Beach Family Portraits: Sunset at Wanda Beach

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About two years ago I photographed some beach family portraits for Rebecca’s sister at Coogee Beach. This post, however, is about Rebecca’s family, down at Wanda Beach near Cronulla. We met late in the day on what was a bit of a sketchy, cloudy day. I had my doubts that we’d even go ahead due to the weather, but it finally came good for their beach family portrait session, and we got some amazing light for the shoot.

The first image above is Rebecca’s favourite family portrait of their family, and is now hanging on their living room wall, as a large feature frame – the photograph alone is 1m wide!

“It’s just us,” Rebecca said at her viewing and purchasing appointment. “It’s us, on our beach. It’s where we live.”

This sums up exactly why I choose to photograph families on location – and preferably at locations that they love and visit with their family. It gives the family portraits such a sense of place, and makes them more resonant and significant to the family, than if they were captured in front of a plain studio background.

To me, that family portrait shows such personality – the eldest son was more reserved, the next son (blue striped shirt) was an absolutely cheeky character, the daughter was a princess with a giggle streak, and the youngest boy (in Dad’s arms) was happy to go with the flow. Mum and Dad did their best to have fun as well as keep the kids from running miles away on the open stretches of sand. For the most part, they succeeded!

The rest of the shoot was filled with plenty of laughs, lots of fun, and some real character from the kids. I had a great time, and so did Rebecca and her family.

I LOVE the family portraits Rebecca and Gary chose – besides the hero shot for the living room – they have so much love, fun, and crazy in them. They’re awesome!

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This next set of four solo portraits of the kids are going to be hung in a group like this:

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We all loved this shot of the four kids just hanging out by the ocean, drawing stuff in the sand. Most parents get freaked out by shots like this – comments like “But I can’t see the kids’ faces!” are very common.

However, I look at it differently. Firstly, this is a shot all about a moment of connection between siblings. Secondly, this is only one part of a much larger collection of beach family portraits. We just saw four striking face-study portraits, which show the kids expressions and faces close-up. This shot, by contrast, shows how they interact together. Thirdly, this image is a shot all about the context and landscape of the beach, that is so significant for the kids now, and will be even more so in years to come.

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Just to finish, a little more cray-cray from the family :)

Remember, there’s only a short amount of time left to book in a family portrait session with me before we leave Sydney. Call Dorothy or myself on (02) 9665 0800 or email us on info@israelsmith.com.

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Family Portraits: Centennial Park with crazy kids

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A few years back we first met Nita and Damien’s family, and shot some great family portraits at Coogee Beach with their son when he was about a year old. I recently had the chance to catch up with them at Centennial Park for some updated family portraits with their one-year-old daughter!

I could honestly say this was one of my most fun shoots in ages. Nita and Damien have such a fantastic bent sense of humour, that we all get along brilliantly. I actually had to stop talking so much and remember to take some pictures!

We started at the duck pond on a morning where the sun had just poked out after a day or two of rain. The kids were really excited about feeding the ducks, and I simply adore the expression of wonder and love on Nita’s face as she helped them out:

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What was really beautiful about this shoot was the energy of the kids, and the fact that Nita was happy to encourage their zany behaviour!

It’s easy – and common – for many parents to start asking kids to settle down, subduing the kids excitable personalities because they fear it will ruin the portraits. It’s quite counter-intuitive, but sometimes encouraging the kids to have fun and play results in better, more real family portraits.

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This is only a small selection – Nita and Damien chose something like 18 or 20 portraits, and in a trend that seems to be occurring more and more, they opted for a larger number of smaller prints. To them, it was more important to have the best story of their kids across a wide range of portraits, instead of a narrow selection of images printed larger for wall display.

Either way, I loved this shoot, and am really proud of the finished images. I hope you enjoyed them too!

Remember, there’s only a short amount of time left to book in a family portrait session with me before we leave Sydney. Call Dorothy or myself on (02) 9665 0800 or email us on info@israelsmith.com.

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Family Portraits: Sporty Kids at Centennial Park

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Liz wanted her family portraits to be taken in Centennial Park. I met her for the first time when I turned up to meet her at the start of the shoot, which is what usually happens. We often speak once or twice with each family before the shoot, but the first in-person meeting is at the shoot.

