Take advantage of big family gatherings to hire a portrait photographer

Last weekend I was called to photograph a family portrait at Chateau Veaudreuil, near Montreal. The family was gathered (from all over the world) on the occasion of a milestone birthday, and since all were well dressed and in a celebratory mood, it was an ideal time to get a quick family portrait done as well. My client was smart to realize the opportunity and I thought it worth sharing.

It is difficult with modern working families to get everyone together. But almost everyone I know would love to have an updated family portrait. Maybe a new child has come along, or a parent is recovering from a serious illness and suddenly you become aware of how important family is. I know it is for me and I am most proud of my work as a family portrait photographer when I see how much meaning and value a “simple” photograph of loved ones gives.

With agile field equipment, a practical and completely efficient photo studio can be set up just about anywhere. If you’ve got a big family get together planned, whatever the occasion, think about calling in a portrait photographer to take advantage of that rare occasion when everyone you love is together in one place. While we are all always in touch now with Instagram feeds, Facebook, Twitter, or simply email, there is nothing like being together in real time in the real world. I’m lucky to live close to my immediate and extended family. Even so, there is something special about seeing a photograph of the whole family together  – not a collage of loose photos but the real deal.

If you get the chance to be a part of a big family gathering, get a portrait taken on the spot. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by, or one day you may find you are sorry that you did.

It’s okay to fail

I recently attended a lighting workshop with Joe McNally (The Joe McNally One Light, Two Light seminar tour) which I cannot recommend more highly. Joe was affable, informative and gave an excellent full day overview of using small and big flash equipment in a way that made the experience fun and educational. He also wove into his tales of lighting, anecdotes from his storied career working as a photo journalist and National Geographic photographer.

Improvised spit for roasting chicken...three minutes before it collapsed on the rocks

Aside from the great technical advice he gave, one of the more human messages he shared that I think is worth retelling, was this: it’s okay to fail. All photographers will experience that sinking feeling when a shoot isn’t going well, and while few will want to talk about it, just hearing a world class top photographer share his own stories of times things went wrong was a great relief. He also then used the problems to teach how you can avoid them and/or work around them.

I think the message is a good one for anyone who suffers from the feeling that every time they do every single thing they do they have to get it right.  He reminded me, and us, that learning is part of the process and that failure can sometimes be your greatest teacher.

Thanks Joe.

Your portrait is your personal brand

In today’s world you are everywhere. Your face is popping up on your contacts’ mobile phones when they call you. Your profile picture is displaying to complete strangers who find you on Google+. Your Facebook page, no matter how tightly you control your privacy settings is displaying your profile picture to people who may be doing research on who you are, trying to glean information about you however they can. Your Linked In profile is being scrutinized by prospective employers, colleagues working with you on a project, vendors looking for leads and old high school friends. Your Twitter picture is displayed on Tweetdecks and other tweet stream aggregators on iPads, desktop computers and laptops. And that’s just your personal publishing empire. You may also have a photo up somewhere on  your corporate website, it may be sent out to media with your bio or included in a magazine article about you, your team or your organization. Wherever you live, work and play, the image you use to show the world these days increasingly is the first thing people will see when they contact you. In many cases, if you have any online component to your business (and who doesn’t?) your profile image may be the ONLY image people have of you.

Yes, we judge the book by its cover

As humans, we highly value visual stimuli (our brains are wired for it) and by extension, no matter how appealing it is to our higher natures, your book is being judged by its cover. Given its importance in a hyper-connected, always online world, it is worth investing a small amount of time, effort and yes, money, in getting a professional portrait taken for the widespread use it will enjoy.

Your photographer as therapist

As a portrait photographer, I believe my role is to provide more than just an expertly taken photograph with proper lighting, editing and formatting for all online and print use. In order to really get your portrait right I need to understand what your business is and what you will be using the photos for (primarily). I need to know and understand who you are. And we need to get along well so that you feel good, confident, relaxed and at your best when I start shooting. A perfect portrait should look effortless, like all things done well, but it isn’t achieved without hard work, experience and a sincere commitment to the art form that it is.

