My Brownie Experiment

I bought a new camera – new to me anyways. I came across some vintage cameras that a woman acquired, and was selling on a Facebook Buy and Sell page, and just knew that I wanted one. She had a handful of vintage Brown Box cameras from the 1920s, and I was so excited to get one.

Brown Box Camera

I chose one, a No.2 Brownie. Through my online research, I discovered a cool website ( devoted to Brownies, and that my camera was a No.2 Brownie Model E, introduced in 1919 and in production until 1924. My specific camera has a metal film carrier instead of wood, and includes the trigger guard that was added in 1920 – so this dates my camera between 1920 and 1924.

I fully intended on trying to take photos with it, and quickly found through more research, that my camera takes 120 film. Lo and behold, I was able to find some online. I quickly purchased 2 rolls – the first purely for experimenting, and the second to fine-tune any adjustments to exposure.

My film arrived, and I was beyond excited to try it out. I covered up the orange viewing window on the back of the camera (a tip I read online from another Brownie user) to avoid any light leaking inside. I loaded my camera with my first roll of film – only to find I left the shutter open! ugh… First exposure lost…oops! I wound my film to exposure 2 and headed outside with my kids to test it out.

I set up and took 3 great shots – forgetting to wind my film in between – another oops… maybe a cool triple exposure? Today’s modern DSLR cameras have us spoiled – no film winding and instant results!

I took a short break after cursing to myself, and wound my film to exposure 3. I took 6 more shots around my yard, only to find out my roll was done after exposure 8. Eight exposures?! …and now I need to take my film in and wait for it to be developed… I know, I know… First World problems. At $30 per roll to develop, this better be worth it.

I picked up my film, and was pleasantly surprised. For a camera that is nearing a century old, I actually got some nice shots! The first (my open shutter oops) one was a wash-out (expected).

My second was a strange triple exposure… I kinda like it, and I might play around with some double exposures as a future experiment.

My final 6 images turned out great. I discovered that my Brownie has a focus “sweet spot”. Most Brownie cameras suggest a focal distance of about 6-8 feet from your subject (which I was), so next time I will stand about 10-12 feet away.

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All in all, I am very happy with the results from this little camera. I plan to add a “sides” section to my session menu to include vintage photos to any session. Imagine having vintage black and white photos of your wedding, or recreating a beloved old photo of a cherished family member?

This little camera has been like a tiny time machine – taking me back to what life was like when each photo was a once-in-a-lifetime one-of-a-kind capture. Funny expressions, blurry faces…and they were perfectly cherished. Each exposure, caught on light-sensitive film, stored in a cardboard Brownie Box until all 8 photos were ready to be developed. No do-overs, no retakes. Only one moment, and one shot. Take me back to 1920.

What to Wear: Christmas Family Photos

It can make or break your holiday photos – or any photo session for that matter – what you wear. Gone are the days of matching outfits (everyone in black tops or blue jeans and white t-shirts)…

but believe me when I say that I still need to remind clients that it’s not a good idea!

You can add that extra punch to family photos with the right “coordinating” ensembles. Think complimenting, not matching.

Here’s my own rule of thumb:
1.   Choose 2 Neutrals – have each person in the group wear 1 or 2 of the following (Brown, Grey, Black (try to limit), White, Beige, Khaki or Blue Jeans. Yes, blue jeans I count as a neutral – use with caution though, or you could risk having everyone show up in a Canadian Tuxedo…

2.   Choose 2 Complimenting Colours – if you’re at all familiar with the colour wheel, this should come easy to you, but if not, with a quick Google search, you will find it. Choose 2 colours on the opposite side from one another. (In the photo above, tan/beige falls into the yellow area, where the navy colours and jeans fall into the blues – opposite to yellow/tan/beige)

Red and Green  |  Blue and Yellow  |  Green and Pink  |  Purple and Green

3.   Patterns – These you want to limit. I usually advise my clients to choose one person to wear a smaller pattern with the complimenting colours, and another person  – if the group is bigger – with a larger pattern (no more than 2-3 colours) that compliments the first pattern. (eg. small red and black polkadots on a little girl, and larger black/red/grey plaid on brother or dad)

4.   Solids – Have everyone else wear solids that pull colours from the 1 or 2 chosen patterns. Be careful not to overdue it though. One or two people can wear a top/bottom of the chosen colours, but others can wear scarves, ties, shoes, jewellery, etc. that also have that colour.

5.   Layers – adding layers to outfits creates depth and detail to a photo. Jackets, sweaters, scarves, vests, boot socks, hats, etc. all can make a photo more interesting. Again, be careful not to over-accessorize your subjects. Not everyone needs to wear a hat.

6.   Theme – sticking to a “theme” can give your family members ideas for outfits. Here are some suggestions for possible themes:
– Lumberjack
– Neutrals
– Glitzy
– Red and Gold
– Blues and Browns

7.   Personal Touch – What does your family love to do over the holidays? Try and choose to do your photos somewhere meaningful. Does your family play hockey together? Find a local outdoor rink! Do you go to a local tree farm for your Christmas tree? take your photographer with you!