Liz’s kids each brought their own favourite sporting gear – a cricket bat, and a soccer ball – which is pretty unusual for my family portraits, although cool when it happens. More unusual, however, was the fact that Liz’s hubby had just gotten off a plane from a kite-surfing competition in Melbourne! Fortunately, although he was tired, he was in great spirits, and the kids had plenty of energy for their family portraits.

We started the shoot with plenty of nonsense, laughs, and a group family portrait (shown above). As sometimes happens, this one captured the most raw, genuine side of the family, and had all the elements right for Liz and her family. I tend to shoot a large variety of family portraits – sometimes four or five setups – to ensure I get plenty of great expressions and diverse “looks” for my families to choose from.

After all, the family story is the hardest one to capture well, and usually the first request I receive from a client looking to have family portraits.

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Despite their ability to fight tooth and nail, the kids were actually pretty well behaved at the shoot. The individual portraits capture something beautiful about each of them – and although the shot of both kids together made Liz laugh, “That’s so rare for them to hug like that!”, she wanted to have that memory of the kids to hold onto.

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I’ve said it many times before, but the family unit begins with a couple meeting and falling in love. Some parents find it a bit corny, but I truly believe that the couple is an important story to capture when shooting family portraits, so I make a strong point of shooting Mum and Dad WITHOUT the kids. As you can see below.

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Finally, I used the props – the cricket bat and soccer ball – as the light was fading, to get some really striking individual portraits of the kids. There’s something powerful and timeless about the family portraits I captured for Liz, and she was really really happy with them.

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Do you have sporty kids? Are you keen to tell their stories of youthful energy and vigour with some stunning family portraits?

Drop me a line through the contact form here or call myself or Dorothy on 02 9665 0800 to make a booking for YOUR family. I can’t wait to meet you, and help you capture some energetic, loving, connected family portraits for you to hang with pride in your home.

 

Updated Family Portraits at Centennial Park

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I met with Michelle and her family for some family portraits at Coogee Beach. Her kids were going into Kindergarten and Year 4 at school, and the shoot was great fun. Michelle and I kept in touch on and off over the years, even training at the same gym in Randwick for a while.

While unfortunately Michelle’s first marriage didn’t work out, fast forward a few years, and she is now uttery blissed out and happy again with a charming man, creating a new chapter in her family’s story with him on board. The kids are now in Year 7 and Year 11 respectively, and I nearly fell over when I met with them at Centennial Park for these updated portraits.

My favourite thing about photographing families again after many years, is seeing how everyone has changed, and simply chatting, laughing and catching up with them. I build such a strong rapport with most of my clients, that even 7 years later, we’re still good friends and can chew the fat like it was yesterday. Of course, the risk with shoots like these, is that we end up chatting non-stop, so I need to constantly remind myself that I have a job to do in creating some actual family portraits for these beautiful people!

 

I love seeing the special bond Michelle shares with her kids – it’s clearly evident in these images:

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And, to their credit, the kids are still (mostly) the best of friends. At least we have some photographic evidence of the “nice” moments for Michelle to reflect on, when the kids are arguing…! ;)

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I tell you, it really gobsmacked me to know these kids as young primary/infants-school-aged kids, and then seeing them all grown up, looking every bit the maturing teenagers they are.

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Something else I love about families is the embarrassment that parents can so easily dish out to the kids. This was one of Michelle’s favourite images from the shoot.

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And, to finish, a happier-than-normal ending. Michelle has just gotten engaged to her new man! Hooray and Congratulations!

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Michelle had some absolutely beautiful words to say to me about her portrait experience:

These latest portraits mean so much to me. They symbolise a new beginning as well as capturing the fun and love l experience every day with my children. I love the colours and the way you were able to capture the happiness, beauty and love we all possess. I want to thank you for making me look nice and natural in the shots. I was so surprised that I actually loved all the photos that I was in and didn’t have the desire to delete them straight away like I usually do with photos of me. You have such an amazing talent.

Thanks so much Michelle!

 

Pregnancy Portraits: Strength and Courage

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A few months back I met an amazing woman, who wanted me to take some pregnancy portraits of her. She was in her third trimester, but explained that she wanted to have the shoot done around a month earlier than I normally suggest. We met around the 32 week-mark, instead of the usual 36-37 weeks. During the conversation, my client explained that she was being treated for breast cancer as well as being pregnant.