Don’t worry, by happy

People across all industries and at all levels of professional development, whether the CEO of a multinational corporation, or an independent artist just starting out, carry around insecurities and hang-ups about the way they look. They worry their hair is too grey or too thin, their bodies too fat or too skinny, their skin too mottled or too wrinkled…Most people are skilled at hiding these concerns and most of the time, the pace of life is such that these anxieties are simply buried – but stand before a camera, a big white soft box and a clean white backdrop and suddenly, people begin to feel nervous. One of the most important parts of my job as a portrait photographer begins before I ever press the shutter button on my camera. My first job is to put you at ease and have you enjoy the photo session we are about to start. Once that happens, amazing photos always follow and you will be surprised, and happy, that all the things you worried about, don’t matter any more.

In a competitive world you’ve got to use everything you have to get ahead. Don’t let a poor quality profile picture stand in the way of your success. My goal as a portrait photographer, whether for corporate onsite portraits, personal or professional headshots is to deliver top quality images and impeccable customer focused service. Why settle for less? Please click on image below to visit my portfolio site.



What to wear for a photoshoot

3P5A6831_ppI often provide on-site, corporate portraits and headshots for corporate clients in their own offices, and a question I am frequently asked is: “What should I wear for my upcoming photoshoot?”.

Here are a few brief tips to keep in mind, which apply not only for corporate headshots but also generally to any portrait session.

Put on your power suit

More than anything else, the most important feature of a good corporate portrait is to look professional and relaxed. A corporate portrait will be used for a variety of purposes: in-house publications, on the company websites, LinkedIn, etc. You want the photo to project confidence, skill and to make you look like the kind of person other people would like to work with. It sounds simplistic, but it is quite difficult to look good and relaxed, comfortable, poised and in control if you don’t feel it first. So choose an outfit that you feel powerful in.

Now for the technical dos and donts

While the above holds true in all situations, there are some simple rules of thumb to keep in mind when preparing for your photoshoot. A general guding principle is that you want good contrast and clothes that flatter you in which you look and feel your best. Here are a few more, easy to remember, dos and donts:


  • Favor solid colours over busy patterns – you want the focus of the image to be you, not your clothes
  • Choose colours that match your skin tones – we come in all shapes and colours, so choose what fits and matches you best
  • Wear dark colours if you want to look slimmer – but keep in mind where the photos will be taken (i.e., if against a dark background, you will blend in if your colours are too dark. In that case, choose something lighter.)
  • Take extra care of all your personal grooming – be well rested, shaved in the right places, showered, hair clean, brushed and neat looking, brushed teeth and a bit of makeup (lips, cheeks, forehead) goes a long way (even for men).
  • Think about the background. If your photos are going to be taken in your office which has beige walls, don’t wear a beige suit. In general, try to wear darker, solid colours. White can work, but again, if your walls are bright white you can get lost in it.


  • Don’t wear clothes in which you easily overheat. A photo session is work – lights will shine on you, you will be moving around, posing, trying out different positions and may also feel a little nervous and self-conscious. All that usually causes people to perspire. You can do yourself a favour by wearing clothes that breathe.
  • Don’t be too trendy. Stick to the classics – trendy styles come and go but if you choose a straight, classic look, your photo will be useful across a wide range of applications and give you plenty of time before you need a new one.
  • Don’t be too self-conscious. It is natural to feel that way, of course, but your photographer is your friend. A good one will not choose images that don’t flatter you so don’t worry and feel awkward about the way you look. Everyone has a good side!

And finally, have fun. A photoshoot can be enjoyable. Even if it is just a short break in your day, it’s fun to have someone come to your office, and tell you how good you look. Enjoy it!



Photoshoot at Produlith

Half day shoot today at Produlith on Montreal’s south shore. The scent of ink in the air, machines shushing everywhere. Portraits of staff and president, as well as shots of the operations for new website launch. Going to be a fun day.



