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New blog

October 14, 2012

Please note this blog is no longer active and Barbara Kowalski Photography is now Real & Blush Photography! You can join me in my new photography endeavor by:

– visiting the new Real & Blush Photography website

– following the Real & Blush blog

– becoming a Facebook fan

– following Real & Blush on Twitter


Thank you for your support!



Change and Tips on Creating a Brand

July 10, 2012

July is a month of big changes for my photography endeavor. I decided some time ago that I want to re-brand and rename my business. I have absolutely nothing against using your own name as your business name and it’s not that I particularly dislike my name (my high school gym teacher once told me that my full name was catchy and fun to say – hey, it’s hard to forget a compliment like that!), but I like the idea of an original business name. In fact, the minute I came up with my new business name, I started to have a flow of ideas for branding and colors, and what I wanted my website to look like, which is more than I can say for my own name.

Anyways, all this to say that Barbara Kowalski Photography is going to cease to exist at the end of this month and will relaunch under a brand new name on August 1st, 2012! Be sure to keep visiting my Facebook page and Twitter for updates about the switch and tune into both of those on August 1st for the official launch of the new name, blog aaaand WEBSITE! Yes, a real website! Ah so much excitement!

Inspiration for new brand - Pinterest

So now, before I go back into the world of marketing strategies and domain-name purchasing, I wanted to leave you some tips on creating a business from scratch, in case any of you were thinking about starting something of your own or just curious about the process. It’s a lot of work and thinking and researching, but building a business and a brand is extremely fun if you’re motivated and passionate about the work you do. Here are some very general things to keep in mind:

  • Research is key: I am big on education and informing yourself as much as you can before doing anything. Doing research on branding is essential. As much as intuition can play a role in developing a brand that is true to your vision, implementing it so that people understand it and recognize it is a science of its own. Reading books, articles and listening to pros can help a lot. Some of my favorite advice has come from Lindsay Adler’s recent Creative Live session on Social Media Marketing.
  • Write things down! So many photographers I follow have cited writing their ideas down on paper as one of the keys to their huge success. With so many ideas floating around in your head, it’s hard to organize them. I use big chart paper and categorize ideas into areas I need to work on, such as marketing, branding and technological aspects such as website and social media. Having a visual component also works for developing the visual side of your brand, such as my board on Pinterest at the beginning of this post.
  • Finding a name: Coming up with a name is probably the hardest part of developing a business and a brand. (Unless you’re going with your own name in which case you can thank your parents for doing that hard part for you in advance!) What worked for me is analyzing my style of photography and looking introspectively to figure out what it is exactly that I hope to accomplish with this business. Thinking of this helped me come up with words and ideas that I wrote down and then spent weeks developing. ( became my best friend.) Funny enough, after weeks of torturing myself, I decided on the very first name I had come up with in this whole process. Which brings me to the next point:
  • Name isn’t everything: One word – Google. Possibly one of the weirdest words in existence, Google actually came out of a misspelling of the word “googol” which is the name for the number 1 followed by one hundred zeros. It’s weird, but memorable and it is proof that it really doesn’t matter what you name your business as long as the content you create, the service you provide or the product you produce is strong and worthy of attention. People may disagree with me on this, but I say go ahead and name your business something weird if you want to. The name won’t really matter if your content is strong enough to stand for itself.
  • Finally, simplicity. After visiting a lot of websites and analyzing a ton of brands, I have realized that a brand is nothing without simplicity. Take Starbucks for example. How ingenious is it that one simple green straw in a plastic cup can immediately indicate where that drink was purchased? Starbucks’ use of a unique logo (which actually has a cool history), own language (venti, grande) and a specific shade of green has allowed them to create a brand so strong it has essentially become an identity. Hated and loved and all. Keeping it simple is, to me, the most effective way to show off what you do and make yourself memorable.

Do you agree, disagree? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below! (That rhymed!)