I captured a range of beautiful pregnancy portraits for her, celebrating this time in her life, and how her body looked at this point. There was a question mark about what kind of surgery might need to occur to treat her cancer, so I was determined to show her beauty and strength throughout her experience.

My client graciously agreed for me to show two portraits of her from this experience – the above image was one of the portraits she ordered. Because she was undergoing chemotherapy, she had lost most of her own hair, but wore a stunning wig for the portraits.

The below portrait was one I was interested in shooting myself, and at the shoot, my client explained that she would be OK with me capturing a “raw” portrait of her. She ended up not ordering this portrait, but I finished it anyway, as I love the image. I love the strength and confidence in her expression, despite the challenges life is throwing her way.

Thanks, M, for letting me share these portraits.

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Family Portraits: When the kids are moving out…

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I first spoke with Sarah over the phone about wanting to do some family portraits with her grown-up kids. It was about two weeks before Xmas and Sarah explained that her daughter was due to fly out to Florida, USA for a year of study exchange in about 3 weeks. Sarah was worried that we wouldn’t be able to fit anything in, or that it wouldn’t work for her son, who had already moved out of home, and had a busy work and social life.

The conversation started really well, and I assured Sarah that we could definitely fit something in, especially as her daughter had such a tight schedule to meet before the trip overseas. Sarah’s initial excitement turned into a bit of concern about her son: Would he be interested in the shoot? Would he turn up? Would the portraits look any good?

I had to reassure her that I had been doing this for 10 years, and know what I’m doing, and how to capture great family portraits of all types of families. I also had to deliver a little bit of tough love to Sarah, which was this: if the portraits were important to her (they were) then she needed to pull rank as Mum, and tell her son that he HAD to be there. It was only for an hour, and it was only once, and it was because his sister was going O/S for a year.

Sarah hung up, so she could check with her son. Turns out he had a work Xmas party on that night, but she was able to convince him (using only that power that mother’s possess) to come along on the Friday afternoon for the family portraits at Turimetta Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

I wanted to make it as easy for Sarah as possible, so I actually prepared the images really quickly and surprised her with a viewing & purchasing appointment the very next day, and I even had a full collection of printed portraits ready for her! She cried (as often happens, when parents are moved by my portraits of their family and their children), and loved everything.

Here are a few of my (and Sarah’s) favourites from her family portraits, starting with her absolute favourite of the kids together:

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We were struck with a fairly windy day, so I had to find some shelter in the lee of a rock wall that juts out from the cliff. These shots of Mum with each child show just how windy it was – check out the hair-do’s! No fashion-shoot electric fans in use here… just good old Mother Nature! :)

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I was standing a bit away from the group, fidgeting with my camera / memory cards / something, when I looked over my shoulder and noticed this image. The pair were arranged exactly as you see them in this portrait, and I absolutely loved the quirky positioning, the contrast of sitting and standing, and the distance between them. It speaks to me of individual characters and personalities, while still acknowledging the fact they are siblings and family.

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Walking a little closer to the pair after that shot above, I noticed some BEAUTIFUL flared sunlight coming from just above the cliffs behind us. The sun hadn’t quite gone low enough to put us in complete shadow, so I made sure that Sarah’s family portraits contained a couple of flared-out individual portraits. Sarah’s son (who is a musician) noticed that the shot of him looked like something from a 70’s album cover. I completely agreed, although I’m not 100% sure he was excited about it, as he’s a fan of heavy metal…!

 

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This moment was really natural, and showed a genuine, warm expression on all three individuals. The contrast between the girls’ lighter outfits, and the son’s black shirt and hair, really worked well to set this image off.

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Sarah LOVED this shot, including the dramatic rock cliffs in the background, so when I prepared her surprise prints, I did this one as a larger portrait to suit going on the wall. Instant hit.

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Finally, a couple of black and white portraits to show a different side to Sarah’s kids. These portraits are striking and powerful in their simplicity, and show such a beautiful, subtle side of each individual, that Sarah was really taken with them. They are also a perfect pair to present next to each other on a wall or mantelpiece.

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Do you have older children? Have they moved out of home yet, or are they in their final years of study?

I really encourage you to have some family portraits done as a family, before they fly the nest and start their own lives. If you have only just realised that this is happening (and life moves pretty fast, so it’s not uncommon…) please give me a call on 02 9665 0800 and we can talk about how best to capture your family’s story before the kids move out.