Organize a family portrait fundraiser at your child’s daycare

This week I’ll be booking appointments for the 2nd Annual Fundraiser Daycare Photoshoot I’m putting on at my child’s daycare. Last year’s event was a great success and helped raised funds for our daycare. If you have young children in daycare you probably already know how important a great daycare is and how strapped for cash many of them are. As a father and photographer who really loves children, I’m really happy to be able to apply my skills towards something that I love doing and for such a good cause. If you’ve got a child or children in daycare and want to organize a photoshoot for your school, please contact me anytime.

Tips on taking portraits of young children

You want me to sit still? Seriously?

Photographers will often be invited to take portraits of families with young children, as this tends to be the time when most people are interested in having a portrait done of their family.  Most of the time, I prefer to shoot family portraits in Montreal in the family’s home, backyard or a nearby park because the natural settings are both more interesting than studio backdrops and allow for more natural interaction with the subjects. However, from time to tome, I am asked to take studio portraits of families with young children and here’s a few shots and tips I can share on the experience.

  1. Keep it quick: while the time you spend setting up your lighting and gear can be unhurried, when your subject(s) have arrived, as quickly as possible you want to start shooting. The younger the child, the shorter the attention span will be and the more difficult it will be to get good shots with the child looking into the camera’s lens.

    Ta da!
  2. Keep parents on cue: that means, while the temptation is incredibly strong and very natural for one or both parents to be looking at the child (who will be invariably not looking where you want he or she to look) you need to be ready for that split second when the child’s flitting gaze crosses your lens so you can get the shot. If the parents are at that instant looking sternly at their misbehaving child, the opportunity is lost. Tell the parents to look at you and keep smiling, and let you worry about the child. Eventually no matter how hyperactive the child, curiosity will get the best of him or her and he or she will want to look at the camera. If the parents are ready, you’ll get the shot.
  3. Take breaks: young children (1.5 yrs to 3 yrs old) will want to move around. A lot. It’s important to give them a little break between poses so they can burn off a little energy. Use a break to shoot just the parents, together (if you have someone else in studio to take care of the child) and then add the child back in. Sometimes seeing the parents get photographed will interest the child in doing the same and he or she will want to be back in the shot. You can also use a break to get some unposed impromptu shots of the child who just may cooperate by playing around right where you want them too (as happened this weekend for my recent photo shoot).

    Happy to be here!

Tricks for a great group photo

Whether you are a professional portrait or event photographer, or managing a public relations or communications project, you will at some point require a good group photo. Having worked for more than a decade taking hundreds of group photos of corporate management teams, wedding parties, graduating classes and countless ad hoc groupings of people having a good time at an event, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to make sure the group photos come out well.

  1. Take control: whether it’s a grouping of just two starry eyed newlyeds, or a mass of 75 recent graduates, the moment when you are setting up to take that photo is when you need to step up and take control. Make sure everyone in that photo is listening to your instructions and doing what you tell them to do. If there are other cameras getting in on your set up, that’s fine, but be clear to your subjects that they need to look into your lens at all times until you are done. Most of the time, the people in group photos want to get the photo over with as soon as possible and they will value your leadership and professionalism in helping that happen while still getting the best possible shot.
  2. Use common sense & stay cool: Putting tall people in the back and shorter people up front seems like an obvious suggestion but if the group is large enough to need two rows, it can also be large enough to be difficult to manage and in the heat of the moment a photographer may be tempted to just snap away at any configuration. Resist that temptation and make sure everyone is organized as well as you can according to height so that no one is blocking the view of anyone else. In many groups there is someone or some smaller grouping that is more important – place them centrally.
  3. Keep all eyes on you: make sure you can see everyone’s face in your lens and tell everyone in the shot to make sure they can look straight into your lens. If they are looking at the back of someone’s head, you need to reposition people until everyone has as clear a view of you as needed to make sure they get their smiling faces in the shot.
  4. Take more than one shot: while this is true for nearly all important photos, it is especially true for the group photo. No matter how charming, organized and clear you are in communicating what’s required to get the perfect group photo, inevitably someone will blink, or turn their head or otherwise be the person who ruins the shot. It’s your job to catch it when it happens, take another shot, and then another to be sure that your final deliverable is what everyone is expecting. A great group photo with everyone in focus, looking happy and with their eyes wide open (see images 1 and 2 below).

