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Posts in Journal
How to keep h'anger at bay, on your wedding day.

My boyfriend used to wish he had one of those portable flashing lights for the top of the car, for two situations: when I had my period, and when I was hungry. Though there are limited options for wedding day menstruation (hmm, definitely a potential article there), when it comes to avoiding the "hangry" wedding day, your options are many! 

This article contains two simple tips, and one wedding day to-do list of what to pack to stay fresh all day: 


Even for the chillest couples, the wedding is a big day. When was the last time you invited all your people to come and look and talk to you all at once? It's wedding-day-hangry just waiting to happen! Besides the emotional/spiritual/life milestone taking place, you’ve got a lot to think about and that takes energy. 


Drink water to keep your energy up!  

Many brides are afraid they’ll have to pee and avoid drinking water on the wedding day. Don’t do that! 

Staying hydrated will help you keep your energy up. I know, from the experience of shooting weddings, water gives you a boost and keeps your endurance up so you can smile allllllllllll day long (and still party into the night). 

Also, it’ll make you smell better: you might get nervous and sweat a lot, but if you stay hydrated your body and your breath will thank you! (A quick googling of dehydration and body odour/bad breath can tell you why.)   


Have snacks on hand! 

Nothing brings on irritability, anxiety, and exhaustion like low blood sugar. Don’t leave it to chance when it comes to staying in a good mood on your wedding day!

Keep snacks on hand for yourself and houseguests, i.e. bridesmaids getting ready at your place. Besides brunch, make sure there are snacks you can force yourself to eat if you get too nervous or stressed out for a full meal.  


Things to consider / pack: 

  • Straws for sipping, to protect lipstick

  • Lipstick touch-up colour from makeup artist, for after she’s left.

  • Smoothie or liquid meal that you can sip (alternate with water if you get a dry mouth)

  • Small bites of fruit & some sort of bib – no blackberry juice on the wedding dress!

  • Granola bars (soft as opposed to hard and crumbly)

  • Halloween-sized chocolate bars or small cookies in a zip-lock

  • Yoghurt drinks (get that probiotic in while you're at it ;))

  • Juice boxes

  • Wet wipes for hands

  • Someone you trust, who’s as obsessive as you are, to check that there’s no food in your teeth. None of this “you’re fine you’re fine” when they haven’t even looked!


Basically, you need food and drink that takes minimum effort to open, and can be carried with you. And possibly a case of water bottles for your bridal party/family, if you are traveling together in a limo or having a big photo session somewhere away from immediate access to water… Especially in the summer, guys!!! Please! I know plastic water bottles are terrible for the environment, but this is one of those times you might forget your S’well.  


You got this!!

Between morning coffee with your BFFs, and a champagne toast (or three) you need to keep your wits about you. You don’t want to get drunk or shaky, right before you say “I do”. Take care your body with water and snacks, and no portable flashing lights will be needed! 


Look beautiful, no food in teeth, laughing head off... Check!

Unplugged Wedding Ceremony: A "good professional photographer" just isn't enough.

In the past 7 years of shooting weddings, I’ve seen a few near-disaster photography moments. Here are some questions you might not know about an unplugged wedding. 

If you’re asking yourself, “should I have an unplugged ceremony?” the answer is YES. Here are two reasons why:

1.    You want awesome wedding photos – not just good enough.
2.    You want your guests to be emotionally present for your ceremony – the most meaningful & important part of the wedding day.


the best wedding photos possible: 

I once heard someone say, “a good professional photographer should be able to work around guests with phones”. Sure, of course we can. But is that good enough? Do you want a photographer who 'did their very best... in mediocre circumstances'?

Of course not! You want them to cry, “it was magical – everyone was in the moment – it was the most touching ceremony I’ve ever seen!!” 

Yes, it is possible to move around and re-compose an image, when there’s time and opportunity. I can creatively crop out guests and cameras, block them behind furniture, avoid the phone-lookers altogether, or throw them out of focus... But let’s be real; the photos won't be as wonderful as they could have been. Seeing a happy, teary-eyed best friend beaming at the bride, as she walks down the aisle, just isn’t the same when she's surrounded by phones and iPads.

Seeing a happy, teary-eyed best friend beaming at the bride, as she walks down the aisle, just isn’t the same when she’s surrounded by phones and iPads.

