#989 Portraits Photo Class – Review

Another session of one of our longest running courses is complete.

We offered the summer session of Natural Light Portraits in August and nerves turned into smiles all round.

photo class

Natural Light Portraits
© Marie Josée Leblanc

Let’s face it … making people pictures is hard. The photographers often get nervous and worry they’ll be good enough. Not only do they have to manage their camera’s technical elements and creative concerns but they ALSO have to engage with a person or people. That’s a lot to deal with even if you have experience!
By the end of the course students were more comfortable and relieved that their ability to capture good portraits had produced good results!

Photo Course Ottawa

Portraits Course
© MJ Leblanc

“Great learning curve.”
“Very patient and positive instructor. Loved it.”

And the models were happy with their photos!Our busy workshop season is coming up with courses by photojournalist Blair Gable, socdoc photog David Trattles, Graphic Designer Peter Handley and myself, Harry Nowell. Courses range from Night Light to Fundamentals to Lighting to travel to processing.

See more workshop details and invest in yourself and your photo skills!

Photography Course

Portraits Photo Course
© Madeleine Bachand

#984 Latest Photo Tips

A year ago we started posting photo tips on our photo Facebook Page.
That became popular enough that we created PrimePhotoTips.com.

The Facebook page gets tips first but there’s no way to easily search archived tips.
PrimePhotoTips lags a few days behind but you can search for all tips on portraits.

Please like our Facebook page (ahem, someone got a free three-month online program for liking the page last month, just saying) and check PrimePhotoTips regularly to keep inspired to shoot.

Here are some recent tips:

Photo Tip #230
Do things differently.
Most people take photos of trees from the outside. Try going inside the tree’s canopy – everything changes perspective.

Photo Tips = Better Photos

Photo Tip – Do things differently – Try shooting from within the tree’s canopy!


Photo Tip #229
Learn from your child’s perspective.
Give them your camera/iPhone etc. – they produce some beautiful (and perhaps unusual from-an-adult perspective) photos.
We can learn so much from them…

Photo Tips = Better Photos

Photo Tip – Learn from the perspective of your young kids!


Photo Tip #228
Dedicated to all of our photo students:
“With time, small steps will take you a long way!”
Photo below by Morina Reece of Ottawa (who has come a long way in her photo skills!)

Photo Tips

Photo Tip – With time, small steps will take you a long way.


Photo Tip #227
Ask yourself “What is this portrait about?”
• Physical appearance?
• Their soul & passion?
• What they represent?
Then, reflect and shoot.
This thought process can take days or more.
But it’ll help you produce better portraits!

Better photos = photo tips

Blacksmith Portrait – what’s the photo about?!


Photo Tip #224
Choose what you are exposing for.
• Don’t let the camera do it for you!
• Different light levels can have a huge impact on your photos depending on whether you expose for the sunny or shady areas…
A simple shot of backlit towels on a clothes line can produce some magic if YOU control the light settings properly.

Photo Tips = Better Pictures

Photo Tip – Backlighting can add magic to your photos


#976 Student Success – Scott in the Photo Studio

Years ago I got a message from Scott Martin who was looking to advance his photo skills and get into some photo work.

His photos at the time were mere snapshots.
After a couple of years on the ProProgram his work blossomed.

© Scott Martin – Liam Lloyd

What happened?
He worked hard.
And he took many of our photography courses lead by accomplished working  photographers like David Trattles (award-winning, veteran social documentary photographer) and Blair Gable (leading Reuters photojournalist.)

There are a lot of photo workshops offered nowadays. Learning from experienced veterans goes a long way, just saying!

Scott now runs ScottMartinVisuals.com and SpotlightOttawa.com. He recently shot Liam Lloyd at our photo studio for a feature.

We’re proud of what he’s accomplished!!
Well done Scott.

Student Success

© Scott Martin – Liam Lloyd

#948 Summer Portraits Photo Class

Better photos

Better photos

Summer Portrait Class!
We keep getting asked to run our portrait course in the summer (usually run in Jamuary) so we are running Natural Light Portraits in August!

It’s one of our most popular courses – perfect for capturing informal (or formal) portraits at summer events – weddings, BBQs, birthday parties or at family gatherings.

Better portraits!

Better birthday portraits!

