Love & Business

I invite you to read this blog with the understanding that all points made are from personal experience and my own insight. I find beauty in being vulnerable, being raw, being relatable & having my clients and followers connect with me on a deeper humanistic level. Self-Love & Trauma are things that look different to everyone & my perspective may differ in your own life and journey. That being said, I hope that this post touches someone, inspires them to make small changes, allows someone to recognize that this is a process & ultimately contributes to the betterment of your life and business.

SELF-LOVE

a : an appreciation of one's own worth or virtue

b : proper regard for and attention to one's own happiness or well-being

TRAUMA

b: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury

c: an emotional upset

Marriam-Webster Dictionary

MY JOURNEY

I am a survivor. To be quite blunt, I am a child abuse survivor. Beyond that I am a survivor of attempted suicide and a survivor of our mental health system. Why is this important? Because to make sense of my journey, you need to understand the context of my journey. TRAUMA ties into my self-love journey & my journey as a business owner. TRAUMA is also the very thing that probably connects you and I. Everyone in some way whether big or small has experienced some form of TRAUMA, but not everyone has mastered the art of allowing it to fuel their dreams and who they were destined to be in this world. That to me, is why this blog is so important for me to be as raw and real with you.

In 2010, my world was in shambles. I just wrapped up my 2nd year going through the court and trial process against my perpetrator. I was already struggling significantly with depression/anxiety and to top it off I had a defence attorney in my face telling me everything bad that had happened in my life was because of me. Not only to me, but everything that happened to my little sister was because of me. How was I to not hate the person I was? How was I to really value and love myself? Or feel as if I had a purpose in this life? It's something I'm sure we've all felt once in our life at some point. Like your failures were entirely your fault & beyond that, your TRAUMA was entirely your fault. The court system isn't designed to be compassionate. It's designed to present facts & prove what's true and what's not. Since I knew this was the perspective the courts had, I some how internalized everything they said about me as facts, even when I knew it was untrue.

Til this day, I firmly believe that the court process in itself was the most damaging form of TRAUMA that I experienced. I was not Autumn after court concluded. I was forced to relive the worse times in my life all over again. I was the defence attorney's punching bag, my perpetrator's scapegoat for why he behaved the way he did, and a burden to my friend's and family for bringing them through this awful experience. Well this is how I viewed myself. And it all went back to being my fault because I disclosed my secrets. According to statistics it's not uncommon for child abuse survivors to blame themselves or internalize the wrongdoing, but I not only internalized what happened to me, I internalized not being able to protect my siblings.

After court concluded in 2010, I continued therapy. I had been through it all. CBT, Psychotherapy, Art Therapy, Group Therapy, DBT, and far more than I can even remember. It was when I started seeing a doctor at Humber River Hospital that encouraged me to try different mediums of the arts to try to heal from the side effects of what I had just gone through. This was when I first started to pick up a camera and take photos. Originally it was just to capture beautiful moments in my life. To tell a story of what my world looked liked outside of the world wind of TRAUMA. It was my healing. It wasn't professional, it wasn't perfect, it was just something I enjoyed doing on my cheap digital camera. The following year, I purchased a DSLR. I started to take pictures of family and friends, then they referred me. I invested my time and money so I could get better until I eventually became the "Autumn Bri" you guys know and love today.

MY BUSINESS

I became a photographer by accident. Well it wasn't an accident because my creator brought me here, but I had no conscious desire to be a photographer. As I used this medium to heal, I got better and better at it. I went with that and boom.... now I'm here. There's parts of my business that I don't enjoy. Like RUNNING BUSINESS! Being a photographer is one thing, running a photography business is a whole other thing. I'm very grateful for my business, I worked hard for it, but there are things about business that I wasn't ready for. I wasn't ready for being unsuccessful on the road to being successful. I wasn't ready for not being perfect from the start or having to learn from people "better than me". At the start of my photography journey, I hated everything about who I was. So not being the best was a tough pill to swallow. I was after all just coming out of an excruciating trial that had convinced me that I was undeserving of success and that my failures would be my fault.

