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Stress-free family photography sessions. It’s a thing!

boy and girl running around parents

Fun, relaxed family photography.

Can you imagine a family photography session that is not a stressful experience? One where your husband won’t groan the entire time, the kids will be laughing and thoroughly enjoying the process and you get to sit back and soak up quality family time (and have photos made that you will cherish forever). I would never steer you wrong, my sweet friend. It can happen!!

Life is too short to be forced to wear matching white t-shirts and jeans

Whenever asked for wardrobe advice before a session, I urge my clients to stay away from the shops and look through their closet first. You never need to dress up for a storytelling session, but if you want to go the extra step, select what love to wear or something that you would put on if you were going out for a special get-together with friends. Likely it is something incredibly comfortable, classic and the second you put it on, you feel amazing. (Which is the biggest secret to looking amazing in your photos!)

Ottawa family photo kids jumping in front of house

Keep it simple with the rest of the family’s ensemble – the key is to not make a big deal over the clothes. When you look back on the photos in a decade from now, you don’t want to see the latest fashions or be reminded how much your son complained about that new sweater you bought for the photo shoot – you want to see how much everyone enjoyed their time together.

Home is a magical place for your photo shoot

The search for a ‘perfect location’ for photos ends now. In my opinion, your home and backyard is an awesome backdrop for your session.

little boys playing on floor with ball toy

Think about it: the little Lego pieces everywhere right now will be gone one day. (It doesn’t seem that long ago when toys were once strewn from one end of my living room to the other!) So it may seem like a ‘mess’ now, but take my word for it – these are the scenes you will want to remember in 10, 25, or 50 years from now. Your home is the heartbeat of your family and usually where everyone is happiest and most likely to relax and be themselves. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

A session in your house? Doesn’t sound very stress-free, does it? Let me put your mind at ease… I don’t care if your house is full of dust bunnies. Not for one second. All homes (especially with kids) have ‘stuff’ everywhere and it happens to be a fleeting part of your life.  You may feel the urge to tidy as if you were preparing for a friend to come over to visit (again, that’s entirely up to you) but that’s it. I won’t be photographing anything but you and your family together.

family photography - adult children making pizza

For parents of adult children, an in-home session can’t be beat. Very few things can compare to the feeling of having your children back under one roof and involved in preparing and sharing a meal together. You’re going to have to make food for everyone anyway, so why not incorporate your culinary talents and #teamwork into the session?

Playing, laughing and not looking at the camera is highly encouraged

Focus on fun and spending special time together. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

kids playing in the leavesfamily photography kids playing in the leaves

When you let go of expectations and let the session unfold naturally, you end up with the best pictures of the day. Do your thing – love on your babies, give your main squeeze a big, well, squeeze.

family photography little boys give flowers to mom
If you can, try to forget there’s someone there with the camera.

man looks at spouse lovingly on beach


Ready to have your family photographed without all of the fuss? If you live in Renfrew, Arnprior, Ottawa or surrounding areas and are interested in learning more about booking your very own family session, we need to chat. Please send me a note to learn more.


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Another Year of Sham of the Perfect

It’s hard to believe there’s another year tucked away and a fresh new chapter sitting in front of us.

I don’t like to make any photography-related lofty goals so you can imagine how over-the-moon happy I am about successfully completing TWO full years of documenting and sharing my family life on Sham of the Perfect. As one of the faithful contributors, this project continues to push me to take photos of my family when truthfully I don’t always feel like picking up my camera. I’m not kidding. At least half of these photos would never exist if it wasn’t for the weekly deadline. And many of these photos about to appear before you are some of my absolute favourite personal images of all time. All because I’m a Shammer.

Keeping the commitment to myself, and the rest of the team, not to let any week slide by without something from Robil-land has become a habit. Knowing I get to look back at the full collection at the end of the year like this makes it a very hard habit to break.

What started out as a simple project to grow our skills as documentary photographers has grown to so much more. For me, it shines a bright light on what is most important to remember as a mom of three boys – it’s a wild ride full of bumps, turns and unexpected adventures (and a whole bunch of laughs!).

ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, child reading bookSometimes, navigating my way through the craziness of raising energetic guys requires a headlamp (or helmet!) and other times, I want to cozy up with my favourite people and enjoy a quiet moment together – or a cup of tea during a round of Monopoly.ottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingLike most families, this trio of mine can be insanely silly or sneaky (trying to ambush with snowballs!) but they do have their quiet moments.ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, kids I really appreciate how the mission of our project connects us all as parents first and foremost – and our photography intertwines every stage of family life and embraces all moods (even the pre-teen ones!). ottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingAs it turns out, our goal to share more reality and less ‘perfect photos’ is something that strikes a chord with many other families. If you missed my posts on social media over the spring and summer, we had some HUGE recognition for our little project. Actually, Sham has somewhat exploded in the photography world and was picked up by a few popular blogs and featured in a magazine. (Yay, team!!) ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, driving, sunsetottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingLike I mentioned last year, the weekly photo opportunities aren’t always easy to execute. For some reason, boys at this age will have many, many, many days where they they don’t want to be photographed whatsoever. I always put my camera down and respect their wishes when that happens. Or there will be times when I wait, thinking this is the shot, and for whatever reason, the photo just doesn’t come together. ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, renfrew countyHowever, opportunities abound in summer months because we tend to go to more places and do different activities on the regular. They actually want mom to take cool photos with her big camera in those situations. 😉 ottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, kids swimmmingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, kids at the beachI’m one of the few in our international collective that experiences all four seasons (it’s -30 degrees Celcius as I write this, so I’m not sure if that’s a perk or not). But in each weekly post, it’s always interesting to see others on the team are stepping into their flip flops when I’m starting to layer up with big sweaters and boots. ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, fall photos, children playing, basketballottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingFrom birthdays to road trips, and all of the mundane moments in between, looking back through these 52 images from the past year show that I no longer have little boys. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to that stage of mothering, yet I’m ready as ever to see what kind of stories are awaiting behind the next door. (And it makes my heart incredibly happy to have this amazing collection of moments from 2016 of our family.)ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, winter, boy, Another Year Sham of the Perfect Documentary Family Photography

The project continues to be going strong for 2017 and I’m beyond excited to be part of the team again. It’s going to be another great year; we have a pile of new features coming on our project blog and new members of the collective. We have such a great group!! Make sure to check out our beautiful re-vamped website, and follow the Instagram feed (we recently hit the 10K follower mark!!) and on Facebook.

Some of my fellow Sham team members are also sharing their look back on the year with their own compilation posts — be sure to wander over and pay a visit to my friends:
Elisa Elliot
Robin Stephenson


If you live in Renfrew, Arnprior, Ottawa or surrounding areas and are interested in having a relaxed, documentary-style session with your own children, we need to chat. Please visit the Session Information page or send me a note to learn more.


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The Magic in Unscripted Moments

It’s close to seven years ago when I started out photographing families (other than my own) and it’s been one wild, adventurous ride so far and it’s only getting better. Why is that? Well, it’s simple – I stopped worrying about composition, lighting and all of the rest of the technical know-how and started concentrating on what really matters: people and what they do, how they interact and the way they show how they care for one another.

Last month I had the opportunity to work with one of the families who hired me in those early days of my photography business. Back then, it was all about frame-worthy portraits. They actually came to my house and the session took place in my yard and on our trails. Don’t get me wrong, that session was great (and I especially loved seeing those photos framed on the wall), but meeting up with them again last month was all about bringing their family story to life. There’s nothing wrong with pretty portraits (in fact, we still took time out for a few relaxed, fun poses). Yet everything is so right about showing what it really looks like on a random Tuesday summer evening.

Now those little cuties are full fledged tweens and a teenager. There was no elaborate plan for our session other than hanging out with the kids. Mom had explained that the evenings were still the “coming together” time for her family – 11 year old triplet girls and a 17 year old son.

“The kids are getting older and more independent, but we still have a strong family bond.”

Showing that bond became my mission. I could barely wait for the session.