Now, I do my fair share of diving and dashing in order to "get the shot" – it’s my job. But I don’t want to distract, block, or disturb anyone, as you stand up there and say your vows. I don’t want to run hither-and-tither through your guests, because an eager uncle has suddenly popped up in front of me, or someone’s phone randomly jabs into my line of view... I move as quietly as possible – often only when others are moving (i.e. guests going from sitting to standing). This is something that photo-enthusiast guests do not consider. Weddings are inherently intimate, no matter the size. So discretion and respect are also part of my job, and something that distinguishes a professional wedding photographer from an amateur. 

Weddings are inherently intimate, no matter the size, so discretion and respect are also part of my job.

Also, there are moments when there just isn’t time or space for extra maneuvers. The ceremony is the one part of the day you can’t do-over. If a guest unthinkingly moves into my field of view at the last second, then it’s possible to miss an important moment. Photographers are given rules by the officiant about where they’re allowed to go, and where not, and they obey as much as possible. But guests aren’t given this information. There might be a tight spot where it’s the only angle I can capture your facial expression, and in the background is a person holding up a huge camera (or just staring at their phone in their lap).

Noooo! Don't even picture it! 

Breathe. It doesn't have to happen to you. 

Being emotionally present for your wedding ceremony:

The second reason for an unplugged wedding is much more simple. You've invited a select group of people to witness your wedding ceremony. As much as we think we can multi-task, brains just aren’t wired that way. Let your people put down their devices, and be there with you. When you look out at the crowd, see their eyes shining up at you, and feel the love – the hope and excitement and possibility and romance, and the feeling of family and friends, and hearts overflowing. It’s only 30 minutes, but what a gift.

In the future, when your guests actually remember that moment, and they have beautiful, candid images of themselves (that the professional photographers captured) they will be happy and grateful, and so will you.

Gatineaus Cottage Unplugged Wedding.jpg

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How to Take a Great Group Photo

ASSIGNMENT: "Teach us something that you do well." I can do that!

Here are a few simple tips for how to take a group photo!


  • Pick a spot where your group can either be in front of a plain background, or far enough away from their background that it will fall out of focus in the picture.

  • Pro tip: If you can back up far away from your group and zoom in with your lens, that will make the background even more blurry and beautiful!


  • Try to be in open shade (that is, in the shade, but when the subjects look up there's nothing above their heads), or with the light coming from behind them - so that it's illuminating everyone evenly and not shining in their eyes, making them squint.

  • Pro tip: soft, reflected light is flattering, so if your subjects are facing (or close to) something large and neutral - such as a wall or sidewalk with the sun shining on it - that is an added bonus!
Wedding photographers look for lighting & locations that will accentuate the special people at your wedding. 

Wedding photographers look for lighting & locations that will accentuate the special people at your wedding. 


  • Everyone should stand in a straight line, not a U shape. People have a tendency to get into a semi circle but you want them to be on the same plane, to keep everyone in focus.
  • Get everyone to angle inwards slightly, towards the centre of the group (it's slimming and you can fit more people in).
  • Clean up the look by having folks do up the top button of their blazer, and put dangling hands in their pant pocket.
  • Pro tip: make sure people's chunky wallets, cell phones, lunch, or other random paraphernalia are taken out of their pockets, to avoid strange impressions in the trouser area.
Angling your toes towards the centre of the photo is flattering, and fits more folks into the shot.

Angling your toes towards the centre of the photo is flattering, and fits more folks into the shot.

Happy Smiles

  • "Happy Happy"
    • The most successful prompt I've been using for years, I got from my friend Rudo Vacula, of Toronto Wedding Studios. It works 98% of the time: Happy happy!
    • That's right, you - the photographer - say, "Okay everyone, looking right here," (or whatever you want for that part) and then you say, "HAPPY HAPPY!"
    • It's amazing - it always makes people laugh.
  • "Mommy"
    • In an emergency I have another one that I mostly use for groups including a surly teen or crotchety family member, and that is: "On the count of three, I want everyone to say the word 'MOMMY!' One, two, three..." and that totally works too.
Even the most serious subjects burst into smiles when they look at someone they love. Eye contact for a natural smile, every time. 