This is where it gets interesting. They were right in a sense. My failures would be my fault IF I didn't allow them to fuel my fire. They would be my fault if I didn't learn from them and work to get better. In order to do this though, I needed to first make a commitment to myself to LOVE me more. I fall into a really bad pattern of using work and busy-ness to cover up my pain. I found and still sometimes find myself using the method of having no time for ME to cope with things I really don't want to face head on. Never having time for anything except work and constantly working towards being perfect in business allowed me to justify neglecting myself. BIG PROBLEM. When you do not provide the time in your business to work on you, your business will suffer! When I run into these patterns of "I'm so busy I can't take care of me", I become burnt out, agitated, I don't respond to clients the same way I normally would, I find less creativity or passion in my work, I start being super critical of where I'm at and where I should be, and I've almost given up altogether more than a handful of times. It's no secret that business is difficult, so what's the point of making things harder on yourself by also not loving YOU first and foremost.

I use to struggle with thinking I was failing even at loving myself, until I changed my perspective and realized that it's a process and long-term journey with no necessary ending. Also, the same amount of time that I suffered deep rooted trauma, would be required if not longer to heal and begin to appreciate and love myself again. Some of the following things are what I've implemented to ensure that I love myself, while I love my business:

  • Daily Affirmations
  • Meditation
  • Reflection/Journaling
  • 1 day a week for ME
  • With every critical comment/thought, I must follow up with something I admire about myself
  • Comparing my work from 2010 to 2019
  • Trying to envision who I am to those that love me
  • List making of everything Ive accomplished
  • Writing new goals
  • learning & understanding my capacity
  • being okay with telling people NO and not feeling obligated to do anything
  • restful sleeps, better eating and working out when I can
  • understanding that not everything needs to be achieved at once
  • not comparing my work to other photographers
  • giving back and helping other business owners when I can
  • being okay with moments of doing nothing
  • going with the flow

Self-love should definitely be a goal to continue working on/maintain while growing your business. It's not only in the betterment of you, but also your business and clients/customers. Be mindful of when your allowing your past TRAUMA hold you back and be honest about how this is affecting your growth. Reflect on the areas of your life you are not happy with and jot down some solutions to change it. It might start with dealing with the TRAUMA that you've brushed under the rug and learned to live without worrying about. The reality is, it's still there and THAT is probably the very thing that is indeed holding you back. It may feel like you're over it, but are you really? Will refusing to face it help and heal you, or delay you on your journey towards being the best you & reaching your goals in business? How will this affect your interactions with your clients/business partners/staff? Do yourself the favour and HEAL! Your small habitual attempts at healing first, will in turn reflect in your ability to love yourself more. As someone once told me "go towards pain because that is when we grow the most". Sometimes our trauma is manifested in fear. We often allow fear in business to become our justification for not making changes, taking a new path or trying something different. Understand that self-love doesn't have an end to it. It's a life long process that must go hand in hand with every entity of our everyday lives to be successful & healthy.


Why Older Newborns Hate Me!

Have you ever inquired with a newborn photographer AFTER delivering your precious baby, just to have your bubble bursted and be told that the photographer captures newborns at 5-14 days old, so now your baby is too old? This has become a normal standard in the newborn photography industry for majority of photographers, but ultimately it's a personal business decision and is really up to what the photographer feels comfortable with. I'll explain here why I prefer babies under 2 weeks, although Miss Soleil (featured in this article) was 3 weeks old for her session.

Since I book sessions 2-3 months in advance, I normally do not have any space to get them in as a newborn if moms inquire after the baby is born. It is very rare that I will be able to squeeze last minute newborn sessions in. This usually only happens when I have a date reserved for another client's due date, but the baby has not yet arrived. I can also book in last minute newborn sessions if there was another session date that was cancelled. Because of how far out I book this is EXTREMELY unlikely so it's always best to book as far ahead as possible (usually after 3 months pregnant).