 

Beach Family Photos at Shelly Beach Manly

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I’m very fortunate that I get to shoot beach family photos for a lot of my clients. I feel most at home, most myself, when I am on the beach – working or not. For my clients, it seems that if they choose to have beach family photos then we’ll instantly have lots in common, and the shoot will be lots of fun for all of us. (Not that shoots aren’t fun in other locations, but I just especially love being by the beach!)

I went to high school with Kelly, and so when her husband Sam asked me to capture some family portraits for them at Shelly Beach Manly, I was thrilled. I hadn’t shot at Shelly Beach Manly for a while, so I was looking forward to heading North-side and looking at Manly beach from across the water.

It’s been a while since I posted a long-form blog of a family portrait session, so I want to share a lot more of this shoot than I usually do. It shows how we move around on a shoot, using different backgrounds within the location, and getting a deeper story than just one or two “hero shots”.

When I arrived, the kids were already playing in the sand, so I got straight to it and shot a couple of beautiful “eyelash” moments… where the kids are so absorbed in what they are doing, that all I can see is their eyelashes and their serene expressions. I LOVE this angle on kids, and so do most parents!

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Sam and Kelly’s whole family ticks the three magic boxes: energetic, connected, loving. It’s my favourite type of family to photograph, because they are always full of fun, laughs and action. When I shoot families like this, the shots simply bleed happiness and energy, and we are able to get a great mix of candid moments in the mix. Here’s Kelly having a running race with her two kids…

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Sam and Kelly’s daughter is FULL of personality, energy, and expression! She was active for almost the entire shoot, and really vocal! Their son, by contrast, is a bit of a quieter soul, although just as happy.

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After a while we relocated to the rock platform and the kids went exploring with Mum and Dad, seeing what they could find in the rock pools. This kind of moment will always be a beautiful, timeless moment of curiosity and wonder for the kids, and love and connection for the parents. I love the subtle background of pine trees along the beach from Manly to South Steyne too.

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I’ve said it before, but I always love to capture a few fun moments between Mum and Dad – the family only exists because of the relationship that began with the parents! In this case, Kelly and Sam have some fond memories at Shelly Beach; it is a location that they spent many lazy afternoons when they were a couple, and in the background is an apartment block that Kelly used to live in when she and Sam were first dating.

Much kudos to Kelly’s form in this shot – perfectly pointed dancers toes! – and to Sam for the gun-show…  :)

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When they came to view their portraits, Kelly and Sam fell in love with this final image as a perfect summation of their active lifestyle, where they live, and the energy of them and their kids. They chose to have it as a large wall artwork – one metre wide – framed for their living room wall. They were so pleased with their beach family photos, and chose to upgrade their package to include all the digital negatives of the shoot, along with some smaller mounted portraits.

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Something I really loved about working with Kelly and Sam was the fact that after picking up their frame and other smaller portraits (including a bit of engineering to get the frame into their car!) we all wandered down to Coogee Beach for fish and chips for dinner! It was really a lovely afternoon, and I’m so grateful to be able to work with loving, energetic, connected families like Kelly and Sam’s.

Thanks guys, and I can’t wait to pop over one day and see your frame on the living room wall!

UPDATE: Sam wrote to me after seeing this post, with these words:

Thanks Israel, we are extremely happy with the photos and your professionalism! The picture looks incredible on our wall! Thanks again mate!

Cloudy With A Chance of Family Portraits

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Asako and her family had driven from Avalon, up at the northern end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, to Bronte – about an hour’s drive away in the Eastern Suburbs – for their family portraits. I was a bit worried about the weather, and if we’d get rained out or not, given how far Asako had driven to see me! I was so humbled that they’d driven so far to have me photograph their family, that I was determined to make it work, one way or another.

Most people, when they think of the beach, think of rich, vibrant colours with lots of sunshine. Not this day. It was cloudy, overcast, and generally pretty flat. My work was ahead of me to give this beautiful family a series of portraits that captured their fun, energy, and vibrancy without the help of vivid sunshine light.

A lot of photographers say that they love cloudy light. It is really flattering, it is soft, and it is fairly even. But it is also directional from above (throwing heavier shadows under eyes, nose, etc), and it doesn’t always give rich colours. Instead, cloudy day family portraits tend to have a subtler contrast and colour palette.