Friend Reunion Shoot | Brampton, ON

June 27, 2012

Candice, Camilla and Erica took advantage of a rare opportunity last month – the opportunity of the three of them being in town all at the same time. They decided to have a ‘friends’ photo shoot, and what an awesome idea! The girls have been friends since high school and shared stories with me of reading assignments and boys, as well as their current lives spent studying abroad and entering the professional world. It is always a pleasure documenting friendship and people who make each other laugh, so thank you girls for letting me capture you for an afternoon!

Girls walking

BW girls







Documenting Friends – Melissa and Adrian | High Park, Toronto

June 19, 2012

It hit me yesterday that since starting this photography endeavor, I’ve had, above all, the incredible honour of documenting the lives of those closest to me. My business and a need for practice have given me excuses to capture almost all of the people I love, some many times over, in the last year. (I say ‘excuses’ because I’m not sure if there actually are any other circumstances in which I could take 200 photos of my friends or family in less than an hour and leave them feeling happy about it!)

I have always been intensely drawn to documenting life – from writing journals when I was young, which included movie reviews and mini-articles about random topics, to specializing in history in university and insanely loving it, to working for the university newspaper and seriously considering journalism as a career. I’m starting to realize that photography is just a natural continuation of this desire to record and capture life as it is, and man, do I ever feel lucky to have this outlet…

It was my most recent ‘friend shoot‘ with Melissa and Adrian which started all of the thoughts above. Melissa and I have been friends since high school and over the years, with some shared travels and projects, we have grown to be best friends. We have one of those friendships where months can go by without seeing each other, and we can resume a conversation as if no time had gone by. She recently spent a few months back in Toronto while her boyfriend was studying in Cuba and I felt spoiled to see her so often. She even helped me make a super handy camera bag with her sewing skills and I am so grateful to her for that.

When Adrian returned, and before the two headed back to Vancouver, we had a session among the blooming cherry trees in High Park:

M A cherry trees

M A close up

MA Cherry

MA tree

MA tree lean

MA walking

MA cherries

It’s impossible not to love cherry trees in bloom. Those blush pink and white blossoms covering trees in rows drew out thousands of people to High Park this spring.

MA standing crowd

Melissa and Adrian are just the cutest and this is proof:

MA close up

MA sitting

M + A – you guys are the best and I can’t wait to see you again!

A 1920’s Styled Shoot | Spadina House, Toronto

June 13, 2012

Three weekends ago I participated in my first ever styled shoot. Styled shoots are photo sessions organized by photographers, often in collaboration with stylists and vendors, for the main purpose of photography. They usually consist of putting together a scene, “staging” it, and photographing it. It’s a great way for photographers to take control over what they are photographing and for vendors and stylists to have their products and work photographed, whether it’s for portfolio expansion, experience or just a fun creative outlet.

My friend Melanie of Melanie Godecki Photography wanted to take advantage of Toronto’s annual Doors Open event and planned a 1920’s styled shoot along with stylist Rebecca. The location could not have been more fitting. The Spadina House, just south of St. Clair Avenue near Casa Loma, is a gorgeous manor that has been restored to its 1920’s/1930’s glory. I couldn’t believe that Toronto had such a beautiful house that I had never heard of.

Spadina House

The day started off with some makeup and styling preparations:

Makeup 1

Makeup 2

Makeup 3

Makeup 4

We then started the shoot off with a picnic scene outside the house, which was photographed by Melanie. (We are doing a joint blog post today so head over to her blog to check out this portion of the shoot!)

I absolutely love photographing in nature so this next portion was heavenly for me. A long flowy dress, curls, the garden – I couldn’t have asked for more. And don’t you just love the blush color of her dress?

Jo 1

Jo 2

Jo 3

Jo 4

Jo 5

We ended the shoot inside the house with Jo looking like she came straight out of the 20’s thanks to Rebecca’s styling and the Spadina House’s beautiful interior.