Now, although I PREFER babies between 5-14 days old, I do tend to aim for them to be around 7-10 days. I have found this timeframe to be my sweet spot. During the super odd time I do decide to take on an older newborn, I will let parent's know that even  though I am going to still be attempting to do newborn shots as though their baby is under 2 weeks, I DO NOT GUARANTEE ANY RESULTS. Well I guess I never really guarantee any results with any shoot, but especially with older newborn babies.

So let's just jump into why I feel older newborns hate me:

  1. They have already been in the world for a period of time, so who the hell am I to force them back into swaddled positions that make them feel contained in their mom's belly again. They've done their time. They often DO NOT want to swaddle as easy, unless of course we feed them until they have no choice but to sleep because of the "itis" (when you over eat and want to do nothing but sleep).
  2. They can begin to develop colic if the shoot is done at a later time. I can have much gassier and fussier babies, making it much more difficult to pose.
  3. Baby acne starts coming in by week 2-4 really obviously at these weeks if not a bit before. I don't love spending my whole Saturday afternoons editing, so whatever I can do to make my editing a tad bit easier, I try to.
  4. Naked poses are always rough for me. They hate being touched when I touch them & they want to know why they are naked, when at home the only time they are naked is bath time and diaper changes!
  5. Their birth weight has often increased a bit and/or they are starting to fill out a bit. This makes some positions a bit more uncomfortable for them to pose in.
  6. Because of #5 they do not curl the same way fresh new babies do!
  7. I just don't feel they really appreciate the art of "shushing" the same way my really new newborns do.
  8. I feel like I try extra hard to be accepted and appreciated by them and it just never works.

So these are the main reasons I feel that older newborns hate me. I know it sounds silly right, but it's a real thing. I know of photographers that are amazing with older newborns and that is all they shoot, but not I. I have tried shooting newborns even up to 21 days old and I still much rather prefer (for my workflow and sanity) to shoot them when they are under 2 weeks. There of course is no right or wrong way. Some newborns under 2 weeks are super fussy for other photographer's and some older newborns are super great for them. With me it's a hit or miss with older newborns. I like my work to be consistent as possible, I like to have my self-esteem intact at the end of my sessions & I like to confidently know I can deliver a beautiful gallery with various set-ups to my client. Ultimately, it's about the photographer's comfort level and the baby that they are working with.

 


Golden Hour Sessions With 3 & Unders

It has been the "thing" for a while now, especially in the summer months here in Toronto, Canada. "Golden Hour" photo sessions are most photographers' dream, especially when there is zero overcast & the scenery we are using allows for soft, golden back lighting behind our subjects. These sessions are typically shot with us about an hour and a half to two hours before complete darkness. During Toronto, Canada's summer, that means about 7-7:30pm onward, as daylight is typically completely gone around 9pm. During the Fall months it's even earlier. Other than the beautiful style it adds to our work, it also reduces eye squinting, over-heated clients/photographers during muggier days & soft, even skin tones, which ultimately reduces our editing time in post-production.

As amazing as "Golden Hour" light looks in our final images, there are several things to be mindful of and to prepare for when working with our cutest subjects, specifically "3 and Unders". The following is a list of my 6 top things I am mindful of when planning these sessions, as well as some tips to provide parents with to prepare for their session during this peak time.

PLANNING NAP TIME: I don't know about you, but tired toddlers are my greatest photography fear. They go from these sweet, innocent, angelic little humans to your worse enemy in a matter of a few clicks of your camera. Since we typically begin about one and a half to two hours before complete darkness, it normally means it's typically BEDTIME for these little munchkins. Because of this, planning out nap times the day of the session really make a difference in how far the photographer can push them through the shoot. Most parents think I'm crazy with this request, because it sometimes means one off day of toddler mood swings and irritability, but in the name of AMAZING PHOTOS.....it's a worthy sacrifice, I promise!