One of the great things about cloudy light is the ability to shoot directly out to sea, and not lose any of the detail in the ocean and sky behind (as in the first image above). If I shot this image on a sunny afternoon, I would either be fighting with direct sun in the family’s face – leading to squinty eyes and brutally harsh shadows – or I would be dealing with such an extreme brightness difference between my family and their background, that the family’s faces would be too dark, and the background would be overexposed and too bright. Cloudy light – as shown above – means I can shoot straight out to sea and get the results I want.

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The trick with shooting family portraits in cloudy light is to understand how to give it shape, direction and contrast. In the portrait of Asako’s beautiful son above, and the whole family below, I used a tall, dark cliff to remove some of the light on the right side of the shots, and create some contrast and shape in the family’s faces. This makes the shot more interesting to look at, and gives their faces depth and character.

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Finally, the sun peeked through the clouds at the end of the shoot, and gave me some extra light direction and “zing” to the light to help my last few shots work really well. Notice the bright, shiny highlights in everyone’s hair in the shot below – this is caused by direct sunlight, and helps to make everyone stand out from the cliff in the background. (It’s commonly called “hair lighting” or “rim lighting” in photography.)

Suffice to say that Asako and her family LOVED their family portraits. Here’s a few words from Asako that I received via SMS message after Asako’s husband collected their order:

“Israel, your work is amazing! I was looking for words to describe my feelings but couldn’t come up with any. I cried and cried and cried over the weekend with happy tears. Thank you for everything!”

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Free Portrait Sessions + 10% Off for Previous Clients

10 Percent Off plus Free Shoots for Existing Clients

Are you an Existing Client of ours?
Have you been thinking about updating your family portraits?
Did you know Mother’s Day is only FOUR weeks away?

We’re into our 3rd week of our 10th Birthday Celebration, and we’ve got a fabulous special offer this week for all of our existing clients. Did I mention that Family Portraits are the perfect gift for Mother’s Day for yourself, your wife, or your Mum? ;-)

On top of offering Free Portrait Sessions in 2014 for all existing clients (read more here) we’re offering 10% Off All Orders for April and May Sessions!

Here’s the rules:

  • You must be a previous client of ours (wedding/portrait/commercial)
  • Your Portrait Session must occur in April or May 2014
  • Your Viewing & Purchasing Appt must occur before 15 June
  • This special applies to new bookings only
  • The 10% Off and Free Portrait Sessions can’t be used with any other offer

So, are you keen to update your family portraits, pay nothing for your session, and get 10% off your order?

Awesome! Email myself or Dorothy and we’ll get you all booked in. Make sure to mention your 10% Off special when you book.

Note: Sessions are genuinely limited (there’s only so much Israel to go around!) so please don’t procrastinate…

I’m leaving Sydney at the end of this year, so if you want to update your family portraits, NOW IS THE TIME, and this is the best offer you’ll get all year :-)

 

Family Portraits at Sydney Park

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For some reason, clouds followed me when I shot these family portraits at Sydney Park with Nicole and Jason. I photographed their wedding back in 2009, they’ve since added two lovely boys to their family.

What’s even more unusual is that the clouds followed us on their wedding day too – we only narrowly escaped rain at the ceremony, snuck out for some beautiful sunshine at Observatory Hill for some location shots, before getting rained in at the reception! The good news is that the rain held off until we were driving home after shooting their family portraits.

Sydney Park has such a variety of backgrounds, looks, and textures that can be used for family portraits. I loved this steel sculpture in the centre of the park, and Nicole and Jase loved it in the background of their feature family shot, as well as the texture behind their boys in these really contrasty black-and-white’s:

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As much as I love portraits of children looking at the camera and smiling, the story of the boys playing with each other is such a great addition to the overall collection. Here, the boys play with rocks, sticks and dirt under a gorgeous tree. Don’t you just love the peacefulness and calm of this image?

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I don’t like leaving kids in a screaming heap for Mums and Dads to deal with at the end of the shoot. Being a Dad myself, I have a really good understanding of when I can push a tiny bit more for a shot I want to get, or when I need to back off and call it a day.

For this shot below, we were nearing our “expiry” with the youngest son, but I felt like there were a few more smiles left in him, and I really loved this setting. Fortunately, I was able to get the shots I wanted before the kids both wiped out with the afternoon hungry-tireds. This is one of Nicole and Jason’s favourite family images from the shoot:

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