I’m sure there are other tricks of the trade out there and I’d be happy to hear about them from anyone else working as a Montreal portrait or event photographer. Add your comments or send me an email with your tips on getting the best group photo you can get.

An eventful 2010

It’s been an eventful year working both a full time job running an art startup, ArtAnywhere, and working as a Montreal photographer.  While I don’t know where I found the time, I managed to fit in a total of 73 different photo assignments in events, weddings, portraits and real estate. Here’s a quick run down of the range of photography work I had this past year:

  • Several high-society events at some of Montreal’s finest venues all over downtown and Old Montreal for clients like HSBC, KPMG-MSLP, the Invest in Kids foundation (where I got to meet Dolly Parton – YAY!) and others.
  • I covered five large weddings ranging in style from the truly luxurious in a gorgeous Mont Tremblant condo, to an elegant affair in Montreal restaurant Aix, at the Hotel Place d’Armes; I worked with a promising new photographer, Celia Lavinskas at a sunny outdoor wedding on St. Helen’s Island, as well as travelled to Ontario to cover weddings in both Guelph and Ottawa, at the National Arts Center.
  • I carried on my commitment putting my photography skills to good use with as much pro-bono work I could fit in, providing photography services to Exceptional Family, maintaining an annual tradition covering the Cancer Institute of Montreal‘s annual Concert contre le cancer (I’ll be there again this coming February 4, 2011), and donating family portrait sessions as a prize in the Haiti Tweet up fundraiser organized by Flow Ventures (we raised over $10K); and a major fundraiser portrait session at my child’s daycare (25 young family portraits in a single day!)
  • My portrait practice grew this year as well as I zipped across town to provide onsite, in-office portraits for executives at Rio Tinto Alcan, Purves Redmond, Global Prime Office Network, Financial Research Solutions, professional artists, and real clowns(!) with my brother and fellow photographer, Daniel Francis Haber, from the upcoming production of MöcSplot put on by Geordie Productions in Montreal (show runs from February 4 – 13th)
  • Industrial photography and portraits for one of my favourite Montreal companies, Enerkem (a company that turns garbage into fuel)
  • Several beautiful properties for real estate agents including many for Stacy Bouchard-Burns, whose wide-ranging business had me shooting condos, duplexes, and single-family homes throughout Old Montreal, downtown, Point St Charles, Westmount and NDG.
  • (I even had the good fortune of selling two of my fine art pieces to the CSA Group headquarters in Toronto where my work is now part of their permanent art collection.)

I’m grateful to all my clients and want to thank you for trusting me with your photo work in 2010. I look forward to working with you again this coming year (note to my wedding clients: I love doing baby portraits!). Thank you and I wish you all success in 2011

Musical chairs

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the winning shot. When I was invited to photograph Jonathan Crow and fellow musicians, the New Orford String Quartet, as they rehearsed at the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur for an upcoming performance in Montreal, I was thrilled. I’d photographed Jonathan a few years ago (the images from that shoot had been published) and I was confident I would be able to produce something even better this time around. Maybe it was just an off day, but it took a lot of maneuvering and repositioning both of myself, the lights and the quartet until I found a few shots I was happy with. 

Jonathan Crow, a world renowned violinist, is currently Assistant Professor of Violin at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University where he has been teaching since 2005 and past Concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) (the youngest Concertmaster to lead a major North American orchestra) a position he held from 2002 until 2006.