Why it’s Popular!
It’s popular because we take people from their fundamentals of photography to specific portrait elements of photography. We cover some technical elements:
• exposures with portraits in mind – ie what shutter speeds and apertures are appropriate for different scenarios.
• introduction to use of flash in portraiture
• choice of different lenses for different portraits

Better people pictures

Better people picture

We also explore the creative side of portrait photography:
• location selection – dealing with the harsh light of midday sun.
• elements of style – what is most appropriate for you and your portraits – candid or formal portraiture?
• working with people to create natural looking smiles and emotions (this is hard!)

Want better people pictures? 
Join us this summer for some portrait fun!

Natural Light Portrait Class

Natural Light Portrait Workshop

#883 Friday Loose Ends on the Photo Blog

There are some loose ends to address on the blog today. 

We are open on December 9th from 1-4pm

We had a great turnout at the Open House last weekend but some people were disappointed to miss it. It’s not too late – we are opening the studio over the next few weeks to:
• present our work – editorial, commercial and artwork
• show off our photo students work – They have worked hard on our photo classes. It’s time to show off some of their work!
• offer cards, artwork and posters for sale.
We are open on December 9th from 1-4pm 

Open House at the Photo Studio - Ottawa art, gifts

Open House at the Photo Studio - Ottawa art, gifts

2. Pet Photos with Santa!
We are photographing YOUR pets with Santa at the West Quebec SPCA to support their work to help dogs and cats. The SPCA is selling our photos of your pets for a crazy price of $15 (many people pay more – it’s a good cause!)

Come with your pet. Have your photo taken. Donate. Pick up your print as you leave. Easy!!

Pet Photo Details

3. Cube Gallery – Great Big Smalls 
Visit the Cube Gallery’s fun Great Big smalls show – there’s something for everyone and all art budgets! Many artist’s work (including mine!) grace the walls – waiting for you to take it home!

4. DIY Portraits 
Guaranteed Fun!
We have some spots left on Saturday, December 15, 2012. Bring your camera and plug it into our studio. You direct and photograph your family photos in a working Ottawa photo studio! Very fun and a good deal!!

DIY Portrait Details

DIY portraits - Ottawa

DIY portraits - Ottawa - © Lucy, Richard, Catherine!

5. Photo Classes, Safaris and Workshops
Better photos. Our workshops help people make sense of their complicated cameras. Students get better photos and smile more!!

Coming up:
Online Photo Program – Join us for a new photo challenge every month!
• Creative Fundamentals – the building blocks of photography
Natural Light Portraits – better people pictures!
Glass Blowing Photo Safari – a hot photo adventure
Photographing Pro Hockey –  Fast paced Ottawa 67s hockey on Senator’s home ice – realize a dream shooting at ScotiaBank Place!

6. Check Friday’s Photographer Round-up
Be nosy and get the scoop on who’s shooting what in the Ottawa area. Comes out each Friday in the afternoon (or morning!)

#866 Santa Agrees to Help Pet Portraits at the SPCA

Yes, we have recently confirmed that Santa has agreed, again, to make an appearance at the West Quebec SPCA Pet Portrait fundraiser on December 9th, 2012.

pet portraits Ottawa Gatineau

Pet Portraits Ottawa Gatineau

He is a busy man but we kinda guessed he’d help, again!

• He has a soft spot for the furry friends.
• The SPCA feeds him good cookies!
• The event raises much needed $funds to support the dogs, cats and other pets.

We have helped Santa help the SPCA of West Quebec for years now by offering portrait services for pets and their humans. All proceeds go to the SPCA.

Pet Portraits - Ottawa Gatineau

Pet Portraits - Ottawa Gatineau

So, please come to have your portrait taken with your dog, cat, pig, goldfish or hamster to support the SPCA.

Sunday, December 9th; noon-4pm
SPCA of West Quebec
659 Auguste Mondoux  Gatineau, QC J9J 3K2
(819) 770-7722

Portraits provided on site – $15.
Please be generous!

Over the years we photographed packs of dogs, some cats, one hamster and one pet pig (Einstein) with Santa.
Why do we do it? 

DOGS. We love ’em. A lot.
After dear old Tigger died we adopted Biscuit from the SPCA of West Quebec. They do good work and we wanted to help. This was a way we could!