8.   Candid – Ask your photographer to fit in a few candid shots between poses. Sometimes those end up being the best ones – not too posey, when your family is just being natural and who they are everyday.

Hopefully now you can plan your next Christmas family session feeling a little more prepared – but remember (for those of you with little ones), you get what you get, and you shouldn’t ever be upset. Funny photos are the ones you continue to look back on 😉


A peek into my Editing Regime…

After finishing a session (which depending on the subject, can be difficult in itself), comes the daunting task of editing my images. Also called the “digital darkroom” editing photos at my desk can be a long gruelling task. Rewarding however, when you see your final image.

When it comes to my own editing style, I like to keep things as fresh and natural as possible. With the exception of a few clients who want some extra editing attention, I don’t like to change too much of what makes them who they are.

I always start in Camera Raw, first balancing my histogram, reducing the extreme brights, and lack lustre blacks. I then do a quick check and tweak on my white balance (if needed), and send my image over to Photoshop.

Here, I start by cropping my image to where I need it. In my example photo above, I cropped it to place the girls right eye on the top right cross-hairs of the frame to adhere to the “rule of thirds” – essentially, when this rule is used, you get a more eye-appealing photo. If you keep this one thing in mind, you’ll improve even your cell-phone photos. I almost do it without thinking now. I missed the mark a tad when shooting this image, so I decided to crop it slightly.

I then apply a slight curve to my images, giving them an added brightness, richness and contrast kick. …sometimes I “paint” a little more light into some dark areas around the eyes or in shadowy areas.

Dodge and Burn baby! Dodging a photo intensifies highlights, and Burning – well, “burns” the shadows…think of this step as “selective contrasting” if that makes any sense. I specifically do this to the eyes. I dodge the catch-light and iris, and burn the pupil, the iris and the lashes. Dodging and burning also helps add extra texture to hair, and accentuates high and low lights. Dodging the background adds depth and texture.

Lastly, I add a vibrance layer to slightly boost colour, sharpen the photo, and save. 🙂


A Photographer’s Bucket List

There are a few of nature’s phenomena that only come around so often. And as a photographer – I am dying to capture them. …however, not just the moment themselves, but as a breathtaking portrait. It’s hard enough to grab my camera in time to photograph some of them, but to be lucky enough to have a portrait session scheduled right at the EXACT time – that would be pure luck.

Topping my photographer’s bucket list are: a thick foggy morning, and the more rare – hoar frost.

Fog is tricky. Some days fog can linger all day, but the fog I’m after is that heavy, low, eerie fog that swirls around the trunks of trees, allowing tall grass to peek out above it. I would love to just place my subject right inside that ground cloud, and hold down the shutter.


This type of fog typically occurs just before Golden Hour… which, for most people, is much too early to have their photo taken.

Hoar Frost on the other hand, is even trickier. For those who don’t know what Hoar Frost is, picture white ice crystals radiating off of every single surface around you. It is quite a site, and quite beautiful. Apparently it happens on cold clear nights when conditions are just right.


“Under suitable circumstances, objects cool to below the frost point of the surrounding air, well below the freezing point of water” (thank you Wikipedia), so you can probably guess that if I didn’t have a session already booked that morning, I wouldn’t be so lucky. And to make things worse, as soon as the sun begins to touch it, it melts.

I also wouldn’t mind a session in the mountains of BC and Alberta, but since that would cost a pricy plane ticket, I will have to work with the much flatter areas Ontario. 🙂

What’s on your Photographer’s Bucket List?


The Magic of Golden Hour

What is Golden Hour?

Golden Hour occurs when the sun is close to the horizon, shortly after sunrise and before sunset. I guess you could say, that to photographers, it is THE best time to shoot portraits. There is no other time to get such soft, filtered, and warm light to illuminate your subjects. You could almost say that it adds a moment or a feeling to your images.

In the middle of the day when the sun is much higher above, subjects tend to squint from bouncing light, and get unusual and unflattering shadows casting on their faces – typically dark circles around their eyes, and shadows under their noses. This high contrast between the highlights and shadows can make a portrait very unbalanced. Because contrast is less during Golden Hour, it becomes easier to maintain detail in black, and highlights are less likely to be overexposed.

Another benefit to shooting during this magic hour, is more detail in your shadows. With a smaller angle between the sun and the horizon, shadows are longer, and surfaces suddenly have more texture. And if you are shooting with the golden hour sunset behind your subject, the warm glow perfectly illuminates your subject’s hair, adding texture, and detail.

So you’re probably thinking, well the sunrise and sunset change daily…if I want to book my session a month from now, how would I know what time golden hour is going to be? Well, I came across a site called You simply plug in your location, and out spits the time of sunrise and sunset. You can then click on their little calendar days at the bottom and you can see the sun graph change simultaneously.

A very handy tool for photographers and their clients. They even have an app! You can find it here: 

So the next time you’re thinking that it’s time to update the family photos, make sure to book during the Golden Hour. You may need to get up extra early, or keep your kids up past bedtime, but you won’t regret it.