 

SHOW UP EARLY: Because these sessions are so time sensitive with the sun beginning to set, it is HIGHLY recommended you show up early. This is especially important if it's a brand new location that you have not yet scouted, shot at or been to in any shape or form. If you've done all of your scouting prior to the client arriving (this includes being aware of where the light source is coming from), it will make for a much smoother process. You will also feel much more confident, prepared and ready to make optimal use of your time with your "3 and Under". I also highly recommend encouraging your clients to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early so they do not feel rushed getting the little ones ready!

NO ELECTRONIC BRIBERY: Say what? Yes... I repeat... AVOID AT ALL COSTS.... ELECTRONIC BRIBERY! Actually only allow parents to bribe with anything incentivizing once at the session after consulting with you! It allows for more natural reactions and keeps the kids excited about their hard earned prize. In regards to electronic bribery during the shoot, I say this with complete understanding that the new generation has become so dependent on their devices that sometimes it sounds completely crazy. Keeping  a "3 and Under" entertained and cooperative while waiting around for their turn WITHOUT youtube, iPad's, cellphones and handheld games is like a mission to the moon nowadays. It's really important though to try and encourage parents to utilize other forms of entertainment while their little one is waiting their turn. You know games like tag, the pretend "mommy's going to get you game", colouring books, singing their favourite songs, patty cake, anything but a device! Okay, Okay... I'll explain. The minute a child has a phone for instance and you have to take that phone out of their hand to get them to pose and smile, because we can't of course edit out the phone (it's requested often believe it or not), you now become the bad guy. The "3 and Under" now associates the big camera and weird stranger in front of them with "they took away my Paw Patrol episode and now I'm not going to cooperate". Parents will understand if they want the type of photos you've been advertising.

CHANGE UPON ARRIVAL: Chances are you won't have an iron handy in the middle of the park or beach. You most likely will not have a spare white t-shirt handy either if kids get their clothes dirty on the way to the location somehow. I highly recommend kids changing upon arrival (hence why arriving early is important). This will definitely ensure crisp clothing, that is photo ready and free from any type of car ride mishaps. Most places will not have change rooms so using the car as a change room is always the best option.

FOOD & SNACKS: I always recommend that my client's avoid feeding their "3 and Unders" anything that will dye or stain their tongue. Nobody likes editing out blue lollipop tongues when you aim to get the candid laughing shots. I also recommend ensuring that the kids have something to eat closer to the time they are to be at the session, so that their dinner will hold them over. What's even worse then a sleepy "3 and Under"? How about a HANGRY "3 and Under"! I become irritable as an adult when I'm starving, so it's definitely understandable when little ones bellies are roaring and they refuse to cooperate. I do suggest bringing light easy snacks (but only using them as bribery when agreed upon with photographer to ensure it's a good time). Some of my favourite easy going snacks for this age group are; Goldfish Crackers, Mum Mum Rice Biscuits, Gerber Puffs, Rice Cakes, or pretty much any other favourites that can be consumed in small bites, dissolve easily and have little to no mess.

SICK KIDS: I often have clients with "3 and Unders" that book with me and are super considerate and mindful of my photography schedule. They are super sweet and never want to disappoint, even if it means bringing their sick child to a session hoping to bribe them into good health just to get the shoot done. I ALWAYS stress to my clients that this is NEVER a good idea. Sick kids will not give great results. If they just have a runny nose, but are still full of energy and in great spirits then of course a parent can use their discretion. If it was a few nights of running fevers and a terrible cough, it's always encouraged to let me know asap to cancel and we will reschedule without penalty. My job is to worry about my schedule, my client's job is to just follow my prep guides and communicate with me along the way so that I can fully ensure I am prepared with any changes.