It turns out Mom wasn’t kidding – they are all as tight as can be. She also mentioned they are generally quiet, but failed to share how energetic they all are at the end of the day! The kids played in the backyard on the trampoline and then we moved out to the front to the basketball net in the street for a solid hour and they genuinely enjoyed being together. It seriously was non-stop action (even when we went inside, the girls continued practicing splits and kartwheels in their gymnastics room!). Throughout it all, Mom didn’t miss a beat – watching their every backflip and free throw with great enthusiasm – and I know it wasn’t just because there was a camera around. This family understands what it means to spending quality time with each other.

Whenever I’m invited in to a family’s home, my only hope is that show me their real. After just a few minutes with these people I could feel the tingling deep down in my bones; this is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m meant to do.

Here is the M Family doing what they do best and showing nothing but their unscripted, magical real.


Just for fun, we had to take one of the four kiddos and their old Gemma photos:


Thank you all once again for opening your home and your hearts and embracing me as part of your summer fun, even if only for an hour or so.



If you live in Ottawa, Kanata or surrounding areas and are interested in savouring these types of simple memories with your quickly-growing children, we need to chat. Please visit the Session Information page or send me a note to learn more.


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It’s time to savour those sweet summer nights

Think about some of your most vivid, favourite memories with your family. I bet the majority of these moments have the warm glow of summer wrapped all around them. When I asked my kids some of their most favourite things we do, most of them happen during the summer months (boating, fishing and swimming topped all of their lists!).


Many of the best summertime memories involve the simplest of things like impromptu barbecues or letting the kids stay up way past their usual bed times so you can let them play until they can’t play no more. There is nothing like it.

Yet the season of summer lovin’ here in the Ottawa Valley is short and there is so much to soak up in such a limited timeframe. If we could only make those carefree summer nights in your own backyard, at a nearby beach or the cottage last forever.

Well, here’s your chance to freeze those wonderfully magical evenings of sitting out on the back deck, enjoying ice cream with the kids and watching the sun hit the horizon. I’m introducing an new option for local family sessions:

Savouring Summer Nights

One Hour
June + July + August
Your Backyard or Cottage


If you want to be the first to hear about exclusive promotions, be sure to join my VIP mailing list! (Newsletters are only sent every 2-3 months; you can unsubscribe at any time.)



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it’s not cold | Renfrew baby photography

The last time I met with this gorgeous mama, little Sakku was in her belly. Michelle and her family live in Nunavut, but her parents have recently moved back to Renfrew and they were here in the fall for a visit with Grandma. As you can imagine, compared to Nunavut the fall chill in Renfrew was balmy. As a bonus, this little fella was all about playing in something unfamiliar to him — the grass. He could have sat there for hours running it between his fingers and yanking it out of the ground.

Inuit traditions are a major part of this young family’s life. Michelle takes Sakku on walks in a custom baby wearing wrap and Johnny feeds his son the same way his ancestors fed their babies; by pre-chewing meats and feeding it directly by mouth to the little ones. And if by chance Johnny looks a little familiar to you – he’s  an actor and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient for his work improving the health of Northern communities. He’s also a champion Inuit High Kick athelete (check out the awesome video here).

We spent a quiet afternoon together playing outside, going for a little stroll, having a snack — and the down for a nap!

arnprior family photographybaby photographybaby photographyarnprior family photographyarnprior baby photographyMcNab baby photographerdad and baby photographyottawa baby photographerfamily photographer in Ottawarenfrew-family-photographer-11renfrew-family-photographer-14renfrew-family-photographer-12family photographer in renfrewrenfrew-family-photographer-17photographer in Ottawaottawa breastfeeding photographerrenfrew baby photographer



If you live in Renfrew, Arnprior or surrounding areas and are interested in savouring these types of fleeting moments with your quickly-growing baby, we need to chat. Please visit the Session Information page or send me a note to learn more.

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savour the moment

Fun, stress-free, meaningful in-home and outdoor adventure sessions for people who appreciate the magic of an ordinary day

Storytelling photography for extraordinary events and weddings across the Ottawa Valley, including the greater Ottawa area