We are a family that loves routine, and the highest elevation of a routine becomes tradition. There’s few traditions more sacred to our family than the annual trip out to Thomas Tree Farm to get a Christmas tree – and the photographing of said trip!

Christmas tree picking 2016

This year, Lucas got to make the first couple of cuts. My babies are all growing up!

Christmas tree picking 2016-2

Christmas tree picking 2016-3

Christmas tree picking 2016-4

I love how Lucas has his own bough slung over his shoulder.

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I didn’t realize until we got it home that the tree is nearly as wide as it is tall. It’s got a little junk in its trunk!

Stand by, there is a very good probability of a tree decorating photo essay in the very near future!

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I‘d mentioned in an earlier post that I’d fallen behind on sharing some of the photo sessions from this crazy busy autumn. When I looked at these together, I couldn’t help but notice that it illustrates the wide variety of family shapes and sizes that come to me seeking family photographs.

Mom and Dad didn’t want to be in any of the photos with these three cute siblings, but I’m sure you’ll agree that there was more than enough adorableness to fill the frame. I’ll always remember this family for the girls giving me a spontaneous hug as we were wrapping up – I can’t think of a more lovely compliment. If the kids are having fun at a photo shoot, the photos are going to be lovely.

Outdoor portrait of children

When Maureen called me (on the telephone!) to book a session with her family, I imagined grandchildren. Silly me, I should have been more open-minded. Families come in a delightful range of shapes and sizes. She wanted pictures with her adult children and their partners, and I have to tell you that it was a refreshing change of pace to have no toddlers to manage!

Ottawa family photography

Of course, sometimes you want a traditional family portrait: just mom and dad and the kids with a warm backdrop of autumn leaves. The leaves were warm, but the wind was cool and gusty on this late October afternoon – we had a pile of coats that kept coming off for photos and then back on in between shots!

Family photography in Ottawa

Sometimes, you want photos with the extended family: in this case, grandparents, adult siblings and their partners, and a couple of sweet kiddies to amp up the adorableness. We had so much fun at the Lime Kiln Trail on a lovely autumn Sunday. Although I love this extended family portrait, some of my favourites from this session were more candid moments we captured later when everyone relaxed and just played together.

Ottawa family photographer

And speaking of extended families, how’s this for a big group? I’m fascinated by large families because growing up I had only one brother, one cousin, one aunt and uncle and two sets of grandparents. I love the affectionate chaos of a big group like this one!

Extended family portraits in ottawa outdoors

Sharing this big extended family photo reminded me that there’s one other session I forgot to share, this one going waaaay back to July, just before we left for PEI. There were lots of planning hurdles to overcome here, not least of which were out of town guests and location challenges and then a rainy forecast. Sometimes it seems like the more challenges we face in setting up a photo session, the better the final photos seem to turn out. Big groups can be tough, but I loved working with this fun, funny gang.

Family portrait photography in Ottawa

On one hand, sharing only the posed family portraits doesn’t do these photo sessions justice, as it’s often the in-between moments that end up being my favourites. I think that’s why I find myself favouring a more documentary style instead of posed formal photos. I like to think that even these more posed photos can still tell you a little bit about the each family’s unique character and dynamics, though. I love that “family” is such a big word, subject to so many different definitions!


Oh hey bloggy friends – long time, no see! Sorry I’ve been a little lazy with the blog updates this season. I’m just coming to the end of the most amazingly fun and busy photo season ever: I’ve had bookings, sometimes double and triple, almost every weekend since Labour Day. I’ve been so busy trying to keep things moving that I just didn’t have time to keep up my “photos of the day” habit. There have been lots of fun families and great stories, though, so as we settle in to the relatively calmer holiday insanity season (!) I thought I’d do some catching up.

I really enjoyed working with this fun local family, and we’ve since become friends. They moved just this year to Manotick, returning to Canada after a stint in Los Angeles, so we based our photos around Watson’s Mill.

Family photos at the Mill-6

Beautiful family, right? The light was soft and delicious on this day as late summer gave way to autumn’s colour, but it was the black and white that carried the moment here.

Family photos at the Mill

I like how the colours and style of their clothes are complemented by the industrial feel of the Mill and the weir.

Family photos at the Mill-5

This was my favourite shot of the day, and I have to admit, it wasn’t even my idea! She was actually taking a photo of the dad and kids and I was trying to catch it, and the dad was encouraging her to turn on the selfie camera as a joke. It didn’t quite work, but with a little photoshop magic I was able to make the shot.