It was a rare pleasure to do what I love (photographing people in action) while my subjects were doing what they love (making gorgeous music) in an historic and beautiful theatre with great acoustics. This shoot, however, was not without its challenges as the goal was to produce photos that looked spontaneous but were also usable, promotional images. Trying for spontaneity, I took a ream of shots of the musicians playing.  I captured great action and their passion as players, but there was often one of the four players who moved out of focus as the shutter snapped shot, or whose facial expression morphed into something unpredictable in response to the emotions triggered by the music they were creating.  I had to ask them to take up different positions and I fiddled (no pun intended) with my lighting, camera settings and my own position (on a chair, off the chair, on one side of the room, then the other – even lying flat on the ground at one point) until finally I had everyone set up in front of the velvet black curtain at the back of the stage for some unplanned posed photos. While this was something none of them really wanted to do, ultimately, the single shot everyone agreed on came from the posed series.

The lesson for me on this shoot was that even if your subjects think they know what they want, it is up to you as the professional photographer, to provide guidance on posing and positioning, and if one type of shot isn’t working, keep trying until you find one that is.

Office Portraits

In office portraits

Sometimes it is neither convenient nor necessary to have your portrait taken in a professional studio.  When all you need is a head shot for an internal magazine, or perhaps a new profile picture for your website, and you are too busy to ever get around to visiting a photography studio, just have the photographer come to you.

As a portrait photographer in Montreal I often work throughout the city visiting professionals in their offices on a 20-30 minute break from their hectic days to snap a few portraits of them in their working environment. These photos provide exactly what the client wants: speed, convenience and a professional shot without having to lose time visiting a studio.

Here’s a recent gallery of selections for a client. The total shoot lasted no more than 25 minutes.

[nggallery id=2]

Clowning around: headshots and promotional photography for Montreal theatre company

Clowns give good head shots. Really.

Photographing a group of mad clowns for an upcoming theatrical presentation was truly one of the more inspiring studio portrait sessions I’ve worked on. With a little make-up , a simple lighting set up, and a whole lot of talent, we created some beautiful images that will be used for marketing and promoting the show through both print and online campaigns.

My brother, Daniel Francis Haber, and I recently shot the seven-hour portrait photo session for the upcoming Clowns Gone Bad production MöcShplat, directed by local Montreal actor/director (and current star of 18 to Life), Alain Goulem and to be presented by Geordie Productions in February 2011. (MöcShplat is a version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth unlike any you’ve ever seen before: all the actors are clowns and the language they speak is gibberish. I’ll add the link to their blog soon once it is complete).

We used a great new rental studio in town and loved it. We took group shots, headshots, posed and candid portraits and special poses for a top-secret marketing piece involving a really cool band from the eighties with big hair and lots of makeup. We had so much fun and are so proud of the photos, we want to share a few of them here and are calling out to all local actors, musicians, artists, real estate agents or anyone else wanting to book a studio session for headshots. Now booking for September offering great fall rates. Contact me by phone (514.757.7657) or email: julian@julianhaber.com

*Please note: all images shown in this post are copyright protected and cannot be copied or used for any purpose without explicit permission from www.julianhaber.com and the actors featured in the images.

No studio? No problem.

I often shoot intimate portrait sessions of clients in the comfort and convenience of their own home. A question that sometimes arises is how can you create studio-perfect images if you are not shooting in a studio?  While there will always be a certain number of shots that are simply not possible to take in every uncontrolled (i.e. out of studio) situation, the vast majority of clients will be delighted with images taken in their own homes, gardens or nearby parks – and not just because it saves them money.

As a portrait photographer in Montreal, I have developed a growing portfolio of pregnancy photos (pun intended). A pregnant woman, usually within two to three weeks of her scheduled due date is a magnificently beautiful subject. People often refer to the “glow” a pregnant woman has, full of joy and expectation for her coming child and truly blossoming before your very eyes. One thing, however, is also true of very pregnant women: they are probably very uncomfortable. They’ve not been sleeping well. They have to pee a lot. The last thing they want to do is schlep themselves and all their gear into a car, drive to a photo studio, struggle to find parking, haul their aching bodies out of the car and into the studio and cross their fingers hoping there is a bathroom on site. Not to mention her ever-loving partner who is also probably not sleeping too well and may be receiving ever so slightly more “requests” from his (or her) spouse who, understandably, has more on her mind than worrying about tender egos.