Inside 1

Inside 2

Inside 3

I had such a great time working with these fun and creative girls as well as with our awesome and patient model Jo and assistant Nick! Here are some behind-the-scenes shots for an idea of how we got these photos:

Rebecca 1

Melanie 1

Jo 1

Jo 2

The team all together!


Posing is fun!

June 5, 2012

As my journalist roommate would say, the above is what is referred to as a “misleading headline”. Posing is a beast. Ever since I’ve begun photography professionally, it has been once of my biggest challenges. The idea of knowing how to pose people, how to make them look good, to accent their qualities and downplay any causes for insecurity felt so far from my knowledge base I may as well have been trying to figure out high school calculus all over again.

Luckily, the more you tackle something, the easier it gets. The many great workshops Creative Live recently hosted were a huge first step towards learning posing. Sue Bryce, Bambi Cantrell and Zach and Jody‘s workshops all helped make posing feel like something more natural and less planned. Keeping up to date with fashion magazines was also a great help. Though fashion photography is not something I necessarily strive towards, there are ads and editorial sections in magazines such as Vogue, Elle and Glamour that can serve as great inspiration for a stunning bridal portrait or engagement shot. Heck, even the free H&M catalogue is a great resource!

But the greatest push towards making posing an achievable and (dare I say) even enjoyable part of this job was the immeasurable help I got from my friends last month. Eight of my awesome friends dedicated a Saturday afternoon to come downtown and serve as a mock wedding party for a ‘posing practice’ photo session. The boys suited up, the girls brought out dresses and high heels and they all bore with me as I nervously fumbled through my dozens of planned poses. It was challenging, but I cannot believe the difference that one afternoon made. Here are a few examples of what I learned that day:

Triangles! Anytime there were several triangular shapes in group formations, the photographs were much more visually appealing than those with symmetrical compositions. For instance, this group positioning is much more pleasant:

Bad Part 1

than this where everyone is in the same space and bunched up together:

Part 1

The last minute lean. I found that, after placing everyone in their formations, asking them to lean in tight towards each other right before taking the shot created a dynamic in the photo. It not only brought out natural happiness and removed any stiff posing, but it also directed the viewers eye to the centre of the group where I had placed the bride.

Triangle 1

Triangle 2

The Vanity Fair lesson. Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair poses are genius. I had with me every single ‘Hollywood’ Vanity Fair cover and borrowed poses from a few of them to put together this one:

Vanity Fair Style

This may be completely old news for more seasoned photographers, and there may be things I’m doing completely wrong, but I feel leaps ahead of where I was before the Posing Party. If you have any feedback, or your own stories about being posed or posing people, feel free to share by leaving a comment!

Thank you so SO much to Alexandra, Mel, Aviva, Andrew, Abhi, Catalina, Evan and Alberta for your help and encouragement! You guys rock! A special thank you also to Chandra for the dress!

Andrew + Amber Wedding | Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

May 23, 2012

Andrew and Amber celebrated their wedding this past month in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. If you have never been, you need to go visit, seriously. With old churches and inns, little cafés and restaurants and a convenient proximity to Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake has to be one of the sweetest towns in our province, not to mention a perfect location for a wedding.

This easy-going couple shared their day with closest friends and family. After a ceremony at beautiful St. Mark’s Church (one of the oldest Anglican churches in Ontario!), the couple and their guests dined and danced at the majestic Queen’s Landing Inn just down the road.

Andrew and Amber, I feel privileged to have been invited to capture this day for you and lucky to have had you as my first clients in this wedding venture. 🙂 Thank you.

AA 1

AA 2

AA dress detail belt

AA dress detail

AA shoes

AA Andrew

AA Andrew 1

AA rings

AA dress mirror

AA veil

AA dressed

AA dressed 2

AA church

AA enter

AA Amber

AA Andrew

AA church

AA party

AA couple

AA bouquet

AA couple 2