All in all, these tips of course are just some useful tricks I use to prep my clients and help my session workflow, but of course take what you may & try to apply it as you need to. I have found that no session of course is perfect especially with a toddler testing boundaries, developmentally learning and growing. We can however, try to make the process as stress free and fun as possible by being prepared.


Making The Decision To Be Temporarily Unstable

It was 2016 and I was working consistently as a Child & Youth Worker. I loved many aspects of my job. I enjoyed supporting young people with emotional, mental and behavioural challenges. I actually felt that it was my calling at one point and that everything was beginning to fall in line with career opportunities. The more job offers or shifts I received the more I measured how successful I was. There was one thing missing though and it was a BIG "one thing". I wasn't feeling spiritually, mentally and emotionally fulfilled. I still had to answer to someone else, my creativity wasn't being explored and I had a deep passion for travelling. As most of us know, full-time jobs for big organizations usually mean requesting time off and trying not to piss off your coworkers and managers in the meantime. I also didn't see myself working front line with children with various types of socio-emotional challenges and sometimes aggression when I was 50 or 60 years old. I was already beginning to feel burnt out, unfulfilled and bored & truly couldn't imagine my level of burn-out in 10 more years, let alone at the age of retirement.

For several years, I was social media friends with my now wedding business partner and lead videographer of Four The Dream Weddings, Jamal Ward from Flash Forward MG. We use to have late night conversations dreaming and fantasizing about our one day entrepeneurial lives, pass on tips to one another and try to encourage the step taking needed to fully leap into this scary world of business. Jamal quit his job first, and within 2 months it was my turn. Although, the leap took some time to adjust to as I was constantly battling my inner doubt ("what if nobody books me?", "what if I don't have any money?", "what if I fail?"), it was ultimately the most liberating feeling I had felt in my adult career life.

After solely relying on my photography income, there were months that I felt I had to continuously run promotions in order to afford my rent & there were others that felt like I was on top of the world and had some room to upgrade a lens or prop. This consistent back and forth of unstable finances as well as the necessary growing pains that all businesses experience when they first start felt like this business of mine might have been one big waste of time. I cannot count how many times I had moments of, "what did I do to myself?", "why did I choose to pursue this when I don't have more money saved, more credit to my name or the clients I want and need to make this work". It was incredibly hard, but it came to the point that I had to start analyzing it for what it was. I was CHOOSING temporarily instability for the long term spiritual, mental and emotional happiness I deserved. I knew that I was meant to create and to run some type of program or business for a long time. Finally, I had brought my pride and joy to a level that I could no longer work full-time hours in a highly demanding career field, while trying to bring Autumn Bri Photography to the level I wanted it to get to. 

It was around this time that a close family friend said to me "you will not be able to fully get to where you want to be with your PLAN A, when you're still delegating time and focusing so much on your PLAN B". First I wasn't sure how to take that. I remember while growing up, that I needed to have a back up plan in case my dream didn't work out. When I started looking at it with a whole new perspective, I realized that in actuality, if you do not take risks you will spend your whole life wondering "what if". The worse case scenario in my situation was possibly needing to secure another job if my business didn't work out how I wanted it to. I repeat, that was the WORSE! I wasn't going to die, I wasn't going to lose a limb, I was simply going to have to apply for a job if I didn't reach my desired goals by whichever unrealistic deadlines I imposed on myself.; The way I really looked at it was, "now I have no reason to not make this work, because if I don't do xy and z then I will not have the money to survive because there is NO LONGER a backup". When you are able to fall back on a backup plan, it often holds us back. Why? Because you will not and do not have the same hunger as you would if you have no choice but to make things happen. Your time is delegated differently, the things your prioritize will be different and your hunger to get things done will be different.

This is not to say that it's unreasonable or unrealistic to work a 9-5 in the midst of working towards your dream or PLAN A, but when that feeling keeps creeping up on you every time you envision life as a full-time entrepreneur, maybe just maybe it's time. Go with it and see what happens. The very thing you might need to reach higher levels may possibly be losing the very thing you think you need in order to sustain.