All this to say, a photo shoot in the comfort of your own home by a professional portrait photographer is not only ultra convenient, it is relaxing, fun and can result in photos just as good as any you’ll get from a studio shoot – without the hassle.

Use what you find in the home – move furniture around (you, not your pregnant subject who should be doing whatever she feels like doing while you prep the shot). Need a backlight? Draw the blinds and position your subjects in front of the curtain. As long as it is not the middle of the night and a torrential, sky wrenching downpour, you should have enough light from the good old sun to give you exactly what you need. Fill in the rest with your on camera (or, preferably, on Stroboarm) flash and play around with bouncing it off walls, ceilings (even out of frame mirrors) to get the look you want.

Staircases, balcony, comfy chairs – everything you’ll find in most homes provide interesting opportunities for set ups and they don’t require much effort to optimize for the shoot. An additional benefit, particularly for pregnant couples (and even more so for first time parents) is that their home is now a fully feathered nest. That baby is on its way in just a few weeks! The home where the child will soon be living is the ideal space to capture the thrill and joy of being pregnant. The images that result will become treasured memories you can share with your child and enjoy for years to come.

Personalized family portrait sessions in your own home

Nan and her girls

Many people I know have had their portraits taken at a well-known photo studio that operates out of malls around the city. They often walk away from the sessions involving cutesy and unnatural poses that the photographer sets up, having spent several hundred dollars and having been forced to make a decision to purchase prints almost as soon as the last shutter closes on the shoot.  For some people, this kind of in-and-out studio service may be all they want even if it is a little expensive. However, few people realize that having an in-home portrait session done (either in your own house, or when the weather permits in a nearby park or in your backyard) is not only more convenient for the modern working family, but can also result in extraordinary photos that capture the real beauty of you and your family in a comfortable, familiar setting. No parking fees, no travel time, no big battle with younger children who have an uncanny intuition about being disobliging when you want them to look their best. Just you and your family, having your photos taken at your own pace in your own home.

Baby in playpen

A family portrait session can be done in just an hour or it can last a little while longer if you have the time. A good portrait photographer doesn’t need an elaborate set-up to shoot beautiful images. All that is needed is one light or maybe two, possibly just a flash or none if the weather is obliging.  More important than gear and set-up is the relationship your portrait photographer has with you and your family. A good portrait results from the subject (you!) feeling relaxed and comfortable, knowing the photographer you’ve hired is going to make  you look good and natural. Now looking natural doesn’t mean snapping up documentary style photographs of you at the end of a trying day in the office (unless that’s the look you’re after). It simply means allowing yourself to be comfortable with who you are, letting your love for your family show through in the images – the reason you want a portrait done in the first place.

Have fun with your portrait session! Getting ready for the photographer can be fun (like getting dressed up for a party) and the time you spend with him or her should be as enjoyable as having anyone else a guest in your home. Having your family’s pictures taken should be a collaboration between you and your photographer. You will be the one leafing through your photo book or looking at the framed portrait on the wall for years to come so you should have a say in the way it looks while trusting your portrait photographer’s instincts and judgments to take (and choose) the best shots for your final selection.

Father and son

If you are thinking of having your family portrait done this spring (or even better, if you’ve been blessed with a new baby and want to share your joy with the world!) think twice about what you want to get out of your portrait session. Keep in mind that you can easily hire a photographer to come to your home and photograph you and your family in your own environment, on your schedule, with the least amount of inconvenience to you – and you can probably save about 50% of the cost you’d otherwise spend on a studio session while also having as much time as you like to decide what prints you want done, if any. Today’s digital photographers can provide you with a wealth of choices and there is no need to rush to buy a print to try to pressure you to spend as much as possible while the flash heads are still warm.