Pet Portraits - Ottawa Gatineau




#864 Photo Class Feedback

It’s been a good week. At the risk of tooting our own horn we’d like to share some unsolicited feedback we received for our photography courses and portraits.

We received this note about CK’s experiences so far on our online photo program:
Just want to tell you how much I am enjoying your monthly challenges.  You have taken the Online Workshops to a different photography level and have me thinking outside the photo norm.

Frankly I was feeling a little bored and unchallenged before your On-Line Workshops.  Bravo to you!  You have done it again by sharing such great photography techniques.  Love that fact that I can work at my own pace and time frame.
Great Job!

Online photo course

Online photo course

And Erica sent this note about her family photos:
I just wanted to let you know we had a peek at the photos tonight, and really loved them!  What a fun session, and you managed to catch some really candid, natural shots of everyone!  THANK YOU!

Fun family photos

Fun family photos

And PR sent this unsolicited note about the Lightroom seminar we presented at our photo studio by Peter Handley:
Harry, just to let you know that today’s workshop on Lightroom was Fantastic. Thank you and Peter. Looking forward to next Saturday. Hope your Night light workshop went as fun as last years. Have a great week.

Now, it’s true we receive feedback regularly but it’s always nice when it comes!
And a big THANKS to all of our students and clients – without YOU this couldn’t happen.

#850 DIY Portraits – A fun and affordable portrait experience!

Last year we unveiled our DIY Portrait package in time for the holiday season?

DIY Portraits?!

DIY Ottawa Portraits

DIY Ottawa Portraits

Yep, we set up our studio lights in the studio and invite people to plug their cameras into our system. You get the benefits of studio portraits without having to know studio skills or bring anything more than a digital SLR camera.

We plug your camera into our lights, set your camera dials and turn the studio over to you! EASY!!

DIY Ottawa Family Portraits

DIY Ottawa Family Portraits

Last year DIY Portrait clients LOVED it. I heard hoots and hollers from the studio as families produced their own quality portraits. Yep, they loved it. Read what Mommy blogger Andrea Tompkins had to say about our DIY portrait sessions.

Ottawa family portraits

Ottawa family portraits


Saturday, December 8, 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Saturday, December 29, 2012


Times: 9, 10, 11, 12, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30
Time slots are 50 minutes.

Cost: $150 for one session. $250 for a double slot.

What you get:
• Supported use of a well equipped studio
• Support to connect your camera properly
• Tips on how to get the best portraits
• Copyright and printable files – you use your camera and your memory card! 

What you need:
• A digital SLR camera and lens
• A memory card
• Smiles and fun!

We offer a rental camera and memory card for a fee for those that need one.

Contact us to reserve your spot!

#807 Assignment Spotlight – Private Stock Photography Collection

stock photography assignment - Ottawa

stock photography assignment - Ottawa

Last month I went back to Westboro Academy to continue my work developing their bank of imagery that they draw on for promo and other uses.

They’re great to work for – we’ve been working together for a few years now and they recognize the value of producing new stock every year to keep their campaigns fresh, lively and current.

stock photography assignment - Ottawa

stock photography assignment - Ottawa

Attached are a few photos from this years work.

Thanks for the fun!

stock photography assignment - Ottawa

stock photography assignment - Ottawa

#138 Personalities shine

I captured more people pictures this weekend. Four adult family members wanted portraits:

  • Casual
  • Candid
  • Personalities revealed

I suggested we meet at McKenzie King Estates in Gatineau Park. We visited the ruins and hiked the Larriault Trail as I eased some personal portraits from them.

What?! I thought you were taking their portraits not hiking.”

Yes. Portraits. Gentle hiking. Family fun. It’s a good mix.

I find that, in some cases, personal portraits can be best achieved by disguising the portraits as something else. As a fly on the wall, clients forget I am photographing them. Their true selves shine as they did for the portrait, below, of a man and his dog, captured during some fun in the snow.

Ottawa Portraits

So during this weekend’s portrait session we walked a little. Brian brought his watercolours. And I was able to capture individual and group personalities far better than in a studio or traditional portrait session.

A recent client commented on this approach: “… the day was filled with emotions that Harry captured beautifully, being a ‘fly on the wall’. When we saw the photos the first time, it was stunning to see how well they told the story… Yep, I had tears in my eyes again!”