Family photos at the Mill-2

Fun, right? If I haven’t made the families I work with laugh at some point during our photo sessions, I haven’t done my job right. I love this sort of playfulness! Add “sense of humour” and “court jester” to the ever-lengthening set of skills required to run a family photography business. Lucky for me, both of those come pretty easily to me. Now asking me to be serious for a minute – that one’s a bit more of a challenge. šŸ˜‰


October was a rough month for outdoor portrait photographers. At least one day of every weekend in October was rainy and cold, and I had to reschedule more sessions this year than ever before due to poor weather conditions. In fact, this lovely family and I had to reschedule not once, not twice, but three times between late September and early November. And when they did finally make it out to the porch on a day that wasn’t raining, the wind was fierce and cold. Lucky for me, they were happy to try to make things work with the help of a couple of blankets and the bit of shelter from the wind that the porch provides.

And hey, don’t the blankets make them look extra snuggly and cuddly?

autumn on the porch (1 of 5)

A couple of well-placed kisses helped warm things up, too.

autumn on the porch (3 of 5)

autumn on the porch (5 of 5)

autumn on the porch (4 of 5)

It was late summer and lovely when we first planned to meet for photos, and there were snow crystals in the feisty wind when we finally managed to meet, but I think this family’s sunny warmth and playfulness would shine in any sort of weather.

autumn on the porch (2 of 5)

It’s been such a busy portrait season that I haven’t had a chance to share any of the dozens of lovely families I’ve met this autumn – not only my busiest but my most weather-challenged season ever as well! I’m hoping to catch up now that the season for outdoor portraits, like the daylight, is waning. Stay tuned, I have lots of happy families and beautiful portraits to share!

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It’s been such a ridiculously, insanely busy month that we ALMOST didn’t get the chance to go pumpkin picking this year. In the end, we decided a quick pick from the yard of Miller’s pumpkin patch would suffice, rather than going back into the fields to select our seasonal squash. And everybody in the family knows that it’s less about the pumpkins and more about the photo op, anyway.

Pumpkin picking 2016

Pumpkin picking 2016

We still had a little bit of fun playing around!

Pumpkin picking 2016

Pumpkin picking 2016

Pumpkin picking 2016

Tristan and his mini-me:

Pumpkin picking 2016

Something about the pumpkin patch always gives me great photos. Must be that soft October light. Or maybe it’s the handsome subjects? I may be biased here.

Pumpkin picking 2016

Happy Halloween!

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I don’t miss the commute home from working downtown, but this season especially I have really missed poking around on my lunch breaks with my camera. When I was invited to attend a conference at the National Gallery this week, I set my alarm to arrive extra early and give myself some time to creep around and enjoy some autumnal colour in one of my favourite places.

It was worth the lost sleep, wouldn’t you say?

Parliament Hill in Ottawa on an autumn morning

Apparently my theme of the day was framing things through tunnels of colourful leaves.

Photograph of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on an autumn morning

Seriously, though, those colours!!

Photograph of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on an autumn morning

I hiked my way up to Nepean Point not once but twice, but didn’t love the fall colour as much as I did when I was in Majors Hill Park, probably because the sun was rising opposite me and the colours weren’t as vibrant when they were backlit, to say nothing of all the fences and cranes from the Canada 150 upgrades. But I did love stumbling onto this photo of the intrepid shadow girl engaged in her ongoing pursuit of the perfect shot.

The intrepid shadow photographer hunts autumn colours!

We live in an amazingly beautiful city made even more breath-taking by the palette of autumn colours but… don’t blink or it will suddenly be winter. Sigh.


Photos of the day: Piano in the Park at Watson’s Mill

25 September 2016 Lucas

I had heard about Pianos in the Park, but didn’t realize until this week that they had installed a piano right around the corner from us at our favourite place. The Ottawa version of Pianos in the Park (apparently it’s an international movement) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing pianos to local parks. They’ve […]

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Photos of the day: Apple picking

17 September 2016 Ah, me boys

One of our favourite seasonal markers is our annual trip to a local orchard to pick apples. It looks like it’s been a great growing season, and when we visited last weekend, the boughs were heavy with ripe Lobos, Paula Reds and MacIntosh apples. As usual, we picked more than we could ever eat. Beloved […]

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Photos of the day: Sunday fun at a Centretown park

11 September 2016 Mothership Photography

I have a special affection for Everitt and Eileen and their parents. Not only was Everitt the subject of my first-ever family portrait session, but they are the stars of one of my favourite photos of all time. When I met with Everitt and Eileen and their parents on a sunny Sunday morning at their […]

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Photos of the day: Making squares

31 August 2016 Mothership Photography

Didn’t everyone learn to make dessert by starting with Rice Krispie squares? I tried to stay out of the way so they could do it themselves, but I did want a few photos of the action. Part of my new “day in the life” series. (He’s not glaring at me, I swear!) Looking at them […]

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