Even the most serious subjects burst into smiles when they look at someone they love. Eye contact for a natural smile, every time. 

  • "Look at each other"
    • For a group of two I'll often take a few snaps, then get people to look at each other. I photograph that too, if they happen to have a nice moment together.
    • The beauty is, after looking at each other, I get them to look at me again and take a few more photos, and this time their smiles are real.

Have fun practicing taking great group photos, with happy natural smiles!

Pre-Wedding Consultation: FIsh Tacos, Cocktails, Gelato
Ed's Real Scoop, Game of Cones
Ed's Real Scoop, Game of Cones

10:30pm and I just got back from a dinner meeting with Ervin and Grace. I have a strong opinion on why it's important to get to know your wedding photographer. I often try to meet with a couple before their wedding to review their questionnaire together. I call it a "pre-wedding consultation" - very professional and official. Sometimes things are too hectic so we do it over the phone… But other times the gods smile, the chemistry is right, and white wine spritzers and chocolate get involved.

Grace and Ervin came into Leslieville and we went to a local bistro for fish tacos, burgers, and bangers & mash. We spread out on the comfy bench seat and made ourselves at home.

Recently they each travelled out of the country (separately). The cutest: they both documented their travels including everything they ate, on their iPhones, to show one another. Whenever my friends travel one of my first questions is “How was the food – did you find any good restaurants?” So of course when asked, Grace whipped out her phone and started describing delicious berries with their explosive taste – perfect for waffles with whipped cream; Ervin showed us the rare selections of Japanese cuisine that only those more daring foodies would taste…  Much ooh-ing and ahh-ing was heard from our table.

“I don’t usually take pictures of food – actually I think it’s kind of silly,” Grace explained. “But for this, since we weren’t together, I wanted to show Ervin everything.” Um, so sweet.

What a fine evening! After dinner we walked down the street to Ed’s Real Scoop and indulged in some ice cream and gelato goodness. It was a warm evening, with a nice breeze, and we sat on the bench outside chatting about work, life, following your passion, cute dogs, food, Game of Thrones and Grey’s Anatomy (specifically around the topic of yelling at one's television set in shock/scandalization)...

I am so excited for Grace and Ervin’s wedding, but also in this very moment I am just grateful that I’ve found a path where I get to share and enjoy some life with human beings; celebrate, laugh, connect, make friends.

Wedding photography is not just about shooting, editing, printing. It is sharing in a rite of passage with families, hopeful and proud parents, and friends. It’s also often a collaboration with couples who have found an outlet for their own creativity and passion to emerge. It is the prime of life, no matter their age. It is humbling and simply a blessing to be a part of.

While you're waiting for the wedding, feel free to check out Ervin and Grace's gorgeous University of Toronto engagement photos.

The Importance of Documenting the Details
My parents at their wedding in Dublin Ireland, 1977.

My parents at their wedding in Dublin Ireland, 1977.

I phoned my parents to let them know that I was using one of their wedding photos on my website. A few days later my mum called me back and said something so unexpected and insightful that I had to write it down! On the webpage you can see that my dad is wearing a necklace. My parents decided to exchange necklaces instead of rings at their wedding ceremony, and a couple years later the necklaces disappeared. They had been kept in a jewelry box at our house in Dublin, Ireland. It is suspected they were stolen, but whatever happened they were never seen again.

“You know the way you take photos of all those little details at weddings – we didn’t do that in those days,” my mum explained. “You never saw the necklaces...” She described the details to me – a sterling silver eagles’ claw with a small turquoise stone.

Me and my Papa on the beach, circa 1981.

Me and my Papa on the beach, circa 1981.

Being one of the youngest in our extended family, there’s a lot of history that stretches beyond my memory. For example, my Papa O’Connor died when I was two, so the only way I remember him is from tales my dad tells us, and pictures from our family vacation…

I would love to see the necklaces that my parents exchanged on their wedding day. I still don't know what they really looked like.

You never know what challenges life will present, but this phone call was a poignant reminder of why a wedding photographer is so important. The documentation of meaningful moments, and actual wedding details, could be the only way you pass on your family history.

Whether it’s the folks who raised you or the family you’ve built, the stories that we create are what make life. Humans use rituals and artifacts to create culture and weddings are a true expression of this.

Do you have a photo or symbolic item in your life?